on Feb 15 by I love Japanese games
I hate videogame review scores. I dislike how so many game reviews simply attach an arbitrary number as a signifier of a game’s quality. It’s nonsense really, and those sites who review with no score automatically go up in my estimation – I may not always agree with what they say, but at least I’ve read what they’ve written.
Metacritic of course, is where all those scores, those numbers, congregate to give you a ‘who’s who’ of video games quality. Now I’m not disputing the games that end up there at the top of the pile are not worthy. Your Bioshocks, Orange Boxes, Grand Theft Autos – all fantastic games without doubt – and worthy of being held in high esteem. What does trouble me however, are the games that frequently fall into what I call the ‘Yellow Zone’.
This is the band of scoring that takes in the 50-75% scores. Now, the argument is, that these are the ‘average’ or ‘medicocre’ games – but the truth is, these are the titles that either divided opinion, or worse, are the games where certain journalists either had an axe to grind (giving a low score as punishment) or simply didn’t ‘get it’ (so hedged their bets with a ‘safe’ score).
‘Uuurgh…. I don’t understand what this game is…. I’ll give it a… er…. 6!’
said A. Man (about a game)
Yes, there are games in there that ‘deserved it’ – but the fact remains, if you’re in the Yellow Zone, you’re automatically considered ‘unworthy’ to a certain extent. You slide into the greasy yellow pool or mediocrity. Now, seeing as I’m all about the underdog these days, I thought I’d pick through the bones of this wasteland and give you my top ten games that Metacritic thinks are a bit rubbish – but you might actually quite enjoy!
This detectivey, open-worldey, survival horror-ey curiosity made very little impact on it’s release back in 2010. Basically, most reviews said it was a bit rubbish, something of a clumsy mess, and duly went about the business of kicking its face off. And then the public got its hands on it and people started saying how awesome it was. Truth is, Deadly Premonition IS a clumsy mess, often incoherent, technically wanting – particularly where the game’s audio is concerned – and where the controls are often exasperatingly clunky and sluggish. But in amongst all this, as games of this kind so often find, it has an atmosphere and appeal all of its own. Like a lame and slightly over-aggressive puppy – you know your should drown it in a sack of bricks, but every time it bubbles to the surface you find yourself loving it more. Big props to Destructoid for giving this 100%. Shame on IGN for its miserly 2.0.
Metacritic Says: 68%
I say: You owe it to yourself to dig out a copy – its undoubtedly one of the most memorable games you’ll ever play, if nothing else.
VANDAL HEARTS: FLAMES OF JUDGEMENT
Maybe I enjoyed this because it was up against so little competition on home console. One thing I do know, it had nothing to do with the art style, as it’s the sort of thing that makes me want to puke my guts out until my stomach lining is red raw. Horrible art aside, for the month that I was into this, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a well executed Strategy RPG – a genre we’re so spoiled for choice with on handheld, but rarely as a sit on the couch with a nice big telly experience. I found the characters ugly but charming, with dashes of humour and, for once, I enjoyed the fact that size-wise, the game didn’t outstay its welcome. It not an earth shatteringly original SRPG – but it’s very nicely made all the same.
Metacritic Says: 68%
I say: A nice lazy Sunday afternoon game. Pig ugly mind you, but it does have a certain charm.
EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 2017
I debated whether or not to put this in, because since it’s release I think all intelligent life in the universe know that EDF is amazing. It’s a real B-Movie of a game – putting you in control of Mr Soldier against a load of massive ants and assorted sci-fi enemies. Big, dumb and amazing fun, it’s certainly no looker – trading production values for a riot of entertainment and it does absolutely everything else right. From the layers and layers of cheese, to the volume of weaponry, the endless ants to destroy and the fact that, in terms of pure stupid-as-hell entertainment – EDF totally and utterly delivers. Some reviews got this absolutely spot on which is great to see – and yet what baffles me are the legions of reviews which could just get over it’s budget production and enjoy EDF for what it was – videogame entertainment in one of its rawest, most brutally honest forms.
Metacritic says: 69%
I say: Probably this generations most notable ‘Cult Classic’.It’s not a case of’ ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ – more, ‘so good it’s bad – in a good way‘.
So many people just didn’t ‘get’ this. One quote metacritic picks out from a review is pretty much pitch perfect. It comes from the now dead, Xbox World magazine in the UK and reads, ‘Quite easily the best not-very-good game we’ve played in a while’. Nier is a real hodge-podge of styles and influences, a little Zelda-ey, a little RPG-ey, some shootery bits and platformey bits – but in its somewhat ramshackle nature it has a heart and soul that truly shines though and a has both a gorgeous heart-strings tugging story, not to mention a soundtrack that, in all honestly, I think is my favourite of this generation. Another of those games that you can find really cheap. If you let it’s rather dream-like tendrils sink into you, you’ll be enthralled.
Metacritic Says: 67%
I say: A mesmerising and enchanting adventure – brimming with imagination and atmosphere.
