Editorial: Sequels That Dropped the Ball

I firmly believe that, unlike any other medium, videogame sequels generally tend to out-perform their predecessors. Hollywood continues to crank out sequels that shame and defile what came before them, yet the game industry has managed to avoid that trend… for the most part. Today, I’m going to talk about five videogame sequels that have dropped the ball in epic, disappointing ways. Read on, and see if you agree with me.

Scantily-clad, sword-wielding emo chick = awesomeness +10
Scantily-clad, sword-wielding emo chick = awesomeness +10

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

Let me begin by saying that Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the second entry in Ubisoft’s three-part Sands of Time story, is a highly underrated game. It’s a game that critics have always had a little too much fun bashing, and while some of it is deserved, exaggerations run rampant.

However, it can’t be denied that Warrior Within dropped the ball in some embarrassing ways. Blood, gore, language, and scantily clad women aren’t offensive in and of themselves – but the way that they were portrayed, in stark contrast to The Sands of Time‘s storybook atmosphere, was almost humorous. In an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, much of Warrior Within came off as just that – a shameless attempt to appeal to a wider, less tasteful audience. Good thing the gameplay is as fantastic as ever, and the story is actually pretty damned interesting.

Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse

I’m well aware of the fact that I largely stand alone with my love for the Xenosaga trilogy. Nonetheless, all you haters can go suck a wet sock; it’s one of the best sci-fi stories ever told, and the series features some solid role-playing mechanics to boot.

….with the exception of the oft-maligned second entry, Jenseits von Gut und Böse. The storytelling in Episode II is still fantastic. What’s LEFT of it, at least. In another attempt to appeal to wider audiences, Namco chopped a lot of cutscene footage from the game, hoping that 20 minute cutscenes would be viewed as more “accessible” than 40 minute cutscenes. Make sense to you? Nah, me neither. What makes LESS sense is the utter destruction of the combat system from Episode I, and the subsequent implementation of a system that would made regular encounters take over 10 minutes to complete. Ouch, Namco. Ouch.

Devil May Cry 2
There isn’t much good to say about Devil May Cry 2, honestly. I suppose I could mention the fact that the combat is as flashy, fast-paced, and fun as its predecessor. But that’s hard to notice when the soul has essentially been sucked from the game. It’s not like the Devil May Cry franchise has ever been known for deep storytelling, but DMC2 falls to new depths. At least let Dante talk, for christ’s sake; it’s a little too late to portray him as a silent protagonist. Oh, and if I could just have the slightest inkling of where the hell I was and why at any given time, that would be nice too.

Girls rule!
Girls rule!

Final Fantasy X-2

I have an intense loathing for Final Fantasy X-2 that, in all honesty, isn’t entirely justified. I view the game as a stab in the back from Square Enix, in a sense. I absolutely loved Final Fantasy X, and I couldn’t have been more excited to see a direct sequel continue the story. And then when it finally arrived, X-2 proceeded to slowly break my heart over the course of, oh, 20 measly hours or so.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: X-2 is a game that could make a gay man feel girly. The constant, recurring “girl power” bullshit never failed to revolt me. The amusing thing is that I still can’t quite figure out who Square Enix was trying to appeal to. If I was a woman, I’d be offended by the ridiculously stereotypical and slightly sexist portrayals of the three main characters. As a dude I was just plain disgusted.

That aside, I have more “legitimate” complaints, if you will: THE STORY SUCKED. The plot, the characters, the pacing, the presentation, EVERY conceivable aspect. In a follow-up to Final Fantasy X‘s beautiful story about love, sacrifice, and self-discovery, we get an elongated Powerpuff Girls episode about… um… well, nothing really. Something about a giant robot and two ancient people who, for some inexplicable reason, look exactly like Tidus and Yuna. Oh, and the fact that you could easily miss the vast majority of it by not happening to be in a certain place at a certain time didn’t help. (Seriously, how the hell am I supposed to know to return to the depths of Bevelle after chapter 10? Good thing all I miss is a rather integral cutscene.) But yeah, the battle system was great. Overshadowed by the game’s utter crappiness perhaps, but still great.

Duke Nukem Forever
Haha… ha… hahahaha.

HAHAHAHAHAHA

No, I couldn’t come up with a fifth example. Live with it.

33 comments

  1. Although X-2 DID feature not so abysmal voice acting. Still bad, but not as consistently awful as FFX.
    Best article in a while, buddy-boy!

  2. I hated the way X-2 totally ruined X’s poignant ending with its eleventh hour deus ex machina revival of Tidus.

    Another sequel I found slightly dissapointing was Gears of War 2, it was a pretty decent game but it fell well short of the first game. The first Gears of War didn’t do too much, but what it did it did well, Gears of War 2 by way of comparisson is jack of all trades and master of none, it suffered due to its lack of focus.

