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Ethos and Riddles talk about video games...
            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Ethos

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

How can I follow up Riddles’ hilarious post with the same pick? While I think he’s completely wrong about the battle system, he’s bang-on with everything else.

I was extremely excited for Final Fantasy XIII. I thought the world looked beautiful, I loved the idea of a badass female lead, and because I’m a really big fan of Final Fantasy XII I couldn’t imagine the game could be bad.

Boy was I wrong. The game is almost less of a game than Heavy Rain. And that’s saying something. In fact, before the credits roll, the title is less of a game. No decisions matter. The leveling up system is pointless, the upgrading system is worse, and progressing forward is quite literally a tunnel. We’re not joking when we make the comparison.

The fact that Final Fantasy XIII becomes a fun game after the final boss, and as such the back-end leveling and upgrading systems start to make a difference and actually become great systems really makes little difference.

The point is that this was supposed to be a worthy entry into the esteemed series, a HD JRPG that I could really dive into. FFXII had my hopes high, and XIII tore them to pieces. Granted, it took me a while, I was in denial for a bit. But a 60 hour price to get to a good game is too much.

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever sell Final Fantasy XIII, I’d say “hell no”. But I sold it and I have no regrets. Vs XIII will have to do a lot to regain any sort of trust in the series.

Runner up: Epic Mickey

When last year’s runner up in this category earned a “N/A” from me, it’s a little depressing that I was deciding between 3 titles for this year’s second biggest letdown.

Still, life must go on and while Guardian Signs was a step backwards from Shadow of Almia, and Heavy Rain turned out to not be a game, the fact is that my hype was never huge for those titles. Epic Mickey had me pretty excited. I wasn’t expecting the controls and camera to be top-notch, but I also wasn’t expecting them to practically ruin the experience. The game could have been truly excellent. Unfortunately, the technical flops squashed this possibility.

Seriously, this could have been a true Game of the Year contender. Instead, it’s a decent game. There’s nothing wrong with the content, but the sad fact is that if you can’t properly play or view an excellent game, it is no longer an excellent game.

It’s truly a shame, but it’s the truth. This was definitely a year for loving more games and different games than I expected, and for being let down by hype and previous standbys.

Except Super Mario Galaxy 2. That was a standby and exceeded my hype.

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Riddles

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

Like this is a fucking surprise. I realize that, in spite of my utter and complete hatred for the game, I’ve never had the opportunity to simply ramble about it. The majority of the shit I’ve written for the game, I wrote during its first week of release – when I was desperately clinging to the feeble notion that the game was, somehow, good.

I knew the game was crap thirty minutes after booting it up.

And now, I’m going to fucking tear the shit out of it.

Final Fantasy XIII is that girlfriend who you spend copious amounts of money on for Valentine’s Day, only to have her ditch you five days later.

Final Fantasy XIII is that stepdad who seems cool, and takes you out to bars with him, except you end up just watching him get super-drunk and cheat on your mom.

Final Fantasy XIII is that dog your parents’ bought you as a kid, only to be taken away a few weeks later because your crotchety neighbors kept complaining, and your parents’ decided that their social status in the neighborhood was more important than your vulnerable, eight-year-old emotions.

Final Fantasy XIII is that drug dealer who tells you he’ll be good the day before your big party, only to have him cop out and get arrested at the last possible second.

Final Fantasy XIII is a liar and a cheat. Final Fantasy XIII is the textbook slut who slipped past your carefully-built defenses. Final Fantasy XIII is a dirty dirty whore.

But seriously, though, Final Fantasy XIII was more than just a letdown, it was a calculated slap in the dick to gamers of all kinds. In place of a rich, immersive gameworld we were given a series of linear tunnels littered with battles. In place of an in-depth, strategic combat system we were given a stripped-down, automated jumble of nonsubstantial flash. Instead of memorable characters and storylines, Final Fantasy XIII’s narrative unfolded with all the grace and prose of a second-tier anime program.

Suffice to say, I hate the game a lot. Sure, I may not have ever even reached Gran Pulse, but I doubt it would magically change my opinion. Given the number of rich, epic RPGs that have been released this generation (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout and Lost Odyssey to name a few) it’s painful – and comical – to see Final Fantasy, the former king, descend into such a pit of shallow, style-obsessed mediocrity.

Runner Up: Alan Wake

I wish I could have loved Alan Wake as much as many people did. But, while I enjoyed the game a fair bit, as my review indicates, I just couldn’t help feeling disappointed. I certainly didn’t have the same elated expectations that I had for XIII, but I still was looking for just a little more than the game ended up delivering: gameplay that was fun, but ultimately repetitive and far too easy, and a storyline that was far too unfocused and loosely written to truly be effective (or scary). Don’t get me wrong, it was good; but it should have been much better.

Biggest Letdown 2009 – Ethos

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

brutallegendboxart Brutal Legend

I’m with Riddles on this one. I enjoy Brutal Legend quite a bit, actually, but I had a very different idea about it. I’ve never really been so hyped about a game that I knew so little about before. I’m a fan of Jack Black at his best (See: Mr. Show, Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock), and although I’m not big into metal or Tim Shafer, this game seemed like it was going to be a hilarious, unique romp.

I was kinda right. The game can be very funny – especially at the beginning – and it’s absolutely unique. And like Riddles stated, that’s the problem. Brutal Legend has fun fighting and driving mechanics and a fantastic art style and strangely beautiful world. So there was no need to bring in so many extra elements. It just diluted the experience.

But everything has been said in the post below. Time for me to go out New Years Eve-ing. Happy New Year, everyone!

Runner Up: N/A

Biggest Letdown 2009 – Riddles

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

brutallegendboxartBrutal Legend

Okay, so… I might be the odd man out in shaming Brutal Legend like this. But allow me to explain, while I indeed consider the game a letdown, that doesn’t mean I thought it was bad. On the contrary, I rather enjoyed the time I spent with Brutal Legend, as evidenced by the largely positive impressions that I wrote on the game some months ago.

I just expected more from Brutal Legend. Or… perhaps I should say less? I don’t think Tim Schafer was quite sure what, exactly, he wanted his latest game to be. Is it a hack-and-slash action game? Or an RTS? Is it supposed to be humorous all the time, or are we supposed to occasionally take it seriously? Are we supposed to consult online guides in order to figure out the many unexplained mechanics and facets of the game, or is confused frustration supposed to be part of the fun?

I honestly don’t know, but my point is that Brutal Legend suffers from a serious lack of focus. It starts off strong, and becomes increasingly more convoluted as it goes on. Is it fun? Yes, it sure can be. Is it funny? At times, at least near the beginning. But in future endeavours, Tim Schafer needs to keep this particular saying in mind: “you brainstorm, I brainstorm, but brilliance needs a good editor.”

Runner Up: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

That’s not really a saying, actually. If my memory serves, it’s the title of  Manchester Orchestra’s first EP. Regardless, I thought it applied nicely.