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Top Five – “Bad” Games That Are Actually Good

There are times that I play games that get a bad reputation and I immediately understand why. But then there are those moments when I play games that get a bad reputation and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out the logical reasoning behind the complaints thrown at them. This top five is a list of games that are considered “bad” by most of the gaming media – and in some cases the gamers themselves – that are are actually pretty damned good.

5. Fable (Xbox):

How many people remember when this was still called “Project Ego?” How many remember all the insane promises made by Lionhead Studios at the time? I certainly do. In fact, I clearly remember becoming so obsessed with this game that I would check the Big Blue Box (the then development team) website at least once a week to see how the game was progressing. The final product was an utter disappointed in comparison to everything the development team said the game would do. Looking back at Fable, I think we, as gamers, are probably equally to blame for the disappointment as the game’s creators. Knowing what I know now, it’s pretty obvious that the technology just wasn’t there for all the insane things Peter Mol..Monocle(?) told the world his games would do. Like it or not, when you get scammed, you’re equally at fault for believing in B.S. It took many, many years for me to get over the “scam” that was the original Fable, but in the end, the game won out.

It’s true that Fable didn’t deliver on all of its promises. In fact, I would argue it delivered on maybe a quarter of those promises made. However, as a standalone game, with the hype dispelled, it turns out that Fable is actually a really great game. The original Fable had a lot of interesting mechanics for its time, which PC gamers took for granted, but which console gamers had yet to experience. Fable (along with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) gave consoles gamers choice in a market that was saturated with on-rail “RPG”s that wanted players to have as little input into the role playing aspects as possible. Not only that, but the game offered a great battle system, much charm, some seriously great humor, wonderful music, fantastic artistic design, a great story, and much, much more. The only real flaw in the original Fable was that it was painfully short. At around ten hours or so, it left you wanting more, which was both good and awful at the same time.

All of that praise might make you think that I’m a derranged Fable fanboy, but I have to be completely honest: I absolutely do not like Fable II or Fable III. With games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age redifining what choice means to players on the console forefront, Fable II and Fable III end up falling really far behind. This is all made worse by the fact that Peter Mo…Mammogram(?) is hellbent on making the Fable series easier than getting the vice presidential nomination for the Republican Party. Fable, as a series, inexplicably takes out more and more with each new installment, and adds nothing but unnecessary garbage mechanics. Yet, the one game in the series that gets all the bad rap is the original, which is clearly superior to both its sequels, not least because it’s less glitchy.

Fable is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “bad game.” It’s actually a pretty good one, deserving of some high praise.

4. Sudeki (Xbox):

Sudeki is a game that not many remember, and in some cases, a game not many want to remember. In fact, on the list of first party games that the Xbox 360 is backwards compatible with, Sudeki is nowhere to be found, despite being published by Microsoft Game Studios at the time of its original release. It’s no secret why either: the game’s story is bad. Really bad. The plot goes nowhere, the characters are paper-thin with absolutely no proper development, the world is nonsensical, etc. The less said about the character art, the better, because Sudeki even fails miserably at creating characters that look aesthetically nice. Sudeki sort of screams “GENERIC” to anyone who looks at it superficially. But the irony of Sudeki is that it is, in fact, a great game. The gameplay mechanics are pretty on the ball, with a unique battle system that works well in practice, even when in theory it sounds terrible.

The battle system itself is an odd mix of real-time and turn-based gameplay, coupled with yet another mix of third-person action and first-person shooting. You would think that all these different mixes make it a mess to defeat enemies or control the flow of battle, but in reality, the battle system in Sudeki works incredibly well. Never do you feel as if any part of the battle system is out of sync, game breaking, or unnecessary, and the game provides you with a myriad of options to defeat enemies that are each more satisfying than the last. You can switch quickly between characters at the press of a button, slow the battle down to give commands, and cycle right back to your main character so that you can keep on fighting without the slightest problem. It’s a mix of strategy and action that manages to do what the battle system of Final Fantasy XII failed to pull off. Above all, however, the battle system in Sudeki is actually fun.

Strangely enough, even with the story being bad, it’s no more offensive than its Japanese counterparts of then and now. Also, for what it’s worth, while the character art was atrocious, the world design was then, and still remains, beautiful. So much so that the game is still playable even today, and unlike a lot of games of the last generation, it isn’t really that much of an eyesore.

Overall though, Sudeki simply succeeds at being a great game with compelling mechanics that I wish other developers would look to when making their own RPGs. Go out and find it, because you’ll get it really cheap. It’s completely worth it.

