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2010: A Year of Gaming Disappointments

Normally around this time, I’d make up a list of the best games I played in the preceding year. But as I reflected on the games I played in 2010, I felt more and more like this was one of the most disappointing years for video games in recent memory. Sure, there were some good titles; Mass Effect 2 and Fallout: New Vegas were both top notch. But the list of games that I eagerly anticipated and then let me down weighs more heavily in my mind.

So, for 2010, the “top” 3 most disappointing games of the year:

3. Puzzle Quest 2 - The original Puzzle Quest is still one of my favorite Nintendo DS games. In fact, I liked it enough that I bought the game another two times on PSP and PC. Puzzle Quest was something of a perfect accident; the game has many flaws (balance issues, a hackneyed story, lack of production values) but somehow the game’s pieces fall into place in such a way as to make it tremendously fun and addictive. Maybe I should have anticipated that they couldn’t repeat the magic with Puzzle Quest 2. The sequel attempts to fix the issues of the original game by adding a story and fixing balance issues with high-level characters, but these changes actually seem to make the game worse. The story is still boring, only it is now much more in the player’s face. Balance changes prevent your character from becoming overwhelmingly powerful in later levels, but that also removes much of the fun of character growth.

2. Final Fantasy XIII - ThereĀ  are a lot of reasons why this game might be on the top of the list. It took something like 4 or 5 years after the game was originally announced to the public before it was finally released. It was Square Enix’s first major RPG of the HD era. And it followed FFXII, a game that was, in my somewhat minority opinion, one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. There are two things that tempered my disappointment: First, the game had already been getting pretty low review scores in Japan so my expectations were low. Second, the game did have about 10-15 hours that were very enjoyable. However, what can you really say about a 50-hour game where you only have fun for the last 15 hours? A game that had a great battle system, but a terrible story. A “role-playing” game where you were walking down an un-branching path for 90% of the time.

1. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth - AAI wins the “prize” of being the most disappointing game because it not only fell short of my expectations, but was a genuinely bad game. Not mediocre; definitively bad. I really have to wonder what the creators were thinking. The previous four Ace Attorney games all follow the same basic formula: Investigation of a crime interwoven with Courtroom segments. In each of those games, the investigation portion is really just a boring but necessary interlude between the Courtroom portion where the games are at their best. Somehow, someone got the idea to take out the Courtroom, and make an entire game based around the third-rate adventure aspect of the investigations, with disastrous effect. The difficulty level is extremely low as you’re led around by the nose through the still-linear segments. The attempts to shoe-horn in the same court-like gameplay in non-court scenarios just doesn’t make sense and falls flat.

The good news is that 2011 is shaping up to be a great year, so hopefully there won’t be another thread like this next year.

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