Is a Game Bad Just Because It’s Different?

I have been hearing rather often over the years a lot of people saying that a game is terrible because it is different from other games in its respective series, such as the belief that “Final Fantasy XIII” and “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” are bad games because they stray from the expected.  I am here to challenge that.

In some ways, I understand this notion.  When we grow to love a series, it can be disappointing when a game comes along that is different.  I love the “Rayman” series, particularly the gameplay of the second and third main installments, but now they’ve decided to make the next few games side-scrolling like the original.  This does upset me quite a bit, as I loved “Rayman 2” and “3” (while at the same time tolerating the exceeding silliness of the latter), and I want more like them.  At the same time, the side-scrolling “Rayman Origins” from a couple years ago was a really fantastic game, and I’m sure the upcoming “Legends” will be, as well, but at the risk of being very corny, my heart yearns for another “Rayman 2”.  It yearns, people.  I don’t like these recent changes, even if they are not bad, because I like what I have grown accustomed to.  At the same time, in no way can I say “Origins” was a bad game, despite its differences from my favorite version of “Rayman” gameplay.  It saddens me in some ways, while also providing me with a whole new way to have good, old “Rayman” joy.

Then, there are games like “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts” that are indeed bad because of the changes made.  The original “Banjo-Kazooie” games on the Nintendo 64 were fantastic.  I love them, and even after all these years, they still are some of my favorite games ever.  They were a lot of fun, funny, and they had such delightful characters.  One thing that made the games fun were the bear and bird team of Banjo and Kazooie, who worked together to explore worlds, collect items, and defeat enemies.  Kazooie could fly and run up steep hills and even shoot eggs from her mouth, while Banjo, well, he’s not as useful, but he could totally grab onto ledges.  Yes, he could.

And then “Nuts and Bolts” came along.  And I died a bit inside.  The characters weren’t funny anymore, not even Kazooie, who used to make me laugh with her saucy comments.  (The villain, Gruntilda the witch, gets a few good lines of dialogue, but that’s about it.)  And the teamwork that defined the series is gone.  Kazooie, not Banjo, is useless now.  She’s there, but she does nothing.  Nothing!  All she does is hold that stupid wrench.  Woopy-doo!  I think employing her for flying and shooting eggs at enemies would be a better use of her skills, but whatever.  Let’s just let her sit and rot in Banjo’s backpack, like a red lump of nothing.  If she died in there, only the smell would indicate such a thing had occurred.  They really decided to just scrap all of what “B-K” was and just have Banjo build vehicles in order to accomplish goals.  How does that relate in any way to the series?  The original games had nothing whatsoever to do with vehicles!  Let’s make a “Donkey Kong” game then that’s all about Donkey fighting aliens with guns.  Why not?  The characters and gameplay and everything else fans adored about the series are all gone in “Nuts and Bolts”.  Now all we have are some blocky, boring bear and bird that resemble the characters we loved and some gameplay that makes no sense for the series.  That is indeed bad change.

But, not all games are bad because they are different.  Hatm0nster actually wrote a post about one game I have in mind, “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”, which was great because it was different, not because it was a copy of other games of the “Zelda” series.  The whole concept of “Majora’s Mask” was brilliant, I think.  Link still must save the world (well, country, land, landmass?), but with a twist.  The land that needs saving in this game is a place called Termina, and very unfortunately for them, the moon is about to fall and wipe the whole place out.  In three days.  Luckily, Link can play a song on his ocarina to return to day one whenever he chooses.  The game involves managing your time and getting through four temples (you will need to return to day one many times, but that’s quite all right), all in an effort to stop the moon from falling and defeat the one causing all this trouble in the first place.  (If you don’t like such a concept, never play “Pikmin”.)  Different things happen on each day, and you must manage your time wisely to get things done before you must return to day one again.  Some may think this is a stressful way of playing a “Zelda” game, but it isn’t really.  At least, I didn’t think so.  I liked the twist on the traditional “Zelda” gameplay.  It’s what makes this game so unique and one of my top “Zelda” games of all time (even better than “Ocarina of Time”, that’s right, I said it), and I loved having to think about things a bit differently than normal.  (That’s why I loved the original “Pikmin” much more than its sequel, though it was a much more stressful game than “Majora’s Mask”.)

And one other game I’d like to defend is “Final Fantasy XIII”.  While I’m not as fond of the changes in this game as I am of those in “Majora’s Mask”, I seriously don’t understand why people dislike this one so much.  I hear people don’t like it because it is linear, which can be disappointing to those looking forward to the open-world gameplay of previous “Final Fantasy” games, but I don’t think that makes it bad.  “Final Fantasy X” was linear for the first half of the game, and it is my second favorite “Final Fantasy”, second only to “FFVII” (because nothing can compete with that one).  Lots of other games are linear, too.  “Halo” games are linear, and they’re great.  I can see people not liking the fact that “FFXIII” is different from previous “FF” games, but I don’t think that is necessarily a reason to dislike the game itself.  It is still a good game if you don’t spend your entire time playing it comparing it to other games.  Any game can look bad if you compare it to a game that’s better.  Despite what people say about this game, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, for several reasons.

