100th Review Special, Part 6: Smooth Sailing from Here

Finally, a tape collection I can get behind! I hope The Fullbright Company is taking notes.

We are now in the second half of my 100th review special! A 6/10 isn’t a terrible grade on my scale. It means that I have reservations recommending the game in question, but it ultimately does more right than wrong. Furthermore, as per my rules, a 6/10 is the highest grade a game with a weak ending can receive. A few of the following entries are indeed titles that would otherwise deserve to be on higher tiers. I feel not enough creators realize how important it is to stick the landing. After all, the ending is the last impression you have a work; if it’s bad, it almost doesn’t matter if the material leading up to it was good. Rest assured, from this point onward, we’ll be discussing games that are worth a try.

50. System Shock 2

Originally reviewed on: July 26, 2014

System Shock 2 may be a cult classic, but I don’t think I’ve played another competently designed game that had a worse structure. As it is, System Shock 2 takes a lot of effort to get into and the ending amounts to a slap in the face for all of your hard work. One could argue the ending was meant to be a sequel hook, but considering how poorly the original System Shock sold, it was a very shortsighted decision. Either way, if you’re looking for a good horror title and are able to enjoy a game even when its story lacks follow-through, System Shock 2 is worth looking into, as it’s a genre-defying, if deeply flawed title from the PC gaming scene’s golden age.

49. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Originally reviewed on: January 11, 2016

Crossover titles need synergy to work. As it stands, this particular crossover feels less like a blend of two different styles and more like two incomplete games glued together. It also depends almost entirely on the player being an equally big fan of both franchises. Even if they are, these two franchises have entirely different senses of pacing from each other, so switching between them can be jarring. However, the interactions between the leads is pretty fun to watch, and it does have a mystery that will keep those invested interested long enough to see how it pans out.

48. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Originally reviewed on: March 13, 2017

Once Dragon Quest III was finished, the series’ template was well and truly established. Considering the overwhelming success of each installment, Yuji Horii and company could easily have rested their laurels and given their audience more of the same, knowing whatever they made would sell millions of units. As Dragon Quest IV demonstrates, their first question after nailing down their formula was “What else can we do with it?” The result is one of the most unique storytelling experiences of its generation. The idea of naming your character only to assume the role of their comrades first was unfathomable in 1990, and the franchise’s popularity ensured that many would-be artists would be interested to travel the trail it blazed. It does have some execution issues in that level grinding is made even more tedious due to having every character begin at level one, but it’s still a very commendable effort for its day, and the remakes do a lot to make it more accessible for later generations.

47. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Originally reviewed on: April 7, 2017

Uncharted 3 made a gigantic blunder of being shorter than its direct predecessor while also having noticeably more filler. Though most of the plot threads are resolved satisfactorily, it still has a noticeable lack of focus that makes it difficult to recommend as a standalone title. Because of this, I don’t believe the critics’ decision to give it such universal critical acclaim is one that has fared well in hindsight. Taking what they said at face value would lead one to believe it’s one of the greatest games ever made when it’s just not the case. It ranks higher than the previous three titles on this tier because it’s paced reasonably well, but it’s still a token sequel through and through.

46. Blast Corps

Originally reviewed on: April 16, 2015

When thinking of it in terms of the numerous genres and subgenres that have existed throughout the medium’s history, Blast Corps defies description. It’s a bit of a shame this game gets passed up in favor of the rest of Rare’s output on the Nintendo 64 because it really is one of the most unique experiences the medium has to offer. Then again, it does falter somewhat when the third tier of levels is introduced, and I don’t like that the generally less interesting secondary stages outnumber the main missions, but I guarantee you’ve never played a game quite like this. I certainly couldn’t think of another game in which a carrier transporting defective nuclear missiles is heading for a safe detonation site, and it’s up to you to demolish every building in its path. The best part? You get paid for everything you destroy. True, money doesn’t do anything in this game, but it’s the thought that counts.

45. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Originally reviewed on: December 25, 2016

By 2015, the gaming community had witnessed developers such as Square Enix and Capcom openly disrespect their fanbase whether it was by failing to localize games, canceling high-profile projects, or through other ill-advised business decisions. While those two companies at least managed to make partial recoveries when they actually started listening to their fans, Konami proceeded to fall even harder than either of them ever did, turning the once-respected developer into a pariah in the gaming sphere. Though it wasn’t canceled outright like the highly anticipated Silent Hills, Metal Gear Solid V too was a victim of their epic mid-2010s meltdown. Despite being one of the most ambitious titles of its day, it’s fairly obvious once all is said and done that the game wasn’t completed. On that basis, I had no choice but to disqualify it from receiving a 7/10. It demonstrates the importance of finishing a game before judging it, and in retrospect, I’m disappointed that critics at the time could consider it one of the greatest games ever made. It really highlighted a problem that was endemic to gaming criticism; if a film critic took this approach, no one would take them seriously at all. I will say it’s impressive that it manages to outshine many completed efforts, but it’s bittersweet knowing that it could’ve been a true masterpiece.

44. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Originally reviewed on: April 30, 2017

I have to admit that a lot of the issues I raised in my Uncharted 4 review were addressed (surprisingly well, I might add) in The Lost Legacy, but I still feel its biggest weakness is that by this point, Naughty Dog had clearly played all of their best cards. A finale should ideally be grander in scale than the installments leading up to it, but with the high amount of action sequences that permeate throughout the rest of the series, it’s difficult to see what makes the ones from Uncharted 4 so special. Consequently, it feels par for the course. I do like that there were a few new ideas thrown in such as the ability to perform sneak attacks and having documents you can examine. This game did successfully give its central protagonist a sendoff, but I still question if Naughty Dog really did what they could to well and truly earn it.

43. Metroid: Zero Mission

Originally reviewed on: July 18, 2017

Zero Mission fell victim to the trap Mr. Sakamoto avoided with Metroid Fusion. By updating the game that was already effectively remade in the form of Super Metroid, it comes across as a lesser version of that title. It’s also a game that showcases the weaknesses of the original’s level design, and it’s pretty obvious to the initiated where the old content stops and the new content begins. The lack of synergy is especially notable in a genre that emphasizes the exploration of one giant area that gradually opens up. Even so, if you intend to follow the series from the beginning, this is an overall better game to start with than the original Metroid, as it has all of the important innovations Super Metroid brought to the series. Also, you don’t have to grind health every time you start a new session, so there’s that.

42. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Originally reviewed on: October 16, 2017

Link’s Awakening is considered one of the greatest games ever made, and speaking as someone who really enjoys the Zelda series, I’m not entirely sure why that is. It was the first game in the series I completed on my own, but even at the time, I wouldn’t have been quick to consider it one of my absolute favorites; at best, I think it’s kind of neat. Whenever people praise this game, they commonly cite its wonderfully crafted story as a reason why it reigns supreme over the rest of the franchise. The story is ambitious, but it overreaches a little and ultimately doesn’t benefit from having a silent protagonist. In the latter respect, it reminds me of Mother 3 only the results weren’t as disastrous. The team did a great job importing the improvements from A Link to the Past to the Game Boy platform, though the two-button control scheme ensures you will have to open up the menu multiple times just to get from Point A to Point B. Despite my own mixed feelings, I do genuinely respect this game because it allowed the talented Yoshiaki Koizumi to play a bigger role in the development of future installments, allowing the series to evolve and explore new ideas.

41. Ico

Originally reviewed on: September 30, 2015

Ico inspired countless artists, yet somehow still manages to be one of the better games of its kind. Like the original Uncharted, I think it gets a slightly disproportionate amount of retroactive praise courtesy of its spiritual successor, Shadow of the Colossus. Unlike Uncharted, I think the praise is still mostly well-deserved because this game provides an experience few others have attempted, and of the ones who tried, almost all of them fell short in some way. I feel it’s because, despite its name, minimalism is often more difficult to pull off than a more conventional approach, as the lack of a fallback plan makes it easier to inadvertently produce a deal-breaking flaw. Plus, escort missions don’t tend to be very popular in gaming spheres – and rightly so. Therefore, it stands to reason that Team Ico making one that spans the entire game tolerable was a one-time-only deal.

