Best of 2015: Top 10 Disappointments

12271372_10154545164654848_1304419480_o

Let’s get this 100-mile-an-hour time of year started with some good old fashioned negativity, shall we?

It doesn’t really feel like 2015 was a particularly disappointing year in entertainment media, at least not in terms of things that weren’t my own fault (such as the fact that I barely saw any movies this year due to the relative lack of gigantic blockbusters). I can’t really think of too many releases that fell far below my own expectations quality-wise, but there was enough ancillary stuff going on around those releases to fill a list. The list is very heavily skewed towards videogames this year, but when there were so very many big ones released, you might say such a trend was inevitable. Maybe. Anyway, here we go.

.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-
VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
-◊-◊-◊-◊-

.

10. The Order’s Beautiful Failure

After a 2014 that saw Microsoft’s lead console trounce Sony’s in the exclusive games department – despite lagging behind in sales – 2015 looked set to be the year that Sony hit back. And it was going to hit back very early. February saw the release of The Order: 1886, quite simply the best-looking game that had come out on either major console at the time. The story was intriguing, the weapons looked cool, and the game received a ton of marketing support. And it was over very, very quickly. A game with a largely repetitive combat loop that I finished in a single day – something very rare indeed – The critical consensus on The Order: 1886 was not particularly kind. The general internet reaction was, predictably, much worse. I don’t think it was a bad game per se – The story and gunplay were decent enough to pull me through the whole game, after all – but no replay value or extra content to speak of is pretty hard to justify with a full-priced retail game in today’s climate. The Order: 1886 certainly failed to live up to its billing as the PS4’s first exceptional exclusive title – nope, apparently that came a month later with Bloodborne.

.

9. The Umpteenth Mediocre SNSD Album

LionHeart Cover2

I’m throwing this one in there pretty much just to prevent this list from being a landslide of videogame-only complaints, but it still sucks. SNSD/Girls’ Generation may have lost one of their most crucial vocalists last year, but the remaining eight members – not to mention their extensive support staff – are still professionals with plenty of good music behind them. The thing is, most of that good music, at least album-wise, has come out of their Japanese work. Consistently. Time after time, their primary Korean releases have been disappointing. They arguably haven’t had a quality, honest-to-goodness K-Pop album since 2010’s Run Devil Run. So when their agency released a pair of solid singles and one really good one this year, my hopes went up again, and then, well, we got their fifth full length album, Lion Heart. A lot of directionless noise, some poorly produced tracks, plenty of overcompensating for a Jessica-less lineup, mounds of misguided rapping and a general disdain for simplicity and/or catchiness. Girls’ Generation are industry legends, and they’re cut from the same cloth as BoA, f(x) and Red Velvet. This terrible LP run makes no sense.
.

8. The Usual Local Digital Delays

Yeah, it’s a pattern by now, and while it wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past few years, Australians and Kiwis still got the short end of the stick on a couple of digital game releases in 2015. The two that stand out for me the most, because I was really looking forward to playing them, are the Wii U’s Runbow and the Xbox One’s Castle Crashers Remastered. The former went on for weeks without a word on why the game was delayed over here, despite being released in other PAL regions and despite the very effective demo having released on time. As for the latter, well, it’s been three months since its American release and it still isn’t out in Australia. And there is no word on why, or when it’s going to happen. That remains the single most frustrating thing about this phenomenon – when it happens, no-one involved seems to think it worth giving an explanation. We are a small market, sure, but when so many of the big digital-only games arrive on time, or even earlier than the rest of the world, it makes the confusing delays all the more frustrating.
.

7. Pixar’s Double Gambit

Yeah, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur isn’t out in Australia yet – and I won’t be able to see it by the end of the year, I’m afraid – but it has hit cinemas in most of the big markets around the world, and the box office numbers aren’t great. I cannot wait for the day when I finally do see it, because the movie’s critical reception has been pretty positive and, well, it’s a Pixar movie released in a post-Inside Out world. And yet last I checked The Good Dinosaur was tracking to be the first Pixar film ever to fail to break even at the box office. I am utterly fascinated as to why, because it seems to have several of the ingredients that I thought might guarantee success – cute characters, that Pixar name, freaking dinosaurs (in a year that saw Jurassic World break all kinds of records, no less). I guess I might know more once I’ve seen the credits, but maybe I won’t. Maybe Pixar just shouldn’t have doubled up with Inside Out this year. Maybe their audience is all animated out. Maybe it was just too close to Star Wars. I’ve got nothing. Either way, it ain’t great to hear.
.

