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Concerning Continuations: Disappointing Game Sequels

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Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels

In film, it’s a cliche that a sequel is almost never as good as the original. In the game industry, it’s almost the opposite. Sequels routinely build upon the paths laid by developers in their original entries, making modifications to the engine, the game’s design, or its story that usually fix issues that the first entry had. However, as with every rule, there are exceptions. Just like some film sequels equal or surpass their predecessors, some game sequels — while occasionally succeeding as standalone entries — fail utterly to capture what made their predecessors so great,

We recently invited our writers to talk about some of their most personally disappointing sequels, and we received what are certainly some interesting answers.

Red Dead Redemption II

Red Dead Redemption II is by no means a bad game. Both visually and mechanically, there is exquisite attention of detail that I have only ever seen once before (in The Witcher 3). The amount of polish placed on simple things — like how the game’s protagonist, Arthur, gets off his horse — led me, as a novice developer, to feel daunted because the entire world is treated with similar attention to detail. The dialogue is well written, and there is an abundance of activities and missions to explore. Why then is this game disappointing?

The original Red Dead Redemption is still, to this day, my favorite game of all time. It’s a complete package, blessed with one of the best stories in gaming, some of the best visuals of the time, and gameplay that I couldn’t force myself to tire of. Every aspect feels perfect and well balanced. In many ways, Red Dead Redemption II is the sequel you would expect.

However, it feels like there’s too much of it.

While the first game took around thirty or forty-five hours to see everything, its sequel can range from seventy to one hundred fifty hours. Compared to the first game, where there was always enough to discover (but not enough to feel overwhelmed), Red Dead Redemption II feels overfull, and Rockstar’s choice of game design sometimes evidences this fact.

In Red Dead Redemption II, I’ve died in gunfights because when I tried to aim my pistol, I opened the dialogue tree by mistake. Similarly, I’ve spent hours collecting pelts, just to find out they were of poor quality or had them stolen mere meters from the nearest town. I’ve desperately tried to lose myself in the story, only for Rockstar to drag me away from it time and time again with a world so real and beautiful
that it dilutes the quality of the experience.

I’m enjoying my time with Red Dead Redemption II, but the magic of the original has not been replicated. Indeed, it reminds me of many Oscar nominees — a remarkable achievement and detail
within the industry, but not that enjoyable to experience as a game. (Chris Bowring)

Mass Effect: Andromeda

When BioWare announced the fourth installment in their acclaimed Mass Effect series, fans of the game were excited to venture back into the world that we had grown to love over the course of five years. Although the ending of Mass Effect 3 faced its own share of criticism, the trilogy was widely praised, and a new game was highly anticipated.

Unfortunately for BioWare and Mass Effect fans, Mass Effect: Andromeda was a disappointing entry in the franchise which failed to live up to its predecessors’ legacies.

You can’t discuss Mass Effect: Andromeda without mentioning the controversy around the
animations and various other technical issues upon release. The painfully bad and often laughable
glitches and facial animations were noticeable almost immediately, and it didn’t take long before the
worst offenses were posted all over YouTube and social media. Characters would emote woodenly on their robotic faces, and game breaking bugs would force you to load a previous save. For a AAA game from a well-known company and developer, these sorts of mistakes were unforgivable.

Inevitably, comparisons were made between Andromeda and Mass Effect 3, and before long, many fans began to think that the third game had better animations despite being released five years earlier — and on vastly inferior hardware. BioWare later released patches to fix some of the worst cases, but it was too little, too late, and fans couldn’t forgive that we were given a broken and unfinished mess.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was not an entirely bad game. For instance, the combat had some updated
features that made for fun gameplay, and it was enjoyable to venture back into the Mass Effect universe once again. However, there are far too many issues to ignore. I loved the missions in the original trilogy, but I found them not half as engaging in Andromeda, as a fair amount were boring fetch quests across empty worlds. This, along with the multiple technical issues and lackluster narrative, made for a game that was just plain disappointing. (Toni Haynes)

Super Mario Sunshine

The 3D Super Mario games are some of the most acclaimed, yet surprisingly divisive, titles in Nintendo’s history. While some are considered masterpieces (the groundbreaking Super Mario 64, Galaxy 1 and 2, and some would argue the recent Super Mario Odyssey), others aren’t so unanimously loved.

Coming off of the incredible Super Mario 64, I was thrilled when the second-ever 3D Mario game was announced for the GameCube. Unfortunately, that excitement rapidly turned to disappointment as I quickly realized just how painfully samey and unintuitive Super Mario Sunshine is.

Super Mario 64‘s core platforming mechanics are some of the most naturally designed and rock solid platforming mechanics I’ve ever experienced. Those are largely still intact in Sunshine, but with one major wrinkle that was tied to Sunshine’s gameplay hook: F.L.U.D.D. While it’s fun to mess around with at first (particularly its ability to make Mario hover), controlling it and switching between its different modes feels significantly clunkier than the Super Mario series’ core gameplay. F.L.U.D.D.’s forced utilization throughout (save for only a few areas) makes it wear out its welcome that much more quickly.

