You don’t really review games and films on the side without amassing a sizable collection of both. As a rule, I typically keep a work around until I’ve experienced it in full. Once I have done so, I make a decision as to whether or not it’s worthy of remaining in my collection. If I decide it isn’t, that’s when I decide to place it up for sale; no need to keep total disappointment around, after all. Admittedly, I don’t have a cast-iron rule; for video games, it usually needs to get a passing grade for me to not want to sell it. I may sell old editions of a work if a compilation appears, but if I award it a passing grade, you can safely bet it’s still in my collection. Meanwhile, for films, I tend to only keep the ones I awarded (or would award) an 8/10. Every so often, however, I’ll come across a work that, for whatever reason, I just want out of my collection as soon as possible.
To be clear, this anecdote doesn’t concern instances in which I deliberately bought a stinker for the sake of bashing it. As such, you won’t see me mention films such as You’re Next or video games such as Ride to Hell: Retribution or Ninjabread Man. Instead, I’m talking about instances in which I was genuinely looking forward to experiencing a work, yet by the end, I wanted nothing more to do with it. Keep in mind that I don’t consider most of the following works bad per se; if I do, they have more redeeming qualities than the average effort on the tier in which I placed it (or would place it). Granted, the easiest way a work can accomplish this is by having a terrible ending. Despite this, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you’re interested in seeing these films or playing these games, your best bet is to skip to the next subject.
In 2018, I ended up giving the medium of film a deep scrub by watching several classics. Not coincidentally, Akira Kurosawa quickly became one of my favorite directors during this time. His work was remarkably ahead of its time and covered a large amount of stylistic ground whether they were grand, sweeping epics such as Seven Samurai or The Hidden Fortress or more introverted tales such as Ikiru or Rashomon.
Wanting to experience as much of his work as possible, my attention eventually turned to The Bad Sleep Well. The only things I knew about this film going into it were that it was a critique on post-war Japanese boardroom culture and loosely based off of Hamlet. By this point, I had seen Ran and Throne of Blood, which were Kurosawa’s adaptions of King Lear and Macbeth respectively, so I wanted to see The Bad Sleep Well for myself. It especially didn’t help when I learned copies were temporarily out of print. When one finally became available, I immediately took the opportunity and watched it.
Little did I know that when all was said and done, I would consider The Bad Sleep Well the weakest of Kurosawa’s films by that point. Without explicitly spelling out what made it disappointing, I’ll just say that Kurosawa went out of his way to preserve his message. In some respects, I can understand why he did that because he wanted his audience to rise up and do something about the problem. However, like many flawed satirical works, he had to actively cheapen both the narrative and the characters in order to accomplish this. This isn’t helped by the fact that in the final ten minutes, he resorts to telling, rather than showing, what happened. I didn’t expect such a skilled director to make a shockingly amateurish mistake, but when I was done, I cast the DVD out of my collection.
As I was looking for classic films to watch, my attention was eventually drawn to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It had always been lauded, yet what really got my attention was when British magazine Sight & Sound held a poll in 2012 to determine the greatest film ever made. As something of a shock, Citizen Kane ended up losing to Vertigo for the prize when more critics voted for the latter. Because I ended up greatly enjoying Citizen Kane, I was eager to see Vertigo and see if it lived up to the hype. My conclusion is that it absolutely did not.
This is another case where the ending ended up being a deal-breaker for me. The film had such an intriguing mystery, yet it was abandoned halfway through and became an interpersonal psychological drama. While it’s obviously not impossible to switch gears halfway through, the problem is that Vertigo does it in a way that fails to satisfactorily resolve the first plot. Nearly every character from the first half is abandoned in favor of this dysfunctional love story and the narrative ultimately fails to go anywhere interesting with the protagonist’s arc. Like The Bad Sleep Well, part of what made this disappointing in hindsight is the knowledge that the director is better than this. Though I approached other Hitchcock-directed films such as Shadow of a Doubt and Rope with a sense of dread, I ended up greatly enjoying both (the former quickly becoming a personal favorite, in fact). As soon as the film ended, I ejected the disc and took pictures of it with the intent to sell it. Then I ended up getting it back when I purchased an Alfred Hitchcock Blu-Ray collection, so hooray?
As I was doing research into the PC games considered the greatest of all time, one of the first titles mentioned was System Shock 2. This spiritual predecessor to BioShock became a cult classic years after its release, which was helped by independent gaming critic Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw speaking highly of it. For the most part, I could understand why it’s so well-liked. It’s a game that can’t be pigeonholed into a single genre, boasting survival horror, action RPG, and first-person shooter elements and implementing its basic ideas fairly competently. It’s a shame, then, that all of the goodwill is tossed away in the ending |when it effectively nullifies the protagonist’s accomplishments by having SHODAN win through multiple plot contrivances|.
I relent that there’s a distinct possibility the ending was intended to be a sequel hook, but it was poor planning on the development team’s part. System Shock 2 was a sequel to a game that didn’t sell well and co-developed by a company with shaky financial stability (in fact, Looking Glass Studios would be defunct less than a year after this game’s release). Therefore, ending the game on a sequel hook was an ill-advised move. Sure enough, when Ken Levine and company attempted to make a sequel, the copyright limbo in which the intellectual property found itself as a direct result of Looking Glass’s dissolution prevented them from doing so. Though I can see why the game has its following, you do have to overlook a seriously debilitating flaw to appreciate what it does well. Whatever the case may be, I ditched this game shortly afterwards.
Yoshi’s Island quickly became one of my all-time favorite games when I played it back in the mid-nineties. It stands to this day as 2D platforming at its most exemplary with distinctive art style and solid level design. When I learned of a sequel in the form of Yoshi’s Story, I was beyond excited to play it. When I popped that cartridge into my Nintendo 64 and heard the horrible, saccharine theme emanating from my television set, I knew I wasn’t in for a good time. I tried giving the game a chance, but its boring level design and insipid presentation made it one of the biggest disappointments I had with the medium by that point. The fact that Nintendo distanced itself from it in its follow-ups is for the better.
Now, being the late nineties, I had no obvious way of getting rid of a game – or at least not one that I knew of, being a kid at the time. A few years later in 2003, I learned I could hand over older games to EB Games (back before they were absorbed into GameStop) to receive store credit and use it to buy new games. Without a second thought, I traded in Yoshi’s Story to help buy a copy of Mario Kart: Double Dash. Though it wasn’t the only game I traded in at that time, it was the first to spring to mind when given the opportunity.
Now it’s your turn.
What work did you want to jettison from your collection immediately after finishing it?