The Top Thirty-two Worst Horror Games, Ever, Part Three
Hey hi howdy folks, Mark B here, welcoming you to the third installment of the Top Thirty-two Worst Horror Games, Ever. Along with me is Matt Yeager…
And we’re here to bring you more bad horror games that are guaranteed to… uh…
… horrify you?
Yeah, okay. Not like it could be any worse. Whose turn is it to start this time?
Yours, I think.
Alright. Gimme an introduction to start with.
Alright. “And now, here’s Mark. Yay.”Â
Thanks. I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself or anything.
From Software. Makers of all sorts of odd, novelty games that have devoted fanbases of all kinds, From is best known stateside for the Armored Core series, which is one of my personal favorites. But they’ve made all sorts of other titles that amuse various gamers: King’s Field, Shadow Tower, Otogi, Echo Night (one of Lucard’s personal picks for his list of GOOD horror games), and more recently, they’ve tackled the Tenchu series and have released back to back solid titles in Chromehounds and Enchanted Arms. In short, From Software has a distinct appreciation amongst hardcore gamers, simply because they make odd games people want.
But let it never be said that From doesn’t make crappy games; they do, just like everybody else.
Kuon came out in 2004 to little fanfare and even less interest; it hadn’t been talked up much in magazines, and ended up having a fairly uneventful launch. Those fans of From products, however, who had heard of the title through their appreciation for the developer rushed out to purchase it, as they would have any other title. The expectation was, of course, that this would be another sleeper hit, another under-appreciated masterpiece for From’s loyal fans.
Kuon is the story of a possessed Japanese manor, and a team of exorcists who venture into it to suppress the demonic forces within. There are three storylines to play through: Yin Phase, where you play as Utsuki, the daughter of the head exorcist, who has gone to the manor and hasn’t come back; Yang Phase, where you play as Sakuya, an exorcist-in-training under Utsuki’s father who goes to the manor to assist him; and the Kuon Phase, which is about a demon-slayer named Seimei, and is also the final, “resolution” chapter.
Now, Kuon is absolutely badass as a concept. I cannot deny this. The storyline is one the more interesting stories I’ve seen in a game to date. All sorts of out of the ordinary concepts exist here; you’ll frequently find yourself reading about silkworms, people sleeping in boxes, and all sorts of interesting Japanese mythology. Notes are scattered all around the manor that flesh out the concepts, and the various NPC’s you meet help establish the story quite well. The mood and atmosphere are quite complimentary to the concept, and work well to establish an interesting and provocative game presentation. And some of the more interesting elements, like “Tempests”, which basically show your character a horrifying vision to freak them out, play well into the theme and help to keep you on your toes. Indeed, upon first glance, one might wonder why, exactly, such a game would make it to the BAD horror games list.
When you’re making a game of this sort, sooner or later the concept of combat comes up. Most of these sorts of games work off of the idea of either “giving you lots of weapons to wreak destruction upon your enemies” or “run and hide asshole”. The contrast is easy to see; compare Resident Evil or Silent Hill to Clock Tower or Hell Night. Some developers, however, see this as a touch limiting, and seek to overcome it. Some games, like Fatal Frame, do this job very well; others, like Galerians (which we’ll be discussing later), not so much. And Kuon falls neatly into this hybrid category; you are tasked to fight monstrosities, not merely with weapons, but also with cards that can cast spells or summon creatures to do your bidding.
And now I’d like to go into a small tangent, if I may. From Software has made some wonderful games in their time, but as any fan will tell you, they like to make their games THEIR way, and to hell with things like “convention” or “rational thought”. The Armored Core series is a prime example; the Dual Shock PS1 controller was available around the time Armored Core: Master of Arena came out, and the Dual Shock PS2 controller was a staple of the system. A control configuration that took advantage of this controller would have been logical, yet From chose not to implement such a configuration until AC: Nexus, five games (and about six years) after the fact. Another example: online play has been available on the PS2 for several years now, yet the last four AC titles, all of which were available AFTER the network adapter came out, lacked this as an option. Considering the last AC title, Nine Breaker, was an Arena combat only title, online play would have made the game actually, y’know, WORTH BUYING, instead of a waste of cash.
And so it is with Kuon. For you see, the spell-casting and animal summoning dynamics COULD, in theory, be a novel and interesting dynamic that would make the game worth playing on their own. Instead, the entire gameplay dynamic makes the game a test of one’s self control; if you can force yourself to beat Kuon, that day, you become a man. Or a really hairy woman. One of those.