6. The PC Arkham Blight

When you buy or build a PC for the express purpose of playing games, you usually aren’t putting a small amount of money into your purchase. You’re probably spending many times the usual cost of a console in order to get a superior gaming experience. So whenever a big-name game comes out and does not offer you a superior gaming experience, it doesn’t feel good. When it just plain won’t run at a playable frame rate, it’s unacceptable. Unfortunately, such was the case for PC gamers who picked up Batman: Arkham Knight at launch. And after launch. And apparently still today. Warner Bros’ choice of external porting studio may be to blame, and they have certainly copped most of it. It’s not like I play very many games on PC – just the exclusives that interest me, really – but I’ve got plenty of friends to whom the botched release hit atrociously close to home.
.

5. No Voice Chat for Splatoon

In light of everything else that Splatoon did so well this year, including but not limited to its constant free updates and possibly becoming Japan’s favourite online multiplayer shooter of all time, its ongoing refusal to include any kind of player-to-player vocal communication was a huge issue both at the game’s launch and beyond. I don’t particularly like moving my laptop to my gaming room just so I can run Skype, and not all my Splatoon-playing friends have PS4s or Xbox Ones for party chat. I can understand Nintendo’s thinking somewhat regarding the missing feature, as the regular 3-minute Turf Wars mode is fast and well-designed enough to remove most of the need for it, without even bringing in the company’s strong desire to protect children from the toxic language of a lot of online gamers. But especially in ranked modes, Splatoon really, really misses voice chat. To it’s credit, the game still sold incredibly well, but I can’t help but feel it could have done even better had voice chat been included.

.

4. Dying Light’s Shipping Woes

Warner Bros did not have the greatest of years as a publisher, with the aforementioned Arkham Knight PC problem adding to controversies over the announcement of the game’s abnormally pricey “season pass” without actually mentioning what would be in it, not to mention the eleventh-hour cancellation of the game’s Batmobile-themed collectors’ edition. The company also left last-gen gamers hanging over the state of the PS3/Xbox 360 versions of Mortal Kombat X for a very long time before unceremoniously cancelling the game. And yet for me, the least professional thing the corporate giant did in 2015 was wait till the very last minute to drop the bomb that Australian gamers – not to mention Asian and European ones – would have to wait an entire month (from Jan to Feb) to play the physical version of Dying Light, because the non-American world’s stock needed to be redistributed to the US of A. Sure, the digital release was on target, but that still cut out an awful lot of internet-deprived Australians who were keen to play what ended up being one of 2015’s best games. Luckily WB seemed to have learned its lesson with the likes of Mad Max and Lego Dimensions later on.
.

3. A Premature End for Conker’s Big Reunion

OK, this one is a doozy. When “Conker’s Big Reunion” was revealed back in March as a Project Spark-housed episodic sequel to one of my all-time favourite games, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, I downloaded and installed Spark right then and there. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I spent hours playing the game-slash-creation tool’s tutorials, removing as many barriers as I could for Conker’s impending return. Then on launch day, I returned eagerly to my Xbox, purchased the in-game credits necessary to buy the first episode of the reunion, and then waited as the A button failed to do anything. I figured it was a glitch, but after another handful of tries – between lengthy breaks – I learned that the Australian release of the DLC had not been confirmed. Supposedly. Even though I could see it – and could pay for it – in the Australian client. And it never got any better. Fast-forward a few months and Project Spark went completely free (as opposed to free-to-play), all content was un-gated and… the game stopped working on my Xbox, at all. So that was a thing that happened.
.

2. The Great Australian Wii U Price Bounce

It’s hard to recall now, but back in May, the Wii U was looking pretty good. Nintendo’s announcement-light E3 press conference had yet to happen, fans had already enjoyed Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Kirby & the Rainbow Paintbrush, some very significant DLC updates to Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros, Mario Party 10, plenty of new Amiibos, and they were about to get Splatoon. What’s more, in Australia, the fresh and exciting shooter would be accompanied by the Wii U’s first-ever official RRP price drop, by a full 70 bucks down from $430 to $360 (not to mention with Splatoon packed in). It seemed like the best time yet for newcomers to jump in to what had become a pretty rewarding console. Anyway I’ll skip over the details of what came (or didn’t come) over the next few months, but long story short, by the time the Wii U’s next big release Super Mario Maker was out, the Wii U was back up to its old RRP down under. It was a gigantic hammer blow to all of the momentum it had built up for itself throughout the year’s first half, and seemed to come at exactly the wrong time.
.

