|Medal of Honor: Frontline|
I enjoyed the original PS1 Medal of Honor. It wasn't a franchise worth obsessing over, but I respected the dramatic vibe and it was a functional-enough FPS. Frontline continued that tradition of acceptably so-so gameplay, but with a huge graphics upgrade.
The thing I remember most about this game isn't the show-stopping D-Day opener, but the weird flayed skin thing you could do to NPCs. If you got a grenade to go off near somebody without killing him, the game would peel back the skin around his mouth and leave a grinning rictus of the kind that early Robert Jordan always went on about. And remember, they'd still be alive, talking to you, with this hideous death metal album cover jawline. Creepy. And since the characters in this game always crooked their heads to stare at you during live cutscenes, it could get really creepy.
I don't think I ever finished this one. I think I just got tired of it. And seeing how the MoH series petered out, I don't know if it was a good series gone lame, or if it was always mediocre and we just never noticed.
Memory Score: good night, Medal of Honor, and all the sequels you see
|PaRappa the Rapper 2|
You're talking to a big PaRappa fan. Big enough to have enjoyed UmJammer Lammy on sheer osmosis. Big enough to still have the PaRappa soundtrack in regular rotation on the iPod.
But when the early reviews came in and declared PaRappa 2 a sequel of no equal to the original genre-creating, PlayStation-making masterpiece... well, I'm sorry to say it put me off. I didn't pick this one up until it hit the $20 pile. (Which, looking back, really didn't take that long.)
What killed it for me was the near unanimous assertation that the songs weren't as memorable or catchy as the first one. That's a totally subjective comment... but it turned out to be entirely correct. I can't name a single song from PaRappa 2, but I could sing the whole PaRappa 1 rock opera while drinking a glass of water.
PaRappa 2's catchiness was not helped by its length. When the game is so easy that you can beat it in one night, you're simply not hearing the songs often enough for them to even have a chance to become catchy. Too easy, too forgettable.
Here's my free gift for developers Nana-On-Sha: take PaRappa to the PSP and allow players to download new levels based on Sony's online Connect catalog (or they can give up and partner with iTunes once Connect does the inevitable and dies.) Or import your own MP3s - the damn thing is more of a media player than a game device these days anyway. Figure out how the game can create a rhythm matching game based on beats and tempo, rather than the listen-and-repeat rappin' voice samples. It would be like the cell phone ringtone hysteria, but something that you could only get on a PSP.
Memory Score: PaRappa deserves better than to go out on a low note
|The Simpsons: Road Rage|
Look at the dates here: this poor game came out after the world was done with Crazy Taxi, and, even worse, after the very Crazy Taxi concept was relegated to mini-game status in Grand Theft Auto 3.
So I need to point out that I got this game for free through work.
I guess you have to reluctantly call this game a step up for Simpsons games, but given a baseline of Simpsons Skateboarding and a hundred terrible Game Boy games, there's not much fertile soil from which to grow. I mean, there's plenty of sound bites from the show, and driving around virtual Springfield was fun, briefly. But the simplistic repetition, screwy physics and license abuse turn this into an embarrassment. Of course, two years later Simpsons Hit and Run comes out, which does everything Road Rage does, plus is actually fun. So history isn't likely to treat this one kindly.
I'm sure a lot of these were sold just on the strength of "3D Simpsons Game!!11!", but that 90% were traded back in for store credit.
Memory Score: not quite the worst game ever, but trying
click here for my review written in January 2003!
This was such a huge game for me. As a Disney fan, the mash-up of movies and characters was like pulling one emotional ripcord after another. Sure, we've had Disney-based video games since forever, but never one that treated the entire Disney catalog with such seriousness and respect. This was not just a simplistic save-the-princess movie walkthrough; this was a worlds colliding, doom courting, epic struggle against futility and entropy.
Which is, of course, what Square brought to the table. Kingdom Hearts is a duet between the two companies, with Disney instruments set to a Final Fantasy melody. And somehow, they managed to turn the combat into a real time arcade battle, far removed from the typical turn-based RPG stylings.
I can gush about Kingdom Hearts for days, but the game wasn't without problems. The camera would go berserk in battles, some puzzle areas couldn't be solved unless you gave up, real time item management could be rough, and the game's first few hours are quite obviously weaker than the rest. But weighed against the pleasure of a complex story woven with classic Disney properties, I'm willing to overlook quite a bit.
Memory Score: I fought shadow demons alongside Donald and Goofy. Bring on the sequel!
Next week: one of Sony's trinity-of-new-IP games debuts, some hobbits, a superhero who just can't break his way into a decent game, and a PS2 exclusive that isn't even a game at all!