SMH – 5 Gaming Experiences I Never Want to Have Again
This has been a pretty intense holiday season for the gaming industry. Looking back at the epic mountain of long-awaited sequels we got brought back a lot of awesome memories; this year honestly and finally saw the rise of a new Best Game of All Time in my book, a title that Final Fantasy VII held for nearly fifteen years.
The thing is, this season made me wonder what the hell was happening in previous years. Why hadn’t previous holiday seasons been this insane? I pondered it for a while and the answer became clear: devs spent a ton of time making bad decisions and shit I didn’t want to play. And realizing that, I decided I had to write an article just to get these five personal worst gaming experiences ever out of my system.
Now, I know a lot of people love some of the games I’m going to talk about. Please take a moment to understand that in my book, something like Home Alone for the Super Nintendo can’t be on this list because the final ingredient to a terrible gaming experience for me is soul crushing disappointment; I never expected Home Alone to be good even when I first played it at a friend’s house when I was twelve. In short, most of these games have redeeming factors—I know that. They have to to get on this list in the first place.
That said, let’s take a look at the 5 gaming experiences I never want to have again.
5. Runescape – Pretty Much in Its Entirety
This first item is a special one because it represents an entire genre that I never want to experience again—the MMO. I’ve tried a few MMO’s since I quit Runescape, but the result is always the same; I quit the very moment I realize the new MMO, no matter how flashy the graphics or audacious the story, is just like Runescape all over again.
And what exactly did it mean to play Runescape?
Doing stupid shit you wouldn’t want to do in real life, but doing it in Runescape so you can level up. Granted, not every skill was accessible in the average person’s daily lives, but while I was playing, towns would be full of people lighting rows and rows of bonfires in the streets. Why? To level up their Firemaking. Why? Because they had a ton of wood. Why? Because they’d just chopped down a bunch of fucking trees to level up their Woodcutting. In hindsight, I don’t think anything is sadder than someone leveling their Firemaking and everyone around them saying “grats!” as if it mattered. At all. In the slightest. To put it into perspective, all your bonfires did were be bonfires for a few moments before fizzling out—in short, aside from leveling up, there was no reason whatsoever to practice making bonfires. But everyone did it. The same way everyone, at some point or another in their Runescape careers, practiced making pizzas.
You know what would be more entertaining? Practicing making pizzas in real fucking life. At least then I could have a new skill I could actually use.
I’m not sure how long it took me to realize all of this, but it was some time after Chaosrayne got me into the game and definitely some time after he himself made the joke: “Runescape is the game where you do mundane bullshit you don’t do in real life over and over for no reason.”
I remember laughing. But then, I also remember yelling that quote at my computer when I finally stopped kneading pizza dough and gave up my pseudo-quest forever.
Friends have asked me to finally start playing WoW. I’ve refused every time and I’m never going to change my mind. Not because WoW is stupid or something (it’s clearly the best MMO out there and I don’t look down on those who play it). But I turn their invites down because I know that at some point in WoW I’m going to have to farm some gold. Or farm an enemy drop. Or farm something the same way I had to mine mithril for hours in Runescape.
And, quite simply, fuck that.
4. Mario Sunshine – Those Fucking Blue Coins
The big picture here: this game was the sequel to Mario 64—a tough act to follow. And I completely agree with the general consensus that Sunshine was an incredibly disappointing follow-up.
But that disappointment is actually overshadowed for me by Sunshine’s in-game collectibles—the Blue Coins. Now, Nintendo games always come with their in-game collectibles, but never have they been more annoying to fetch than they were in Sunshine. Not even in Yoshi’s Island—where you had to collect Stars, Red Coins, and a Flower in every stage—was getting 100% completion a shittier experience.
And why? Because finding every Blue Coin in Mario Sunshine meant mindlessly spraying every inch of Delfino Island with your goddamn FLUDD water pack. That wasn’t how you got all of them, but it was how you got a lot of them and it sucked because it was lazy and not engaging at all.
Like, okay—in contrast, in Yoshi’s Island, there was a bit of leeway with getting your 15 Stars; it made the experience way less tedious because you could play around with it. In Sunshine, after you locate the Blue Coins that are out in the open or part of a puzzle, you basically had to spend hours going from stage to stage and dousing everything in sight with FLUDD to find the rest of them. You ask, “Even if it doesn’t make sense?” My answer: yes—especially if it doesn’t make sense. Want a Blue Coin? Spray this fucking fruit with your water hose. Want another one? Spray this painting. Another? Spray this fucking bush. How is this bush different from all of the other bushes? It isn’t, son. It just fucking isn’t. There were a few creative hiding spots for Blue Coins too, and those were awesome. My favorite was the one you got on Gelato Beach for dropping a fruit into the blender at the top of the smoothy shack, but for that one, occasional, really cool Blue Coin, there were always ten others that were just dumped in crates, or flower pots, or refrigerators or whatever the hell. Shit was tedious.
