Top 5 Tuesday: Most Disappointing Games

Last week I grilled Mass Effect for having framerate issues and party members who couldn’t be dumber if they had blonde highlights and a fake tan. My opinion of the game was in a total free fall, but at some point over the weekend I warmed back up to it. My change of heart resulted from discovering that you can control the dispersal of Techs in battle (Way to mention that, in-game tutorial.) and realizing just how varied the missions are. After playing through Eden Prime and Feros, I expected every major mission to follow a “talk to the survivors and kill the Geth” formula. But that’s not the case. I’m currently working through the snow-world of Noveria, which has a nifty political mystery going on. I won’t spoil. Instead, I’ll introduce a new weekly gag.

To celebrate my renewed attitude toward Mass Effect, I’m listing the five games that disappointed me the most in my lifetime. Keep in mind that this list is based on my own experiences and not whether or not the gaming world as a whole was let down. Now that we’re clear, let’s unveil these soul crushers.

Honorable mentions: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, God of War, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Goldeneye 007, Metroid Prime Hunters,

5. Half-Life

hl1

Half-Life: Influential in 1998. Archaic in 2010.

Expectations:

The greatest FPS ever. Complete with thrilling action, brilliant level design, and a riveting story.

To be fair, I didn’t play Half-Life until 2010, so my opinion is skewed by playing modern FPSs that improved upon the standards it set. Still, genre growth and the passage of time  haven’t stopped fans and journalists from pumping up original Half-Life as a masterpiece.

Why it disappointed:

Half-Life has aged horribly. The control scheme and the controls themselves feel wonky by today’s standards (ladders are the most threatening enemies in the game), and the combat doesn’t carry the same hectic rush that FPSs of the 2000s spoiled us with. Although the game is credited with revolutionizing the FPS genre in terms of story, setting, and atmosphere, I found the dark gray halls of the Black Mesa Research Facility to be dull and confining. The story was nowhere near as compelling as its reputation suggests, and what hurts even more is the vow of silence Gordon Freeman took during the development stages.

Was it good?:

I realize I’m being a bit unfair, but no. After having experienced FPSs like Metroid Prime and Bioshock, the original Half-Life felt archaic. I feel the same about Goldeneye, which I didn’t play until 2004. Timing truly is everything.

4. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

dis

It’s just like Final Fantasy Tactics. Without the tactics.

Expectations:

Underworld strategy-RPG Disgaea was actually rare when I bought it. Back from 2003 to 2005 the game had serious cult status, with fans and reviewers praising it as a masterpiece in the same vein as Final Fantasy Tactics. Disgaea’s rarity and rabid fanbase had me expecting the strategy-RPG to end all strategy-RPGs.

Why it disappointed:

The ironic thing about Disgaea is that it’s a strategy-RPG that emphasizes power-leveling over, well, strategy. While I suppose the same could be said of a lot of SRPGs, Disgaea is the most guilty one in my book. Though some early battles required careful thought and planning, I got blown right off the grid in later stages–not because my strategies were faulty, but because Disgaea decided that I should grind my way to the ending credits.

Was it good?:

The characters contributed some humorous moments, and the first half of the game had some solid story battles. Disgaea was actually likable for about 15-20 hours, then somewhere along the line the emphasis shifted toward geo-panel combos and level grinding.

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

ssbb

Brawl offers a ton of choices, but the best choice you can make is playing Melee instead.

Expectations:

The highest ever. Seriously, the hype for this game was vast enough to crack the ozone layer. Nintendo unveiled the game at E3 2006 with a trailer introducing Solid Snake as a guest fighter; that triggered endless fan speculation about other 3rd party guests, from Sonic (who got in) to Master Chief (who never even appeared on a Nintendo console). As if the series’ reputation and the E3 trailer weren’t enough to pump my hype balloon, the Smash Dojo website–which I visited every day until release–left it at the bursting point.

Why it disappointed:

Brawl was destined to disappoint. I wanted it to be twice the game that Melee was, but instead it fell short of its predecessor’s standard. Brawl featured a slowed-down fighting engine that simply couldn’t match Melee’s intensity. And though the roster nearly doubled, Nintendo did almost nothing to tweak the movesets for the returning characters other than adding over-the-top Final Smashes that made the battles more luck-based than skill-based.

Was it good?:

Hell yeah. For as disappointing as it was, Brawl offered deep single-player options, excellent multiplayer, endless amounts of unlockables, and more Nintendo than could fathomably fit on one disc. Oh, and Boss Rush mode on Very Hard was a masochistic blast.