3. Metroid: Other M (Wii):

Metroid: Other M is perfect example of everything that is wrong with video game “journalism” today. Look, I know I shouldn’t slam my peers, but about 90% of all reviews in this day and age are full of bullsh*t complaints that don’t even remotely bother to asses games objectively. Other M is a victim of this lack of cohesive understanding of game design from the gaming media, scoring as low as sixes in some popular sites that will remain nameless. Most of the complaints are centered around the game’s laughable plot, with its many loopholes and its handling of Samus as a character. While I don’t mind reviewers attacking Other M for those obvious flaws, it’s kind of ridiculous that the game should lose four whole points on a one-to-ten scale rating just for that. What kills me is that most reviewers who attack Other M don’t even bother to actually mention the only real negative point against the game, which comes down to the fact that it takes a page out of Metroid Fusion and cuts down on exploration. Mind you, that’s only a problem depending on how important exploration is to you in a Metroid game, which, itself depends on the kind of Metroid fan you are. But, the fact that most reviewers fail to even mention this proves that most of today’s gaming media is nothing short of a joke.

Ultimately, however, Metroid: Other M is a good game. In fact, Other M is a very good game when it comes to its overall gameplay design, and worlds above any of the Prime entries in the series (and this is coming from someone who adores Corruption). The amount of detail in this game is staggering and the Team Ninja signature is there, all the while somehow managing to keep a fantastic Metroid feel overall. The battling itself is spectacular with a brilliant dodging system that leaves me wondering why no one else ever thought of it before. More or less, you dodge simply by pressing the D-Pad in a direction away from where the attack is coming, and the real challenge to it comes from your timing more than anything else. Time your dodge right with another quick button press and the game rewards you with a full charge for your cannon that you can fire right away for devastating effect against even larger enemies. It all works beautifully and seamlessly, and it makes dodging systems like the one in God of War and its many clones seem more clunky than they already are.

There’s more to it than that though: the ability to switch between third and first person mode is as smooth as the move between CGI and in-game scenes (I honestly could not tell the difference most of the time). The moves you earn are also important and incredibly useful, with a special nod going to the space jump for allowing me to literally blast through corridors at insane speeds. Samus feels faster than ever in this installment, which is brutal and swift in the way it deals you challenges and the way it lets you handle each and every one of them. The enemy A.I. is excellent and the bosses are all spectacular, with Ridley, the Metroid Queen, and Phantoon being the three biggest standouts. Adding to the fun is the fact that the game does not, in any way, take it easy on the player. The enemy A.I. is not only really well made, it’s downright vicious. Even the smallest enemies have the capacity to destroy you if you’re not both, careful and blazing fast with your reaction times. Expanding on the difference between perspective is how well the game controls and how it does the 2.5D setting. You would think that using the Wiimote sideways and moving Samus with a D-Pad in a semi-3D space would be difficult or annoying to get used to, but no. Everything here is intuitive and soon you’ll even forget that the Wiimote seems to be made for people with hooves when held horizontally.

If all you’ve heard about this game are bad things then you’re probably only getting opinions on it from people eating sour grapes over the story. It’s true that the story is not exactly brilliantly written or executed, but it is also not as offensive as reviewers and a lot of gamers would like you to believe. At the very least it manages to be entertaining and it makes Samus human; a quality she has been lacking for a very long time. But even the unfocused story can’t keep this game down: it’s really easy to forgive the problems with the plot when the gameplay mechanics are some of the best in any action game ever made.

Team Ninja just knows their stuff and they know how to make excellent, fluid, and difficult games. Metroid Other M is all of those things and more.

2. Grabbed by the Ghoulies:

What can I say about this one? Most people haven’t even played it, but it’s actually a wonderful game. The review scores and the sales were all inexplicably poor, and to this day I can’t find a single legitimate complaint against this game. Reviewers usually like to point out the simplicity of the battle system, which requires you to basically just point the second analog stick toward an enemy and hold it as Cooper fights. The biggest claim against the game is that it’s “simple” when compared to something as complex as Banjo-Kazooie, which is an argument that holds as much water as lambasting Plants vs. Zombies for not being “as scary” as Resident Evil. Seriously, if there was ever a bad argument by reviewers everywhere, this one would somewhere in the top ten of that list.

