Friday, February 8, 2008

Big franchises, big missteps

Whether you're a big-name CEO, a multi-billionaire or a humble fainting goat, you're never immune to a misstep. This truth carries over to the world of gaming, where a franchise may be absolutely perfect one minute and utterly abysmal the next. No series is immune, as this article will show.

(Note: This is the Final Fantasy II originally released on the Famicom in 1988. Not to be confused with the Final Fantasy II released on the Super Nintendo in 1991.)

Systems: Famicom, Playstation, Game Boy Advance, Playstation Portable, WonderSwan Color, mobile phones

Final Fantasy is one of the biggest game franchises in existence, with twelve numbered installments released, as well as several sequels and spin-offs. Of course, with so many games, there's gotta be a dud somewhere. It didn't take long for this franchise to find it's first mistake, though, as it fell flat on it's face with the release of Final Fantasy II.

Where to start, where to start... Well, first off, your attacks very rarely even manage to hit your opponents. You start off with the accuracy of a blind, armless sniper wearing a football helmet backwards, and you don't improve until after you kill somebody. Unless you suddenly get attacked by a "Broad-Side-Of-A-Barn" monster, you'll be groping in the dark for a while there.

When you finally manage to find the hilt on your sword and actually kill something, you're hit by the incredibly bland storyline. The first battle takes place between four enemies and your party (Featuring characters who are two-dimensional in more ways than one). It's an impossible battle to win, even if you somehow manage to hit your opponent. You all get knocked out, with the leader (American name: Firion. Wow.) awakening in a bizarre, empty room. He yells out the names of his comrades (Maria, Leon and... Guy? Am I reading this right?), but receives no response. "Flareon" leaves the room, wanders around and ends up in yet another room, where he is re-united with Guy and Maria.

Blah blah blah, you talk with a queen or something, they yammer about a resistance of some sort, blah blah blah... Hey, look! Another team member! Can we go kill things now, or do you have some more boring and clich├ęd storyline to lay on me?

Suffice to say, the storyline is incredibly dull, and unbelievably stupid on more than one occasion (Is Guy talking to a race of gigantic, intelligent beavers? Yes, I do believe he is). The battles are slow, even when you manage to figure out that punching hurts your enemies, and the characters have absolutely no personality whatsoever. Almost makes me wish that the first game actually was the Final Fantasy.

System: Nintendo DS

Metroid is significant for many reasons. It has a huge story branching several games and it's a first-person game with a gun that doesn't revolve around mindlessly killing mutants/aliens/gangsters/whatever. Metroid Prime Hunters went back on all of that, ditching the continuing storyline and revolving almost entirely around blasting things to bits.

As for the entirely disposable story (Seriously, this game could have never happened, and nothing would be affected in the overall timeline), the Galactic Federation intercepts a message telling of an "ultimate power" within the Alimbic solar system. Samus is dispatched to either capture or destroy this mysterious weapon. Of course, other people find out, leading to six more bounty hunters fighting for the prize.

When Samus arrives at the Alimbic solar system, she finds that the Almibic race has been exterminated by a beast dubbed Gorea. The monster emerged from a meteor that impacted on the peaceful society, and then proceeded to attack everyone and everything that got in it's way. The monster was highly adaptable, able to take on the form of the Alimbics themselves, and even mimic their advanced weapon technology.

With no other choice, the Alimbics sealed away the beast using the last of their telepathic energy. The monster was confined to a "Seal Sphere" and set aboard a star ship, which was then thrust into another dimension.

Samus goes around collecting mysterious objects called Octoliths, as they seem linked to the "ultimate power" spoken of in the transmission. Realizing the connection, the other bounty hunters fight Samus for the Octoliths in order to claim the power for themselves.

As for the gameplay, it's very far from standard Metroid fare. It's focused almost entirely on shooting things, with little focus placed on puzzles. The basic flow of the game is jump, shoot, run, shoot shoot shoot, jump, open a door, shoot some more, then jump again, followed by more shooting. Oh, and you also get to shoot things!

The boss battles are pretty boring. There's eight bosses throughout the game, but only four of them are original. The other four are just revamped versions of the first bosses. Same method of killing, just more health.

On it's own, Metroid Prime Hunters isn't that bad of a game. Heck, online, this is a great shooter! But when it comes to the type of game the Metroid series is known for, it's a huge disappointment. The puzzles are almost gone, the storyline is disposable, and there's eight boss battles with only four bosses.

Originally delayed a year to add online play, it should have been delayed another year beyond that to actually be more than a shooter, and become a true Metroid title.

System: Nintendo 64

The Legend of Zelda is a franchise known by almost everyone, and it deserves this fame. It always delivers amazing adventure, brilliant puzzles and memorable characters. Actually, Majora's Mask does all these things, too. Sadly, it brings one more aspect into the mix: The dreaded three-day time limit.

