Retrograding Weekend News 06.14.03

Man, five columns in one week! It’s like old times isn’t people. And force I’m guessing Chris is happy I’m churning out so much! This has been a busy week for me, doing Advance, mailbag and this column, but what’s bigger is Alex has yet another big interview lined up. Remember how much you guys liked the Xbox exclusive? Well I’ve got three letters that will make you even happier: E. W. R. Hopefully that’s enough of a hint.

Last week we kicked off my news’ column with an intro to some of the best use of licenses in Video Game History. This week we’re taking a look at things so wildly popular, characters so famous and so cool that there’s no way it should have failed…but it did. And failed hard. Stinky crapola hard. Those games were sent to a horrible place too loathsome to contemplate (most likely Andy Dick’s house or some other level of the 9 hells.) But the end result was the games were so bad, fans try to pretend they don’t exist. Let it be known that all of these games were heralded by the VG media when they were announced and defamed just as strongly when they hit your local EB or GAME stores. Hopefully we’ll all find this trip down memory lane amusing instead of suicide inducing.

Heroes Of the Lance (NES)

How could you f*ck up Dragonlance? The most successful Dungeons and Dragons world ever! It was made into some great games for the PC, but some bozo decided to make a side scrolling action game for the original 8 bit Nintendo. Now that right there should have been a BIG clue. Take a table top RPG and NOT make it into a Video Game RPG? I guess it made sense to someone as Krynn fans were jazzing themselves in their local high school cafeteria between rolling that Rods, staves and wands saving throw and getting crammed into a locker by the local roided up jocks.

But hey, it was a great idea to make Dragonlance into a video game. It had characters that remain super popular to this day, even though WOTC hasn’t released it for D&D 3.5 (Don’t get me into the fact they already had to re-release the game 3 years after its big release. Take a clue from Chaosium about how to do a game properly Wizardsâ…). Characters like Raistlin, Tanis Half-Elven, Lord Soth, and Kitiara, who was always drawn really dyke-ish to me, but seemed to get all those gamers that had never (and probably still haven’t) seen a girl naked all hot and bothered. Now they could see these characters walk and move and fight instead of imagining the action as they read. Hell, now they could even BE their beloved fantasy characters in a scenario not even Ron Jaffe’s Mazes and Monsters could have predicted! So what went wrong?

Well, let’s give Alex a second to pull out his old NES cart of Heroes of the Lance and play it for you.

Okay. Game starts. Decent graphics as the big profile shots of the Heroes are pretty accurate to the book drawings. Impressive! Especially for an 8 Bit game. Maybe this isn’t as bad as I remember it.

Okay. I can pick three characters. Let’s go with Raistlin because he’s all spooky jaundice looking and because he’s cash cow of Dragonlance. Now I’ll take Goldmoon since she has cleric healing spells. And then I’ll take oh…Tasslehoff Burrfoot because I hate Kenders more than I hate people who participate in Cosplay.

Well this isn’t so bad. Let’s start up. I’ve taken a step. Well, that’s not so bad. I could swear that this game (Takes another step) MY GOD! I’ve died! Why? WHY! What the hell just happened? What kind of evil satanic rat bastard game is this???

Okay. I’m better now. Oh look! We’ve come to a pit. I guess one of my two buttons should make me jump. Well it’s not the A button, so it must be the…nope. Not the B button either. How do I cross the pit? Maybe pressing up? Nyet. How about pushing the direction I’m going twice quickly… And I’ve fallen in the pit and died again. Insert your profanity here.

And it goes on and on like that people! You die for no reason other than your character moved! There is no discernible goal and it’s all but impossible to play without uttering the word “Fuck” enough times to make a sailor blush! I know of one person that’s finished this game. Only one! And you know where he is now? Living in Fargo, North Dakota as a transsexual stripper! Don’t tell me it was the microdots and acid he was doing. IT WAS THIS GAME!

It’s hard to imagine a worse game for the NES than this. Give me Xanadu, Dr. Jeykil and Mr. Hyde or Wall Street Kid over this game! Seriously. Get one of your hardcore acne infested friends that used to obsess over Dragonlance and ask them about their adventures with this game! They probably cried over the coca and couldn’t even muster the will to whack off to their Jean Grey pictures they cut out of X-Men comics. This game almost single handedly put a stop to the Goldberg-like push Dragonlance had. Wonder why Forgotten Realms regained its spot at the top of the TSR hill? HEROES OF THE LANCE.

