A Question for the Readers #12: “…and Stay Out!!”

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?

54 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #12: “…and Stay Out!!”

  1. Too soon to say The Magicians? Technically, that was a library book, so I just forcefully stuck it down the return chute after finishing it. In terms of games, since I own digital copies primarily, I’m going to take “jettison from your collection” to mean “scream in rage at the computer or console as I uninstall and hope never to see it again.” In that case, Persona 5 seems like an obvious one. The thing is, I fully agree that it’s a great game from a technical standpoint and understand why people adore it so much, as I’m a huge fan of 3 and 4. Still, I HATED Persona 5 and everything it stood for. Morgana forcing me to go to bed, every character feeling like a diluted version of another Persona character, dungeons were too long and meandering in nature, the entire game felt about twenty hours too long, and I could keep going on forever. When I finally beat the final dungeon and saw the ending, it honestly made me question if I loved the other entries in the series as much as I thought I did. I then went back to play 4 and make sure I still loved it, which I did. It was a bad time for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Man, I really liked Persona 5. Usually Persona 4 is the game in the series people put down, so this is an interesting perspective. I did hate Morgana’s “go to bed” shtick and a few of the characters were not nearly as fleshed out as they should have been, but I liked the customized dungeons and didn’t feel like the characters in the game were pale copies of past characters, aside from maybe Ryuji. I can see people being uncomfortable with some of the relationships the MC can pursue in P5, though. Apparently it’s not a problem for women in their twenties to date high school boys?

      I think I like Persona 3 best at this point in the series, though.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I myself tend to get digital copies for handheld consoles and physical copies for home consoles. Still, I can see the appeal of going all digital; after all, it’s really easy to switch games on a dime that way.

      I haven’t played Persona 5 yet, but Persona 4 is one of my all-time favorites. Though I do have to say that based off of the premise of Persona 5, it looks like I’m going to have to deal with a storytelling trope I don’t particularly care for. The “people are scum” trope specifically, which has been done to death to the point where I legitimately don’t think there are any new directions in which you could take it, so I’m baffled as to why writers keep thinking it’s innovative. I’ll keep an open mind, but if it loses me, I won’t pull any punches.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really hard for me to think of a game I made it through that I would have tossed out of my collection. I did see a movie recently that, if I had owned it, I would have thrown out titled something like “Would You Rather”. It’s about a crazy rich guy who hosts death trap games with participants who are promised huge prizes if they make it through. Normally I love stories like that – Kaiji is one of my favorite series – but the last five or ten minutes of this movie was basically a kick in the balls. It was as if the writers didn’t know how to end it in a satisfying way, so they just dumped a big “fuck you” onto the audience thinking they were being “shocking”. No, they were just being lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hate it whenever movies do that (or works of any kind, really). No, it’s not shocking when you pull out the rug from under your audience at the last minute; it’s just obnoxious. That’s how I felt when I watched Upgrade; if I bought that film, I would’ve thrown it out immediately (as it stands, I had to settle for leaving the theater in a huff). There’s an art to being subversive, and there are many filmmakers who don’t realize that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would probably say Fallout 76? I’ve been struggling to get through that one, at times, just feeling bored with it. ( but I have to keep at it for the team! I play it so you don’t have to!!) As soon as I’m done with it, I’m throwing it the window.

    Liked by 2 people

      • It doesn’t pay to rush, ever. It’s always better to take your time and make sure it comes out just right. I wouldn’t want a steak that’s half cooked, you know? In Bethesda’s case and Fallout’s case, I would love to have a multiplayer focused Fallout but have it as a co-op experience like Borderlands. I don’t know what went into the planning but if I were Bethesda, I would’ve done Fallout 76 as a co-op experience because in my opinion, Fallout is better suited for a co-op type game than an MMO inspired RPG.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I still like System Shock 2 quite a lot. The ending is pretty bad (the “Nah!” bit being especially annoying) but everything up to that point is quite unsettling. It feels as though it inspired Dead Space in some ways.

    Anyway, games I want rid of. There aren’t many in that bucket simply because I tend to stop playing a game if I’m not enjoying it. I’d rather consider games that I enjoyed but just ran far too long. Alien: Isolation fits that bill. Great game, but needed to be half the length as the mechanics couldn’t maintain 20 hours.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can honestly see why System Shock 2 is respected because 90% of the game is solid, though the last two stages are very poorly designed (too bad Ken Levine never really addressed that curious weakness, isn’t it?). In fact is one of the three games, along with Mother 3 and The Last of Us, that was the most responsible for me developing my “terrible endings = automatic disqualification” rule. As it stands, it was like watching a well-done horror film devolve into something Roland Emmerich would direct.

