The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Most Overrated Games Ever #9

Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991)

Sonic the Hedgehog was bright and fast and loud. Those are the main selling points that it had over Super Mario World, and they worked pretty damn well. Super Mario World, in comparison, had a dopey little-kid sort of look to it, compared to Sonic’s edgy, rad-to-the-max visuals. Sonic played faux-metal at high volume in the background, whereas Mario played, well, goofy Mario music. Sonic ran real fast, and had spikes and huge eyes, whereas Mario was mostly just a fat guy with a mustache.

Unfortunately, Sonic’s game wasn’t very good. It plays broadly like Mario, with the same general platforming conventions, but significantly devolved; all Sonic can do is run and jump. There are some powerups available, but none of them add any new abilities or fundamentally change the gameplay; only one of them does anything but increment a resource, in fact. Every level is fundamentally the same; Sonic runs to the right, and you struggle to keep him under control, since he moves far too fast; therein lies one of the game’s problems. Since every level gives you ten minutes to clear it, there’s really very little incentive for flying along at full speed, and you’ll end up playing an annoyingly tentative stop-and-go approach, trying not to go too fast. Which, you may recall, was the game’s whole appeal in the first place.

The game also features the most annoying bonus levels in any game ever in all of history. They’re like a rotating maze, and you bounce around constantly, and try to make your way to this stupid emerald. It’s nearly impossible to control, and even if you’re the best Sonic player in the world, it’s still going to be largely a matter of luck if you can make it through. And your reward for collecting the emeralds? Not a goddamn thing.

By Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sega had nailed the formula a bit better, and the games actually started being fun. The first one, though, is pretty much a stinker, but it’s still widely regarded as a classic. Super Mario World was way better, even if it did look pretty young in comparison.

February 8th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | no comments

Most Overrated Games Ever #10

Earthbound (SNES, 1995)

Earthbound is an adorable RPG released in North America in 1995. The graphics are technically unimpressive, but have a certain charm to them; the charm and cleverness of the visual and audio style, combined with the well-written and humorous dialogue, have led Earthbound to have a giant fan community even to this day. This is odd, considering that, when the game came out, Nintendo couldn’t give it away; they put a huge marketing push behind it, and nobody bought it. But, in the fifteen years since, it’s taken on a life of its own, and is now one of the most highly-regarded games of the SNES era.

Which is the problem, because, really, the game’s not that good. Don’t get the wrong idea, now; it’s cute, and it’s charming, and it’s amusing, but the gameplay was extremely dated even in 1995, and certainly hasn’t held up well. Earthbound is, fundamentally, a very basic RPG, about on par with Dragon Warrior 2 (JP 1987, NA 1990) in sophistication. You control a party that builds, over the course of the game, up to four characters, and you travel around talking to people and fighting monsters. The battles are structured exactly the same as the NES Dragon Warrior games, with party info visible (but the party itself hidden), and static images of the mobs filling the majority of the screen. Unlike the old Dragon Warriors, however, the mobs are standing against psychedelic backgrounds. Combat is completely turn-based, with no interrupts available, and the player characters don’t have a wide variety of abilities.

Outside of combat, the game is also very basic; you walk around and talk to people, get hamburgers out of trash cans, and then you have to spend time managing your inventory. Earthbound came out almost a year after Final Fantasy 3, which was totally free of inventory management bullshit, and yet failed to learn that lesson. Plotwise, the game is fairly loose; the dialogue and characterisation are excellent, but it’s not really very clear what’s going on or why. You wander from town to town fighting crime, then you end up fighting dinosaurs for a while, and then you go to the evil boss’ lair and fight robots. It’s more clear if you played the original Mother on the NES, but, since that game was never released in North America, that’s sort of a tough sell.

On the subject of the final boss, the fight itself is an incredibly stupid and frustrating gimmick, and you might not even figure it out if you don’t look it up.

So there you are. Earthbound: adorable, silly, charming, but pretty weak, gameplay-wise. And a shoo-in for this list, since it has one of the largest and most active fan communities of any game ever.

February 6th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | no comments

Top ten most overrated games ever

Hey gang, remember when I did that big feature on the best villains ever? Well, now we’re embarking upon a new project in the same vein. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be running a series on the ten most overrated games of all time.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. These will mainly be decent games. I’m not going to pick games that were absolutely terrible and complain that they got released at all, or that Gamespot gave them a 7/10. No Daikatana on this list, is what I’m saying. This is only going to be games that are legitimately highly rated, but don’t really deserve it; mostly playable, enjoyable games that, for whatever reason, are hailed as legends by lots of stupid people. And I’m also restricting myself to one game per series, so as to havoid this list being dominated by one specific series. You know the one I’m talking about. I’m also issuing a free pass to all games released in the last five years; I don’t think they’ve really had enough time to establish themselves critically yet. A lot of recent games get huge, sloppy handjobs for a while, and then fade right away; games like that don’t qualify. They have to have some type of lasting fanaticism about them.

So, in a nutshell, get ready to see an awful lot of sacred cows thrown on the sacred barbecue. Will this be a good time? Well, sure, if you like awesome things.

February 5th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | no comments

Jon Heyman, you fuck right off

It wouldn’t seem to me that "baseball writer" would be the best career path for somebody who doesn’t know a goddamn thing about baseball. But apparently I’m mistaken. I guess it helps if your employers don’t know enough about knowing enough about baseball to know you’re terrible. What I’m getting at, of course, is that Jon Heyman wrote this recently. It’s pretty awful. You’d think it would be hard to fuck up an article about the Mets being bad, but I guess it isn’t.

