2016 was a not a great year, and possibly one of the most difficult for anyone that enjoys gaming. From numerous disappointments, lies, the continued increase of terrible news, and the failure of almost anything that could be considered “game of the year” worthy, it wasn’t a fantastic experience. This, of course, is only touching on the mainstream games –niche gaming fans had entirely different levels of disappointment.
So, instead of another list counting great things that happened this year, why don’t we all wallow in some misery a little long with 10 terrible things that happened this year:
No Man’s Sky
It would be unfair to make a list counting the disappointments of the past solar cycle and not include No Man’s Sky, mainly because it is fun to watch the popular kid that has everything go for them fall and smash their face open on the concrete doing something that they have repeatedly claimed they totally can do—and all their friends constantly back them up on. This wasn’t a train wreck; it was the Hindenburg of the video game preview hype cycle – everyone watching closely new something was amiss, but everyone else was too busy buying tickets to care.
How much do you have to screw up and anger people before someone decides to start a class action lawsuit against your company for false advertising? I would guess a ton, and I would guess that that lie would have to go on for a great number of years; but the real lesson that I think that everyone should take away from this is that indie game studios do not make triple A games. Saying that they are the same is like saying swimming across a small, shallow, river in your grandparents back yard is the same as fighting the kraken in a riptide. No Man’s Sky might have had a life as a 20-dollar download with mod support from the community, instead it was thrown out as a full retail boxed copy to die at the hands of the Spartan elite.
Mighty Number 9
Anyone who backed this game knew that it was a concern for years, which is not something that you want to actively know when you have invested money into a project. Issues started early, with a community manager that was happy to ban people who had concerns – regardless of legitimacy of said concern, money donated, or possible even right to do so. Then, after the original campaign ended there were a handful of other attempts to garner additional funding from various sources, and other fundraising attempts, which is never a good since of fiscal responsibility when you exceed the original goal asked for. Then you had all the rumors, late in development, about the previously mention community dev (that was let go at one point) who attempted to vastly change the concept of the game, and other horror stories that made it sound like more of a miracle that this was in any finished state at all.
Not only was this one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns ever, it was also one of the grandest failures to come out of it; even though people seem to have happily forgotten that Tim Schafer keeps using it as a funding platform to not make games on. It compared so little to what was promised that it almost seemed like someone remembered they were making a game during the last six months while they had been on a bender, and rushed the product out; which could also explain the final catch phrase, “it’s better than nothing,” which seemed to be the defining moniker of the game.
Street Fighter V
Early Access is something that needs to stop being a thing, in pretty much any form. It was interesting once, during Minecraft, and then after that everyone tried to adopt the model as a free way to make money while they struggled with the ever-increasing monetary realities of making an indie game. If you are in any way adapt at reading you will notice that the last part of that sentence mentioned indie games, and that this is talking about Street Fighter, a franchise that has been around longer than some of our younger readers have been alive. This year saw the release of Street Fighter V, sans almost all content.
While it might not be that much of a blight to release Street Fighter without a story mode, calling almost anything in the second game a story – while technically accurate—is a stretch. It also wouldn’t be the first time that games have tried to strip out single player content of a game in favor of the much more heavily used multiplayer, although that argument falls apart the moment you remember that online play was fundamentally broken when the game launched as well. Probably the icing on the cake for all of this is that Capcom decided to announce that they were releasing paid DLC characters, which would amount to about 50% of the cast within months of launch, before they ever said anything about the glaring, game breaking, problems and bugs that accompanied the game on release.
Deus Ex Micro Transactions
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was the shot in the arm that a series that hadn’t seen movement in a decade needed. It was part of almost every top ten list during the 2011 holiday rush, and is a cherished classic (I am loosely using the term for a five-year-old game, I know). Then you have its true, non-mobile, sequel come out to an eagerly awaiting public and it… flops about as hard as it can. Fingers are pointed everywhere, from the DRM (which will be discussed later) to some of the negative press, to cast of reasons so diverse it would make a 90s Ghost Busters cartoon look whitewashed. But no one seemed to take a moment and think that, maybe, fans might have been angry about being asked to pay for the game a minimum of three times?