      I don’t think enough developers grasp the idea that a game only really needs to be as long as it needs to be. If you can deliver a quality experience in less than ten hours, go for it – don’t pad it out with extraneous nonsense. Considering many people don’t finish the games they play, providing a shorter experience would actually be to their credit. Alien: Isolation doesn’t sound like the kind of game that lends itself well to any kind of filler.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The thing with Alien: Isolation was that none of it really felt like filler. Around half way through it felt as though it had reached a solid end point. But then it decides to do pretty much everything all over again. Rather than filler, it was a built in sequel without the down time between them. I do very much like a good, tight gaming experience. If I wanted a 100+ hour epic, there are enough JRPGs for that.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think it did inspire Dead Space, I think I remember hearing / reading something about System Shock inspiring Dead Space. System Shock 2 is just amazing all around, I love that game so much that it inspired me to get into game design before switching over to History / Graphic Design.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alien: Isolation took far too long for a solid horror game. You’re absolutely right. But since I actually liked the gameplay (and I played the game with a buddy) I didn’t mind the length as much as I would have if I had hated the gameplay and was playing it by myself.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pokémon Sun is probably the closest experience I have to wanting to burn a game I had just finished. It was so simplistic, overly-explanatory, and I couldn’t stand any of the characters. I still have it, as I tend to take several games at a time and get rid of them in bulk, but it will NEVER touch my 3DS again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you should say that because I’m playing through Pokémon Sun right now, and I’m enjoying it so far. I have to admit I didn’t particularly care for X & Y because they were too easy, so we’ll see how I rate their successors when all is said and done. One major point it has in its favor is that there don’t appear to be any HMs, which I am very thankful for. Otherwise, my favorite games in the series are Black 2 and White 2 (though their predecessors are a close second).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree wholeheartedly on the lack of HMs: not having them was a major improvement! My major gripe is that so much of the story just felt like it held my hand. I couldn’t take ten steps on a route without someone beckoning me over. Maybe I’m just nitpicking: the game was a decent challenge, after all! And I liked a lot of the new creatures. I just didn’t come away with a good experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I tend to buy a lot of second hand books at markets and the like and sometimes these come in boxes or collections for very little money. Out of ten of the books I’d get in such a set, I might end up putting two of them on my shelves and the others after being read will be donated back to a market or charity for resale. Still works out cheaper for novels to buy them this way even if the majority don’t work out and don’t end up getting kept.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Quite a few. There was one particular book I bought on at least three occasions. I’d read it, hate it, and donate it back. It had a great blurb and a forgettable title so I’d get excited about it and then start reading it and remember I’d read it before. I’ve committed the name of that book into my phone so that when I come across it at book sales I steer well clear now.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was deeply flawed. I think the problem is that critics ended up getting distracted by the visuals, which are admittedly top notch, but at the end of the day, it’s very style-over-substance.

      Also, what kind of essay did you end up writing? And what did your professor have to say about the film?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You know what? I don’t think I’ve gotten rid of anything in my game collection. Even if I hated it, I still like having it displayed on my shelf. The boxart on a bad game can still look cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Action Girlz Racing. To this day nothing has been as terrible as this fly by night stinker. Most bad games have at least something to them. A good idea executed badly. Great visuals, but broken mechanics. Serviceable mechanics, but boring levels. The point is, you can find something in many of them. But not AGR. No hyperbole, still the worst God awful game I’ve ever played. It’s possibly even the worst of the DDI games. I wouldn’t know as I haven’t played all of them, not that I’d want to. But yeah, should anyone take the game into space, it should be kicked out the airlock. To paraphrase Classic Game Room’s Mark Bussler, Action Girlz Racing is totally Jar Jar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, did you buy the game thinking it would be good? If so, I feel for you. Having played two of DDI’s games, they really are one of the few creators out there deserving of the scorn they receive. Such a transparently cynical approach doesn’t work in the long term, does it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No it was actually gag gifted to me, (I have a gag gift rivalry going every Christmas with a friend) and of course I reviewed it upon playing it. That was several years ago. The fact nothing has topped it since speaks volumes about just how awful it truly is.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Over the last few years I’ve shot him with such quality gems as Raven Squad, Vampire Rain, Ride To Hell Retribution, Dark Void, and Bad Ass Babes among others. I know I’m forgetting a few. This year I gave him Extinction, and Homefront Revolution for the Xbox One. None of these have topped AGR, though Ride To Hell came daaaaaaaaamn close. Of course I’ve been on the receiving end of SCENE IT: Twilight Edition,
            Story Hour Fairy Tales (Joke’s on him, Chris Huelsbeck wrote the score. And he’s a composer that can make even a terrible game SOUND amazing), Blood & Bacon, Bloody Boobs (That banal kind of bad where even the shock value is a snore), Robots, Birds, and Zombies (Broken Angry Birds clone), and a Steam Asset flip I can’t remember the name of. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

