Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bad Levels in Gaming History - Volume Ten

Even great games can have bad levels, areas, or sections in them. That's been true of a lot of the levels and games featured on this long-running SuperPhillip Central segment, Bad Levels in Gaming History. These levels can be a chore to play through, suffer from poor design, or just annoy the hell out of players. Once you have checked out the five newest bad levels in this entry, feel free to bring up your own examples. Then, check out all past volumes with these convenient links:

Atlantica - Kingdom Hearts II (Multi)

We begin this volume of bad gaming levels, stages, and whatnot with an entry from Kingdom Hearts II. In the original game, The Little Mermaid's Atlantica was a bit troublesome as Sora, Goofy, and Donald needed to not only battle foes but do so while swimming, something that slipped up players with its atypical controls (at least from the rest of the game).

Even still with those niggles, it was much better than what the Atlantica world offered players in Kingdom Hearts II. Taking its Disney influences quite greatly, Kingdom Hearts II's Atlantica turned the world from a dungeon crawling experience to a rhythm-based mini-game musical. There's no better hell in Kingdom Hearts II than having to listen to Sora and the gang sing dopey lyrics as well as dance and swim around. Fun this is not. Good this is not. It's just something that blends in with the Kingdom Hearts series' mini-game style, and that style is being obnoxious to play. (And in this case, obnoxious to hear.)

Lily Pad Ride - Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)

Super Mario Sunshine is hardly a bad game, but to me it's by far the worst 3D Mario game currently out. There are so many poorly thought out or just plain annoying segments in the game that the whole experience is dragged down. From sections where Mario has to survive inside a giant pachinko machine to dealing with the camera inside the Ferris wheel of Pinna Park, there's a lot to not like about Super Mario Sunshine despite it still being a competent game.

One of the most aggravating levels in Super Mario Sunshine comes in the form of one of Delfino Plaza's secret Shines, the Super Mario 64 Power Star equivalent of Sunshine. Not only is the trek to this dreaded bonus stage a massive annoyance, but the trip is a pain, requiring Yoshi, lots of patience, boats to slowly ride, and plenty of possibilities to ruin your trip by falling in the water, thus forcing you to redo this long and drawn out ride.

When you finally use Yoshi to spray away the gunk blocking the pipe into the bonus stage, you would expect your reward, but NO. The development team laughs at you, taunting you with one of the most sadistic sections in the entire Super Mario Sunshine experience, the Lily Pad Ride.

This ride has you riding on a giant lily pad across a stream of poisonous water that will kill Mario instantly if he touches it. Your goal is to collect eight red coins along the ride while using Mario's FLUDD to guide the lily pad into the coins. Good luck with this because the ride is turbulent and the tides will send you floating off course rather easily. It's a horrid level and quite possibly the worst that Super Mario Sunshine has to offer.

75m - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii), Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

A Super Smash Bros. Brawl stage that is a perfect representation of the third level of the classic Donkey Kong game, 75m isn't one of Brawl fans' favorites, especially for competitive players. It's not even a favorite of mine, and I'm a usual lover of crazy stages.

What makes 75m bad, at least in my opinion, is that there's too few wide enough platforms to have serious fights on, and the only one that is worthwhile to have these types of battles on is at the very top. Unfortunately, this section of stage routinely gets hammered by trampolines that interrupt the flow of battle.

Then there's the fireballs that climb up and down the ladders in the middle and right portions of the stage. Really, it's more about evading all of the stage hazards rather than being able to punish your opponents with epic smashing showdowns. It seems cruel then that the stage made a return in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Things like this are why people jokingly (and sometimes not jokingly) yell "SAKURAIIIII!!!" (the director of the series).

Blighttown - Dark Souls (Multi)

Since its conception, Bad Levels in Gaming History has generally considered bad levels bad because of poor design. Dark Souls' Blighttown actually doesn't suffer from that. Instead, its problems come from a purely technical standpoint.

For this uninitiated, Blighttown is a massive, murky, and poisonous swamp that slowly drains your warrior's life as they slog through its yucky water. The continued muck to move through is but one thing to worry about in the level. Other bothers include flies and foes that use either melee attacks or fling projectiles.

Here is where the problem of Blighttown comes. With so much happening in the level and all of the lighting involved, Dark Souls' frame-rate would drop severely, almost like a player's health when facing Ornstein and Smough for the first hundred times. If some of the bosses in Dark Souls didn't cause players to suffer from nightmares, the frame-rate in Blighttown most certainly would.

The Crystal Tower - Final Fantasy III (Multi)

Final dungeons in RPGs are meant to take your team of heroes who have weathered battle after battle, boss after boss, and dungeon after dungeon, and pit them against an ultimate challenge. Final Fantasy III (not to be confused with the SNES game that was numbered III in the West when it originally release but is actually VI) does give players' parties an ultimate challenge for sure, but it's on the side of excruciating and ridiculous rather than challenging and fun.

The Crystal Tower is the final dungeon of Final Fantasy III, and why it's such a bad level is that it's an insane time investment and endurance run. You practically have to go through multiple sections of dungeon just to reach the final boss. Okay, that doesn't TOO bad, but here's the kicker-- through the massive and time-consuming dungeon areas you fight enemies and explore, there is NO save point to speak of. At. All.

This means that if you reach the final boss and die, you have to do the entire dungeon all over again. So if you're the type to hunt for treasure, you'll be making multiple trips back to the entrance of the Crystal Tower just to go outside and save your data. When you finally feel you're ready to take on the final boss, be hopeful that you're able to survive so you don't have to redo a significant amount of time.

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