Oh yeah. I could just do lists. Now why didn’t I think of it before?
What follows are what I consider the worst Video Role Playing Games (VRPGs) I ever had the misfortune to play. They come in no particular order and are govern by one single criteria: I have finished every single one of them. While one might think that not finishing something is a sign of quality, it doesn’t mean the experience is worthy of a Worst Game label.
Your mileage, as always, may vary, but here are my contenders. There are spoilers a plenty, but none of these are that modern a game.
The Grandstream Saga
I have to be honest with you. I remember very little of The Granstream Saga. I know it was an Action RPG (think Legend of Zelda), I know it had anime cut scenes, and I know that every character was a faceless horror suitable for a Horror flick, but beyond that there’s little I can say about it.
And yeah, I’m serious. None of the characters had faces. I dimly remember being irritated by this. We gave up perfectly good pixels for polygon crap like this? Meh. Meh I said!
So I can’t sum up the plot as well as I probably should. From its Wiki entry, it sounds like a standard “Save the world from ruin”. It involved in some way the red headed boy as Our Hero trying to do that hero thing, with a winsome lass and a sexy pirate girl as either companions or associates. Really, that’s all I got.
What did stick with me was that it had multiple endings. Two of them. One for each of the potential love interests.
And how do you reach them? Right at the end you’re given a choice. Pick your favorite and that one dies in order to solve the problem/win the game.
But wait! It gets better! After you make your choice, you’re treat to a final cut-scene revealing the fate of the characters. If you gave Pirate Girl the kiss of death, then Our Hero and Winsome Lass end up thrown back in time… or something… they don’t know each other in any case and, having no memory of Pirate Girl live out their lives happily ever after.
Which did not make me happy.
But I had saved late enough in the game so I could go through all the rigamarole and off the Winsome Lass instead. Which earned me the site of Our Hero and Pirate Girl mourning their lost friend.
Who turns out to be an angel sent down from Heaven who has just returned to her rightful place. Making the choice not only pointless but, if you really think about it, actively evil. Either kill an actual person or… let a celestial being return to her post.
Yeah. Points off. A lot of them.
Secret of Evermore
To condemn The Grandstream Saga even further, I remember much more about Secret of Evermore than it, and Secret of Evermore came out a goodly ways before it. Another Action RPG, it features a boy and his dog transported to another world struggling to survive. Fortunately the dog has acquired shape-shifting abilities, allowing it to handle protecting its master from the evil monsters threatening them.
What really stands out for me was that each kingdom had its own currency, which forced you to exchange your previous earnings each time you progressed to the next stage. While I understand why this never, ever popped up in any other VRPG, I sort of wish it had. It’s a touch more realistic than having everyone just using gold or whatever.
For the most part this is a fun little game, ignoring a period in an air vent which I recall as being a slice of hell. What puts it on this list is, again, the ending. To be more specific the final boss.
See, the boy can cast magic, right? Alchemy, really, but the points moot. So long as you have the proper items you can have cast spells. And one of the spells the boy can get is invincibility. Which works on every monster in the game. Including the final boss.
You know how boring it is fighting a final boss that can’t ever hurt you?
Final Fantasy Viii
You’re coming into a game with memories of a wonder. Memories of a game in which you might have been playing a surly loner, it was a halfway likeable surly loner. One you understood where he was coming from.
During the course of this game you encounter a wide variety of interesting characters, ranging from a man with a gun for an arm to a red wolf-thing to a talking stuffed animal to a Dracula wanna be. Included in this mix are two love interests, one a winsome lass who has steel beneath her cheery exterior, the other a perky kung-fu barmaid with a terrible secret. While you were expected to wanna hang with the winsome lass, you could end up with the kung-fu chick through the proper choices.
All of this leads to adventure and tragedy and wonder, and as you end the game you can’t wait to see what experiences the sequel brings.
Then comes Final Fantasy VIII. Which features an ass for a hero. A drip for a love interest. Blanks for companions, save another potential love interest that gets shunt to the side without any chance of winning. And a story that isn’t nearly as awe inspiring as the previous one.
When I finished this game, I said I’d never play it again.
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
Were I to put this in a sort of Top Ten format, then Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (from here 3rd Age) would almost have to be right at the top. Not because the game play is bad… well yeah, what game play they didn’t rip-off from the superior Final Fantasy X is pretty bad. So’s the rest of the game.
Here’s the situation: Warrior Berethor finds himself possessed with the need to catch up with Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring. Along the way, he picks up a fellowship of his own, including the expected Elf (Idrial) and Dwarf (Hadhod). Through their travels they always seem just a step behind, setting 3rd Age up to being The Aeneid to The Lord of the Rings‘s Odyssey.
You can always tell a world class intellect by the way he casually drops classical Greek stories into conversation. Not that this has any relevance to the proceedings. Ah-hem.
Now ignoring ripping off the combat system from Final Fantasy X, the game has issues. Specifically rights issues: the game designers only had access to creatures that came out of the movie. Which meant the player fights the same set of foes ad nauseam.
Then there was the little issue that all the player does is run from Point A to Point B. There are no towns to visit in 3rd Age, no NPC to really interact with. There’s just the one fixed story line. To hark back to the terms used earlier, this is a Solid VRPG. Solid like a rock.
Finally, and this one just kills me, there isn’t a trace of Hobbit in this bad boy. Not one. Not even where’d you think there might be. Which is hilarious because, you know, the Hobbits are what Lord of the Rings is really about.
None of this is a deal breaker.
What kills 3rd Age is a complete and total breakdown shortly before the end of the game. After a point (I believe the Battle at Helm’s Deep, but I could be mistaken), there’s no more real running around. Just one monotonous battle after another. After another. After another.
This leads to the player not only fighting (and beating!) all of the Nazguls, but an out of the blue final confrontation with the Eye of Sauron itself. Who needs pesky Hobbits when we’ve got manly man Berethor to save us!
But the capper, the absolute capper, is the romance. See, through out 3rd Age there seems to be a thing between Berethor and Idrial. Which had me rolling my eyes from the start, because in Fantasy there’s always a thing between the male lead and the she-elf. It’s like union law. It was so bad a cliche that when they introduced a new female character, Morwen, I seriously hoped for some romantic to spring up just as a change of pace.
Guess what? Morwen does turn up to be the romantic interest. Though you’d never know it from the game, as there’s never a moment with either her or Berethor having anything that could remotely be considered a romantic or even a friendly conversation.
In fact, the player has to be out and out told that Berethor loves Morwen. By a freaking Nazgul.
This? This is sloppiness beyond words. Not a single game on this list is this bad.
I finished 3rd Age, because I payed money on it. Then I sold it back to Gamestop, the only game I’ve ever done that with.
In short, I don’t like it. At all.
Tomorrow, the best VRPGs I’ve ever played. It’s a longer list…
- VRP Madness (I): Setting the Stage (welltuncares.wordpress.com)
- VRP Madness (II): Looking at American Style v. Japanese Style (welltuncares.wordpress.com)
- Computer and Console RPGs – A Different Voice, Part 1 (student20productions.wordpress.com)
- VRP Madness (III): Riding The Rail (welltuncares.wordpress.com)
- VRP Madness (3.1): Going Off the Rails (student20productions.wordpress.com)
- VRP Madness (IV): A Thing About Endings (welltuncares.wordpress.com)