If you ever, ever see this game, either hit the person who owns it or secretly bury it in the back yard and blame it on ghost dogs. Because friends don’t friends play Heroes of the Lance.

Superman 64 (N64)

Things are looking good for Nintendo with two straight stinkers exclusive to their systems. But for once we have a scapegoat worth blaming: The French. Yes, it’s almost stereotypical of Americans and Brits to joking taunt and hate the French for no other reason than their sexy accent, horrible fashion sense with wearing berets, eating frogs and having one of the worst sewer systems outside a third world country. And the little known fact they eat babies and bludgeon blind nuns who take in orphans. They do. Every French person does it. So what better way for the French to get back at America’s blind and stupid hatred of them by butchering the crown jewel in Pop Culture Americana? And so they did.

Now I know we’ve all heard the horror stories of this Game. Hsu and Chan, Penny Arcade, GameFAN, and even the 411 staff have all bashed this game worse than the child of an Irishman who friends even manage too say “I think that lad drinks a nip too much.” But how many of you have truly experienced the horror of actually sitting down and playing this game? How many of you went into Superman 64 with fond memories of games like “The Death and Rebirth of Superman” for the Sega Genesis or other fine super hero games? Well I was one of them? How man of you paid the retail price of 64.99 for this stink bomb. And yes, that was the original price. How many of you have almost bought this game used just to see if the stories were true but stopped when you saw your local video game store had it marked at 20 or 15$ USED. Well, Alex isn’t one of them. I, because I know how much my audience likes to watch me suffer, purchased Superman 64 and played it until I beat the game. And that’s why you now see my profile on America’s Most Wanted as “The Kryptonite Killer;” aka the Guy who strangles people with large yellow metal rings while screaming “What’s wrong Kal-El? Where’s your invulnerability now, you slow ass non responsive illegal alien bastard???”

Yeah, it’s all about the rings baby. And not the Sadako/Sumara kind either. Although we’ll get into HER in a little bit. But here’s the plot. Lex Luthor kidnaps Lois and Jimmy and in order to get them back, Superman has to enter a virtual world and pass levels of ring collection in order to get them back. Yes. Ring collection. And not the fun Sonic the hedgehog kind either.

So here we go. We start the first level where we have to collect rings. Oh look there’s a ring below us. Quickly Retrograding readers, if we want to go down what direction should we press? If you guessed down, you’d be right! But this am Bizzaro World! So you don’t bother pressing anything! Because it wouldn’t matter if you jumped up and down on your joystick screaming “I am the keeper of the cheese!” because ol’ Man of Steel would still take 3-5 seconds to respond to your command. What happened to those super senses Supes? Like Speed and hearing??? Because even with normal human hearing you could still hear my frustrated screams of anguish A BLOCK AWAY! Police came to my house thinking I was holding voodoo sacrifices in my living room this game was so bad! And then once you’ve collected some rings? YOU GET TO DO IT AGAIN! And again! And again! Memorizing the Necronomicon induced insanity slower than this pile of crap! The controls are so unresponsive you could play against a dead person and it would be a tie! If you want to lower someone’s self esteem, make them play Superman 64 against a chipmunk or one of those live lobster’s you bought at the Grocery store. After they learn they’re just as good as an animal without opposable thumbs, don’t tell them the truth about how horrid this game is. Tell them you’re just that skilled at training crustaceans to play video games.

And I haven’t even gotten into the graphics, the music that makes fingernails on the blackboard sound appealing or any of the other factors about this game that make watching a marathon of Webster more appealing than this game. So I won’t I’ve tortured us all enough with this.

The Fellowship of the Ring (GBA)

Okay, The big movie of 2002. Every Fantasy freak’s wet dream come to life. Elves. Dwarves. Hobbits! Handheld action! How could this go wrong? Well, let’s look at what was going through the mind of the people in charge of deciding what video game company would get to make the LOTR games.

Guy 1: We need a company with a lot of experience in making excellent games.

Guy 2: And as LOTR is begging to be a role playing game, we should make sure the video game version is one as good as the tabletop or warhammer versions!

Guy in the shadows: No People will want an action game. Why give the fans what they really want and are expecting. To do the opposite would create controversy and give us all kinds of publicity!

Guy 1: You’re right mysterious stranger.

Guy 2: As I’ve done five lines of crank today, I’ll have to assume you are sober and thus correct.

Guy in Shadows: EXCELLENT. Now what company should we have make this game?