40. Breath of Fire II

Originally reviewed on: December 2, 2017

Breath of Fire II manages to be an improvement over the original in pretty much every way that matters, but it’s still ultimately a standard JRPG with all of the annoyances commonly cited about the genre in full effect (multiple fetch quests, random encounters, level grinding, etc.). A majority of the experience is standard fare for its time, yet the last third is astonishingly good to the point where you will be questioning if you’re even playing the same game anymore. Though I would be hesitant to formally give it my seal of approval, I think JRPG fans should look into this game because there are quite a lot of forward-looking ideas thrown out there that can be appreciated even today.

39. The Legend of Zelda

Originally reviewed on: June 8, 2017

The three most notable Nintendo franchises to debut on the NES were Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. Of those three, The Legend of Zelda stands out as the best one by far, possessing a level of ambition lacking in the other two while also not falling victim to the Metal Gear trapping of being too ahead of its time. One of the weaker aspects about it concerns its occasionally unintuitive nature, as a lot of the reason the game had longevity, much like the average contemporary adventure title, was because a lot of time is spent looking for the last few dungeons. In the second quest especially, are they’re hidden in places most people wouldn’t think to look. The controls also take some getting used to – especially if you’re familiar with the later 2D games wherein you could move diagonally and Link slashed the sword as opposed to stabbing the space directly in front of him. Indeed, Eiji Aonuma, one of the most important figures behind the Zelda franchise was unable to clear the game. Fortunately, there’s still enough to like about The Legend of Zelda, and its open-world design wouldn’t be attempted again until nearly three decades later with Breath of the Wild, meaning unlike Super Mario Bros. and Metroid, it is not simply a prototypical version of its sequels.

24 thoughts on “100th Review Special, Part 6: Smooth Sailing from Here

  1. Maybe it’s because I played all the Uncharted games pretty close together, but I actually enjoy 4 the most. Though I understand your criticisms, I think it was ultimately just more fun and polished than the others. Plus, pirates.

    Also, I agree with your sentiments on Link’s Awakening. It’s a game I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated, but whenever I see it rank (surprisingly) high on lists of greatest games, I’m always thinking “really?”

    Also also, I have yet to play MGSV, but you make a good point in saying how video game critics are too quick to label a game as one of the greatest of all time. This especially seems to be true this decade which, funnily enough, is the total reverse of the mindset game critics had in the 2000s decade, where that hilarious mindset of “absolutely nothing gets a 10 because a 10 means it’s completely and utterly perfect” nonsense was a thing. I mean, granted, I don’t give many 10s, but the idea that nothing should ever get a 10 because nothing is technically “flawless” is beyond absurd. Why even have a rating system if that’s your mindset?
    Still, the current mindset isn’t much better, where it seems like hype alone greatly dictates if a game will get 10s from critics or not (The Last of Us and Skyward Sword come to mind. I seem to remember IGN naming Skyward Sword as the greatest Wii game shortly after its release – ahead of Galaxy 2 – which in hindsight seems like a punchline).

    Once again, great read. I have a hunch at how you’ll rank your top 5 (as I understand it, you currently have five 10s under your modern criteria, unless I’m wrong). But I’m not sure I want to make a guess and end up looking like an idiot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I myself played the second and third when they were released, and the first just before the fourth roughly a year after the latter’s release. I then played The Lost Legacy shortly after its release. I wonder if it’s possible that the long time between installments caused me to think the most highly of Uncharted 2. Then again, I ended up liking The Lost Legacy more than any of the ones I’ve mentioned so far, so it’s a little hard to tell.

