There’s a reason I’m so cynical about everything. No, it’s not because I hate the world or my mother was a jackal. It’s just that I get built up and knocked down over so many games that I just find it hard to truly look forward to much any more. “But wait!” you cry, hands waving in the air as you scream your favourite upcoming titles at me, “there’s so much potential!”. Well pardon me, but if I may be a science nerd, potential is never converted to kinetic without some being wasted. So here’s a list of my most disappointing games… EVAR.
Ganbarion’s tower-climbing adventure was one of the Operation Rainfall games – one of three Wii JRPGs that came to Europe but not the USA. American fans then whined until they got their way, a luxury us Europeans have historically lacked. A story about a man who must help his girlfriend after she is stricken by a mysterious curse, Pandora’s Tower was shaping up to be an interesting and unique take on the JRPG genre, using its cool new chain mechanic and level-based gameplay to shake things up.
Publishers Nintendo decided it would be a good idea to hire the worst voice actors known to man to portray the main protagonists. Then there’s the fact that the characters themselves have nothing of value to say. Then there’s the fact that the controls are like trying to wrestle a hippo on an ice rink. Then there’s the fact that I’ve seen better looking Gamecube games than this. Then there’s – you get the idea. An interesting premise, the game was spoiled by falling into too many of the pitfalls that its stablemates fell into – cliche characters, awkward combat and nothing to hold the player’s attention.
Battalion Wars II
The Nintendo Wars series has always been known for its campy departures from realism, often favouring the strategy and fun of battle to showing off the newest military hardware. The Advance Wars series (the first of the games to be released for western audiences) came out midway through the GBA’s life and proved endlessly addictive – enough to warrant a Gamecube spin-off. Battalion Wars, initially titled Advance Ware: Under Fire!, was released in 2005 and transitioned the series away from its turn-based strategy roots and towards being a third-person shooter and real-time strategy hybrid. It wasn’t a huge seller but did reasonably well for such a late Gamecube title, and ended up being a particular favourite due to its brilliant stylised graphics, strategic and complex gameplay and borderline-racist depictions of various national stereotypes. But they’re all white, so it was okay. In 2006, a sequel was announced for the upcoming Wii.
The sequel, while fun, fell into the trap of being too much like the original and scrapping some things that made the first game fun. For one thing, the campaign is actually slightly shorter than the original, with around two missions less. Secondly, the units have become less unique in the name of balance, so some become nearly useless in the process (mainly meaning you can’t stomp all over your enemy with the Anti-Air vets anymore). The Wii controls don’t always work perfectly and it probably would have been better to play with a GC controller. That’s not to say it was a bad game – far from it – just that it had the potential to expand upon the original game in a big way and just failed to do so. Unlucky, Kuju London.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Ah, Kid Icarus. The original, if anyone’s not played it, was a bizarre upwards-scrolling platformery thing, featuring an angel called Pit and some very vegetable-hungry wizards. There was a sequel on the Game Boy in 1990, featuring much the same style of gameplay, but the series was essentially lost until 2008, when Pit made a surprise appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Fans heralded this as a surprise hint at a sequel and in 2010 they got their wish – Kid Icarus: Uprising was announced as a 3DS title being worked on by Kirby and Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai. It seemed to have it all – fantastic scenery, on-rails shooter gameplay but with third-person shooter ground-based sections as well. It didn’t look like a perfect game perhaps, but nothing could seriously go wrong right?
Well this will be controversial – Kid Icarus is, in our professional opinion, a poor quality game. While it’s clear a lot of work has gone into making the environments look shiny and eye-catching, in reality it’s just window-dressing, since they’re for the most part not interactive and fly by too quickly to really appreciate them. The animations are a little off for the characters (Pit for one looks like a horse galloping along when he runs) and the whole game is just a little too easy. Of the levels I played on Normal difficulty I only died once. It has some interesting ideas, like the incredibly precise difficulty slider and the myriad bonus features, but the main game just seems a little lacking. I didn’t find much variety on the ground sections outside of ‘charge forward and shoot the things’. The voice acting is grating, the humour cringeworthy and the on-rails sections repetitive. Flaming to the comments below please.
Metal Gear Solid 3
Now first for this one, some confessions. I picked up Metal Gear Solid 3 very late (late 2010) for a very low price, having heard lots about what great storytelling and gameplay it had. Being someone who likes to try out the famous game series just so I can say I’ve had the same experience as others before pouring my judgement upon them, this was actually a pretty good deal. I was expecting intuitive, fun sneaking addiction combined with a slightly verbose plot and some ropey camera control. Having heard so much about it and spent so little money, it seemed I was in for an interesting ride.
Metal Gear Solid 3 has to be undoubtedly one of the least fun experiences I’ve ever had in a video game. Oh, undoubtedly it’s had a lot of thought put into the mechanics, like how food decays over time and how you can beat one of the bosses by waiting for him to die of natural causes – it’s just not nice to play. Slightly ropey camera control turned into being unable to see round corners where guards waiting to shoot me. Intuitive sneaking action turned into crawling at a snails pace through undergrowth, then getting shot. The cutscenes drag on and on – starting the game took me 27 minutes, I timed it – and the whole thing is very ugly, even for a PS2 game. If you must get it, get the HD collection or the Subsistence rerelease, both of which had much improved cameras that actually made them playable. Otherwise, don’t bother.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
When Shigeru Miyamoto famously failed to shoot beetles from some vines at E3 2011, the whole gaming world seemed to burn with speculation about Skyward Sword. Taking place in a world above the clouds, as well as ancient Hyrule, the game’s unique-looking art style and 1:1 sword controls were fresh takes on the traditional Zelda formula and the fans were wild with anticipation for what would have been the Wii’s swansong (if not for The Last Story). We bought the game in November on release day, and received a special gold Wiimote for our troubles. Speaking of troubles…
The finished game has all the parts needed to construct a great Zelda game. It’s got a vibrant world, big open spaces and lots of unlockables. It’s just the way it’s all put together that lets it down. Lovely bright colours are marred by the needlessly thick impressionist filter over everything that looks just a little too much like everything’s pixellated – it might have been a good idea to have an option to turn it off. Another problem is with the controls. 1:1 might work fine for some things but it can be quite tricky to get the precise sword strike you’re after, not to mention the fact that the gyroscope goes out of alignment every half hour or so. Despite the game’s appearance of size, the areas you encounter are actually quite small and limited, focusing on cramming lots into one space rather than spreading it out – which might or might not be a good thing depending on whether you liked how the previous 3D games did things. Skyward Sword isn’t a bad game. It’s just not everything we thought it would be.
So, feel free to argue in the comments below. Robin out!