I was never really charmed by Mario Sunshine—it just didn’t have the magic of 64. But after spending hours looking for the last Blue Coin only to find that it was under a bench I was supposed to spray with my goddamn water pack (or wherever it was—I’m pretty sure I blocked it out), the coffin was sealed; I’ve never touched Sunshine since.
3. Batman & Robin for the PSone – A City of Justice, a City of Love
I know what you’re thinking. First of all, I did not expect this game to be good even back when it came out; my brother and I rented it for the express purpose of finding out just how terrible it was. We thought the movie Batman & Robin was such a terrible train wreck that it was just funny to watch. What bad decisions did Acclaim make with its tie-in game? We had to know.
The whole plan backfired; Batman & Robin was easily so much worse than we imagined that it wasn’t funny. At all. The graphics were terrible even by original Playstation standards, there was pretty much zero conveyance (my brother and I spent an enraging amount of time trying to figure out how to finish the introductory fight with Mr. Freeze’s ice-skating, jackass henchmen), there were all of the silly tropes of licensed movie games (terrible cinemas, terrible music, etc.), and all of it for source material that was horrible to begin with.
But what was it that really made it a terrible experience? It was getting back to Wayne Manor and realizing that I could take a ride in the Batmobile. It was a feature neither of us expected, so we didn’t know what was coming when we decided to go for a spin around Gotham City.
What we found was… a sandbox Gotham? Despite myself, I remember thinking, “Did they… try? Did they actually make something worth playing?” Even if it was by accident—even if you were only allowed a shallow bit of sandbox gameplay, I thought it had to be cool. I sat there driving away from Wayne Manor thinking of the possibilities; could I find other villains’ hideouts? Could I stop random crimes? Could I at least find Gotham landmarks?
And only a few minutes later, I felt not only extremely stupid for hoping Batman & Robin could have any of those things, but completely defeated; the Gotham City you drive around in was not a sandbox because there was nothing in it. Sure, there were mission locations, but that was it. Imagine finding a sandbox world so completely void of ambition that it became an extremely pointless, oversized hub.
There was something incredibly sad about it on so many levels. There were so many things they could’ve done with Gotham, but it was so empty that getting out of your Batmobile and walking around was like glitching yourself out of bounds and exploring a blue hell—like playing an undead, digital labyrinth. You just couldn’t shake the feeling that you weren’t supposed to be outside on the empty city streets because there was that little to offer; it wasn’t just that there were no buildings to enter—it was that they all looked exactly the same. And there were no civilians. Could they really not have tried even a little? Clearly not, but then why make it possible to drive around in Gotham anyway?
The answer? Who knows. But the reply? The most somber SMH of all time. Any gamer worth their salt knows to stay away from 98% of licensed movie games. But for the moments when each of us realized why, my friends, I’m sorry.
2. Final Fantasy 8 – … … … Whatever.
Before I explain, I know—lots of people loved this game. Members of the staff for this site loved this game. To all of you, my opinions are my own; I’m sorry if they piss you off, but opinions, by nature, are neither correct nor incorrect. That said…
Plain and simple, I never want to experience Final Fantasy 8 ever again because there has never been a bigger act to follow than Final Fantasy VII. And never, in my mind, has a single game buckled under the pressure more completely than Final Fantasy 8. Just looking at it is like looking at an absolutely terrified team of devs who have no idea what they’re doing.
For example, I look at the incredibly time consuming, tedious Draw magic system and see the folks at 90’s Squaresoft at a pre-production meeting. They’re sweating, looking at the dry erase marker board. On it is scrawled “New Magic System?” Next to that is “Materia”.
Someone says, “Well… In Final Fantasy VII, they got magic from crystallized knowledge… Maybe… they can get it from somewhere else?”
Someone else jumps out of his seat and says, “They get it from the monsters! That’s cooler! Right? : D”
Everyone else cheers. One person at the end of the table actually weeps with relief.
No one realizes that starting their brainstorming with, “Well… In Final Fantasy VII…,” was the wrong fucking idea.
Everything in Final Fantasy 8, was a sad copy of something from VII, almost always chosen because of how cool it sounded, despite how terribly it worked out.
You thought Materia was cool? Well, now you Draw magic from monsters!
How does it sound? Pretty cool. How did it turn out? You spend hours at a time “drawing” shitty spells from monsters, trying to make fights go on for unnaturally long so you could get 99 of one or the other. Or you walk back and forth through different areas after one of your spells ran out, hoping to just find some damn monster with a spell you want. In short, incredibly boring.
