Trent’s Top 7: Disappointing Video Game Sequels of 2012
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Whether you realize it or not, 2012 has been a great year for games. On almost every platform we have seen at least one killer exclusive and a ton of decent franchises. Unfortunately, not every sequel is going to be a winner and 2012 also had its share of fan disappointments. With that in mind, I’ve decided to review what I consider to be the seven most disappointing video game sequels of this past year.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
The problem with this direct sequel is that it was made for all of the wrong reasons. After the release of Final Fantasy XIII, Square-Enix was flooded by a wave of negativity coming mostly from Western audiences. Fans and critics alike were displeased by the game’s melodrama, linearity, character progression system, and dialogue. As a result, XIII-2 went into development with the intention of addressing those complaints while continuing to milk the franchise for all it’s worth. From a gameplay point of view XIII-2 was actually quite good, but it also retconned the ending of Final Fantasy XIII, featured a nonsensical time-travel plot, and ended on a “to be continued…” screen. As a golden rule, developers shouldn’t make a sequel that’s going to harm franchise narrative.
Most gamers have a preferred fighting franchise, whether it be Tekken, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat. Personally, Soulcalibur has always been my series. I love the characters, unique mythos, and weapon based gameplay. So, you can imagine my excitement when my favorite entry in the series was going to be followed up with a new game in 2012. Suffice to say, Soulcalibur V was a pretty massive let down. The developers promised interesting new characters and a robust story that ties the series together, but the narrative is boring and the characters have never felt lamer or played worse. This game was supposed to be an evolution. Now, I just pretend it doesn’t exist.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
How greedy do you have to be to repackage DLC into a full game? Seriously, I know Capcom is all about the greenbacks, but this release is ridiculous. Sure, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 still plays well and the inclusion of new characters definitely rectifies one of my biggest complaints with the original release, but overall this “Ultimate” release doesn’t add much in the way of new features or modes. The UI has changed slightly, the gameplay has received a few tweaks, and the roster is a little better, but the $40 price tag was like spitting in the face of fans who had already bought the original release. That, and it’s freaking greedy.
Ninja Gaiden 3
Around this time last year, everyone was concerned that Team Ninja would be incapable of making a decent Ninja Gaiden title without the series’ former director Tomonobu Itagaki. I didn’t think much of it as I was sure an entire development team could get by without one person, right? Right? Wrong. Ninja Gaiden 3 not only fails to entertain, but it also doesn’t understand its own roots. The principle reason why gamers love the Ninja Gaiden games are that they are very, very hard and boast nonlinear action sequences. Ninja Gaiden 3 abandons this in favour of an extremely bloody, streamlined hack-and-slash approach. Why? Mass audience appeal. Not only is this sequel technically inept, but it is also shallow as all hell and features the most inane ending of this past console generation.
Risen 2: Dark Waters
Elder Scrolls fanboys be damned, I really enjoyed the original Risen. The game featured excellent graphics, beautiful sound design and voice acting, and rewarding gameplay. Risen 2: Dark Waters not only fails to raise the bar, but also loses whatever charm the original boasted. The combat isn’t just awkward and clunky; it’s downright broken. There are technical issues and bugs all over the place and numerous design choices actually inhibit gameplay. The narrative itself is also surprisingly linear; most Western RPGs are open-ended and quest heavy, but Dark Waters has a very deliberate pace with many restrictions. This game is a turnoff and I won’t be returning to the franchise.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II
All you nimrods said that going back to a 2D plane would fix Sonic, but so far that’s yet to be seen. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely liked Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, but the game had some pretty glaring issues. Not only was the magic of its Genesis contemporaries lost in translation, but the physics never felt right. And this is Sonic; if you’re going platform to platform at break-neck speeds, the physics have to feel right. Regardless, Sonic Team acknowledged these complaints and promised to address them for Episode II. Well, the physics are spot on now, but the two player mode sucks the devil’s ass and I was never impressed by the bosses or environments. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is clearly the least impressive numbered Sonic game. If there is going to be an Episode III, which is unlikely at this point, I really hope SEGA ups their game.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Allow me to start by breaking the hearts of Otaku and awkward fourteen year olds everywhere: the Kingdom Hearts franchise kind of sucks now. Sure, the original Kingdom Hearts was a great title and it’s direct sequel was an excellent followup, but we now live in a world where there are only two main Kingdom Hearts titles and FIVE side games. FIVE. This goddamned story has become so convoluted and inane that I actually needed a guide to understand what the hell was going on. Dream Drop Distance (a stupid title, playing off the fact that it’s a 3DS exclusive) lacks intrigue, continues to complicated the already headache-inducing narrative, and features gameplay that you’ll either love or hate. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected a Kingdom Hearts sequel to be accessible, but it would have been nice for a change.
Oh, and if anyone takes issue with the fact that Mass Effect 3 didn’t make the list, I’ll happily remind you that a bad ending does not a poor game make. It was the end of a trilogy. Get over it.