Released at full price, and with a season pass (as almost all games are), you can easily be expected to pay 90 dollars if you are one of the few devote people in the world that live and breathe the Deus Ex mythos. For a moment, we should pretend there are (even though recent price drops tell us a different story). Say then, you are a busy person with more money than time, but you want to experience the story but not have to worry about dying, so you buy DLC—the expensive stuff. If you don’t re-buy anything –which you can—the bill would be about 60 future moneys, much of which can be used as they are credits or usable items like grenades. So, without even buying the collector’s edition of the game it is possible to be out 150 dollars by purchasing the game, content that hasn’t come out, and bullets you don’t have anymore.
Final Fantasy Explorers
While most of the world was excited about the fact that we were getting two, almost, core Final Fantasies this year, some of us managed to get entirely disappointed by a small spinoff that came out after Christmas, last year, and get pushed to the side in hopes that only the most diehard fans would notice, and then hate. If you took everything that made Monster Hunter good, ignored that, and then tried to make something that resembled a JRPG mixed with –of all things—Crystal Chronicles, you might end up with something akin to this.
Working within the realm of anything resembling constraint, it would be better to address the things that this game did right, and move on from there. It was released on a handheld. It was easily forgotten. I am almost entirely sure, based on GameFAQs message boards glowing conversations of it, that aside from die hard Final Fantasy fanboys –who are more than happy to defend everything about it— I am the only person that ended up with this game through random happenstance—who does not have just massive, massive brain trauma of some kind – so the suffering will hopefully end with me.
World of Final Fantasy
The game that was pretty much actively billed as Final Fantasy meets Pokémon; not much that could be said afterwards that could mess anything up here. Somehow Square Enix managed, though, to find pretty much the single worst set of localizers and task them with throwing out as much of the original script as they could, rewriting the game from scrap, and then making it as meaningless and meme focused as they possibly could. All favor text in the game is pretty much worthless, and after about five hours becomes so mind numbing and untoward that it is simply better to skip it than to sit through another epic rap battle joke.
The worst parts come, and rather quickly, when the game starts slipping all its meme speak into the core game –and not just descriptions of captured monsters. Having a main character scream “Gravity no!” whilst falling from a waterfall is both cringeworthy and saddening because this game was released leading into the holiday rush, meaning effort was put into trying to put a form of best foot forward and “Gravity no!” was the result.
Dragon Quest VII
For those of you who don’t know what a style guide is, it is a normally a small set of rules to enforce consistency through a publication or work. Their use is so that whatever project is being worked on, it can feel cohesive and covey the project in one easy to understand package throughout. If this factoid is kept in mind it makes me wonder what the guide for Dragon Quest looks like, because if it is anything else that “throw garbage on the screen so the player questions their grasp of the English language” I would honestly be shocked. What once started as a funny and humorous old timey English accent has now morphed into a world so full of non-sense and dialog that there is simply no way was originally intended to be in the game. But, when in doubt, consult the style guide and confuse those gamers.
The previous entry on the list highlighted a title that simply had text that was in no way ever intended to be in the game –and while that is terrible when the game itself probably would have been good – Dragon Quest has decided to take up that challenge and raise the bar by simply making sections of it entirely unintelligible. Forget the characters dropping in and out of accents, forget making non-sense character quarks, how about writing in that an item heals health when it restores magic. How about entire text boxes that are close to gibberish that may have important plot clues? Who cares! Don’t worry, this is just one of the most anticipated titles in the series in over a decade, you might as well entirely mess it up.
DOA Extreme Beach Volley Ball 3
Most people are loosely aware of the 2nd tier of fighting games champion that is Dead or Alive, and that it has a spin off that is only about the ladies, and that it is mainly about them relaxing on a beach and sometimes playing “sports”. By loosely aware I mean that the game has only ever sold a fraction of what the fighting game ever managed, and that is something when you consider that it is constantly beaten by whatever Soul Caliber is doing at that time. But now we live in a world of outrage, and it is better that instead of thinking that a rating and box description is enough to let people make the choice if consenting women might want to drink lemonade together under a parasol; things would probably move along better if the entire thing was just banned in America.