1. The Metroid Cancellation Petition

So by now its probably no secret that I’m a pretty big Nintendo fan – enough that I like to keep tabs on what each of the company’s numerous development partners are working on as much as possible. So the longer that talented Canadian-based studio Next Level Games, responsible for the rock-solid Punch-Out!!! on Wii and the phenomenal Luigi’s Mansion 2 on 3DS, remained quiet, the more excited I was for what Nintendo project they would announce next.

I got my answer at Nintendo’s main 2015 E3 presentation, when the company announced Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a pretty good-looking (for a 3DS game) early 2016 co-op shooter adventure that at first glance looked to be combining the wider-universe implications of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with the Samus-lite gameplay loop of Metroid Prime: Hunters. Nothing was shown to convince me that the game would be below NLG’s usual high standard. But all was not well.

You see, Nintendo has not released a “proper” Metroid game (as in an exploratory, upgrade-focused adventure starring Samus) for many years, despite the franchise’s immense popularity among vocal Nintendo fans on the internet. So the complete absence of the iconic blonde super-mercenary from Federation Force‘s reveal, combined with a generally low-key Nintendo presentation devoid of earth-shaking announcements, really set people off.

Cue the ol’ torches and pitchforks. The YouTube version of the reveal trailer received almost 90% downvotes, the stream of hate on Twitter regarding the game took over the general consensus on the presentation and then, incredibly, a change.org petition was started to cancel the game. No, really. In their hysteria, people actually thought that it was fair to cancel a game of which no-one has seen more than a minute of footage, and no-one outside of Nintendo has played, because it didn’t look like something it clearly wasn’t trying to look like.

Was the game’s announcement poorly timed? Yes, there’s no doubt. Could the game have been announced as something unaffiliated with Metroid and still do well? Debatable. Would it be nice to get a new main series Metroid game? Definitely. Does this diminish the value of a game that a really talented studio has clearly been working hard on for a while? Of course not. Luckily the petition didn’t get far, because it was ludicrous on so many levels, and I’ve never been so disappointed in my fellow Nintendo fans.


-◊-◊-◊-◊-

Honorable Mentions
.

The Fall of Online-Dominated Retail Shooters
The warning signs were there last year with Titanfall, but 2015 arguably saw a proverbial gravestone erected in the name of that game’s business model. After Evolve attempted to use a similar model – with a primarily multiplayer-focused game rhythm and minimal launch content supported by paid DLC drops – the otherwise really enjoyable game became the poster child for how to bury a great competitive idea. Rainbow Six: Siege and Star Wars Battlefront followed somewhat in its footsteps, and arguably only the well-timed Star Wars license saved the latter from sales ignominy.

Telltale’s Broken Engine Runs Along
Contrary to what some might say, I do not believe Telltale Games has done anything this year to suggest they should stop making games, at least as long as we’re talking about the strength of their storytelling. But the woeful engine on which their titles have been running for years now is showing its age more and more with each jankily-animated, long-loading new game series they kick off. The time to take a break must surely be coming soon.

Nintendo Direct’s Long Break
Of course, the premature death of Nintendo legend Satoru Iwata back in July was not disappointing – it was immensely tragic, and it brought me to tears on multiple occasions. And yet I can’t help but feel the subsequent six-month absence of Nintendo Direct broadcasts was unnecessarily long. Iwata-san was the face of the broadcasts in the US (Satoru Shibata usually handles our local one) so a month or two off makes sense out of respect. Half a year, however, suggests the company just didn’t have anything to show. I’m the type of fan who freaks out over 80% of the length of a Direct rather than the standard two or three big announcements, however, so I would have taken anything over that time. Sometimes not having anything to get excited about is worse than not having anything to play, for me at least. Luckily the triumphant return of the unique showcase format in November was worth the wait.

R.I.P. Satoru Iwata.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: