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The games we hate to love



Coming in at the tail end of an urban-crime craze, Beat Down was one of the industry's most laughable attempts to create something "street" - mostly because it apparently got its ideas about American organized crime from playing Final Fantasy VII.

Its five mobster anti-heroes were young, effeminate and decked out in matching suits. Almost nobody carried guns. It was always night, presumably because the Japanese development team didn't know how else to make the game's city seem "American." The plot was something insanely stupid about a drug lord who betrayed his closest disciples before they could become powerful enough to defeat him. And the script was peppered with so much wildly inappropriate profanity that it was like listening to a five-year-old who'd just learned to swear.


Above: Behold the new faces of crime on these gritty urban streets of gritty streetwise urban gangsta urban street-ness. Also, we're totally about to write the word "shit"

So yeah. So what? Every jaded critic from here to Vice City might have torn it to pieces, but Beat Down still managed to be crazy awesome. Let the haters and their rarefied palates whine about its "repetitive action," because here's a revelation: if you don't like repetitive action, you probably don't like brawlers as a genre. But if you want the raw, thudding sensation of crushing a man's face and spirit with your bare hands, then Beat Down is where you want to be.


Above: Also, Bozo the Cop here is the final boss

Few games make defeat as total as Beat Down did. After smacking down a defiant thug, you actually had had the option of forcing him to work for you. He'd then immediately begin a life of humble servitude, following you around or waiting to be summoned from an ever-growing list of "on-call" henchmen. Collecting those henchmen wasn't just fun, it was maddeningly addictive, and it wasn't long before the game started to feel like a violent urban take on Pokemon.

That wasn't the only cool feature Beat Down stole from another game, either. Structured like an overambitious River City Ransom for a new generation of gamers, it gave players free rein to roam its city as they pleased and pick fights with whomever. You also had total control over your mobster's appearance, and could dress him or her in anything from natty suits to leopard-print halter tops and stiletto heels. Yes, even the guys. Did we mention that humiliating defeated enemies is one of this game's big draws?


Above: No one will recognize you in your clever disguise





Yeah yeah, games based on movies suck. Everyone knows that. But if you loved the movies, does it really matter? You've been given a chance to spend time in your favorite fictional universe with - or, better yet, as - your favorite fictional characters. No matter how uninspired the gameplay or how sloppy the adaptation, can you truly despise any game that gives you a virtual ticket to that world?

If the fact that EA keeps making mediocre Harry Potter games is any indication, the answer is no. It doesn't matter that the majority of quests ask me to wander back and forth across the same stuffy, never-changing series of rooms. Because those rooms make up Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... and who doesn't want to hang out there? It doesn't matter that tasks consist of nothing more than collecting cards and jelly beans, because the cards are for folks named Gregory the Smarmy (ha!) and the jelly beans taste like curry and earwax (ha ha!) And so what if the flying missions are nothing more than a long and repetitive series of checkpoint rings? I'm on a bloody broom!



Obviously, if you're not a rabid fan of the books or movies, you won't understand. You're able to evaluate the games objectively and see their many, many flaws. But don't judge me too harshly for stubbornly clinging to my make-believe magic. Chances are that you have your own franchise, your own precious set of stories and heroes for which you would do anything - even play a crappy game. Or seven crappy games in a row.


Above: Next up is Half-Blood Prince. I already know it will be bad. I already know I will have to play it




Long ago, Capcom announced several games that were all going to be exclusive to the GameCube. Some were canceled, others went to PS2, but P.N.03 stuck to its roots and has only appeared once. There’s a good reason for this, though - it’s not a very good game at all.

In the face of such an attractive, alluring heroine, however, I didn’t care one bit. I was hooked the moment sexbot Vanessa Schneider waggles her perfectly toned hips while unleashing a stream of multicolored laser. It didn't matter that, despite her alluring figure, she handled like a pregnant whale, barely making right angle turns. It also doesn't matter that the game's white-on-white, sterile environments are among the most basic we’ve seen in any game, ever. All that matters is that you keep shooting and Vanessa keeps dancing to the infectious techno beat.