      I think Link’s Awakening gets more praise than it deserves. It’s not to say the game is bad – far from it, but despite the developers’ best efforts, it’s a major step down from A Link to the Past, and it has what could possibly be the lamest final dungeon in the entire series (it’s close between this and the Room of Rites from the Oracle games, though the former is more annoying to get through). It is the game that allowed Mr. Koizumi to change the direction of the series for the better, but otherwise, it hasn’t held up as well as A Link to the Past.

      Ah, you see, what they did was apply a binary solution to a multifaceted problem. Because they were so sparing with good grades back then, this decade, it would appear they’ve been trying to rave about everything and base their judgements off of the hype they themselves created, creating an infinite, exponential loop. I remember back when the only person who did that was Peter Molyneux. Weren’t those weird times?

      Needless to say, it’s a poor strategy because they’re setting themselves up for a major failure when they eventually apply it to a game that absolutely everyone, regardless of ideology, creed, or political stance, will agree does not live up to the hype. In fact, it arguably already happened to some extent with Gone Home, but there will probably be an even more drastic example at the rate they’re going. Critics themselves need to be critiqued every now and again because while they’re certainly educated on their respective subjects, they have their own trappings, and I have been confronted with evidence that they enjoy schlock too – it just usually happens to be schlock that reinforces their viewpoints. Just for a counterexample offhand, speaking as someone who absolutely agreed that the modern military shooter needed to be taken down a few pegs, Spec Ops: The Line was a disaster I couldn’t recommend to anyone.

      Yeah, no, Skyward Sword is not a better game than Super Mario Galaxy 2 (neither is The Last of Us, for that matter). I actually like it more than Link’s Awakening, but it still strikes me as the weakest 3D Zelda game.

      The inability to give out tens because nothing is flawless comes across as enforcing the letter of the law rather than the spirit. I’m extremely sparing with my tens, but I will award them when I’m confronted with a game that does that certain something that deserves it. Indeed, notice the word I use for the top grade isn’t “perfect” but rather “transcendent”. And you’re right – I’ve awarded five of them so far. By decade, I awarded one for the nineties, three for the 2000s, and one for the 2010s.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That might have something to do with it, who knows. The Uncharted games all play very similarly, so I mainly focused on how polished and well executed I thought the gameplay and set pieces were. I do agree the hype for the third one was overstated (it’s still fun and features some good set pieces, but the story takes so many unnecessary sidetracks, and the third act resurrects the first game’s “bullet sponge” enemies). It just felt like Naughty Dog thought “hey, Uncharted 2 did really well, let’s crank out another” without taking the time to properly develop the idea.

        I can agree with that viewpoint about the shifts in scoring. I can definitely see how critics put the 10 on some unobtainable pedestal, and then when they decided to award one, they started scrambling to figure out how/when to award others, and just kind of do so when the hype is necessary.

        I also like Skyward Sword is better than Link’s Awakening, but its often sloth-like pacing and annoying elements (AKA Fi) do make it the most flawed 3D Zelda. Though being the most flawed entry in that company isn’t all bad, I must say (I’m beginning to think my 8.5 for Twilight Princess HD was a bit low. Maybe I should play it again).

        I’ve actually thought about labelling my 10s as “Perfect” just for the giggles. I realize the definition of “masterpiece” may not be entirely accurate of a description when describing my 10s, since a 9.5 or even some 9.0s could be considered as such by yours truly. But I just like the way it sounds.

        So far I’ve given out six 10s (more on the way soon hopefully). Three are from the 90s and three are from the 2010s. I don’t want to say anything is set in stone, since some replaying is in order, but I think there’s at least one other 10 from the 2010s to come from me (take a guess), and maybe two or three others from the 1990s. Oddly enough, I’m having trouble thinking of a game from the 2000s I’d confidently say is a 10 from me. I hope that doesn’t put me in the same boat as the “no 10s allowed” people we mentioned from that decade. Perhaps if I were doing this in that timeframe my mindset would be different and there wold have been. I’m not ruling out the possibility of a 10 from the 2000s, I’m just having trouble thinking of one that immediately jumps out at me as such.

