Role playing games have always been feast or famine throughout their history of existence. While we have had some phenomenal entries into the genre, there have been some utter and absolute abominations that bastardized everything we love about RPGs. This article is about the latter.
Where do we start? Up until this steamy pile came out, there had never been an official direct sequel to any Final Fantasy game created. I talked the title up to all the customers at the retail store I worked with, lots of hand wringing took place, history was about to be made. What we knew was that after the poignant ending of FFX, we were about to have answers to the many questions the the after credits scene gave us. Then we heard about the new and amazing job system that allowed you to change your character’s abilities on the fly. We were looking forward to returning to Spira.
What went wrong?
This game wasn’t that bad… If you took out the open world exploration, multiple characters and then suddenly turned the main characters into some odd J-pop group. In other words, what the hell happened here?! The job system was actually an odd outfit based theme, simplifying a rich character growth system down to extreme simplicity. You start the game with 3 characters, the same 3 characters you use throughout the game, also the same 3 that you finish with. The game advances by completing missions, which unfortunately follow an extreme linear approach. Finally, it was the first Final Fantasy game in the series that didn’t have any musical contributions in it from longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu. Epic fail. The game felt more Charlies Angels than Final Fantasy and ultimately ended up in discount bins along side it’s film counterpart.
From Software has a been on a roll since Demon’s Souls came out, but before that there was Enchanted Arms. The game received moderately favorable reviews, which after playing it makes me wonder if I played the same game. The game follows a student named Atsuma, there is something obviously odd about this kid, which you get to witness if you can withstand the painfully long intro dialogue at the beginning of the game. Enchanted Arms boasted a plethora of support characters, called Golems, that could be discovered throughout the game. The idea sounded cool up until you actually played the game.
What went wrong?
My best guess is that they tried to hard to do too much. The battle system works much like a lite version of Shining Force, yeah, a simplified version of a battle system introduced 13 years prior. To try to redeem itself, they created rules for battle that are very chess-like in nature. Then the game tries to get edgy, I got this from the Enchanted Arms manual Character Bio for Makoto: “Also a student at Enchant University, Makoto is another of Atsuma and Toya’s friends – and a flamboyant transvestite. Atsuma just sees him as a woman trapped in a man’s body”. I have no problem with the homosexual community but to be honest, Makoto is one of the gayest characters I have encountered in game or in real life. The dialogue scenes are hard to deal with as they are extremely stale, the story is hard to follow and then things like this happen (It’s a 15 minute clip, watch the first 30 seconds). The only redeemable excuse on this one is that the developers had to have a conjoined case of serious ADHD, because that is what this game feels like.
Ah Two Worlds, where do we begin? As an open world RPG, Two Worlds was talked up in some circles as a spiritual successor to Oblivion. Boasting what appeared to be some great looking graphic and what sounded like a really cool story line Two Worlds seemed destined for greatness. The retail store I worked at actually had us take product training on this game, since it was supposed to be a major title. Then, prior to release, I got to sit down and play this wonder of a game…
What went wrong?
Everything! Well, the game still looked nice but everything else was a total disaster. Some enemies lacked proper movement animation, causing them to slide across the ground like Gumby. The rich storyline that was touted turned out to be the actual story of the game, as in; the story on the back of the box was literally the only story you really got. The game was glitched to high hell, often times I would get stuck on something invisible in town or be unable to exit a menu. Sometimes, if the game was feeling especially glitchy, I would even fall through the world itself. I kept playing it though, thinking that it had to get better soon. I found myself often times walking right into an extremely high level encounter without warning, and enemies I did kill stay dead… forever. No respawning of enemies here. Two Worlds also managed to break the English language itself with it’s cast speaking in a crappy old world dialect that made Thor from the 80s actually sound intelligent. NPCs walked through walls and over water, enemies would chase you forever and a map system that made quests unable to be completed. Sadly, my brothers loved this game, but only because they got to laugh at it every time something extremely stupid happened in game, they laughed a lot.
I actually wrote a review on this one. Long story short, this game looked to poke a ton of fun at the battles for supremacy within the gaming industry during the 7th generation of consoles (as in our current generation). Hell, the world itself is called Gamindustri. With the names attached to this one, HDN looked like this was going to be the JRPG for long time gamers that would take a satirical look at the “Console Wars”. Characters all have a unique dungeon ability, that allowed you to perform different tasks while exploring. As there was no map system, events were to be accessed from a menu, sounded like a short cut, but I was willing to take the plunge and check it out.
What went wrong?
Somewhere along the line, Compile Heart decided the use of outdated graphics and sluggish gameplay would fit perfectly with this title. The all female cast seemed to focus more on innuendo and outright sexual humor Some cutscenes (if you would call them that) reference certain game franchises, but really outside of the appearance of old Sega characters in battle, that is about it. The aforementioned cutscenes are just slightly animated pictures of each character, eyes blink, mouths move and boobs jiggle. Gameplay itself is slow and bulky, characters move at a leisurely pace and the ability to outright heal your characters in battle was removed. It seems like this game really lost it’s charm when it got an international release.
When these games came out I was intrigued. Just the prefix “Xeno” created images of the great Xenogears, and the fact that the creator behind the game was also behind this one piqued my interest even more. At the time, the entire Xenosaga series boasted impressive graphics for the PS2 and with seven upcoming titles, it sounded like it would be an intelligent break from the Final Fantasy style series. The titles of the games were lifted from the writings of Nietzsche, which was appropriate since all different philosophical viewpoints were thrown within this game. The games by themselves weren’t actually all too bad.
What went wrong?
Well, it had to be on the list for some reason right? The series never told the story that it appeared that it wanted to. The message itself was so ambiguous that even today, mention of the series can start theological debate. Outside of this, there also was a direct lack of action, jokes are still abound about games being interactive DVDs. Now I played through them all, but felt that gameplay did become tedious after awhile and also characters seemed to be introduced out of the blue, without much time developing any backstory or motivation. What killed this series was a complete lack of execution. The first 3 games were not all that bad, but the sometimes incoherent story and odd characters were. In the end, the Xenosaga series was pulled from life support, leaving the story unresolved and KOS-MOS floating, appropriately, in space.