This lead the import gaming site, Play Asia, to point out via tweet that the game was receiving an Asia Region release—something that would be fully translated to English and playable on any PS4 in the world. Of course, there was a predictable backlash, calls for boycotts of the site, and even a campaign to get the person in charge of their twitter account to get fired over the “cheeky” responses to tweets saying they were never going to shop at their site again. The result of all of this was that no one got fired, and Extreme Beach Volley Ball 3 managed to be the best-selling title ever sold by Play Asia, by the tune of hundreds of thousands of orders. You can also check out our YouTube channel for video coverage of it!
AM2R (Nintendo cease and desist)
AM2R is a fan remake of Metroid 2 that had been in the works for over a decade. It is one of the titles that most people have heard of, and probably forgot about at some point because it was announced so long ago with very little information ever going public that it was just ferreted away into the corner of the brain that stores the same information that would only allow wins on episodes of Jeopardy that you aren’t watching. The idea was to, from the ground up, recreate the second title in the series in much the same fast paced vein of Metroid: Zero Mission. Truth be told the result was better than most of the Prime series at the best of times– which is too bad because days later they were also hammered with a cease and desist from Nintendo and told that no one could ever see the game again.
While this is the age of the internet and the code itself is in the wild, and for anyone that interested in playing it probably wouldn’t be that hard to track down, it is kind of bothersome that a mega company like Nintendo is taking this course when other developers, namely Sega, are treating fan projects in a more understanding and loving manner – through encouragement and job offers for the truly good ones. It might not be a surprise to anyone who has followed anything the big N has done in the last decade that they are a bit backward, overly controlling of their IP (to the point of insanity), and frankly draconian when it comes to allowing any creative access for fans to do anything at all, it is still depressing that when their best offering for the 30th universe of Samus was Metroid Federation, they decided to kill something that was infinitely better.
Year of Denuvo
For those of you who don’t know what Denuvo is, it is an anti-piracy piece of software that is becoming more and more common on gaming software. What is the big deal; everyone says that piracy hurts the industry and stifles creativity (both of which have never been proven to be true), but also people have a right to protect what is theirs, right? That last fact is true until you look at the fact that Denuvo functions by re-encrypting a game while it is accessed, meaning that every time you are playing a game you are constantly slamming your hard drives read/write cycles. This isn’t a huge deal for traditional plater drives, but in a world were more and more people are moving to solid state drives this very act is like shaving literal months off the life of the drive every time the game is played.
What started out as an annoyance, one or two games that would need to be skipped for the life of a hard drive, quickly became an avalanche of titles this year that lead to some pretty important blind spots on the gaming landscape. Around September stories started to trickle out that some publishers were starting to blame it on poor sales of the product on PC, as most consumers had become wise to them. Steam forums, mainly moderated by the publishers, started to ban people if they even brought up the subject of it being installed on the game for fear of it impacting the bottom line. To cap off the year you finally had Bethesda, recently, release a patch that strips the software from DOOM entirely—and vastly improves how the game preforms across all systems.
Censorship for everyone
Star Ocean 5 was released this year, around June, and you can find it at a big box retail store for under 30 dollars. That isn’t a sale, that is now the suggested retail price. It has been that was for a handful of months. Before release it had been getting nothing but bad press from the few niche enthusiast gaming sites that still cover JRPGs because of the Square Enix’s constant desire to please mainstream western audiences, changing many of the themes from those of “traditional anime trope” to “bland and uninspiring garbage”. Reviews for the mainstream sites were terrible, and the fans of the series – the niche audience they had alienated by removing “offensive” head patting and “provocative” teenagers – weren’t interested as they had been called out as degenerates by both the publisher and developer along the way. Saying it sold like a turd covered scooter that was on fire would be generous, mainly because people thought scooters were cool once.
While Star Ocean’s tale might be a glaring example of what not to do when you are censoring a game, mainly burning the bridge that was built by the only people who are even interested in the series in the first place, it isn’t the only time that it happened this year. Tokyo Mirage Session, a cross over game for Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem had entire section yanked out at the last minute via Nintendo’s insistence, even though Atlus had demanded to handle all localization of the project. This, of course, before you even start to open the can of worms that is Bravely Second, or anything else that Nintendo has their hands on. This year has simply not been great for seeing things the way developers intended.