But even without taking into account the ridiculous comments by the gaming media, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is anything but simple overall. While it’s true that the battle system is simple, reviewers completely miss the point: the challenge in Grabbed by the Ghoulies doesn’t come from the battles, it comes from, well…the challenges! Sure, throwing punches is easy! Trying to kill a mummy without fire by luring Death near it so it touches the monster and it dies? Not so much, especially since every time Death kills an NPC, he gets faster and faster, making him harder to outrun. The battle system is simple because the rest of the game is not, and if the battling was any more complex, this game would be downright unbeatable.

The game also had the classic Rareware humor we’ve all come to love and adore, and the art style is very unique. The game is obviously based off of old Hannah-Barbera cartoons: specifically, it’s obvious that the game was influenced by the likes of Scooby Doo. It’s lighthearted, it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s well made. So why did this game score so poorly? There really isn’t an explicitly stated reason that has any logic behind it. My theory? It scored so poorly because it was the first game Rareware had released for the Xbox, and the expectations of it were astronomical. Basically, it didn’t score well because it wasn’t Perfect Dark Zero. Ironically, Perfect Dark Zero manages to carry higher scores and better sales than Grabbed by the Ghoulies, and PDZ is by far the single worst game to ever come from Rare. It’s mind boggling how something as botched, terribly put together, and horribly outdated as Perfect Dark Zero could be considered a “solid game” while Grabbed by the Ghoulies got lambasted by gaming critics and gamers alike.

Do yourself a favor: find this one and buy it. You’ll probably find it for under $10, and I promise it’s worth every penny.

1. Final Fantasy X-2 (Playstation 2):

Ah, Final Fantasy X-2: the often ignored, red-headed stepchild of the Final Fantasy family. This one came under serious scrutiny for many reasons, not the least being that Yuna wears short shorts that would make Richard Simmons blush. It is often treated as being a bad game or being a pointless sequel, and while the latter is true, the former is completely off of the mark. Gameplay wise, Final Fantasy X-2 mops the floor with the rest of the series almost effortlessly, bringing with it one of the best battle systems of any JRPG to date, a robust class system that was actually incredibly deep and well balanced, and a mission system that made an ever more increasingly linear series give players a taste of freedom. There is just so much that X-2 does right that I can’t help but wonder how anyone can dislike this game.

Look, I get that the Charlie’s Angel feel is not everyone’s cup of tea, and yes, some of the characters are absolutely God awful (*Shudders at the thought of Brother*), but the gameplay in this game is flawless. Take the already mentioned battle system: it lets the players chain attacks, switch class mid-battle, stun enemies, prevent attacks, and do all kinds of things that Final Fantasy as a series has been missing forever. Seriously, not counting the Tactics games and XIII (which, for the record, was developed by the X-2 team), when was the last time you played a core Final Fantasy game that let you choose your class? Yeah, it’s been a while. In X-2 you can be pretty much anything, and behind the Barbie dress-up veil there is some serious depth and strategy to be found. This all compounded further by the use of Garment Grids which reward you for changing classes appropriately and at opportune times. The mission system I briefly spoke of is also noteworthy: starting the game you pretty much have all of Spira at your fingertips to explore and the ability to choose which missions to do and when to do them was a great addition after the linearity of Final Fantasy X (which is lovingly referred to as the Crash Bandicoot of RPGs).

It is definitely superior to all the other 3D Final Fantasy games in its mechanics, and worlds above Final Fantasy X in that sense. Even the story, the most glaring problem that it had, wasn’t really as awful as people make it out to be. It wasn’t immensely cohesive, but no more of an offender than the likes of the entire Kingdom Hearts series. If you play the game and just take the story for what it is – a lighthearted, if shallow plot – you pretty much get the point. Final Fantasy X-2 is about fun and it’s a testament to its design that even the story elements couldn’t keep me away from it.

Quite possibly the most underrated sequel of all time. For one thing, because it’s a wonderful stand alone game, and for another, because it’s superior to the game that came directly before it (and then some).

Note: The Sudeki art was not made by me. It was created by Nikki-UK of Deviant Art. Please visit Nikki-UK’s page for other wonderful artwork.

8 Responses to “Top Five – “Bad” Games That Are Actually Good”

  1. Megaman X9 says:

    You know, I have played a bit of Other M and while the game’s decent it it still has lots of annoying stuff like:
    – horrible (and I mean Horrible!) plot devices
    – having to stop walking to go into the first person mode
    – the stupid automatic lock-on that basically makes the games play itself and so on.
    Then you add the fact that this is a really well known series and one of my favorites and I can’t help it, I just have to hate on it really hard.