  3. What about the recent spate of Mana games, and Lunar Dragon Song? I havn’t played any of these but my understanding is that they are terrible.

    Oh yeah and then there’s MAJORA’S MASK. XD

  4. Majora’s Mask definitely. What a follow-up to Ocarina of Time! HA!

    Wasn’t Black & White 2 not very good?

    I know Alundra II was not as good as the first, and SaGa Frontier 2 certainly was no improvement over its predecessor.

    How about Final Fantasy II? I’d almost rather cut myself open and eat my own liver bite-by-bite than play it again.

    Metroid Prime 2 certainly didn’t impress me, though it wasn’t a critical flop, either. It did disappoint, though.

    Dark Cloud 2 was supposedly not as good as the first game, right? (I’ve never played either.)

    Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is garbage on the Majora’s Mask order of magnitude, differening only in that it isn’t *quite* as pungent.

    Drakkhen II is, by all accounts, worse than its unbelieveably awful predecessor.

    Deja Vu 2 was definitely worse than the original.

    Tetris 2 whilst innovative was crap.

    Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was an attempts to make a Metroidvania game on the NES. I appreciate these first attempts but they were certainly not much welcome at the time. Also the last boss is the easiest in video game history.

    I seem to recall King’s Quest 2 and Space Quest 2 as being eminently forgettable. The 11th Hour was not much of a sequel to the far-better 7th Guest. Was there a Phantasmagoria 2? I thought there was, perhaps it was canceled.

    But, as someone has already said, the worst sequel ever is, without a doubt, Duke Nukem Forever.

  5. Duke Nukem Forever are you crazy? Yahtzee absolutely gushed about it in his review. XD

    The development system is pretty flawed in FFII but nowhere near as bad as the junction system.

    As for Dark Cloud 2, I personally didn’t care for it, yet it continues to be Level 5’s most loved rpg. Granted DQVIII’s popularity is more widespread but DC2 has a pretty hardcore fanbase.

  6. @SN: Played Majora’s Mask yet? And I totally agree about X-2’s ending.

    @Lusi: I’d label Metroid Prime 2 as a slight step down from the original Prime, but not a ball-dropper. I ALMOST put Metroid Prime 3 on the list; it’s a far more offensive example.

    Oh, and both Zelda II and Final Fantasy II are abysmal.

  7. @SN: Respectfully disagree about FF2 vs. FF8. It is well-known that I am no great fan of Squall and his band of idiotic, emo misfits–nor of the thoroughly broken junction system–but any setup which practically requires you to constantly beat the hell out of your own party members is flawed beyond all sense, and the sort of thing that the most basic QA team should call attention to.

    Also FF2 uses the arbitrary “you’ve gone a pixel too far on the world map and now the monsters are fifty levels higher than they were” system, famously inaugurated in the world-renowned Dragon Quest series.

  8. @Oliver: Metroid 3 is certainly more egregious but, from all accounts, did well with the sort of people who love Action FPS games and who know nothing about Metroid. Which is apparently rather a lot of them.

    What can you expect from your common or garden Wii owner, though?

    And I totally agree that MP2 is better. At least it preserved something of the feeling of Metroid, whereas MP3 is just Halo for Wii owners.

  9. @Oliver- No I havn’t played it but everything I hear about it sounds terrible. The whole groundhog day set-up sounds absolutely awful, and going by the latest Cat Fancy Cast if you don’t finish dungeons in a set period of time everything resets and you have to start again. That sounds like fail, but no I have no first hand experience with its sucktitude.

  10. Yes for all that I know Majora’s Mask could be the one game in video game history for which that mechanic actually works well.

  11. If you can’t finish dungeons in the amount of time the game gives you, you have no business handling a videogame controller.

    At least you admit that, in the end, you really don’t have a valid opinion.

  12. Well by itself perhaps it isn’t valid, but I’m not the only person criticising this. I can’t pick a single instance in which it has actually been a good game mechanic to have a dungeon reset after a given ammount of time, though perhaps it’s a good game despite this. At any rate it doesn’t sound like anything that I would want to play.

  13. @SN – But there just as many people praising the game. On paper, it doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s something you’ll just have to try out.
    Lusi still doesn’t like it, and he’s given it two shots, but he’s also typically not a fan of the 3D Zeldas. Once you slow down time, you don’t even notice the clock in the dungeons. But again, the dungeons are not the focus, and the worst part in my opinion.

