Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels - Part Six

Sometimes you're waiting years for a video game sequel only for it to finally come out and your excitement and hype end not with a bang but a whimper due to the game's lackluster quality. With how long it takes for sequels to be developed nowadays with longer dev times and bigger budgets, this pain can sting even more.

With that said, some things come in twos, and that's the theme of this installment of The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels. From Xbox first-party efforts to retro revivals, SuperPhillip Central has several themed pairs of disappointing sequels this time around. After checking out this edition's selection of six disappointing sequels, which would you personally add to a future installment?

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Crackdown 3 (XB1, PC)

Crackdown 3 was a bit of a miracle that it finally got released. It's sort of a Frankenstein of parts, each created and conceived by different studios and development teams here and there. However, as the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The core gameplay of Crackdown 3 meets the standard of past games in the series. This is a good thing and a bad thing. As a positive, you know what you're going to get with Crackdown 3, and if you enjoyed the gameplay of its Xbox 360 predecessors, then you're more than likely to enjoy what Crackdown 3 has to offer.

However, a negative, and one that overshadowed the positives of Crackdown 3, is that the game was in the making for so long and the end result is so similar to past games. What was deemed fresh and modern back when Crackdown originally released isn't so much in the present, over a decade later. Seeing Crackdown 3 in the state that it released in with little in the way of innovation and little more than a shinier coat of paint made for a disappointing sequel after many years of waiting and many delays as well. Still, one can find a fantastic amount of fun with Crackdown 3, and that's really the most important thing. That said, the game still remains disappointing even with the fun one can have from it.

State of Decay 2 (XB1, PC)

I don't mean to pick on Microsoft Studios with Crackdown 3 and now this next sequel, but it's a pretty common opinion that Xbox's first party catalog on Xbox One has not been the most inspiring. That continues with State of Decay 2--at least its launch. Surviving a zombie apocalypse is no new idea in video games. In fact, zombies as a concept by itself is one used ad nauseum, but the idea of fighting for your virtual life against hordes of undead, flesh-craving creatures is one that permeates through pop culture and survives. Why? It's just plain fun. The original State of Decay made a mark in the Xbox ecosystem with rewarding survival-based gameplay and plenty of zombies for players to battle or escape from. It made for a tense and IN-tense experience that was worthy of a play (or hundred).

That's why coming off the original State of Decay to its sequel was such a shock to the system. While the gameplay itself was compelling enough with its similar survival and combat, scavenging for items, and new addition of co-operative play for a maximum of three players to face the open-world zombie hellscape together, there was an even greater danger in State of Decay 2 than the zombie apocalypse. That was the copious amount of bugs and glitches that infested the game worse than zombies ever could. State of Decay 2 isn't a bad game, but its lack of polish made it a lesser game at launch compared to its predecessor.

Dragon Age II (PS3, 360, PC)

Our next pair of games bestow unto us medieval fantasy worlds, though one comes from a big publisher while the other comes from a much smaller by comparison indie. Regardless, Dragon Age II from EA and BioWare is hardly a bad game, but the reason this title is disappointing is when you're looking at it through the lens of being a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. After all, games aren't released in a bubble, and when you are the sequel to a game that spawned so many brilliant ideas, you're going to draw obvious comparisons.

Dragon Age II brought with it a more simplified, streamlined combat system, which for some players made for a less satisfying gaming experience. The fact that you cannot customize your character in any detailed way also stung. Then, you have the game world of Dragon Age II, which eschewed the open world that its predecessor had, delivering a much more claustrophobic world by comparison. It's definitely up for debate on whether Dragon Age II is a lesser game than Origins, but it's hard to argue against the idea that this sequel didn't disappoint a fair amount of players due to the features that are absent compared to the first.

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

I recently reviewed Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power's Nintendo Switch version, which recently launched on that system. Needless to say--by virtue that Trine 3 shows up on a "most disappointing video game sequel" article--I wasn't too thrilled with it. I do give credit to Frozenbyte for not resting on its laurels with the Trine series. After two successful installments with gorgeous 2.5D visuals and satisfying gameplay, the development team tried their hand at taking the series into 3D.

Between the bugs and glitches presented in the game to the depth-perception issues that plague many parts of its 3D world, Trine 3 was an experiment gone awry. The disparity in budget between a 2.5D game and a 3D one made it so that the adventure ended on an abrupt cliffhanger right when the story was getting interesting. It was hard for players not to feel like the wind was taken out of their sails, and some longtime fans of the series grew toxic enough that Frozenbyte felt the need to release an apologetic response. This is a double disappointment for this sequel--not just for the game itself, but the toxic and offensive way some fans lashed out at the developer as well.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - Episodes I and II (Multi)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a well known character and series for any "most disappointing video game sequel" list, so it's no surprise that the Blue Blur in the modern era sees an appearance on this article. Rather than delve into the myriad 3D games that one could choose, I'm picking the so-called return to Sonic's roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 4's duo of episodes. They're drastically different in visuals and presentation, but they're similar in how much they disappoint.

From a level design standpoint, the episodes range from decent to terrible. At worst, they're a reminder of the Dimps-style level design from the design school where cheap deaths and bottomless pits aplenty are passed off as challenge and boost pads hide the fact that Sonic 4's physics are totally out of wack. Level gimmicks neglect to impress or innovate. From a control standpoint, Sonic Team and Dimps completely failed to nail the feel of the games they were riding the coattails of, as Sonic lacks momentum in his speed and physics issues like coming in and out of loops are a constant feature.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 felt like a cynical attempt to cash-in on the nostalgia of fans, and was by no means worthy of the number 4 in its title. Today, it has been easily outmatched by the true heir and successor to the Genesis / Mega Drive games, and that is of course Sonic Mania.

Double Dragon IV (PS4, NSW, PC)

We end this edition of The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels with the fourth numbered game in the Double Dragon series. It very much feels like a lost relic of the 1980s, only with the caveat and major problem that it was actually released in 2017. Sticking with its old school sensibilities in both appearance and how it played was a bold move by developer Arc System Works, but it also made for a game that felt like a product of a long lost time--one that was better lost than found.

We've moved on to better gaming experiences since the days of stiff brawlers and beat-em-ups, and Double Dragon IV stays stuck in the past. Sure, the game won't eat up your dollars from renting it at Blockbuster again and again like its NES brethren were designed to do, but it will eat up something far more important: your patience and your time. Quite frankly, this sequel to Double Dragon is hardly worth playing. It's a fossil in its archaic gameplay and design. If you want a competent and much more desirable sequel to the Double Dragon series, look no further than Super Double Dragon on the SNES.

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