        I think I mentioned this before, but part of what makes a game a 10 in my eyes is its timeless appeal. Obviously, if a game is twenty-odd years old and I don’t think it’s aged a day, it’s an easy accomplishment to brag up. Meanwhile, more contemporary 10s, to me anyway, are games that I feel are the pinnacle of what the medium is today, and that I can see holding up down and inspiring game design choices down the road. I guess maybe that’s why most my 10s are either better 16-bit games from the 1990s or games from the current decade (two of which were released this year). Again, not ruling out the possibly of a 2000s 10 or two, but I think that decade is in an interesting place with me where my nostalgia for it is strong, but I’m not sure if there’s more to my feelings for them or not. As for the 1980s, well, there’s one game that I might rate a 10, since it’s probably the poster boy of non-aging games (and I think we all know which one that is), but I also have to think if it’s a 10 to me personally, which explains why I haven’t reviewed it yet.

        Or maybe I’m just waaaaaaay overthinking all of this.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Damn I loved System Shock 2 when I was younger. It really felt like you were exploring an abandoned ship to me at that age (about 14 I think).

    Yes, the ending was utter tripe, but I’ll never forget those damn robots in the storage area. They scared the hell out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I once wrote an essay detailing the importance of good endings using that game as one of the three counterexamples (the other two being The Last of Us and Mother 3), and honestly between those games, I feel System Shock 2 is by far the most salvageable. I really wanted to like System Shock 2, and for most of the experience I did. For such an old game, it has a tense atmosphere that only gets worse (in the good sense) the more you play. Sadly, the last few levels and the ending negated quite a lot of that goodwill. I’m honestly kind of surprised a work with that glaring of a flaw could gather such a strong following because in most of those situations (unlike critics), you can count on those people to have finished the game. Then again, I did hear that for the longest time when this game’s availability was limited, the number of people who praised this game outweighed the number of people who actually played it due to an influential independent critic saying how good it was.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Which critic was that out of interest?

        I think it had something similar to the (appropriately perhaps) Bioshock effect going for it. The final third of the game is generic and undermines what came before, but what came earlier (and more importantly, the big reveal) garnered so much praise that the rest of the game became something of an afterthought for most players. Indeed, when I think back to System Shock 2, the ending is the last thing that springs to mind. The storage bay, the SHODAN reveal, the constant return to those resurrection pod things. Those are the memorable parts for me, and I suppose that’s what blinds a lot of people when it comes to nostalgia: you remember the best bits.

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        • That would be Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame.

          It makes a lot of sense; Ken Levine was the one behind both System Shock 2 and BioShock. I feel his biggest weakness is that he never seems to know what to do after the earth-shattering reveal, leading to that problem regarding his endgames. If the development of BioShock is any indication, he also seems to do his best work when he’s given boundaries rather than absolute limitless freedom.

          I myself didn’t play System Shock 2 until 2012, so I was judging the game without any memories of having played it back in 1999, so that might explain the disconnect. Again, it does a lot really well, but that was one rough landing.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah, that he’s considered one of the most prominent voices in professional gaming criticism really demonstrates the lack of self-esteem the medium has. I myself like and dislike him in equal capacities; I have him to thank for me getting into Dark Souls (I figured if he could do it, there was nothing stopping me) and his emphasizing the importance of environmental storytelling really made me rethink how video game stories should be told. That said, he is painfully unfunny when he’s not bringing his A-game (which constitutes more time than I think he or his fans are willing to admit) and he seems to have problems entertaining ideas he doesn’t agree with, which I feel isn’t the sign of a credible critic. Also, I believe there was that thing about his defending accusations of being misogynistic by saying he was a misanthrope, which is kind of like trying to get out of an involuntary manslaughter charge by pleading guilty to murder.

