The aptly-named Japanese studio Treasure — in spite of its fondness for focusing on less popular formats and its infrequent and occasionally Japan-only releases — has long been a developer famed throughout all of game-dom for the consistent originality and sheer quality that runs through its work. Formed in 1992 by a bunch of ex-Konami employees, its output quickly elevated the company to ‘legendary’ status.
But where is it now? Short of Ikaruga’s welcome Switch presence and a handful of titles included almost by default as part of the Sega Mega Drive Classics bundle, Treasure and its unique brand of games are noticeably absent from the current generation of gaming. Frankly, we miss them, and we’d love to see them come back and do what they do best — show everyone else how it’s done.
But which of their many fondly remembered games should make a glorious fresh-faced reappearance on Nintendo’s current console?
The only correct answer is of course “All of them”, but as that makes for a pretty short and boring article let’s instead focus on a few that would either definitively make modern gaming better merely for existing or, at the very least, would be an undeniable asset to the Switch’s already excellent library.
And what better place to start than at the very beginning? Gunstar Heroes was Treasure’s debut release, and remains many run ‘n’ gunners’ run ‘n’ gun of choice. After twenty-eight years it still feels like one of the most bright and boisterous examples of its genre, ambitious almost to the point of absurdity even for those who don’t understand how hard the devs had to push the Mega Drive to make its constant rush of “impossible” tricks a reality.
The purist in us says we’d love to see this legendary action-platform-shooting title back in gorgeous colour-soaked HD 2D in addition to its now soul-crushingly expensive 2005 GBA follow-up, Gunstar Super Heroes, but we know there’s about as much chance of that happening as there is of Nintendo announcing F-Zero GX HD. Even so, there’s no reason why this frenetic duology couldn’t survive a 3D update — nobody would accuse Bayonetta, Devil May Cry 3, Vanquish, or any number of other kinetic gun-heavy games of lacking technical depth or breathtaking action after all.
And if there’s one thing we already know Treasure can do well it’s stylish 3D action; as proven by the N64 classic Sin & Punishment and its equally wonderful Wii sequel, Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies. A plain Switch double pack of those two would be enough to send anyone keen on perfectly orchestrated into-the-screen shooting straight to gaming heaven all by itself, a true sequel to make it a trilogy would almost certainly become a pre-order record-breaker purely on the series’ reputation alone.
Gunstar Heroes and Sin & Punishment were in spirit pretty similar to their own successors and it’s fair to assume a brand new entry would be, too. But what about a Treasure concept that felt very different from one game to the next, like the multi-directional shooter series Bangai-O? Whether you prefer the madcap space fruit-filled campaign of the N64 original or the self-contained puzzles of the innovative DS game Bangai-O Spirits, there’s little doubt that either style — or yet another playful reimagining of the missile-countering formula — would feel right at home on the Switch.
Continuing on that similar-but-different train of thought brings us to Guardian Heroes and the well intentioned but uneven GBA game, Advance Guardian Heroes. Anything from an epic RPG-lite side-scrolling adventure against the armies of heaven and hell to a magical arena-based tournament fighter could be teased out of the existing setting, and with online and sofa-based multiplayer now easier than ever to implement, could there be a better time to revive this cooperative slice of sword-swinging brilliance? We don’t think so.
Standing proud and alone is Alien Soldier, the game that asked “If the bosses are the highlight of every level, why are we wasting everyone’s time with the other bits?”. This 16-bit wonder is an intense gauntlet of raw action that constantly drives players to put themselves in danger, a game where a little practice and bravery can turn seemingly impossible one-sided battles into devastating encounters that see your enemies defeated within seconds.
Unlike the other titles mentioned above, this one has so far had no sequel, spiritual or otherwise, at all. In fact its leading hero, unstoppable humanoid birdman Epsilon Eagle, hasn’t had so much as a cheeky cameo as a Smash Bros. spirit. Surely after twenty-six years (and counting) everyone deserves another chance to experience this nonstop rollercoaster of endlessly creative and incredibly difficult one-on-one combat? Imagine a new entry coupled with the crisp hand-drawn look of Streets of Rage 4 or the chunky faux-retro pixels and imitation scanlines of Blazing Chrome and try not to sigh wistfully for what could be…
We’ll finish with the one Treasure game that is not only already on the Switch but is also a sequel to an earlier game: Ikaruga, which was dubbed Project R[adiant]S[ilvergun]-2 when it was in development. The shmup genre as a whole is if not undergoing a true resurgence then at least finally being appreciated as more than those games you can finish in half an hour on your first go. It just makes sense to revive colour-switching shmupping sooner rather than later, doesn’t it?
Of course, all this wishful thinking ignores one particularly thorny problem: Treasure isn’t keen on making sequels even when they’re contradicting themselves and making sequels, and that’s part of the reason why we love them — everything Treasure does is almost always new and fresh, and even when it creates something that’s not completely different from all that went before, it’s usually been so long between the two iterations it really doesn’t matter either way.
So, we’ll daydream of imagined continuations of all our old favourites and wish very hard for something else instead — for Treasure to come back in any form. The last game the team made for themselves was Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury — now around a decade old — and the last project they developed at all was Gaist Crusher God for Capcom, a 3DS title which we will politely describe here as “disappointing”.
Treasure deserve better than to be a fading memory sustained only by retro re-releases, and gaming deserves better than to be without Treasure.
What do you think of our wishlist? Which Treasure games would you like to see on the Switch?