Firstly, apologies for now Sonic Lost World impressions, admittedly I had not kept up with the release date and with all the reviews popping up I thought it was coming out this past Tuesday. But, with two huge console launches upon us, it should be remembered that as always, games make the system, and while console launches are usually flooded with mediocre or simply forgettable titles, so are so bad and ill-conceived that you wonder how they even got made, while on the other hand, every console usually needs one big standout title to get running off the ground. Here's 7 prime examples of both the worst and the best of console launches, starting with the worst:
7. Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360): You know what, Perfect Dark Zero is a perfectly (no pun intended) ok game. The problem is that given it's pedigree and the fact that Microsoft dumped a Scrooge McDuck's money bin worth of cash to acquire at the time super developer Rare ok wasn't anywhere near good enough. Merely being competent for the flagship launch title and follow-up to one of the best shooters of all time just wasn't going to cut it. Maybe it was more a victim of hype than anything else, but it's not like those expectations weren't earned, it'd be like if Valve released Half-Life 3 to launch their new Steam OS and it was just a decent title, it would be a huge letdown for so many it's virtually unfathomable.
6. Altered Beast (Genesis): It was impressive that the Genesis gave us damn near perfect home versions of arcade hits such as Golden Axe and Altered Beast, the problem is once you get some of these games home and they aren't quarter-munchers, the cracks really start to show. Altered Beast is a prime example of this with sloppy controls, bad hid detection, cheap boring gameplay and the fact that you plunked down good money for a game that at home could be beaten in under an hour.
5. Make Your Music (Sega CD): You know what would be awesome? Being able to edit and make music videos of your favorite musicians. Was your favorite Marky Mark? I won't judge. What I will judge is this sorry excuse for music editing software, with horrible low-res FMV, bad editing tools and a surprisingly limited number of clips and videos. A constant presence on worst games of all times lists and it's well-earned.
4. Street Fighter The Movie: The Game (Playstation): Til my dying breath I'll defend Street Fighter the movie as one of the most hilariously awful yet entertaining flicks of all time, I can't help but love Zangief's stupidity, Raul Julia chewing every bit of scenery he's in and Jean Claude as All-American Guile. But it did result in arguably the stupidest unnecessary game of all time. So we already have the Street Fighter video game series, which is well-regarded, so they make a movie. The movie bombs, whatever, you still have the hit game series. But what do they do? Make a game based on the movie that's based on the game! On top of that, it's truly awful, trying to be like Mortal Kombat with digitized fighters, but nowhere near as polished, and I've never thought of Mortal Kombat, especially early Mortal Kombat, to be particularly polished to begin with.
3. Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES): Imagine you wake up one Christmas morning in the mid-1980s to find you got a NES for Christmas! You'd be one happy camper. Unless your parents thought you needed an "educational" game and got you this monstrosity instead of Duck Hunt or Super Mario Bros or hell even Gyromite. Don't get me wrong, educational software can be fun (see Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, Typing of the Dead, etc), but Donkey Kong Jr. Math is one of the worst examples of "edutainment" titles there is. It controls horribly, it's not creative and it's just boring.
2. XY/XX: Feel the Magic (DS) : Yup. I'm not actually opposed to dating sim games as a rule, but they have to be wrapped up in some attractive packaging like say an RPG. When you make it a bunch of confusing poorly designed mnigames that make us of some of the DS' more embarrassing features to use in public (like the microphone) you have a huge loser on your hands here.
1. Night Trap (Sega CD): But really, I'd gladly take any of the above over Night Trap, which sadly I actually owned. The first of many awful FMV-driven games that were barely games, besides terrible low-res vids, a plot that makes Uwe Boll movies look like Oscar contenders and actors they mostly grabbed for your local dinner theatre (along with Dano Plato in literally one of her last desperate grab for cash roles) the game didn't even function half the time, missing button cues so traps wouldn't go off and having the most convoluted house-monitoring system ever. An eternal top contender for worst game ever and easily the worst launch game I've ever played.
So there's the worst, but hey sometimes literally all it takes is one great title to really sell a system, as evidenced by these 7 seminal games:
7. Soul Calibur II (Dreamcast): Ah, Dreamcast, we hardly knew ye. But we still got some awesome games with your short time on this Earth, one being a better than the arcade port of Soul Calibur II, still one of the best fighting games of all time. It's one of the few 3D fighters that truly excelled at being 3D, something even current series like Dead or Alive haven't really mastered. That along with tons of single-player content which is still very rare for fighting games.
6. Halo (Xbox): Very simply put, without Halo, I don't know that Microsoft would have a significant presence in gaming today. Sure, there would've been an Xbox, possibly even a 360, but I think both would've basically sputtered and been non-contenders without this flagship franchise to carry them. Halo presented multi-player FPS on a level not really seen before on consoles and it really resonated in a way I don't think even modern series like Call of Duty or Battlefield have done. And the single-player is surprisingly solid as well, which nearly now modern FPS games even really attempt these days.
5. Wii Sports (Wii): The best pack-in of all time? Probably. Its easy to look back and see Wii Sports as merely a shallow tech demo, but it's what made Nintendo undisputed king of this last generation after falling into near irrelevancy during the last two. Why? Because it's simple, unintimidating fun for literally nearly everybody and in one session you "get" what the Wii was all about when other consoles constantly struggle to really define themselves at their launch. For better or worse, it also made motion gaming a thing that will probably be around from now on in some form, and very few titles can claim to really push such new and different technology forward like this, especially a launch title, which usually doesn't take advantage of the best aspects of the system it's on.
4. Tetris (Gameboy): The original gameboy wasn't a great system. The battery life stunk, it was bulky as hell and many of the games released pretty much sucked. But that didn't matter, because it had TETRIS, easily the most popular puzzle game ever. Hell, without Tetris to bolster the Gameboy's success at launch, Pokemon may not even have been nearly as popular because the install base wouldn't have been there to buy it.
3. Super Mario Bros ( NES): Quite literally, Super Mario Bro. saved the video game industry. I have no doubt games would still be around today, but would they have the same cultural imprint? Probably not. It's still a masterpiece in not only platforming, but general game design and the reason Mario is head and shoulders above all other video game characters.
2. Super Mario World (SNES): Is it possible to improve on perfection? Because That's exactly what Super Mario World did, and when it was most needed, as Nintendo was facing heavy competition from Sega with the Genesis, which already had a good head start. But Super Mario World is arguably (and probably not really arguably) the best 2D platformer ever made. It is just ridiculously fun and filled with secrets you may never find even spending 100 hours on it. The blue-print for every platformer going forward, and still better than 99% of modern ones.
1. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64): When you only launch with 2 games, one of them better be the best game of all time. And arguably, that's Super Mario 64. It wasn't just completely amazing, it invented a new genre, the 3D-platformer, and got it right the first time. That pretty much never happens. Nothing else has really come close, except maybe the Mario Galaxy titles, and they are more of an evolution of the same formula that started with this title. You could've never gotten another game on your 64 and still been pretty happy because it's just so re-playable. And that makes it the best launch game of all time.
Will either of the new consoles have something to top any of these games? I doubt it, but on the bright side, there doesn't seem to be any serious contenders for worst launch game either. That's it for now and next time I'll be back with a gamer Cinema hopefully tomorrow.