    And about FFX-2, I don’t know what kind of drug are you taking to even like this game that much. Yeah, the battle system is one of the best ever but the rest of the game it’s fucking borefest. I don’t care about the story, I don’t care about the character, the pace is slow and and the overall package with the Charlie’s Angel vibe was almost unbearable for me (I beat this game BTW). But if all you need is an epic battle system to like a game then play Shadow Hearts 3. SH3 is not only many times much less annoying than FFX-2’s premise and overall presentation but its battle system is even more GODLIKE.

  2. Kharlo says:

    About Other M:

    – Yes, the plot is horrible. Already established.

    – It’s not that big of an issue. The switch is instant, so you could easily switch right back to 3rd person and move across the room/level without a problem. I don’t remember a single person besides me complaining that in Metroid Prime and Prime 2: Echoes you couldn’t walk and aim at the same time. The difference is that Samus doesn’t move like a tank in Other M, and it allows her to move quickly and efficiently to safe areas, which is all part of the strategy

    – Prime and Prime 2 also auto-aim, and the enemies were less well made as far as A.I. is concerned. Regardless, the skill of Other M wasn’t in the aiming itself, it was almost purely based on timing. Timing how you dodged, timing when to attack the enemy’s vulnerable spot, timing when to switch to first person, timing when to regenerate health, etc. It takes a page from some of the absolute best 3D action games, where REAL difficult exists mostly in the same form.

    As far as X-2 is concerned:

    – The pace in X-2 is not any slower than the pace of any of the other Final Fantasy games. Saying that the pace is slow in X-2 is like saying you don’t like the original Resident Evil because it uses surprise as a scare tactic, as if all the other Resident Evils suddenly do not. But even then, the pace of X-2 is much faster than the pace of X, because you’re not stuck to a predestined path of “Point A to Point B.” You can beat X-2 much quicker than you could beat X, VIII, XII, etc.

    – Since we’re on the subject of slow pace, nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing in the Final Fantasy series encompasses slow pacing like Final Fantasy XII does.

    – No, it isn’t about liking a game simply for its battle system. It’s about liking a game for having legitimately good gameplay mechanics. X-2 has them in spades.

    P.S. I will check out SH! :]

  3. Mycoolroy says:

    I have played many many bad games and if I had to make a list of which games were actually good but got a bad rap it would probably be pretty much the same as this one and also for the same reasons. I particularly like your comments on the reasoning why Fable and grabbed by the gouhlies got a bad rap you’ve really done your homework because I have done a lot of research on those games as well and what you said is very true. Great read.

  4. Gamer4Lyfe says:

    I actually loved Fable, Sudeki & FFX-2 & beat them all. Nostalgic reading. -)

    Thanks!

  5. Bob says:

    I played Other M, I knew reviews were not good, but anyway I didn’t trust them and also thought that they were full of BS complaints, but hell they were right this time. I just hated Metroid Other M, it really is a bad game. Sorry.

  6. Splatics says:

    Other M was a bad game but not necessarily because of the story. The controls were crap. Did they even play test the thing? Why in the world would you have the D-Pad for movement and then have to flip the controller and re-situate it in your hand to go into first person viewing? Why not use the nunchuk for movement and the C button or something to switch back and forth? With something that is done so often and timing so critical why would you pick the worst way to control it? I know they wanted to “simply the controls” but in doing so they made them ten times more confusing. Layer controls with the A and trigger button was an idiot idea. If they just used the nunchuk each button could have its own functionality. The game itself (minus story/cutscenes) was high quality and not deserving of the horrible execution of the story and controls. I was so excited for the game as I loved Metroid Prime series. I got it, played it, really tried to like it but the refusal to use the nunchuk was the dumbest decision ever made. Innovation is only good when it improves the experience not when it breaks it. Same goes for Donkey Kong and mapping the roll to the controller shaking…stupid. Its very easy to create an option to pick which controller scheme you want to use.

  7. Kharlo says:

    I fail to see what was confusing about the controls in Other M, especially because the game auto-aims for you in first person mode. It was pretty intuitive, and no offense intended by this, but I find it odd that a Metroid Prime fan thinks that Other M, of all games, had bad controls. Metroid Prime and its sequel (not counting the Wii recreations) have some of the absolute worst controls in gaming.

  8. HawtSkull says:

    Other M was great.The story is flawed but it respects the Metroid manga. I hope the next Metroid brings back the dodge system and instant kill techniques.

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