Guy 1: Atlus? Makers of Persona and Ogre Battle, two of the best RPG’s ever?

Guy in Shadows: No…we’re avoiding RPG companies, remember?

Guy 2: How about Treasure? They made Guardian Heroes, the best side scrolling action RPG EVER.

Guy in Shadows: Wait; let’s give the license to Electronic Arts! Because they’ve never made a bad game.

Guy 1: Aren’t their sports games second rate compared to Sega ones?

Guy 2: And aren’t all of their games loaded with glitches and bugs because they just don’t take the time to put out a quality product because they could care less about how good a game is as long as it sells and they can pay off enough people to SAY the games are good?

Guy in Shadows: Ummm…No. That’s…Sega. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Sega.

Guy 1 & 2: Then we agree! Electronic Arts gets the LOTR License! (signs the contract)

Guy in Shadows: MUHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Steps out to reveal…)

Guy 1 & 2: Oh Crap! It’s Sauron!

Sauron: MUHAHAHAHA! Now I finally have my revenge on Aragorn and those meddling kids…hobbits. I meant Hobbits! After humanity plays the terrible bug infested pile of poo that Electronic Arts will put out, everyone will be begging for the members of the Fellowship to die! Die so they no longer have to play this game! And Sauron will control all of Middle Earth! MUHAHAHAHAHAH! (Disappears in a puff of smoke)

Guy 2: Man…I really did do too much crank. Well, let’s get these contracts over to Electronic Arts… Except for the Game Boy version, let’s give that to Pocket Games!

Guy 1: That’s out of left field! Why that one? And why that specific company…

Guy 2: Because Sauron will NEVER look at a difference with the GBA version. That way we can ensure one of them is good, right? I mean, Pockewt Games can’t be worse than EA, right? RIGHT?

Now to be serious. Fellowship of the Ring exemplifies everything that is wrong with the Video Game Industry today. Universally panned by critics as one of the worst games ever made and even worse than Mortal Kombat Advance, Fellowship of the Ring for the GBA was deemed virtually unplayable for his massive amount of glitches, horrific play control, graphics, and noise, bizarre actions you had to take to continue on the game, battles that were slower than molasses and a bug so bad than when you were nearly done the game (Mines of Moradin) It would just die on you. And did Pocket Games apologize or admit they released a game that in no way should have been allowed past Quality Control? Did they give a recall and give fans their 30 bucks back as a way of saying “We screwed up even worse than we usually do?” Did they in any way shape or form try to take responsibility for releasing a game that in now way shape or form was even in condition for BETA TESTING? Of course not! Even Electronic Arts, a company so fucking evil that they release horrible game after horrible game knowing gamers are too passive or pathetic to boycott their crap and buy from someone else, managed to put out better LotR games that this! Well let Fellowship of the Ring be proof of why we all need to start demanding the same quality out of Video game makers that we expect from the food industry. If it’s bad beyond reason, you do a recall. Nuff said.

Evil Dead: Hail to the King (Psx, Ps2, Dreamcast)

Now…when I first saw one of our newbies had reviewed the sequel to this game I thought in my absence Bryan and Lee had engaged in some sort of cruel electronic hazing ritual. Then when I saw the poor bastard gave the game an 8.5, I wanted to email him and make sure he wasn’t a deadite himself. After all, the Hail to the King was one of the most talked about video games since…well hell, Super Mario 3. It had an award winning TV commercial where a guy loses his hands, gets some hedge clippers for a replacement and then gets into a fight with Ash. Beautiful stuff. Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were actively involved with the game. You can’t beat that. Bruce is an awesome guy to talk to and the writer of a wonderful autobiography. And also isn’t ashamed to tell a certain writer that his upcoming graphic novel from Eden Studios is funny and clever. Yes, I am an evil dead fanatic. I discovered the movies in 9th grade (1993) and fell in love with the first two. I was one of the rare few to see Army of Darkness in the theaters. I love every aspect of the Evil Dead Trilogy and had my copy of Hail to the King reserved six months in advance. When OPM released a watchable only demo on one of their insert discs, we played it over and over again, amazed by the graphics and how cool it was going to be. And when I wondered allowed why there was no footage of the actual game, I was condemned with commentary like “Dude, this is what the WHOLE game will be like.” Or “It can’t be worse than Resident Evil.” And naturally, my fears subsided and I agreed this game would be even cooler than Lunar. The first day the Beaverton, OR Babbage’s was taking preorders, I was there. And all of my friends and I counted down for the day we too could say “Groovy.”

Of course the punchline of this that 4 of us ended up in the fetal position around my TV bawling our eyes out at how Bruce and Sam and Evil Dead had sold out to the horrible Satan that is Electronic Arts and how none of us have been able to actually watch an Evil Dead movie since because of how damn bad this game was. You think Superman 64 was bad? You think Custer’s last Stand was stupid? You believe that no game could be worse than trying to play Zork in a language other than one you speak fluently? Well sorry people. I’m afraid I have to burst your bubble by saying, you’ve never experienced a letdown like Hail to the King! Here’s an example. Imagine learning your girlfriend is actual a preop tranny. And his dick is bigger than yours. That’s still not worse than trying to play Evil Dead: Hail to the King for more than an hour!

So wear to begin on the sucking of this game? Well, the plot is a rehash of part of ED2 and Army of Darkness (Mid-Evil Dead for you Europeans). That’s not so bad. And Bruce Campbell’s voice acting makes you believe you’re in for a treat.

But then the FMV stops and you have to play the game. And like HHH, this game will not sell for you, it will bury any attempts on your part to succeed, and it will make your life hell and wish you had been the one to shack up with the closet Goth implanted daughter of one of America’s richest men. I know, I know, Kevin Dunn has just read this and totally thrown my resume in the trash after that swipe.

First of all the controls are all but inoperable. Improve on the crap that Resident Evil uses? I think not. Before HTTK, I didn’t think it was possible for a Survival Horror game to be worse than RE. But it is in fact so. You want to move forward? Good luck trying to. You want to move backwards? See moving forward! And combat? Ho ho ho is that a joke and a half! You can’t aim, things take forever to die, and if you accidentally walk off screen after you kill them since items are placed in places so precarious you almost half to go off screen to get at them? Well the monsters come back at full health of course! And these words don’t do the game justice. Saying it’s worse than having to go in for an audit and learning your IRS agent is a wild and starving bear isn’t enough to describe the pain of this game. This is probably the worst use of a license ever. It really is. Don’t believe me? Go check the sales figures and ask why this game sold less than the Undertaker. Dear god, three wrestling references in one column. It’s got to be from talking to Adam Ryland and Oliver Copp in the same day.

But yes people, the game is that damn bad! Do not test me on this. I am not responsible for what happens to you if you don’t heed my warning. Building a hotel on an ancient Indian Burial Ground hurts less than trying to use the controls for this game. Even while typing this I want to scream at THQ for making yet another terrible, terrible pile of shit to plague video game fans with. And like their shitty WCW games and second rate sports games and all the other horrors inflicted upon the Video Game community as a whole, stupid people still buy their products instead of demanding better from this video game giant. Hell, I’d even rather play a Final Fantasy game over Hail to the King. It is THAT bad. If you can find me anyone who has anything positive to say about Hail to the King other than it uses Evil Dead characters and Bruce Campbell’s voice acting is as always excellent, than I will print their letter in a future column, so everyone can make sure that lunatic doesn’t live near them.

So after all this, you can imagine how worried I was when I saw the glowing review of Fistful of Boomstick. But to be honest, I haven’t played the sequel. Maybe they used a whole new engine. Maybe the game actually has been improved upon after seeing how bad the first one was. I will have to assume our plucky young new reviewer is sane and lucid and an excellent judge of video game quality. But I will never know. I will never play it. I am too scared from the original. Scared to the point that I always have to zip my mouth and prevent myself from saying the following to Bruce. “Hey Bruce. Give me some sugar. Ha Ha ha. No really Bruce. Give me some sugar. Give me some sugar so I can get adult onset diabetes and DIE BECAUSE AT LEAST IN THE AFTERLIFE THERE ARE NO COPIES OF EVIL DEAD: HAIL TO THE KING“And no, I didn’t accidentally hit my caps button.

The Ring (Dreamcast)

Okay. Anything after Hail to the King is such anticlimactic. Let’s just say they took the best horror movie of all time and really really botched it big time. From the main character always smiling to the plot and play control having to be a side effect of watching Sadako’s video curse, it’s just a wise game to avoid. Thankfully the Dreamcast is dead so you can’t actively find this game. But after the other four games we’ve covered, well…it’s still a bad game. But I’d still rather play it than any of the other four. I’m too drained to go into more than that. But if any of you want to write a hum-dinger of a review of the DC version of the Ring, I’ll be happy to put it in next weeks column.