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Gaming's would-be innovators

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

What it Tried to Do: Take gaming and movies to a new level of synergy. Synergy, people!

What it Did: Damn near killed Squaresoft.

What Went Wrong: Yes, cleverclogs, we’re well aware that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a movie and not a game. Don’t think you’ve caught us napping there! However it’s worth mentioning, as this is the project that could have ruined Squaresoft. With Fantasies VII-IX featuring increasingly sophisticated CGI cutscenes, Square figured: why not a whole movie of CG characters summoning monsters and brandishing weapons the size of a 747? But while gamers are willing to put up with second-rate cinematic tomfoolery in the context of a good game, the moviegoing public aren’t so patient. The Spirits Within lost around $94 million dollars, forced Square to temporarily close its motion-pictures division and almost put the kibosh on the company’s merger with Enix.


Red Faction (2001)

What it Tried to Do: Utterly overhaul FPS gaming by making the world itself destructible.

What It Did: Marginally affect FPS gaming by making a few bits of the world itself destructible.

What Went Wrong: It’s a long-standing complaint of action gamers: “how come a rocket launcher will destroy a tank, but won’t make a hole in a locked door?” Red Faction pledged to fix that by being built of material that wouldn’t just display a few bullet-hole decals: it could have holes blown right through it. Gamers’ imaginations ran wild with the possibilities – and were summarily brought crashing back to Earth when the game’s “Geo-Mod” tech was limited almost to the point of novelty by technical and structural restrictions. The idea would be best exploited in the game’s multiplayer mode, unhindered by mission structures: this partial success would inspire further exploration in later games like Crysis and Red Faction: Guerrilla. But the original would be remembered as an enjoyable diversion, not the genre-changer it set out to be.


State of Emergency (2002)

What it Tried to Do: Build on the success of Grand Theft Auto III.

What it Did: Turn a lot of people off Rockstar Games.

What Went Wrong: State of Emergency tried, as Dynasty Warriors had in the East, to revive the days of brawlers like Double Dragon and Final Fight. But gamers wouldn’t settle for such modest aims – not from the company that had just brought them Grand Theft Auto III. Sparking the obligatory violence-in-games controversy before release, State of Emergency whipped moral hand-wringers into a frenzy without even trying – with the knock-on effect of priming gamers to expect another GTAIII. When all we got was a cluttered, unambitious punch-up, Rockstar became a victim of its own hype. It didn’t ruin the company – changing gaming forever buys you some credit – but many folks still look sideways at anything the company releases without the words “Grand”, “Theft” and “Auto” in the title.


Blinx the Time Sweeper (2002)

What it Tried to Do: Pioneer “four-dimensional gaming”; give the Xbox a mascot.

What it Did: Inspired us all to stick to the three dimensions the Lord gave us.

What Went Wrong: Snarky feline Blinx was groomed to become the friendly face of Xbox, joining the pantheon of system-selling characters occupied by Sonic, Mario and Crash Bandicoot. Instead, he was relegated to the much larger pile of forgotten mascots, joining luminaries such as B.O.B, Titus the Fox, Zool the Nth-Dimensional Ninja Ant and Cool Coyote in gaming oblivion. It’s easy to spot the obvious reason: while Super Mario World or Sonic The Hedgehog are masterfully-created slices of gaming bliss, Blinx The Time Sweeper hinges on a single gimmick – “four-dimensional gaming” – that it fails to use to any great effect. But we like to think equal blame must be given to the creeptastic cat himself. Just look at this smirking putz:

Would you buy an unproven, high-end gaming system from this face? Yeesh.


Enter the Matrix (2003)


Above: It’s sickly green, it must be The Matrix 

What it Tried to Do: Expand the fascinating Matrix saga in an unprecedented synthesis of game and film.

What it Did: Drag out the increasingly silly Matrix saga in a buggy, half-assed compromise between game and film.

What Went Wrong: When Matrix fever was at its peak, the movies’ creators, the Brothers Wachowski, announced they would be working with Shiny Entertainment to bring a chapter of the series exclusively to gamers. Featuring content overseen by the Wachowskis themselves and expanding the plotline of two of the films’ incidental characters, Enter the Matrix was to complement 2003’s twin Matrix sequels. But the finished product nicked scenes from the second movie, giving the picture an unfinished plot that was never resolved except for those who finished the game – which is to say, almost no-one. The software shipped buggy, unfinished and near unfinishable without severe patching. However, many were willing to forgive it all that because it featured this scene:

Classy.