You thought the Buster Sword was cool? Well, now your sword is a fucking GUN!
How does it sound? Cool. How did it turn out? You have to hit R1 every time you use it so it can like… vibrate through an enemy for extra damage? So now even just attacking is more tedious? Hooray. I’m glad you guys are trying this hard.
You thought starting out in Midgar was cool? Check out BALAMB GARDEN! They serve HOTDOGS! Aaaaaand… it’s a school!
You thought Cloud was emotional?! Squall BARELY TALKS!
Did FFVII’s plot twist blow your mind!? Well Squall and all of the other playable characters were raised… uh… by the villain, Sorceress Edea!!… Uh… To… to fight another sorceress!… Who CONTROLS TIME!
… <sigh> Look, the point is that every choice the developers made for Final Fantasy 8 was made as if Final Fantasy VII stood behind them with a gun to their heads. Almost nothing about that game felt natural—nearly everything was forced, which made all of it way less enjoyable, which is a shame because what made Final Fantasy VII so amazing was how damn fun and natural it was. From the magic system to the dialog, that game was an absolute blast that brought you really close to its characters. The writing was so oddly personal that you got to know Barrett’s dialog quirks and Cloud’s nervous mannerisms, for example, which is still kind of rare in this age of gaming (I’ve only ever seen that depth of personality in Uncharted since). To this day, FFVII is the only game I’ve ever replayed just to hear what particular characters would say at different parts.
In short, think of it like this: if you were at a party, Final Fantasy VII would bring beer, hand them out to everyone, and then tell an awesome story that would make everyone laugh and, possibly, tear up.
Then Final Fantasy 8 would jump up and say, “Wait, wait! I’ve got a story too!” and then repeat everything you just heard while replacing airships with mech spaceships, swords with fucking gunswords, and one half of the characters with hot chicks with no personalities, and the other half with shirtless cowboys and dudes with facial tattoos and wicked sick pompadours.
Seriously, I’d rather have a beer and a good time than watch a group of devs desperately try to make lightning strike the same spot a second time.
1. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
There are so many reasons why I will never play Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty again. It was the first time I really saw the absurdity of extremely bland, time-wasting bullshit like doing 100 pull-ups on a ledge to upgrade something as trivial as my Grip Strength Level. It was also the first time I absolutely hated trying to get all of a game’s collectible items (you mean you have to collect all of the dog tags… on every fucking difficulty? Separately? They don’t carry over? Complete bullshit). Tack on shitty characters, awkward moments, one too many oddly anti-American jokes, and the way the game copies everything Metal Gear Solid did (and yes, I know that was the whole point, but it’s a pretty shitty point for a sequel fans have been waiting for for years) and I already have enough reason for never touching it again.
But the real reason—the part of the experience that I’ll never, ever forgive? The trick. Maybe you experienced it. Maybe you’ve only heard about it. Either way…
Raiden was hands down one of the shittiest things I’ve ever had to deal with in a video game.
No one knew he was coming. Gameplay videos, the demo that came with Zone of the Enders, even the game’s opening cinema (with the exception of a single shot) only showcased Solid Snake, not Raiden. I remember speeding through the tanker, eager to see how Snake survived his confrontation with Metal Gear Ray. Would he be stuck in the sinking tanker? Would I have to fight my way out before it exploded?
If only I’d known. I remember being so confused the first time I heard Raiden’s voice. I was so sure we’d just been taken back to Snake’s past. But no, wait—didn’t Campbell just say that the tanker incident happened two years ago? Who the fuck was I playing then? Was this a side character? It didn’t matter; this had to be a bit of exposition or something—Snake would come in and save this kid’s life and then I’d control him after that. It would only be an hour.
But an hour turned into three hours. And that turned into six hours. And that turned into the rest of the fucking game.
I wish I could explain exactly how it felt to watch that credit roll knowing, after one of the worst endings of all time, that I’d just been completely lied to. Such confusion, even at the very end. The best way I can explain it is this: imagine if you’d been really, really excited for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Imagine also that none of the trailers had shown Mutt Williams. The movie starts up the same exact way, only when Indiana Jones reaches down and grabs his hat, the camera scrolls up and it’s… Shia LaBeouf? That is exactly how it felt.
I understand that analogy isn’t perfect (Solid Snake was actually in the rest of MGS2 as a side character, for example), but, factoring in certain differences (we’d all been lied to so the folks at Konami could still get our money [a solid $60, mind you]; MGS2 was a much, much longer experience than a standard two hour long movie, etc.), my Mutt scenario is as close as I can bring you to the rage I felt when I beat Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for the first time, went back to the title screen, and found that now (fucking now) Raiden’s face was front and center, right underneath the title.
Yeah. Fuck that.