Using the in-game clock, once three game-days pass, the moon crashes into the planet and kills everything. Which isn't good. And this is all happening because one Skullkid got his hands on the mystical Majora's Mask. Damn butter-fingered mask salesman! So at the end of each cycle, Link needs to use the Ocarina of Time to reverse the clock back to the first day. (Why not turn time back to before the Skullkid took the mask? Sometimes the simplest answers are overlooked...)

So, that's basically the whole story right there. And so begins the list of this game's shortcomings...

The aforementioned three-day time limit seems somewhat selective when it comes to what is affected by the time travel. Any rupees you have on hand are lost, as are certain mission items. But your weapons and key items remain intact. I guess they're all magic or something...

Also, nothing can stop this clock from ticking. Entering dungeons, talking to people, nothing. The pause menu is your only refuge from the passage of time. This is a real pain if you get really close to something, only to have time run out. And now everybody's a pancake. Darn.

In addition to the time-traveling, Majora's Mask's major gimmick is, well, masks. Throughout Link's adventure he'll obtain many masks from many places. Some will cause him to run faster or explode (No, really), and others transform him into other creatures such as Zoras, Gorons and Deku Scrubs.

Also, this game has talking beavers, too. Don't ask why. I think the guys who made Final Fantasy II sneaked into the development one day and added that for kicks (Those bastards!).

Ocarina of Time was a hard act to follow. Add to that the fact that Majora's Mask isn't stellar on it's own, and you have a case of major letdown.

System: Gamecube

Like Majora's Mask, Super Mario Sunshine also was next in line after the previous installment became one of the greatest games ever made. And again, like Majora's Mask, it wasn't even a terribly awesome game on it's own. Unlike Majora's Mask, however, there are no talking beavers. Now we can all sleep at night.

The story begins on a private jet headed off to beautiful Isle Delfino. Peach is sitting in her seat, eagerly awaiting her vacation (As if she has work to escape). When they get there, however, the locals are somewhat out of sorts. It seems that someone fitting Mario's description was seen defacing public property with oozing graffiti. Mario's immediately taken into custody and, after a completely one-sided trial, is sentenced. His burden? To clean up all he allegedly did.

When it comes to Mario's doppelganger, people seem to have not noticed one thing: It's blue and partially see-through. Yep, looks exactly like Mario, don't it? It's because he's Italian, isn't it?!

Peach is soon kidnapped by the vaguely resemblant fiend, and Mario gives chase. After a few missions, it is revealed that Mario's impostor is actually Bowser Jr. in disguise. And for some reason, he seems convinced that Peach is his mom (Wowza, that must've been some night). He escapes with the princess, and the chase continues on.

Super Mario Sunshine's main gimmick is F.L.U.D.D, a back-mounted water cannon. F.L.U.D.D can be used to hover, jump and, mainly, clean up the mess Bowser Jr. made. Cleaning up the mess is good and all, but eventually, Mario's going to have to face his enemy directly. In order to do this, Mario must collect the Shine Sprites scattered about the island. These powerful tokens once brought sunlight and happiness to the island of Delfino, but after being scattered, the island falls dark and grim. By collecting enough Sprites, Mario can finally enter the island's volcano and challenge Bowser Jr. and his dad face-to-face.

Like Metroid Prime Hunters, Super Mario Sunshine wasn't that bad of a game. However, as a Mario title, it was no good at all. F.L.U.D.D was completely out of place in the game, and added too much complexity to the usually simple Mario formula. The game that was beginner-friendly became somewhat inaccessible to less experienced gamers.

Sunshine was a fun game, but it was a bad Mario title. Luckily for the plumber, Galaxy redeemed the franchise. But he'd better not let it happen again, lest Nintendo of America find a flaming paper bag of "justice" on their front step.

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The Duck Has Spoken.


Naomi Knight said...

Best. Article. EVER.

And I totally agree about Majora's Mask. I got soooo tired of having to repeat the same missions over and over, only to lose everything because I took 5 minutes too long, and have to repeat everything.

Sunshine was cool for about a half hour of play, and then it just got annoying. I've never played Metroid Hunters or Final Fantasy II, but now I know not to bother. Thank you.

Frioniel said...

...Your FFIIj part could make fans angry. I'm not the sort to get angry, but... you know?
But, it still was a good article, all in all.

Anonymous said...

Majora's Mask had a slowdown song, and all you had to do was get each son to enter, deposit rupees, and then go to clear the dungeon and you would have plenty of's probably my favorite Zelda game ever, but oh well.

Then again, I liked Sunshine too...

RainbowCat said...

Uh, while I can't say the battle system was super good or not, your review of FF2 screams "I forgot that this game was released in the 80s on the Famicom/NES." Unless I missed my guess, storylines weren't very deep back then. It's like you're judging the original Fire Emblem based on the merits of Fire Emblem 10.