Sunshine also suffers from a distinct lack of varied environments. Super Mario 64 quite literally transports players to different worlds with every painting they enter. Years later, Galaxy allows the player to visit a stunningly diverse array of planets and galaxies. Sunshine, on the other hand, is very firmly rooted in its tropical aesthetic. Whereas other 3D Super Mario games had blown my mind and pleasantly surprised me with new and interesting locales, Sunshine just felt lackluster and visually uninteresting. At its release, it was a decent game, but I can’t help but feel disappointed whenever I play it. (Brent Middleton)

Silent Hill 4: The Room

The initial trilogy of Silent Hill games is rightfully looked upon as the holy trinity of survival horror. The original Silent Hill utilizes its limitations as strengths, focusing on ambiance and atmosphere to make players feel tense, rather than employing cheap jump scares. Silent Hill 2 furthers this approach by diving deep into the psyche of the characters and the players, forcing both to take a long, hard look at the horrors of the real world through a funhouse mirror. Silent Hill 3 returns to the themes of the first game, but focuses them through a maternal lens rather than a paternal one. It also re-structures the gameplay to put some of the power back into the hands of the player.

Then came Silent Hill 4: The Room. Saddled with the legacy of being a Silent Hill game, The Room loses much of its original charm when players leave the sinister apartment they are trapped in to visit random parts of the titular town, with the switch from first to third-person making these exchanges all the more jarring.

Meanwhile, The Room continuously pulls you in and out of the nightmarish world of the preceding games, destroying the creeping sense of fear and dread that pervaded each of them. In essence, Silent Hill 4: The Room is the worst of both worlds. Teeming with indestructible enemies, frustrating puzzles, and a disastrous clash of artistic visions, this game is rightfully looked upon as the beginning of Silent Hill’s downfall as a franchise. (Mike Worby)

 Resident Evil 5

“How do you fuck this up!? How!?!?”

These are the words of William Hurt in A History of Violence, and they have become a constant reference point when I see slam dunks like this that someone, somehow, managed to bungle up. Case in point: Resident Evil 5.

Capcom had just saved this meandering franchise from falling into oblivion with its previous entry; Resident Evil 4 is one of the best-designed, most utterly fun survival horror games of all time. It masterfully re-balances the gameplay of Resident Evil so that the player can deliver the carnage unto their enemies, rather than just fearing the eventual onslaught. Yes, Leon occasionally gets violently dispatched with a chainsaw or pitchfork, but he also gets to blow up hordes of enemies with TNT, and crush them to bits with boulders and catapults.

Resident Evil 5 squanders this reinvention by making hasty, needless changes to the new formula. First, Capcom forced in a campaign-long co-op angle, making the game anti-fun unless you could find a friend to play with. Next, they threw the dark Gothic atmosphere and encroaching darkness of the previous game out the window. Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, RE5 returns players to the out-dated inventory system they had been straddled with for the five games that preceded the fantastic, empowering advent of the attache case system. Suddenly, one game later, we could only carry 6 to 8 items at a time, and had to stumble our way through pointless item exchanges with another character who we were probably controlling ourselves.

Finally,  Resident Evil 4 at least had the good graces to imitate Metal Gear Solid with tongue firmly planted in cheek. By doubling down on the worst elements in the most ridiculous game in the entire series, Resident Evil 5 boulder-punched itself into the volcano of the worst sequels ever put to plastic.

7 minutes. 7 minutes is all the time I have to deal with this game. (Mike Worby)

Xenoblade Chronicles X

There are few Nintendo games that I actively do not like. Xenoblade Chronicles X is one of those.

Flashback to 2015. It had been three years since Nintendo had released Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii in North America, and for the past two years, they had been marketing its sequel. Revealed first at a Nintendo Direct in 2013 — and further introduced in marquee appearances at E3 in 2014 and 2015 — Xenoblade Chronicles X seemed poised for the same sort of greatness that its predecessor had found in America.

In great anticipation for what I thought would be, without a doubt, my game of the year, I went on media blackout for X, refusing to look at the details of scores or read many impressions of any sort. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so naive. However, the hype has a way of numbing one’s logical capabilities, and as a result, I went into the game almost completely blind.

I knew (from what I couldn’t blackout) that the game had a lesser story than its predecessor, but I figured “Hey, I loved the combat in Xenoblade, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Needless to say, I was completely wrong.

Xenoblade Chronicles X completely obliterated the original Xenoblade’s most valuable asset — it’s incredible story — and replaced it with one of the most snooze-worthy, poor excuses of a story that I’ve ever played in a game. Whereas from its initiation, Xenoblade Chronicles’ story hits the player fast and hard, pushing them rapidly through a tale whose scale rapidly accelerated, X’s is a slog — a poorly-localized, poorly written, ham-fisted tale that takes the worst parts of the last two decades of JRPGs, sews them together, and calls it a day.

Whereas Xenoblade compliments its story with characters that, while embodying the typical cliches found in JRPGs, nonetheless represents some of the best examples of Japanese storytelling this side of Chrono Trigger, X assembles a cast whose pure blandness is nearly overwhelming. From the player-created protagonist to the main cast, the entire game is filled with the worst elements of Japanese anime cliches. With too-young girls, macho guys, and other anime cliches for which the medium and its fans are routinely lampooned in the West, X feels like it got lost on the way to the darker side of CrunchyRoll. Atrociously wooden voice acting that called to remembrance the oaken tones of early 2000s shows like Transformers Armada was the final straw. I sold it within a week of release and haven’t looked back.

But, hey, that’s just my opinion. (Izsak Barnette)

***

So what are some of your most disappointing game sequels? Tell us in the comments section below!

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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