First off, the controls are generally unfunctional (as with many From games) and convoluted, and the gameplay suffers for it. The spells and summons don’t work anywhere near as well as you’d think; it’s entirely too easy to either burn a spell with a miss or a wasted summon, and unlike games like RE and SH, useful spells are not as easy to come by as bullets. The lock-on function, such as it is, doesn’t work too well either, which contributes to the problem. You do have a hand-to hand weapon, but your characters aren’t as resilient to damage as those in other games; several creatures can wipe the floor with you in two hits, and even weaker creatures can whip your ass in small groups. Even when you do use your weapons, they aren’t terribly damaging, and you’re less likely to die when using spells. You CAN heal yourself any time enemies aren’t on screen by meditating, which ultimately makes combat a matter of whacking whatever you can, running to safety, healing, and running back, which is hardly horrifying or dramatic. And the game feels like it’s confused, a lot of times… you’re encouraged not to run, and to avoid battles, like in a Clock Tower game… yet you’re thrown into situations where combat is your only option, and MUST be engaged in to survive. Trying to balance these elements is fine, but it just doesn’t work very well in this product.
Oh, yes, and the camera angles/game layout screams RE, and frankly, this game came out two-thousand-and-f*cking-four. Using ten-year-old conventions for your game when this very same series, along with its most direct competition (Silent Hill) are using independent camera angles, is just ridiculous. And, speaking of re-using things, all of your characters ultimately traipse through the exact same environments over and over again to complete their goals, which makes sense, but ends up being rather boring. Again, got tired of this shit ten years ago, fix your game, kay thanks.
So, ultimately, Kuon, despite having an engaging story, an interesting concept, and the From Software name attached, is a failure in the most rudimentary of levels: playing it is a chore. Those who have forced themselves to play through to the end have undoubtedly found enough to keep them going, but sadly, forcing yourself to finish a game isn’t the same as enjoying it, and thus, Kuon must take its place amongst the halls of shame.
Almost as painful as: Being a Devo fan and listening to “Devo 2.0”. I refuse to type it out as it is actually titled; a band of 13-year olds covering Devo is bad enough, thanks.
Mark’s gone through more bad video games than I’ve gone through pairs of underwear in my life.
I’ve played more than six bad games, dude.
…which is why I haven’t played some of these. I’ll take his word for it.
I’m probably repeating myself, but if you ever wonder why some horror game fans feel hatred towards the Resident Evil series of games, it’s because of turds like this.
No, I’m pretty sure Alex hates Resident Evil for its existence, not because of the bad games it created.
And here we have yet ANOTHER game that’s impossible to describe without mentioning Resident Evil, since Carrier is just one of the many RE clones that came out around that time period. Hell, it even had the same ‘Play as either Male or Female Character’ thing going on. Even by Dreamcast standards Carrier wasn’t exactly a good looking game, and you could tell how much the localization team cared about the game when the female lead character’s name was translated to Jessifer. Or perhaps her parents got stuck trying to decide between Jessica and Jennifer, who knows? Besides the usual lacking attempt at localization and the graphics, what really, REALLY made Carrier an unplayable mess of a game was the massive amount of slowdown that occurred in the game. Facing a boss meant struggling against slowdown so bad you’d think the character was underwater. This also regularly occurred anytime too many enemies were in the same corridor.
That’s not to say the game didn’t attempt to do a few new things. Running and climbing stairs were made easier than in the RE series, and it was also easier to pull off a 180 degree turn… too easy actually, which caused you to spin your character around at some pretty awkward times. The targeting system was a little bit better since you had more control over where to shoot, just as long as you didn’t have something at your feet attacking you… in which case, good luck aiming at it. Good thing the game was about infected plants instead of mutated midgets so it was only a constant annoyance instead of a complete game breaking error. Although a horror game with mutant midgets would probably kick more ass.
Almost as painful as: Having a hysterectomy done with napalm.
Interesting concept, terribly wasted in the form in which it was delivered. It was largely an unplayable mess, and even at the time it came out it was six shades of ugly. What is it with bad horror titles and the Dreamcast?
#26: GALERIANS: ASH:
Well, bad as the first Galerians game was, it was a novel attempt at trying to do something, ANYTHING, different with the genre as a whole. G:A wasn’t even that, as it was the exact same damn thing as the first game, only prettier (and that’s also relative). All of the potentially interesting story revelations and such had long since been burned out by this point, leaving more also-ran crap to fill in the gaps. The game was also almost identical to its predecessor, so the only saving grace was that not very many people had even played the original title, so they had nothing to base the experience on.
I did. I still wake up screaming.
You get used to it after a while.
It also bears mentioning that Sammy, as they knew that Galerians was a low seller, decided to release a DVD titled “Galerians: Rion”, with the exact same story from the first game, as a 3D rendered movie. I swear to god I’m not making that up. What’s worse is, I’ve seen it, and frankly, it was simultaneously pretty damn lame and yet somehow a better experience than actually playing through the game itself.
Basically, you spend your first hour (more or less) playing through the final stage of the original Galerians, which would probably be more interesting if it was just one long linear stage, instead of REPEATING THE SAME TEN MINUTE SECTION FIVE TIMES. After that, Rion (your main character) is brought out of his stasis and informed that hey, even though he thought he saved the world in the last game, he didn’t. Oops. So now he has to go save the world again, this time from an uber-powerful Galerian (genetically engineered humans who have psionic powers of various sorts, and who are all pretty much nuts) released when Rion beat Mother in the last game. If this sounds interesting, well, it really isn’t.
