Saturday, January 24, 2009

Three types of game endings I really hate

What? It's Saturday, and I haven't posted since in over three days? What is this, January 10th? Sorry 'bout all the... Nothing over the last few days. I just haven't thought up anything good... Until today. So here we go!


When I get to the end of a game, I like it when something really amazing happens. I've been playing for 20+ hours, so I expect a little bit of a reward for all my work. I want the story that's taken me through this day(s)-long journey of fighting to have a satisfying and complete conclusion. When I get to the end of the game and the story just stops, gets butchered or is plain destroyed, well, I feel somewhat cheated. I've noticed a trend, though, in the game endings I don't like, and here's the worst three types of the lot.

The "It never really happened" ending

Any gamer who glanced at the above image before reading knows exactly what this section's all about. The "It never really happened" ending is, as it suggests, the kind of ending in which all progress made, enemies defeated and people saved in your playtime mean nothing, because, in the end, the whole thing was just a dream/simulation/acid trip. The primary and, to my knowledge, earliest offender in this category is the American Super Mario Bros. 2. Mario, Peach, Luigi and Toad all fight their asses off in the bizarre world of Subcon (Okay, that should've tipped me off right there, but I was four) through many worlds and stages, defeat the evil Wart, and... Mario wakes up. Wow. Oscar-winning material right there.

And it's not as if this hasn't happened in more recent years, either. At the end of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, after a truly epic final boss battle, Link comes to on the deck of Tetra's ship. In the distance he thinks he sees Linebeck's ship sailing off into the distance and fading away, but other than that, there's no indication whatsoever that his adventures with Linebeck, Ciela and the like were real. Ain't that a kick in the nuts.

Even worse, this isn't the first time such a thing has happened in a Zelda game! Way back in 1993 the same exact thing happened in Link's Awakening, with the hero simply waking up on a raft, adrift in some unknown sea. Similar to Phantom Hourglass, Link faintly sees the image of the Wind Fish fly by in the sky, and the game ends. All those people you came to know and become friends with in Koholint? Poof! Gone! Never existed! That's nice. This whole game was Link dreaming, making the entire thing completely dismissible in the overall Zelda canon.

The "It never really happened" ending is probably my most-hated of all, with all of my 20+ hours of work meaning absolutely nothing in the end. Despite how much I really, really hate this way of "finishing" a story, there's surprisingly one type of ending that comes quite close, and that's...

The "Too bad, you're screwed anyways" ending

Throughout your entire adventure you fight and fight and fight to save the world/your homeland/yourself/a magical donkey, and no matter what happens, the game ends with you failing miserably. Ain't that a great message to send to kids; "Don't bother trying, you'll fail no matter what!" Well, okay, I can't think of any such situation in a game intended for children, but you get the idea. Probably the most famous game to have an ending like this in Final Fantasy VII. Through three discs of solid gameplay, you fight past gigantic monsters, evil corporations and mental instability (I'm looking at you, CLOUD), yet, at the very end, the darned meteor blows the whole damn human race to bits anyways. What's that, you say? Advent Children? Bah! Whole thing's a pile of inconsistencies and impossibilities. Quite visually pleasing, though.

I can merge two universes whenever I want, okay? I'm crazy like that.

A slightly different example lies in the unknown gap between Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Despite all the hard work the player puts into righting the war-torn world he lives in, it all just ends up getting pummeled by meteors a few years later. "Hey, thanks for saving us, Andy! Now we can live in pea-" BOOM! "Yeah, thanks a whole lot, Andy. Thanks to you, we all lived past this terrible war with its mercifully quick deaths only to be slowly and painfully killed by the swift decline in habitability of our planet. You're my hero. Oh, wait, you're dead, too! MY BAD." For some reason I'm noticing a bizarre relation between meteors and non-fulfilling game conclusions. Must be my imagination.

Come to think of it, though, the magnitude of both the "Too bad, you're screwed anyways" and the "It never really happened" endings don't even come close to matching the incredible smack in the face that is...

The "Thanks for playing, now go away" ending

Nothing like saving a virtual world and having the game tell you "Okay, that's it. Bye", huh? Sadly, too many developers think this constitutes a proper game ending. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but this is probably the worst ending of all: No ending. Game endings are supposed to be like stopping a car. You slow down, and eventually come to a stop. These non-endings are more like plowing your Volkswagen into a solid brick wall. Sure, it's over, but you aren't exactly happy, are you? One such example of this Jetta-crunching ending is the finale to one of the most important games ever made: Super Mario Bros. No, I'm not going to tear this apart. It's an old game made in a time when technology was limited. This here is an example. Peach's "WE PRESENT YOU A NEW QUEST" is actually more than you'll get in many modern games.

Back then it was excusable. These days? Not so much.

One franchise that has consistently culminated in a "Thanks for playing, now go away" ending is The Legend of Zelda. Beat any Zelda game, then load your save file. What's changed? Nothing (One exception: The original game's "Second Quest"). You're just standing outside Ganon's door like you were right before the final boss battle. Alright then... What do I do now? If you're a completionist like me, you've probably all but finished every sidequest in the game, leaving the ultimate battle for last. Now I'm just standing there thinking "...that's it? No bonus for slaying the evil? No perk for defeating Ganon once again? NOTHING?" Nope, that's it. No bonus post-story quest or anything like that. Oh boy, do I feel like my days of work were well-spent or what.

Another culprit here would have to be... Well, just about any Valve game with a storyline. As much as I love the guys (Which is a LOT), their games just stop dead when the story's over. The only exception I've encountered is in Portal, the ending of which yields a few additional, extra-hard challenges. But when it comes to the Half-Life series, it's never anything more than the G-Man yapping at you followed by the credits rolling.

We need to evolve past this primitive form of ending games and start having more to do after the story comes to a close. The "Thanks for playing, now go away" ending is probably the most common offender out there, yet it never gets called out for being dissatisfying. Just because the story's over doesn't mean the game has to go with it! Let us unlock new modes, bonus levels or special equipment when the story ends! I'd really like to see Hyrule post-Ganon one of these days, Nintendo. I hope I don't have to wait much longer to see this.

So then, those are three types of game endings I just plain old hate. How about you guys? Do you agree with what I said, do you have some kinds that tick you off, or do you think I'm just some crazy internet weirdo screaming on about nonsense? Whatever the case, feel free to take your personal blatherings to the comments section, or this forum thread.


Kyle said...

What I hate is after the ending when there's some big goal (such as collecting all the Pokemon or finding all the treasure) and once you complete that goal with everything in the game found you either get a crappy reward or no reward at all.

Fandomocity said...

Honestly, I thought the Half Life series always ended in more of a cliff hanger, have you played episodes 1 and 2 as well? They just basically end the chapter of a book, and get ready to begin the next one.

PsychoDuck said...

@ Fandomocity:

Yeah, I've gone clean through the entire Orange Box. Still, the way it just stops immediately right after such a big event at the end of Episode 2... Augh, I love it and hate it at the same time!

Fandomocity said...

Agreed, I can't wait for #3 to be released, btw, I'm gonna get Gmod soon, and I expect you to live up to your promise to help me lol

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest Duck (it's me from 1UP! remember Snesboy?) but game endings never really bothered me except for the you're screwed anyways endings.