Based somewhere in the sexiest part of the galaxy, Vanessa runs around solving mysteries. Or something. All I did was fight uninspired robots in never-ending corridors that all look the same. But again, who cares? With all this trancy-trippy music playing and Vanessa's vivacious cartwheeling around incoming missiles, we're willing to forgive the repeating rooms, the generic enemies and inconsistent controls. Seriously, how is it that she can twirl around bullets yet clumsily saunters around corners?

The only real reward for trudging through level after identical level is the ability to dress Vanessa in increasingly revealing power suits. Sure, they may increase her shot power, or let her shoot automatically instead of requiring constant mashing of the fire button, but it's all about looks. And I was compelled to find them all, from the adorable pink one to the super risqué Papillion suit.

Above: Shallow as it is, this is why I played P.N.03 to death

It may be repetitive and unrewarding gameplay, but I couldn't stop blasting 'bots until I’d seen every pose, every costume and every foot-tapping jig Vanessa had to offer. If there were a score for wasted potential, P.N.03 would get a 10.




Having played this before I got into games journalism, and at about the only time in my working life time when I wasn't buying games mags or reading the internet every day, I completely missed out on the Sonic Heroes hate. In fact, I'm not sure everyone else was playing the same game as me.

I had the Gamecube version – smoother frame-rate than the PS2 iteration and more friendly than the ultra-sharp Xbox one. The game I was playing looked fantastic, with huge draw distances, a phenomenal sense of speed and levels designed solely to impress and entertain, with none of the adventure/shooting/fishing malarkey of previous 3D Sonics.

 

I even like the three-character team element. Sure, the Tails formation looks awkward and flying is way too slow, but his special attack where he throws Sonic or Knuckles at far-off foes can clear the screen, especially when he's powered up, which brings me to another superb element – the power-up system.

Orbs can be found throughout the levels, dropped by enemies. Each character can collect three per level, but only if you're in their formation. So quick switching and planning is required to enable you to finish the level as an unstoppable force. It makes a difference too and the game comes alive when all three characters are operating at maximum.

 

I love the way you can simultaneously run around three separate loops by selecting Knuckles' side-by-side formation. The 3D bumpers of the casino stage which hark back to Sonic 1. The secrets accessed by jumping in cannons as different characters or hitting three springs at once. The Sonic 2-esque special stages. The way it grades you 'A' on a perfect run. The moments of sheer vertigo with Tails shouting 'whoah… my head's spinning!' Basically, I love this game.




Fishing is something I’ve never enjoyed, much to my dad’s disappointment. The hobby is slow, dull and all I think about when doing it is the many things I’d rather be doing... playing games normally at the top. Yet ever since I first played a Sega Bass Fishing arcade unit in front of the local Wal-Mart, and then bought my $5 Dreamcast copy after the system died a public and lonely death, I’ve been shamefully enjoying a fishing game. Far more than it deserves, and for far more time than I spent on Jet Grind Radio and Shenmue combined.

My love for the game began with the visuals; it just made fish and a silty river bottom look so nice. Then came how fun it felt to fish with a controller shaped like a reel and handle. But where it really hooked me – forgive the awful pun – was when you get a catch on the line. The soundtrack is jarringly replaced with a rockin’ beat as the word “Fish!!” explodes on the screen in garish colors.



Ultimately, I enjoyed Sega Bass Fishing for all the ways in which it is nothing like actual fishing. The moment the lure hits the water, the camera stays with it under the surface, with the real challenge being to get one of the abundant fish to follow your line as you make the lure do an appetizing dance. If I could do that in the real world, maybe I wouldn't have given up on the real thing.

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72 comments

  • YourOldPalD - December 29, 2009 8:20 a.m.

    It's funny how sometimes something so shithouse to many people (aka. Kung Pow) turns out to be hilarious only to you. (aka. Kung Pow in my case) yet even though it's sad and lonely sometimes you can't help but feel anger the people who cling to something so ridiculously shit (aka. little britain) and yet the whole of society loves it. Lol, ya gotta love the human mind. :) (Seriously. LITTLE BRITAIN! They stuff a cross dresser JOKE IN EVERY BLOODY SEGMENT HOW IS THAT FUNNY OR ORIGINAL?!?!?!?)
  • scbyfn4evr - November 20, 2009 7:30 p.m.

    The original Monster Hunter. Not perfect, but perfect for me.
  • Japanjack - November 20, 2009 6:12 a.m.

    Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 is my guilty pleasure. I hate Dynasty Warriors, so damn repetitive and such; Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 has robots and Char Aznable... Awesome.
  • sprog - April 15, 2009 10:51 a.m.

    Sorry everyone but I too am one of those responsible for the churning out of Dynasty Warriors year after year. I would stop if I weren't brainwashed by the eerie trances one goes into whilst ploughing through dozens of of the same character models at a time. It's strangely therapeutic in the way only simple and repetitive tasks can be...
  • somerandomchap - April 1, 2009 1:54 a.m.

    haha i have true crime: new york city it is terrible but i love it, there is something about cutting off someones head and using it as a weapon that makes me happy
  • xXgodlypunkXx - March 30, 2009 3:15 a.m.

    im not afraid to say it, i really liked sonic heros. in my opinion, its the only good 3-D sonic game. thanks justin, i thought i was alone on that one
  • Moleman42 - March 29, 2009 7:26 p.m.

    Planet Side! I loved that game, i played it when it first came out for a couple years. I have always wanted to get back into it. It was crazy how big the fights could get.
  • noobeater - March 29, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    i liked true crime streets of la that sais it never compared to gta but breaking peoples limbs was fun
  • Octaviux - March 29, 2009 3:39 p.m.

    omg True Crime, that was the last schatsoft I ever bought. That was the final straw that made me stalwart in never impulse buying again. I was pining for a GTA and got a total asian tird. I beta tested Planet side, not terrible but nothing special.
  • SteveOP - March 29, 2009 2:49 p.m.

    Sonic Heroes was unbelieveable! So fast and fun to play with friends... Ah those were the days...
  • Silentboy - March 29, 2009 2:01 p.m.

    Saints Row 1 and 2 are definately games i hate to love. Sure they're GTA clones, but fine good ones.
  • Teh_Ty - March 28, 2009 6:27 p.m.

    I'm suprised, I thougt I was the only person that liked Sonic Heros.
  • sadowolf - March 28, 2009 8:24 a.m.

    haha i loved clayfighter 63 1/3 too! i totally knew it was bad and ripped off other fighters, but i think the crazy (and large) cast of characters and the slapstick comedy won me over. it was flawed but i still had a blast playing it, and i actually did dive into what little nuances the game had. tao feng, on the other hand, was a different story. i loved the graphics, the interactive environments, and the limb and visible body damage (which, given who was behind it, i kind of expected that). but i just couldnt get into it. i just found it too clunky and not fun. i wanted to like it before i played it, but playing it made that impossible and i have no shame in admitting to being a wrestling fan, or a sd vs raw fan. the madden effect it has suffered lately has kept me from actually purchasing the games every year tho oh, and when i was younger i actually purchased shaq fu, and didnt it was that bad a game. of course as i got more into fighters i realize its garbage, but still dont think its quite as bad as people make it out to be. whew, glad to get that off my chest haha
  • Stabby_Joe - March 27, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    Haven't played any of them. Games that were thrashed but I liked (not great but alright) include Legendary, Godzilla Unleashed and Two Worlds. Two Worlds on the 360 was better when patched but you wouldn't know that when reading the initial release reviews where there were a ton of problems and a poor ass demo.
  • game-thugsta - March 27, 2009 10:23 p.m.

    i actually love true crime: streets of new york, despite how much people hate it
  • SaulFidgeonGuy - March 27, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    totally agree with harry potter games and msackdown vs raw games! just so much fun!
  • Bronzus - March 27, 2009 1:58 p.m.

    SONIC HEROES? Puh! (thank christ, I thought I was the only one) Brownlow, beloved (reCatared)
  • tmorgan - March 27, 2009 1:05 p.m.

    You aren't the only person. Even though the Harry Potter games keep getting worse and worse I still love them and have to keep playing them every time a new one comes out !! I have them all.
  • Cernunnos - March 27, 2009 11:23 a.m.

    the harry potter games are equally bad compared to the movies, as the movies are compared to the books. a lot. which makes sense really.
  • super-saint - March 27, 2009 5:34 a.m.

    hehehe... none of those are as bad as me... i had a moral battale over wether i should get sonic riders of shadow the headgehog... i then got both, played them to death, and now cant bare to look at them... okay i still play riders, sue me

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