39 comments

  • RedOutlive10 - September 16, 2009 7:55 p.m.

    You guys are spot on with Fable. Sheesh I felt it could be so much better than it actually was. Shame on you Molyneux.
  • Jordo141 - September 16, 2009 7:56 p.m.

    God, I actually bought State of Emergency...
  • CatrParrot - September 16, 2009 8:07 p.m.

    Will the internet EVER stop making fun of Daikatana? Let's hope not.
  • Hurricrane - September 16, 2009 8:41 p.m.

    I wish I was among those who pirated Spore... but noooooooo, I had to get it day 1
  • darkvare - September 16, 2009 8:43 p.m.

    lol the giana sisters are now forgiven since there's a sequel being made for the ds
  • Samael - September 16, 2009 9:44 p.m.

    @Jordo141 I bought State of Emergency and Enter the Matrix! And somehow my fourteen year old brain was convinced that they were awesome...
  • Cyberninja - September 17, 2009 12:24 a.m.

    i wanted to buy a xbox for some of these games just more proof that a child will buy anything
  • sato - September 17, 2009 2:10 a.m.

    Sigh... Daikatana never lived up to the hype.
  • CountFenring - September 17, 2009 3:20 a.m.

    I'm glad Advent Rising failed. I hate Orson Scott Card. He deserves failure.
  • mgkyo666 - September 17, 2009 3:24 a.m.

    i actually liked advent rising. but i kinda noticed that the story clould fit in the halo universe, it kinda makes some sense, does any one else notice this?
  • jesusfrk15 - September 17, 2009 3:25 a.m.

    i loved "spirits within" and "spore" but "enter the matrix" was weak
  • luttman23 - September 17, 2009 12:28 p.m.

    I stupidly pre-ordered spore. That didn't stop me from hating it and illegally torrenting it so that others could hate it without giving the lying bastards a dime.
  • Bullwinkle - September 17, 2009 1:02 p.m.

    Great article, but you forgot one major offender: Jurassic Park - Tresspasser. It promised immersive controls to give an unprecedented feeling of being in the game. It delivered floaty arms and unprecedented boob angles.
  • jackthemenace - September 17, 2009 3:09 p.m.

    Oh come on people, Fable was AWESOME! admittedly, i havent bought fable II yet, but i will. soon. Spirits within was rpetty damn crap, i watched it for about 2 hours and the ending was such a rip off. I used to like blinx though, but only when i was about 8. SIX FREAKIN' YEARS AGO.
  • IHateMakingUserIDs - September 17, 2009 5:44 p.m.

    Stupid Spore! I was all jacked about ti for 3 missed deadlines and once i get it...it was kinda ok until the space level. Every time i went to visit another planet some douche-y alines would attack a planet i had, so i had to go back and fight them, then try to go back to the planet i was going to explore only to be attacked again. I tried to squash the invading annoying scum only to realize i wasn't able to attack large gassy looking planets....then they attacked me again....then spore collected dust.
  • DirkSteele1 - September 17, 2009 8:20 p.m.

    It can not be denied that Peter Molyneux is a great game developer and has been responsible for some fantastic games (Populous and Black & White for example), but he needs to learn the following....Peter repeat after me "Under promise and over deliver" (not the other way around).
  • secretsearcher - September 17, 2009 8:24 p.m.

    I have Blinx lol :D. I never cared enough, though, to play past the first level. And I also have Spore, but I stopped at the tribal stage. By that time the game had lost my interest. So yeah, those two definitely fit the bill here.
  • Spybreak8 - September 18, 2009 3:25 a.m.

    Ok, if you ever bought these games out of hype and have been burned, raise your hands. hmm, oh, wow, that's a lot. lol Good article
  • Coolbeans69 - September 19, 2009 3:37 a.m.

    Ummm Fable was a kickass game! U guys gave it a 9/10! What the hell? And as for blinx fuck blinx up the ass. My friend showed me it a couple times and urged me to buy it but it sucked too much
  • oryandymackie - September 19, 2009 9:17 a.m.

    Am I the only one who actually LIKES QTEs? Yes, they're a cliche, but due to the amount of boring cutscenes it makes a change and a challenge, doesn't it?

Showing 1-20 of 39 comments

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