  14. No it’s something I won’t have to try out given that I’m not going to play it. Send it away please.

  15. Frankly, putting a time limit on Dungeons, however extensive, is stupid.

    And no, there are not ‘just as many people praising the game’. The general consensus is by and large negative. A vocal minority (Oliver and Ethan!) would have you believe otherwise.

    If I could enmire it in a barrel of concrete and sink it to the bottom of the sea, I would. I can’t, so I’ll settle for warning other people away instead.

  16. @Lusipurr – I actually think the fault was including dungeons in the first place. The game is entirely excellent in the many deep paths and quests it focuses on otherwise.
    And most people I talk to in my circles actually do love the game, so I think it depends on the circle. The game was also very well received across the board.

  17. Most people you talk to think wearing pink shirts and getting together for foolsball every Sunday is acceptable, as well.

  18. Both things ARE acceptable, but you also think most of my friends are like me. Absolutely not the case.

    @SN – That’s really too bad, I think you’re missing out on one of the greats. But, your call!

  19. I think we have ascertained that the word of Ethos should never be taken as a given. Timed dungeons are just mean spirited.

  20. @Ethan: ALL of your friends are like you. Look what you’ve done to Oliver! Imagine what those who have spent MORE time with you are like. I bet they are just moments away from marching in a pride parade.

    @SN: Well, *that’s* not the case, at any rate. He’s right about a lot of things. Well, some things. Not this, though. And not Flower, either. But his love for FFIX is spot-on.

  21. @Lusipurr – Ha! The best part is that Pogo DOES live 2 minutes away from the pride parade. Took a billion years to get to the subway station that is 5 minutes away. Friggin’ pride parade.
    Surprisingly, you’ll never find me in that parade, although there are usually a lot of topless women. That is countered by all the bottomless men, though, so I stay right out.
    I AM gay for Flower, however.

  22. Metroid Prime 3 dropped the ball and proceeded to shit on it, but it’s really not worth talking about. Other dropped balls include:

    Halo 2. While I enjoyed the game for the most part, whoever thought it was a good idea to make all the weapons weaker than infant farts should be crucified and put on display in front of the White House until he dies of exposure. The ending was bullshit too.

    Super Mario Bros. 2(JPN)/The Lost Levels. Another member of the “who came up with this idea?” club. Here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to: we’re going to take this accessible, finely tuned and fun game, then make the sequel brain-crushingly hard so that only the most dedicated psychotics can beat them. Brilliant!

    Super Mario Sunshine. The whole game was based on that stupid fucking water gun. Memo to Nintendo: I don’t want to sit there cleaning crap off the floor for hours on end. Especially not electric crap in that one level where you have to fight the electric enemies to restore the hotel.

    FarCry 2. Great game, but exactly WHAT did any of it have to do with FarCry? Just a question. Little curiosity, you know?

    Star Ocean: THe Second Evolution. Following the masterful remake of the original game, SE took their foot off the accelerator for this one, using most of the assets from the original game and turning the characters into disgustingly saccharine lolis. Do Not Fucking Want.

    Street Fighter III. This is much the same complaint as SMB Lost Levels. They took a series that was well known for being speedy and at least somewhat accessible and then slowed it down with excess animation and a pain in the ass parry system that allows players to block all of a super fireball if they’re twitchy enough. Good thing they went back to the drawing board for SFIV.

  23. I would also put the western version of Super Mario 2 in there, how lazy is it to take a non-mario related platformer, reskin it as Mario and then sell it as the sequel? IMO that’s worse than the lost levels.

  24. @MasterChief – Have to disagree about SFIII. Third Strike is the best competitive fighting game ever made, bar none. I’m convinced that most people who bitch about the game either hate the new roster or just don’t care to be good at video games. The parry system is hard to get down, but it also means that there isn’t a single move in the entire game that can’t be countered if you’re good enough. The videos you see of guys parrying entire super combos? Those dudes don’t just pull that out of their ass. You don’t need to be psychotic to be good at a game, you just need to develop skill. Street Fighter II was mind games, but Street Fighter III is like psychic warfare.

    On the other hand, Street Fighter IV is a good enough game, but it feels like a gigantic step back – it’s not soulless, like i had feared, but it feels like it was made specifically to appease everyone who bitched about Street Fighter III – the kind of people who barely play fighting games in the first place. Street Fighter IV is a good game, it’s just that it’s not a good fighting game.

  25. IMO Street Fighter III was just unfortunate to come out at a time when everyone wanted to play 3D fighters.

  26. The worst sequel I can think of is Shadow hearts : from the new world. With how good the other Shadow Hearts games were I was expecting a lot and the game was horrid.

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