2. Final Fantasy VI

FFVI

Everyone has a favorite FF6 character. The problem is you have to endure Terra along the way.

Expectations:

The best RPG ever created. A lot of Final Fantasy fans who consider themselves “hardcore” list FF6 as their favorite in opposition to FF7 which is deemed the “casual” entry point of the series. Prior to getting my hands on FF6, I had listened to these FF6 fans who touted the game’s cast, story, and “unforgettable” moments like the famous opera scene.

Why it disappointed:

I first played FF6 on the PS1 collection Final Fantasy Anthology, which was a mistake. If you have any respect for gaming, you should never go near FF Anthology–the battle slowdown and load times make the games as choppy as a buffering Youtube video. Anyway, after about 5 hours in the Anthology version, I ditched FF6 and later returned to it on a SNES emulator. The version was far superior, but the game was still a drag.

FF6 disappointed me for the same reason Stephen King’s The Stand does: it has a massive cast with no clear-cut protagonist to lean on. A great protagonist makes or breaks a story for me. Sometimes you can get away with having two guys sharing the spotlight, but when a narrative spreads its focus across four or more “main” characters, I tune out. Had FF6 been Locke’s story, it might have been one of my favorite RPGs. Instead, it forced me to endure scenes involving the robotic Terra Branford, who you couldn’t pay me to show interest in. Story and characters aside, the battle system was by no means electric, and I found most of the character-specific abilities to be underwhelming (though I loved Sabin’s button-combo Blitz technique).

Was it good?:

Kefka is the best villain in the series behind Kuja. And I’ll be honest, I like Locke, Edgar, Sabin, and Celes. Shadow, Cyan, and Setzer have their moments, too. The problem is that when you have so many storylines jammed into a 30-35 hour game, the characters end up thin and forgettable.

1. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

mgs4

Committing to stealth in MGS4 is about as difficult as committing to sobriety on a pub crawl.

Expectations:

High expectations? Let’s put it this way: I dropped $500 on the PS3/MGS4 bundle to play this. Any time I buy a new system for one particular game, it’s serious. When the game happens to be the fourth installment in a series that pumped out three landmark titles, the expectations are through the roof and beyond the heavens. What jacked up my MGS4 hopes even more was the fact that the series got better with every game up till that point. I never thought MGS2 could top the original; nor did I believe that MGS3 could top Sons of Liberty. But they did. So by that logic, MGS4 would top them all. Right?

Why it disappointed:

MGS4 is a classic case of identity-loss as a result of trying to do too much. Hideo Kojima had a great idea in theory: give gamers the option of either sneaking or run-n-gunning through game. It enabled players to approach the game however they wanted, but unfortunately freedom isn’t always liberating. Rather than enjoying another stealth-based masterpiece, I found myself “cheating on” the stealth and treating the game as a 3rd-person shooter.

Worse yet, three of the game’s five acts could cure insomnia, and revisiting Shadow Moses Island was such a letdown that I almost gave it its own spot on this list. Even the story was a colossal buzzkill. It consisted of endless buildup that never hit a crescendo, and it relied on established characters who had little left to desire or prove. Whereas each of the first three MGS games offered their own brilliant cast of brand new characters, MGS4 took a a greatest-hits approach and brought back literally everyone you could think of. Trouble was, instead of playing integral parts throughout the story, most characters hopped aboard for one act and vanished until the ending. What you were left over with was the disjointed mess that is MGS4.

Was it good?:

No. Aside from some stunning cinematics and two decent acts, the game is an abomination. The series thrived off stealth-based gameplay, hectic boss battles, and gameplay scenarios that forced you to strategize and execute. MGS4 marked the series’ degeneration from distinct espionage into commonplace 3rd-person shooting.

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5 thoughts on “Top 5 Tuesday: Most Disappointing Games

  1. The only one that I’m really surprised about is FFVI. I feel that Terra was the main protagonist as she was central to the story. Granted, the cast is huge and members swap in and out, but the story was strong enough (for me) to hold them all together and make me care about each one. I think this just boils down to personal taste in games and their presentation.

    • Terra never struck me as true main character despite the fact that she’s integral to the plotline–she simply didn’t have the drive that I’d come to expect from FF heros. Locke had the “feel” of a main, but like you said, everyone got swapped out left and right, leaving it muddled.

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