RESIDENT EVIL 6
Probably opening up a can of worms with this one – but now that the dust has settled, I kinda think people find it’s cool to hate on this game. I’ve been vocally critical of Resi 6 myself. While it doesn’t meet my expectations of what a Resident Evil game should be, In retrospect it really isn’t a bad action game at all. As an straight action game I think it stands on it’s own merits. It has variety, plenty of content and high production values – it is an enjoyable game in its own right. I find this entry on Metacritic particularly annoying, as the user score marks it out as being one of the worst games ever made? Is that really the case, internet? REALLY?! Of course not, don’t be silly! If you found you gave this a miss because of all the furore surrounding it – why not make your own mind up.
Metacritic says: 67%
I say: Stop your whining and get over it.
ARCANA HEART 3
I play a lot of fighters – I’m very picky about the fighters I play, and I’m a whore for 2D fighters with sprite artwork. To be fair, Arcana Heart’s sprites are not the best – a little lower res compared to something like King of Fighters 13 or BlazBlue. However, as far as fighters goes, it is an absolute JOY to play. A homing button that lets you fly around, an Arcana system that lets you customise your favourite character to a certain extent (basically, anyone can have a fireball or projectile if they want it – or a dashing grappler if they want it) and a cast of characters that has not a single clone in the roster. Of all the fighting games I own, Arcana Heart 3 is the one I keep coming back to the most.
Metacritic says: 68%
I say: Anyone who knows what they’re talking about understands that this is the fighting game of this generation. FACT.
Someone on this site – can’t remember who – said they liked shooters that felt like a journey. That sometimes, playing bullet hell games felt way too stressful. I really like bullet hell games, but I do totally get where that dude (dudette?) was coming from. Omega Five feels like a 16-bit shooter in HD clothing. Control a guy or girl bedecked in suitable Japanese sci-fi kink, choose your favoutite weapon and blast through lavishly furnished levels populated with strict enemy waves to be memorised. What Omega Five lacks in imagination, it more than makes up for in being solid, colourful, fun, polished and old-school. I’ve come back to this shmup time and again since it’s release, because it’s just such a simple pleasure to play through.
Metacritic says: 72%
I say: A basic scrolling shooter sure – but one that’s been exceptionally well crafted and is thoroughly enjoyable throughout.
Not going to lie – give me a game where I can dress up pretty ninja girls in flowery kimonos – and then get them to stab dudes through Shoji (that’s paper doors Japan fans!) automatically gets a 98% review score in my brain. It’s like it triggers some kind of insta-buy alarm up there. So I’m clearly biased and not to be trusted – however, for all its obvious flaws (like dumb-as-hell AI and ropey visuals) I absolutely LOVE Tenchu Z. It’s my favourite rubbish game of this generation, because it”s obscenely fun to play. Once your chosen Ninja is all skilled up and customised to your liking – it makes you feel like a total badass. This game makes me feel like a proper Ninja lady – and some people pay well over the odds for that kind of feeling. You’ll be able to find this for like £5 somewhere – and it’s worth ever penny.
Metacritic Says: 56%
I say: It’s like Pac Man – but with pretty Ninjas and oodles of blood. No nonsense stealthing that makes you feel like a lady… sorry, badass, I meant badass…
There was a time when space-flight sims were everywhere – now they’re among the most under represented genres in gaming. I miss them, I really do. Unbeknownst to many, Square and Game Arts teamed up to make quite a good one – this one. It’s your usual space sim fare – relentless dogfights, escort and protect missions and battles against hulking great capital ships. This one tries to go the extra mile by tagging on a schmaltsy teen drama over the top. It’s VERY cheesy – but fun with it actually. However, the meat and bones of this game come from ship customisation (that has a genuine impact on the way you play) and visuals that are nothing short of breathtaking on occasion. Some of the difficulty spikes are a little mean at times – but there’s NOTHING else like this available on console right now. Well worth trying to find.
Metacritic Says: 64%
I say: A hyper-colourful and actually very fun and complex space flight sim once you cut through the layer of CG cheese slathered over the top.
WARTECH: SENKO NO RONDE
I think this game sold like fifteen copies in total. For some reason UbiSoft decided to put some ass-ugly robot on the front of the western box – completely hiding the very nice, crisp and clean sci-fi anime aesthetic that the game actually has. Gameplay-wise it’s an even tougher sell. Basically this is a one on one fighting game – only the fighters are mechs – and the moves are bullet patterns. It’s basically a one-on-one bullet hell game – if you can imagine such a thing. Both characters are invisibly tethered to each other as well so you’re always facing each other – always moving in relation to each other in gracefull arcs while you spit bullets at each other. As a game between two human opponents it’s fantastic – as a single player game, not so much. But if you have a live-in gaming buddy, it’s something unique and – when you begin to work it’s subtleties – ludicrously competitive.
Metacritic Says: 60%
I Say: Make sure you have someone to play with for goodnessake. Okay? Excellent – then buy it. It’s really very good.
ILJG runs the I Love Japanese Games Facebook Page.
His views are not those held by Rice Digital or it’s partners.