              Actually, I’m kind of surprised you dislike Jim Sterling more.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well, many of those things you brought up I was unaware of, now I may just hate him more. Both are (pardon the language) little more than attention-whores though. It’s baffling that people consider either of them credible though. Both come across as man-babies who flaunt their biases front and center.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Yeah, if they approached serious criticism in any other medium that way, they’d get run out of the profession so fast, their heads would spin. It really doesn’t help the medium shake off its (largely incorrect) immature connotations, though in some respects, I blame their fans more for buying into it and not thinking for themselves. Also as an aside. how Yahtzee could consider Limbo a better game than Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Peace Walker, I have no idea.

                Indeed, I believe there is at least one film critic who shares their contrarian, caustic demeanor, and guess what? He’s largely considered a joke. Then again, film critics have their own set of trappings as well, so they’re not infallible by any stretch (they’re probably not going to live down the fact that they made District 9 a four-star movie any time soon).

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              • Yahtzee seems to adhere to the mindset that “indie = good. Mainstream = bad.” Believing that somehow makes him a free thinker, without stopping for a second to consider that he’s still adhering to an absolute mindset. Also, he seems pretty open about his biases against Nintendo, and while everyone will have their preferences in taste, boasting about a blatant bias is not the way to go if you want to consider yourself a critic. The fact that he actually has fans is perhaps more baffling than anything else.

                I assume the film critic you’re referring to is Armond White (if he’s even still working), AKA the guy who doesn’t like Pixar movies because everyone else likes them. Yeah, people like that in the film industry are (wisely) considered jokes. It’s a shame the video game world thinks anyone who spouts a contrarian opinion is somehow cutting edge and envelope-pushing.
                Sure, movie critics do have their own (many) faults (I’m walking on thin ice here writing this on the internet, but if a movie boasts left-wing themes, it’s pretty much guaranteed 4-stars no matter its actual quality). But at least they would laugh someone like Yahtzee out of the building if he were among them.

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              • Yeah, and the problem is that he applied that mindset as early as 2008 when the indie scene did not have one up on the AAA industry (I’d say that wouldn’t be the case until 2015 or so). As it stands, it’s just swapping one form of conformity for another. We probably have him to blame for the anti-Nintendo mindset among independent critics, though again, I also blame his fans for blindly going along with it.

                I guess I should’ve known given his most frequent targets that you would know who I was talking about. It only serves to underscore how a critic like Yahtzee would be perceived in any other medium’s critical circle, as he hits very similar notes. As far as I know, he’s still working, but he has little credibility, so it’s not saying much.

                I like the fact that film critics tend to be left-leaning because to me, it demonstrates a willingness to leave their comfort zone, which is a major problem both gaming critics and gaming fans have. If nothing else, they have an overall better track record this decade than their gaming counterparts.

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              • It always strikes me as funny how people think being a contrarian makes them a non-conformist. If they’re just conforming to what they perceive to be non-conformity, they’re still conformists. Not that I would expect someone like Yahtzee to understand a concept with even the tiniest shred of complexity, but others should know better at the very least.

                Yeah, there’s definitely many flaws to be had with film critics, but they certainly aren’t suffering as much as their gaming equivalents. I don’t know why people demand video games be taken more seriously, but then insist that someone like Yahtzee is any kind of credible source. It’s basically like wanting to delve deeper into filmmaking, but then using Michael Bay as an example of one of the medium’s great artists (though comparing Michael Bay to Yahtzee might actually be going too far… even Michael Bay doesn’t deserve that).

                By all means, critics (and anyone else) can lean however they want politically. More power to them. My point is simply that, if a movie tells them exactly what they want to hear, they tend to eat it up regardless of its actual merits. The exact same thing would apply if they were right-leaning, but that’s not the case in this scenario.

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              • That’s certainly the problem I’ve been having with satirical works in the past decade or so (e.g., Spec Ops, District 9, Black Mirror); they’re really good at reaffirming their audience’s viewpoints, but characters only ever exist for the sake of getting the author’s message across, rendering the stories themselves shallow. Conversely, and perhaps fittingly, due to their non-subtle nature, they tend to be bad at changing the minds of those who could actually use an eye-opening experience. I think the problem has to do with attitude; older satirists ultimately wanted people to better themselves while newer ones seem resigned that people are beyond saving, and they want everyone to know their frustration. At the end of the day, that they largely failed to effect positive changes is unsurprising in hindsight; defeatists can’t hope to spark a forward-looking movement.