One, I liked the story.  I thought the whole l’Cie/Fal’Cie thing was quite interesting and creative.  No matter how much you dislike the game, you can’t say that is an uninspired concept.  And the characters, while not being the best the series has to offer, were fairly interesting, as well.  At least, I liked them a lot more than the characters of “FFXII” (I just couldn’t relate to them at all, not one of them).  And I love Vanille.  Who doesn’t love Vanille?  And while you can’t return to most areas of the game, I thought the locations were still beautiful and interesting, at least.  I thought most aspects of the game were quite stunning, really.  The only thing I didn’t like was the battle system, where you have almost no control over your characters, aside from switching paradigms.  But, that’s a flaw “FFXII” had.  That’s even a flaw “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” had, a game that was considered to be a great game.  That was really my only complaint about “FFXIII”, though.

So in the end, change is not always bad.  I, too, resist change, as when a series you love begins to change, you can’t help but fear what made the series great will be lost.  Sometimes this happens, as was the case of “B-K: Nuts and Bolts”.  Sometimes changes are disappointing, but you can’t help but admit the new way is still great, even if you’d prefer the game to be the way the older ones were, like in the case of the mostly great, but not perfect, “FFXIII” or the excellent despite its differences “Rayman Origins”.  And then, sometimes a game is superb simply because it is different, like in the case of “Majora’s Mask”.  Don’t base your opinion of a game totally on just how it differs from others of its series.  Judge a game by what it is.  Is it a good game or isn’t it?  Whether or not it is different shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.

I’m Different From Normal Ducks, But That Doesn’t Make Me Bad!

Image by Flickr user: Smith190 (cc)

6 Comments Add yours

  1. ianrl1989 says:

    I tend to do the same: I’m generally not too open to change, unless it’s done correctly (ALA Mario Sunshine, Majora’s Mask, etc). A lot of developers fall into the pitfall of trying to making their games more unique by adding onto existing gameplays. Usually it just leads to more convoluted gameplay, but there are some games that really do add something new and interesting to the formula. Then there’s the games like Nuts and Bolts and Paper Mario:Sticker Star. Both are good games, but they’re bad sequels to franchises in which fans were starving for a new title. N&B is the worst offender; Rare was absolutely out of their mind for reviving a classic franchise only to make a game that couldn’t be farther from the originals. If the game wasn’t a Banjo-Kazooie title, players would have probably loved it, but it’s such a disappointment for those hoping for something closer to the original.

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      I completely agree. I may fight change, but if a game is done well, I’m fine with it. (I found “Super Mario Sunshine” and “Majora’s Mask” to be delightful.) And I understand games have to change. How fun would it be if each sequel was the same as all previous games? But, what was Rareware thinking with “Nuts and Bolts”?! Like you said, it would have been good if it wasn’t a “B-K” game. And “Paper Mario: Sticker Star” is bad for a “Paper Mario” game? Good thing I’m skipping it then.

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  2. Walters says:

    Man, thinking a game is bad just because it’s different hurts my brain. It basically comes down to the game itself — are you good enough to overcome tradition, or are you so terrible that I’ll want to flush you down my toilet? It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

    Side note: I do kind of wish Rayman returned to 3D adventure like and not as a side-scroller, as Rayman for the N64 was awesome (didn’t get a chance to play the GCN version). I also kind of wished he wasn’t pushed aside from the Rabbids for a time 😦

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      Exactly right. A game should be judged on simply how good it is, not on if it is different from what we wanted. But yeah, like you, I want the 3D “Rayman” games back. “Origins” was good and all, but “Rayman” was best in his 3D days, I believe. (Oh, and those Rabbids…)

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  3. Hatm0nster says:

    I’ve never cared much for change either, but if I try a game and it plays well, I’ll probably like it. I think I can clarify some of the contempt people have for FFXIII though. Where as many of the earlier FF games had freedom of movement (or the illusion of it) most of XIII felt like a series of straight hallways between cut-scenes and boss fights.

    Then there were the roles, which also were limited right up until the final chapter. This was a problem because you weren’t able to make full use of the paradigm system until the limits on the roles were taken off. As for the battle system, I think people took issue with it because it made you feel more disconnected from the characters that usual, the fights felt more like something you were watching rather than something you were actively participating in.

    Personally I liked the paradigm system, I thought directing the flow of the battle rather than performing every action was a cool idea, but that doesn’t completely make up for the other flaws.

    They learned from their mistake though. XIII-2 had better combat, greater freedom of movement, and didn’t limit the system like the first one did. Now if only they had given it a decent story instead of that plot train-wreck they ended up going with.

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      For me, the smaller amount of flexibility in terms of moving around the locations wasn’t so bad, as “FFXII” was too open, and it was overwhelming (though, it was indeed a bit too inflexible). But, I certainly see why that would bother people. My only thing is, I understand people don’t like that aspect of the game, but is that a reason to dislike the entire game? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But, I do see all the limitations they built into “FFXIII”, with the game being linear, and the limited roles. Still a fun game, I thought, but it certainly had flaws, as did its sequel.

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