10 More Gone!

Well, no theme this Wednesday – just another pile of crappy, yet unremarkable, games to eliminate.

Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble – That’s weird, I don’t remember thinking “What the hell’s going on?” this often while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Taz: Escape from MarsTaz vs. Marvin the Martian in a battle for also-ran Looney Tunes character supremacy.

Animaniacs – At this point, you would think the law of averages would dictate that at least one of these Warner Bros. licenses would result in a good game.Apparently not.

Marsupilami – Protip:When creating your mascot character, try to come up with some more interesting defining characteristics than “Has a really, really long tail.”

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Judge DreddIf only the game had done as much damage to the publisher as the movie did to Stallone’s career.

Powerball – It’s the same idea as Speedball 2, except that Speedball 2 is fun.

Grindstormer – Vertical shooter that makes use of the ever-popular “Cheap hits from behind you and weapons that make it impossible to see” combo.

Championship Pool – Just like real pool except that whenever I shoot, I have absolutely no idea where the ball is going to… no, wait actually that happens when I play real pool, too.

Double Dragon 3 – Somebody please explain to me how you can take a game about walking from left to right and beating up everyone you meet, and somehow turn it into something this confusing.

Atomic Robo-Kid – Gotta love having a jump button in a a game where you can fly anytime you want.

Garfield: Caught in the Act

At this point in the project, we’ve played so many mediocre platforming games starring well-known cartoon characters that as soon as we began playing Garfield, our first instinct was just to shrug, chalk it up as just one more average at best platformer, and try to think up a clever one-liner to dismiss it with on Wednesday.And we’d have been right to do so – Garfield: Caught in the Act is about as typical as platformers get.But we’ve said that about a lot of games throughout this project.What does that actually mean?

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It means is that it’s one of those games where you go from left to right through stages where you have to jump over hazards and onto platforms of different heights, and dodge enemies, which you either jump on their heads to kill them or, in this case, throw crap at them.It’s kind of like Aladdin, except with a character that nobody between the ages of 5 and 60 actually likes.There were a TON of games like this that came out in the 8-bit and 16-bit days, and they were all fundamentally similar (to be fair, that happens for every kind of game – the thing that makes something a genre is the fact that all the games in that genre are fundamentally similar).Since its such a crowded market, each game needs to have a little “hook” – some unique aspect that makes it a little different from all the others.For some games, like Mario or Sonic, the hook is that they’re really well-designed and fun.For other games, there might be some kind of interesting gameplay twist, such as the ability to reach out and grab things in Ristar.For most licensed games, the hook is really just that they are based on popular movies or TV shows or whatever, which is why they are usually not as much fun as other games – being fun or well-made are secondary concerns.And in the case of Garfield, that’s a double whammy – the game’s only hook is that it stars Garfield and well, who really gives a shit?

So, beyond having Garfield in it, the rest of the game is pretty average and forgetable.If it were a football team, it would be the Atlanta Falcons.If it were a romantic comedy, it would be How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.If it were a TV show, it would be Wings, and if it were a band, it would probably be The Goo Goo Dolls.Is Garfield: Caught in the Act a terrible game?No, but by this point we’ve knocked off most of the really horrible stuff (don’t worry – we’re saving a few for a rainy day).It’s time to separte out the good from the mediocre, and Garfield lands pretty solidly in the latter category.

MiG 29 Fighter Pilot

Stryker:Jesus Christ, even the games about MiGs are bad.

Brad:Oh yeah, here’s what we wanted.Bored of flight sims starring the F-15 and F-22?Try piloting a heap of flying Russian scrap metal instead.

Stryker:Now you get to play as one of those hapless planes you always use as target practice in other, better sims.You’ll still get blown up, though.Tie Fighter, this ain’t.

Brad:For ultimate realism, they should have but in a feature where ¼ of the time, your plane has a technical malfunction and just explodes mid-flight for no apparent reason.

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Stryker:A little warning light could flash right before that happens – “Warning:Soviet Engineering!”

Brad:Remember a few days ago when we eliminated F-15 Strike Eagle II, and I mentioned that the game would have killed any desire I had to join the Air Force?Well, this game would have killed any desire I would have had to defect to the USSR and join their Air Force.Not that the prospect of flying a MiG wouldn’t have done that anyway.

Stryker:Plus, you know, you’d have to live in the Soviet Union.

Brad:Honestly, I don’t think it would have been that big of an adjustment from living in Buffalo.I mean, I’d be joining the armed forces, so I’d have been living under a harsh militaristic dictatorship either way.Beyond that, it’s pretty similar – economic depression, grim industrial hellscape, brutal endless winters…

Stryker:Ok, I think we should apologize to Russia for that last remark.Saying the entire nation was like one gigantic version of Buffalo…That’s crossing a line.

Brad:Getting back to the game for a second – why does it seem like every single flight sim has pyramids in it?What the hell did Eygpt ever do that everybody wants a piece of them?I mean, sure, if this was a game about the Israeli Air Force, I’d get that.But the Soviets vs. Egypt?Was that a thing back then?Did we just not hear about it because we were focused on our own problems?

Stryker:Maybe Egypt was like the USSR’s equivalent of Utah.Just this mostly empty desert with a few pockets of religious fanatics that they would fly practice missions over.

Brad:Or maybe every programmer of flight sims secretly wants to blow up the pyramids.

Prince of Persia

Let me see if I’ve got this straight… Prince of Persia has unresponsive controls, levels that seem to have been designed by someone who hates you personally, and some of the worst music ever recorded. And people consider it one of the greatest games ever made? Seriously? It really shouldn’t be too much to ask that my character jumps when I press the jump button, rather than ignoring my commands and gleefully falling to his death for the millionth time. You can creep up slowly to the edge of pitfalls to line up your jumps properly to avoid this, but since a large part of the gameplay involves timing puzzles that require fast, mistake-free platforming, frustration is guaranteed one way or another.

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Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the nonsense about this fundamentally flawed game being some kind of all-time classic needs to end.Today.Prince of Persia sucks.Prince of Persia has always sucked, and it always will suck.It’s a huge flaming pile of shit of a game that came from a reputable developer or famous designer or whatever, so everyone gave it a wide berth and favorable reviews that bordered on being criminally dishonest.I’ve seen lousy platforming games starring cartoon characters nobody cares about that were still better than this.But while those games were given the derision that they deserved, PoP still gets treated like playing it magically makes your waist thinner and your bank account fatter.

“Oh, but Brad,” you say, “Prince of Persia was the inspiration for Tomb Raider.”Yeah, there might be some truth to that.Want to see signs of PoP in Tomb Raider?The next time Lara falls to her death because you didn’t line up a jump just right, and have to backtrack for ten minutes from the last save point – that’s Prince of Persia’s influence.The next time you walk off a cliff because Tomb Raider treats your controller inputs as vague suggestions that can be ignored – PoP again!In fact, pretty much any part of Tomb Raider that isn’t any fun and makes you throw your controller through the TV can probably be credited to Prince of Persia.Nice legacy, huh?

Phantasy Star 2, 3 & 4

The Phantasy Star games are, by far, the most popular and highly-regarded RPGs to appear on the Sega Genesis, so our decision to eliminate them all in one fell swoop was not one that we took lightly.Because of this, we actually had Stryker attempt to play the role of devil’s advocate, arguing on behalf of the Phantasy Star games while I made the case for their execution.Enjoy the transcript:

Brad:Well, I’m getting what I wanted for Christmas – we’re eliminating the Genesis’ most popular RPG series!

After years of having RPG dorks tell me how awesome the Phantasy Star games are, I have to admit I’m pretty disappointed.This series is about as typical as RPGs come – walk 5 steps, get teleported to some magical battlefield to fight a lame, menu-driven, turn based battle against generic monsters, and repeat for about 20 minutes.Then walk around and talk to every idiot in town to advance the plot until the game sends you to your next location for even more level grinding and boredom.No thanks.

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Stryker:Yeah, but it’s not really fair to judge a Role Playing Game by action game standards – you have to judge it relative to other RPGs. And in terms of how the game is designed, Phantasy Star isn’t any different from Final Fantasy or most other RPGs from that era.

Brad:And that might be ok for an NES or SNES game.But the Genesis was home to some really pioneering RPGs and RPG hybrids.On a system with more than a few innovative titles, it’s no longer ok to pretend that this was the best idea anyone had come up with so far.Because when you really think about it, as games, RPGs simply don’t work – there’s no game here at all, just mindless repetition.

The combat in most of these titles plays like a demo of a game they haven’t quite finished yet.It’s as if the guys who programmed the first RPG originally just put the combat screen in there as a placeholder so he could test the rest of the game.You know, like they hadn’t programmed the controls yet, so they just threw a menu up to use while they debugged the combat.Then when they went back later to make it so you could actually control the characters and stuff, they were like “Screw it, picking stuff off a menu works fine.”

Stryker:The gameplay in a turn-based RPG isn’t supposed to be about action – it’s strategic, just like the old pen and paper RPGs.

Brad:Except there is no strategy.The fact that games like Shining Force are broken out into their own genre called “Strategy RPGs” kind of implies that regular RPGs lack strategy.With minimal (if any) attention paid to factors such as terrain, range, or movement, there’s hardly any thought required at all.The “strategic” aspects of most battles generally come down to telling your mages to cast spells and choosing fight for everyone else.The later Phantasy Star titles even go as far as to let you put the battles on automatic pilot, with each character doing the exact same thing every round if you want.You call that strategy?

Stryker:Fine, but RPGs are all about the story anyway – gameplay shouldn’t even matter.

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Brad:Playing an RPG for nothing other than the story would be like watching a movie that keeps exiting back to the DVD menu every 30 seconds, and then you have to spend a minute pressing the play button repeatedly until it starts again.

And lets talk about the story for a second – Here’s a quick summation of the opening to Phantasy Star III:

It’s the wedding day of the prince.He’s about to get hitched to a woman who, a few months earlier, washed up on the beach.Nobody, including her, knows who she is, where she came from, or if – oh, I don’t know – she’s already married.Despite the obvious consequences this could have for national security since this mystery woman could theoretically become queen someday, everyone thinks this is an awesome idea.But then, during the ceremony, a dragon swoops in and flies away with her.The Prince vows to get her back, which causes the king to have him thrown into the dungeon… for some reason.And of course, the dungeon is full of treasure chests, which contain money and weaponry. I hear they have the same setup in a lot of prisons these days.

This is pretty typical of the storylines you get in the Phantasy Star series.No, in fact, that’s actually considered to be the high point for Phantasy Star 3.After that, the plot starts to get silly and hard to believe.Look, if you expect me to grind through 40 hours of picking “Fight” off of a menu over and over, you’re going to have to come with something a little less retarded than this.

Stryker:Yeah, well a lot of those “non-traditional” RPGs you keep talking about aren’t that great, either.I noticed Faery Tale Adventure didn’t last very long in this contest.

Brad:No, not all of the unique RPGs on the Genesis are good.But with so many fresh approaches to the genre on one system, its impossible to justify keeping relics like Phantasy Star around any longer.The argument against the traditional RPG is that they’re mind-numbingly boring and tedious; and the counterargument to that has always been that it’s just how the genre is.But once you have games like Rings of Power or Shining Force proving it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, then guess what?RPGs like this are just boring.

Stryker:Well, I tried.Screw it, Phantasy Star sucks.

Brad: You were an effective straw man.

Race to Elimination

Racing games are probably one of my favorite genres, but they really didn’t come into their own until the 32/64 bit generation of consoles, when systems became capable of things like analog control and respectable 3D rendering. It’s hard to stress just how important those things are to people who haven’t experienced them firsthand. Playing a racing game on the Genesis is kind of like trying to drive a car with severe cataracts and some kind of advanced degenerative nerve condition that really, really impairs your motor skills – you can only see about 10 feet in front of you, your steering wheel is capable only of going perfectly straight or swerving as hard as possible in either direction, and every time you hit the gas or brake, you put the pedal to the metal.

In other words, every console driving game prior to 1995 was basically just Pole Position, except (maybe) prettier. There are a few Genesis racing games that managed to overcome these shortcomings and actually be fun, but most were just frustrating, which, for those of you who are sticklers and demand that we have valid explanations for crossing games off our list– that is the real reason why we’re eliminating these ten games today.

Of course, for those of you who are just here for a laugh, we also went ahead and came up with an alternate silly reason to revoke each game’s Seal of Quality. Enjoy!

Outrun 2019 – If your futuristic rocket car were really going 600+ mph like the game says it is, those skyscrapers in the background would have to be over 13 miles away for you to not reach them until the first checkpoint. Isn’t math fun?

Outrunners – Because this is what we were really looking for – a split screen version of Outrun so it’s even harder to see what coming up on the road ahead.

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Kawasaki Superbike Challenge – Complete this sentence: “Despite crashing his motorcycle directly into a pole at 172mph…”

  1. …investigators were eventually able to identify the remains.”
  2. …doctors believe the rider may eventually walk again.”
  3. …casualties from the collapsing grandstand were relatively low.”
  4. …the rider managed to hang onto his lead and win the race.”

Apparently, the correct answer is #4. Who would have thought?

Virtua Racing – It took the additional power of the 32X just to make this game only sort-of terrible, so no – the regular ol’ Genesis version isn’t very good.

Quad Challenge – The title either refers to the fact that this is a game about racing 4-wheel ATVs, or – more likely – it’s an admission that it sucks about 4 times as much as most other racing games.

ESPN Speed World – A completely disappointing sequel to the classic ESPN Cocaine Adventure.

Super Hang-On – Ironically, the only really fun parts of the game come whenever you fail to hang on to the bike.

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Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge – I slid off the course and hit a sign on almost every single turn, and still managed to finish second-last. What was the other guy driving, a Ford Focus?

Super Monaco GP – Combines the excitement of Grand Prix racing with… well, something that is really good at neutralizing excitement, I guess.

Skitchin’ – It’s skatin’. It’s hitchin’. It’s fuckin’ atrocious.

Shanghai 2

According to our crack research team (i.e. – Stryker’s quick search of the GameFAQs database), Shanghai 2 is actually the third game in this series, and is rightfully known as Shaghai 3 in Japan. So did they pull a Final Fantasy on us, numbering the games in the series differently in each country because some of the titles weren’t released in the US? Well, kinda… except that Shanghai 2 is actually the ONLY game from the series to be released stateside, so if that were the rationale, it would have made more sense to have just named it Shaghai. To recap – third in the series, first to be released in this country. Did they average out the numbers or something? They could have named the game Watermelon Honkers! and it would have just as much sense, but with the added bonus of being a lot more fun to say.

Sorry, Shanghai 2 – you were kind of fun, but if there’s one thing we demand from our puzzle games, it’s that their titles not be the most intellectually challenging aspect of the game.