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    • I can certainly agree it was an ambitious game for its time. In all actuality, it’s not too difficult to revisit; it’s less that Link’s Awakening has aged poorly and more that most of the other games have held up a lot better.

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  3. “Crossover titles need synergy to work. As it stands, this particular crossover feels less like a blend of two different styles and more like two incomplete games glued together.”

    I agree with you here. I still like Layton vs. Wright quite a bit!

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    • I did mostly like the game. Its final case dragged on for too long and doesn’t have one over the average final case in an Ace Attorney game (with the exception of Apollo Justice and maybe Investigations), but it’s still a decent game.

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  4. I remember being in a rage after playing through Uncharted 3 and reading the extremely hyperbolic reviews. It was insane then and I still think it is now. I’m not saying Uncharted 3 wasn’t a good game, I actually liked it. But, it’s reliance on waves and waves of bullet sponge enemies instead of actual smart encounter design, coupled with mediocre (at best) shooting mechanics did it no favors.

    I think to some degree Uncharted 4 suffers as well. The story is a nice, in-depth, personal look at a character that has basically been a low-rent Indiana Jones clone for three entries but did it need to be nearly 20 hours long and still filled with the same mediocre (at best) shooting mechanics and poor encounter design? It is funny, because Lost Legacy fixes nearly all my issues with Uncharted by tightening up the length and providing Chloe with a competent AI that helps mitigate the (still) poor encounter design and mediocre (at best) shooting mechanics. I still think 2 might be my favorite of the series but Lost Legacy I think is the best designed.

    I do wonder if Link’s Awakening gets so much critical love because it was on the GameBoy. I don’t really know though because I’ve yet to play it. I do own it now though.

    MGSV getting such critical love is another one that had me scratching my head. Sure, it is super ambitious but at least for me, it did away with so much of what I came to MGS for. Also this near godlike status that Kojima has been ascended to by both fans and critics since the Konami fallout I find a bit disturbing. I’m really not sure that a large swath of people are going to be able to look at Death Stranding with any sort of critical eye because Kojima is flawless in their eyes.

    Ico is a game that I have a lot of reverence for but I haven’t tried to return to it since the PS2. I do wonder how it would hold up in my eyes and if I’d still have it at the top of my list of Team Ico games.

    I did however play Zelda this year and my god, I loved the game but I don’t know how anyone would have finished that game blind (I played with the help of a guide at points).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the critics implicitly saying that Uncharted 3 is a masterpiece is really not an assertion that has aged well. They didn’t put nearly as much effort in it as they did in Uncharted 2 and I noticed that even before I became a critic.

      Uncharted 4 is something of an improvement over Uncharted 3, but it winds up in the same tier because it also makes bigger mistakes than its predecessor. I have to say that I agree with your assessment of Uncharted 2 and The Lost Legacy. I’ll be sure to highlight them when they come up on this list.

      I’ve been wondering that myself. It seems like a lot of older games end up getting critical adoration left and right less because they’re timeless classics and more because there wasn’t much competition at the time. Indeed, Link’s Awakening was in a league of its own as far as handheld games were concerned in 1993. The games that could realistically compete with it in terms of the content it provided, such as Final Fantasy Adventure, could likely be counted on one hand.

      To be fair, I think even fans were divided on MGSV, which wasn’t helped by the game being incomplete. Mr. Kojima does have something of a cult status, and it’s certainly one of the reasons why it’s difficult to get a sense of how good his games are through reviews or hearing what the fans have to say about it. I also don’t feel this is a problem exclusive to gaming criticism; one of the most annoying things about criticism in general is that on occasion, I get the vibe that works get praised because a person they like is involved with its creation or it conforms to the critics’ viewpoints, leading to the dreaded confirmation bias. In the latter case, it’s going to be a work that’s really good at reinforcing the viewpoints of those who agree with its central message and really poor at changing the minds of those who don’t. Even if those people can’t be counted on to fairly analyze Death Stranding, you can count on me to do so.

