Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Video Games That Left Me Hollow

I've played games that made me cry. Others that made me scream. Then there's the category in the middle. The ones that left me snorting in disgust, thinking was that it? This has happened quite a bit over the years. One of the biggest offenders was


Sonic Adventure

Released in 1998 for the Dreamcast, it was one of the first 3D platformers, and boy does it show. Three words best describe this game: haste makes waste.

I can forgive the sparse landscapes. It was a first generation 3D game. Everyone was still trying to figure out how to make a 3D platformer, so I understand why the game feels sparse. i can even forgive the camera bugs to a point. Every early platformer had this problem. Nobody knew how the camera should behave, and it's because of trial and error done on these early games that game designers figured it out.

But I can't forgive the camera bugs this time. At the start of the game (Chaos 0), they are horrible! The camera zips around erratically, sometimes panning to Sonic's feet for no apparent reason, and getting the camera to point at the enemy he's fighting is a pain in the ass. It's very possible to die on the very first playable area just because the camera is an enemy unto itself!



And the problems just keep getting worse. Each level is short and narrow with no room to move or run. Some of them are just plain annoying, like the Casino area. It's long, boring, slow and adds nothing in the way of fun. The Adventure Fields are a total waste of time, as are the humans populating this new world.

The cutscenes are laughable! Characters are constantly bouncing up and down, and for no apparent reason, so you can't take anything they say or do seriously. The voice acting is also awkward (at least here in North America). Knuckles' emotionless "oh no" is especially lousy. The story also makes no sense. It sure tries to build up to a grand finale, but it fails.

Finally, the Chao are stupid.

I liked the multiple storylines. I really did. I especially like how Knuckles' and Big's stories came together. Tails finally has a decent role as well, though his flying is pathetically limited. Knuckles has better flying than Tails, and that's sacrilege in my book. The variety in gameplay is refreshing, and seeing these multiple stories come together is great. Especially e-102 gamma's. A bird trapped in a robot's body seeking to free both himself and his family from their robotic bodies. It's a story that can only be done in the Sonic universe and it's the best in the game! That, and the game's soundtrack make it worth finishing!

But the story as a whole is a confusing mess. By the time I reached the final boss I still didn't know what was going on, and that pissed me off! Such an enormous buildup and nothing makes sense!

It's pretty well-known Sonic Team was pressured to release the game before it was finished in order to meet the Dreamcast's shipping deadline. The proof is in the game itself. The early levels are littered with camera bugs, cramped environments and awkward cutscenes. Then, in the game's later levels, the environments become more refined and the camera glitches all but disappear. Levels are still cramped, but they sure feel a lot more like real environments instead of graphics demos. I guess the story was evolving at the same time as the graphics, too. Maybe it would've made more sense had Sonic Team been given more time to develop the game.

Everything about Sonic Adventure is half-done, but it never feels like a bad game. Rather like a first draft. It left me wanting the finished product.


Prototype

I bought this on a whim, having read no reviews and having no idea what the game was even about. I found out quick what the game was about. Button-mashing!

Sure, you have a ton of special moves. Your hands can become blades and whips, you can run up buildings and glide, take down helicopters and absorb people for heath. You're fighting all the time. Hunters dash out of nowhere and ram you and it's up to you how to take them out. Blades. Whips. Hammerfists. But really if you just mash buttons you'll succeed every time. I hate that. It's like a bad fighting game.



Not only are the controls confusing and needlessly complicated, there's no need to get good with them! Random button-mashing does the job perfectly. You know you're playing a game that's way too complicated when tutorial popups instructing you how to play the game are still popping up past the midpoint!

The game claims to be open-world, but it's not. An open-world, sandbox game allows you to explore the world freely, uncovering new stories, meeting new characters, etc. The only thing you can do between missions in Prototype is find challenges. Kill this many enemies in the time limit. Catch all the glowy thingies in the time limit. Scale this building in the time limit. Each as pointless as the last because your only reward is experience points (evolution points in this game), and you acquire more than enough of those during the story missions.

The game looks so much like Grand Theft Auto it feels like it should be open-world, but Prototype is linear. There's nothing to do between missions, so the only thing left is to do the next part of the story. It tries to disguise itself as an open-world game, probably to cash in on the popularity of the genre instead of being bold and doing its own thing. The deception is insulting. Wouldn't be so bad if there was something to see in Manhattan, but there's absolutely nothing. Just bland city and generic crowds.

The story is revealed in snippets spread out over the whole game. Prototype's story is weak and typical, so to make it seem more dramatic the developers broke the story into literally 100 pieces, scattered them randomly around the game world and left it up to the player to find them and piece them together. I got it after the first ten pieces: genetic experiment, funded by the government, experimented on civilians, now it's loose on Manhattan. Duh. Let's move on.

I will give the game credit for the big boss, Elizabeth Greene. This boss is tough, tense and overwhelming. Yes, that's the right word. She is overwhelming and intimidating. It's not very often you feel that in a video game, but this boss sure scared me. It's the best part of the game, and it should've been the final boss, but no, the story just keeps on dragging.

And the big twist in the story doesn't make any sense. Alex Mercer is dead. The man you're playing is not Alex, but the virus itself. That's cool, but if he is the virus, why would he want to stop the virus from spreading? There's a real contradiction with his motivation. After the game's big twist, I lost interest. I didn't even bother to finish.


Super Mario World

I'm probably gonna take a lot of heat for this one, but hear me out, please. Super Mario World was the Super Nintendo's launch title. This is supposed to be the Mario of the future! Why does it feel smaller than Mario 3?

Mario 3 was enormous, and even playing it as an adult it took me quite a bit of effort to make it through without warping. SMW, however, did not. The game is pretty lacking on challenge compared to its predecessor. Yoshi doesn't add much to the gameplay either. He's more of a pain to hang onto than a benefit. Sure there are some areas you can't reach without him, and he is one extra hit, but for most of the game there's no benefit to having him.

For an SNES game, I expected a lot more variety in the levels, but for the most part each level looks and plays the same as the last. Mario 3 had a ton of variety! Desert Land, Ice Land, Dark Land. SMW... The dungeons are the same. The overworld levels are the same. The castles are all the same. Even the music is the same, just variations on the theme.

The final boss is challenging, but what the hell is up with that clown copter Bowser is riding?! Remember Mario 3's boss, how badass Bowser looked? I was terrified of him, even though he's quite easy to beat. In SMW, he looks so cartoonish riding that thing. He's more of a challenge than in Mario 3, but threatening he ain't.



I was disappointed. Mario 3 felt so much bigger, more difficult, more real. SMW felt like Mario became more colorful and cartoony just to show off the graphics of the Super Nintendo. I finished the game thinking that was it?

2 comments:

  1. Right on about Super Mario Bros. 3 being the better game. It had about three times as many worlds and the best power-up of any Mario game, the Hammer Brother suit.

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  2. Yeah! Where was that damn hammer brother suit in SMW? And the goomba shoe!!! Where was that?!

    I didn't care about cape mario. Raccoon Mario was way cooler! Capes just let you glide, but raccoon tails let you fly! I don't get it either, but it's more fun!

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