            I can’t say I completely regret this rivalry because when a bad game is the funny kind of bad it does lead to laughs. And even when it isn’t, the reactions from either of us can make the other laugh for hours on end. Be that as it may, Action Girlz Racing somehow manages to be worse than ALL of those. I’m sure it’ll be dethroned eventually. What a horrifying sight that will be.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. I am a big fan of survival horror games. I enjoyed playing games with my brother growing up and there was a period in life where I didn’t get to spend as much as time with him. So when I did get the chance, we played a game called Silent Hill 6: Homecoming together. That game was so awful. We were both confused and shocked at what we just played once the credits roll. I trade the game in to Gamestop but only got 6 dollars out of it. What a waste of money and time. Ah, but I guess I learned something out of it. I learned to become extremely selective with games.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Despite having just bought it again, I think the only time I really regretted a buying decision was the first time I picked up ObsCure: The Aftermath. The original did some great things with co-op survival horror and was a really great indie title- which the second one immediately tore almost everything down from. A friend and I played through it once and I immediately sold it because I disliked it so much the first time around. I had a similar experience with the Ju-On: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator for the Wii. I guess I underestimated just how much it would feel like a haunted house and not be an actual game. That one I have not made an effort to regain in my collection days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh boy, fewer things are more disappointing than when a sequel to a game you like is outright bad. It’s especially bad when said sequel fails to grasp why people liked the original so much. Granted, it’s not a good idea to make the original a second time either, but there does have to be something of a compromise. Also, I had no idea that Ju-On: The Grudge had a video game adaptation; it certainly doesn’t look like fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the most fun part about the Ju-On game was that a second player could “interact” with the first and activate jump scares. I was super disappointed.

        But yeah- for whatever reason, everything good was just tweaked in the wrong direction for the second ObsCure game- so much more than other sequel disappointments. It always makes me question what the developers were thinking, especially if it’s the same developer from the first. Experimenting with new elements is always a good thing to attempt, but sometimes, there just needs to be a look at why those tweaks are being made and if they truly are improvements.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t sell games. Don’t usually let them leave my possession. Once they’ve made it into my collection, they become a part of it, and you can’t separate them out. I think there’s something wrong with me.

    Well, really, I think that stems from two areas. On the one hand, I’ve got the belief that there’s something to love about pretty much everything. Even if you have to dig for it. And things may be worth coming back to in the future. I’ve had plenty of things my mind has turned me around on after some time has passed. For example, Killer 7 once topped a list of my most hated games I put together forever ago. Tried it again years later, and found that although it was never going to blow me away, I could better appreciate its uniqueness and the things it reached for that no one else did.

    The second part is that it just feels like the way that’s supposed to be. Like a team of developers poured a lot of their lives into the games I play, and it’s only right that I take it with some sort of seriousness. Holding onto those games, keeping them with me, even if I’ll be blasting the games online, that still feels like part of the agreement with creator and recipient.

    Ok, writing it out like that, I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In a strange way, I can understand that because even with many of the game I’ve written negative reviews about, I see there was something to them. Even the highly unpolished experiences had a piece of the creator in them. Then again, the worst games I’ve played whether it’s the NES Dragon’s Lair or Nerves of Steel have had absolutely nothing redeemable about them.

      Killer7 is one of those games with a reaction so mixed, I don’t think there will ever be a consensus as to whether it’s a masterpiece or a self-indulgent mess. Then again, it gets consistently lower scores than Metal Gear Solid 2, which has a similar thing going on for it, so it leads me to believe that the gameplay isn’t as good. I may have to try it out at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, gameplay isn’t so hot in Killer7. It’s kind of a weird take on a rail shooter that tries new things, but I’m not sure they were good ideas even on paper. It’s mostly flash, weirdness, and plot that carries the value of Killer7 along.

        Liked by 1 person

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