      As I said, Ico manages to be a better game than most of the ones it inspired. It’s a lot like the Metal Gear series in that it pulled off a lot of things I would normally find annoying, and I think the takeaway from it isn’t that everyone should try to make a game artsy, but rather anyone who does want to try needs to realize that unless they can make a strong case otherwise, a lot of what Team Ico accomplished was a one-time-only deal.

      Yeah, some of those dungeons are in ridiculous places. I have no idea how anyone would be able to find the seventh dungeon in the second quest without looking it up. I guess it’s theoretically possible by burning every single bush, but the kicker is that the red candle, which would make finding it easier, is in that dungeon. The ninth dungeon was in a ridiculous spot too, and it’s not like bombs are easy to come by in this game (there is a way to reliably get bombs from enemies, but without a guide, it would require a lot of trial and error). Still like it though; in fact, it’s my favorite game in this tier.

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  5. I really dislike sequel hooks, with the occasional exception of when the trilogy is planned from the beginning, but their worst of all when it turns out they’re just never followed up on. Xenosaga carries a story over 120 hours of game that doesn’t actually conclude anything at the end, and they knew they’d have to wrap it up going into the third game. Mirror’s Edge had basically no conclusion and it took ages for a sequel to come out. Viewtiful Joe kept doing this with every game until it ran out of developers faster than it did lingering plot threads. And then whatever the blazes is going on with Half-Life. It’s disgusting. I can deal a bit better when eventually it’s followed up on, although even that is bad, but when the series just ends with no conclusion, it makes all the games in it have less value.

    And ah, the Legend of Zelda. I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with that game, myself. I know a lot of people have fond memories of it, of going through and using every item on every single square. That’s never been me. Even as a kid, I was never able to even find the second dungeon without my neighbor’s help. I really enjoy its good moments, but the game takes so much guesswork or handholding to get through, and that’s not what I’m into.

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    • The only situation in which you could reasonably get away with that is if you’re in the middle of producing the sequel, and honestly, as games become more expensive to produce, the worse of an idea it becomes. King’s Quest did that, but that was back when companies could be relied on to produce games annually, and (perhaps more importantly) the series was popular, justifying it as a means to keep audiences interested. When Ken Levine and his team did it with System Shock 2, it was an incredibly bad decision because they were a struggling company working with a property that was overshadowed by the more popular (and better) Doom. System Shock 2 ironically shared the same fate, being overshadowed by the more popular (and better) Half-Life. However, the ending fails regardless of whether it was meant to be a sequel hook or not; it’s either an unsolved cliffhanger or an extremely anticlimactic conclusion that laughs in your face for daring to enjoy it. That’s why I feel Mr. Levine is better when he has people around him to monitor his ideas; as you know, he almost pulled off something similar with BioShock.

      I’ve never played Viewtiful Joe, but that sounds like quite a messy situation. If it ran out of developers willing to work on it, forget trying to end anything on a cliffhanger.

      And you’re right; I’ve found myself a little less enthusiastic about recommending the Half-Life series knowing that the developers have withheld a resolution from their audience for so long. At one time, I would’ve considered Half-Life 2 their magnum opus, but now I feel Portal 2 deserves that honor more simply by virtue of actually feeling finished.

      There is something about the second level of The Legend of Zelda that makes it inordinately difficult to find. I could always picture it in my mind, but I only ever seemed to find it by accident. Otherwise, yeah, bombing every single crack, hoping you might find something does not a good time make. It doesn’t help that bombs are difficult to come by and even with upgrades, you can’t carry that many. The second quest was especially ridiculous in how it hid the seventh level under a bush you had to be on the other side of the screen to reach (and the kicker is that the red candle, which would’ve made finding it easier, is in that dungeon) and the final level is in a completely unremarkable spot (the upper-left corner of the map) that isn’t even remotely hinted towards.

      Liked by 1 person

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