Gameplay is sloppy and bland; using Rion’s psionic powers might be cool if they worked half as well as you expect them to, and after the fifth time of seeing the same damn power, the love affair is pretty much over. The character graphics are okay, if uninteresting, but the world graphics are the epitome of “average”. Woo, now we’re in the military compound, Genericville USA! Grand. And the storyline from the first game, while hardly Kipling, is far and away more interesting than in this second offering. Here’s a little mathematic formula to help explain it:
A = Amnesiatic protagonist searching for familiar girl whilst trying to fight off legions of super-powered villains, all in hopes of eventually recovering his memories and/or saving the world = Akira if Tetsuo was a good guy, combined with X.
B = Revived main character trying to save the world from his destructive evil “brother” = Fist of the North Star, minus the cool fight sequences.
A > B.
Therefore, Galerians > Galerians: Ash.
Graphics, sound, everything else you can come up with, all artificial. When you’re given a larger budget and a brand new console to ply your trade on, the LEAST you could do is try to rip off something more interesting than what you ripped off the first time around.
Figure THAT one out.
Almost as painful as: Setting off an M-80… in your ass
Everything he said. I hated the first Galerians as well… the game tried to do something with psychic powers that few other games had tried to do, and made a complete mess out of it by making it far more frustrating than it needed to be. The second game took a low selling mediocre game and somehow made it even more mediocre. Now that’s talent.
#25: PARASITE EVE 2:
Let us hypothetically assume you have never ever played the original Parasite Eve.
But I liked the original Parasite Eve.
I said “hypothetically”Â. Anyway, I’m talking to them, not you.
Right, but they can’t talk back. If they could, they’d probably say they liked the original Parasite Eve, too.
But what if they didn’t?
Then they’re probably not going to care if you liked it, are they?
… right. Look, I’m just going to keep going. Go… play in traffic or something, I don’t know.
The original PE was a largely average RPG with some mild survival horror elements tossed into the mix, but managed to rise above mediocrity by emphasizing a few simple things within the game that made the product more interesting than it had any right being. A customizable weapon and armor system, silly collectible do-dads, some interesting writing, and a seventy floor dungeon to scale after completing the game once made the first PE into a cult hit, and put it onto the Greatest Hits line up for the Sony Playstation.
So leave it to Squaresoft to totally screw the pooch on the second go-round.
To sum it up as best I can, every single thing PE1 did right, PE2 does completely totally absolutely unequivocally WRONG WRONG WRONG. For example:
– In PE1, Aya Brea was a relatively young cop who was unsure of herself and her place on the force. She was seriously scared of what was going on, both in the city and inside of herself. She was forced to find the strength to stand against Eve and save the city, no matter the cost. In PE2, Aya is a special agent in charge of hunting down mitochondria monstrosities (sure, like that happens all the time), and she is neither scared of them nor her own powers. Fear is no longer an issue, and she has become a bland ass-kicking government agent instead of someone with, y’know, DEPTH.
– In PE1, Aya had a cast of sympathetic characters around her that could keep her human, with real issues and real problems (relative to the situation, obviously). In PE2, Aya has a cast of sympathetic characters that fluctuate in and out of the story, mean very little, and don’t resonate with the player much, if at all.
– In PE1, Aya and Eve had a fairly distinct blood feud going, and you could relate to their hatred for one another, because they were constantly explaining the whys and wherefores of it. In PE2… yeah, keep dreaming. No notable villainy here, just bad stuff happening without any sort of interesting motivation.
– In PE1, Aya could customize her weaponry and armor with tools. In PE2, you just get the standard upgrades without the option to mess around with them.
– In PE1, you could carry over your tuned up badass gear to new games, and you had the Chrysler Building to look forward to. In PE2, you get none of that.
PE2 feels almost entirely like turn-based Resident Evil, which at best is only mildly lame. But when compared to the previous game, it’s a slap in the face to see a series regress so dramatically from something interesting and fun into bland and boring bullshit. And for those that would argue, need I remind you: PE1 was popular enough to go Greatest Hits and spawn a sequel, PE2 killed the franchise dead. I rest my case.
Almost as painful as: Putting in your contacts after soaking them in bleach
Never played Parasite Eve 2, though I like Parasite Eve well enough I just never was interested in the sequel.
It also occurs to me that the name no longer really made sense, as the name was meant to relate to the main villain of the first game, y’know, EVE, who was dead by the second title.
Oh yeah, that makes sense. Did you see the Japanese movie based off the game?
Based off the short story the game was based off of, technically, but no, I didn’t.
Oh. Neither did I. I was figuring we could go somewhere with that.
Sorry. My forte’s bad games. Bad movies are something you’d have to ask Kennedy about.
Ah. Well, this has been another riveting edition of the Top Thirty-two Worst Horror Games, Ever. Join us next week when-
Why do you get to lead us out?
Because you started this time.
Right, but I’m cooler than you are.
… when we’ll look at two bad movie games, a game that was made into a bad movie, and another Resident Evil ripoff. I’m Matt, and he’s Mark-
Seriously. This mask gets me mad chicks, yo.
… help me.