Not every team can be a winner in winter. These eight clubs have been losers, at least for the months of November through February, and while a couple of them may have had a slight problem or two with execution, the real common denominator is that they didn’t spend enough money to fill their holes.

Jon Heyman only likes the all-holes-filled kind of baseball. Man. I think I need to take a shower after writing that joke. That’s just unclean. I apologise.

You’re welcome for not making it a link to anything.

1. Mets

Even Mets great Darryl Strawberry chimed in with an assessment of the Mets’ offseason Tuesday night, diplomatically summing it up by saying it "could have been better."

Ah yes, renowned genius and all-around totally sober guy Darryl Eugene Strawberry. Why, if he thinks a thing, it must be true! Which is why I do so much cocaine at work.

While the Mets signed the big hitter they sought in Jason Bay on a reasonable $66-million price (at least compared to Matt Holliday’s $120-million deal), they mostly imported a collection of backup catchers like Henry Blanco and Chris Coste, comfortable old friends like Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis and question marks like Kelvim Escobar.

It is actually pretty hilarious how many backup catchers and like sixth outfielders the Mets signed this winter. I really don’t know what that was all about. Especially since, last I heard, they didn’t even have five starting pitchers. Like, at all.

They could have had Joel Piniero for $18 million over two years and surely Bengie Molina for $10 million over two (Molina was the bigger loss in my estimation, since he’s a catcher with power and a rep for handling a young staff), but they played hardball with each and are left lacking at both key positions.

Uh, no, Jon, they didn’t need Bengie Molina. How could you possibly say the Mets are lacking at catcher? The Mets just hired nine catchers! You just mentioned that, man. Bengie Molina is going to be 35 years old this year, and his career ISO of .143 means he has "power" in exactly the same degree as noted hulking mashers Kenji Johjima, Orlando Miller, and Ronnie Belliard. Here are some stats for you, in re: Bengie Molina:

Bengie Molina, career: .276 / .308 / .418 / .726, 88 OPS+, 29 FRAA, 19.2 WARP3
Hank White, career: .228 / .292 / .366 / .658, 67 OPS+, 97 FRAA, 13.1 WARP3

So they both kind of suck. Hank is worse offensively, but significantly better defensively, which kind of matters for a goddamn catcher. Bengie’s probably the better player, but did the Mets need to blow another $10M on him when they already have a thousand catchers? It’s not clear that they did.

Oh, and $18M/2 for Joel Pineiro would have been a pretty hilarious overpay. He was pretty good last year and has pretty much never been even average any other season.

They were also stuck with Luis Castillo at second after spending weeks trying to trade him so they could make a run at Orlando Hudson.

Luis Antonio Castillo, 2009: .302 / .387 / .346 / .732, 98 OPS+, .282 EqA
Orlando Thill Hudson, 2009: .283 / .357 / .417 / .774, 109 OPS+, .286 EqA

Yeah, too bad they missed out on that upgrade. That’s going to be the difference right there.

2. Cubs

It’s never going to be a great winter when the big goal is to undo the biggest move of the winter before. They did finally get rid of Milton Bradley but had to take Carlos Silva, poster of an impossibly bad 8.60 ERA last year and one of the worst pitchers in baseball since signing for $48 million over four years, in return from Seattle.

No, they unloaded Bradley and got $6M from Seattle. That’s pretty much the long and short of it.

John Grabow was overpaid at $7.5 mil for two years, and Xavier Nady seems similarly fortunate to get $3.3 million (plus $2 million in incentives) given that he didn’t play after April last year and needed a second Tommy John surgery

Jon, see, here’s the deal: teams with a shitload of money, like the Cubs, can give $3.x million deals to dudes pretty arbitrarily and just see if they pan out. Grabow kicked enough ass last year to be worth the $3.x million he got (139 ERA+, 1.240 WHIP, 3.42 DERA). As for Professor X, yeah, he’s pretty average and always hurt. But it was $3.3 million. Not a ton of money for a fourth outfielder.

3. Dodgers

Veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, solid-hitting infielder Ronnie Belliard, utilityman Alfredo Amezaga, catching pro Brad Ausmus, underrated outfielder Reed Johnson and rotation longshot Ramon Ortiz were signed, all useful players that are less than marquee men for the storied franchise.

1) Jamie Carroll has been playing for eight years. While he’s not a rookie, that’s hardly "veteran" material.
2) Ronnie Belliard, career: .275 / .339 / .418 / .757, 97 OPS+. Solid! At least he "has power," with that Bengie Molina-ish .143 ISO. 112 career homers comin’ atcha, bitch!
3) Well, I guess technically Amezaga is a "utilityman," in that he will play any position. But he only plays above replacement-level defense at CF, and just barely at SS. Does that still count as "utility?"
4) Reed Johnson is not underrated. He was with the Cubs for a few years, and he seems like a cool dude, but, come on. .282 / .344 / .411 / .755, 95 OPS+? He’s almost exactly average.
5) Ramon Ortiz hasn’t played in a major-league game since 2007, and hasn’t been anywhere close to average since 2004. "Longshot" doesn’t describe him.

But at least you were right about one thing: Brad Ausmus is, in fact, a professional catcher! Well done, Jon!

4. Giants

The Giants’ baseball bosses also quietly instituted two new policies that won’t help their hitters one iota: 1) don’t overwork, and 2) pull the ball more. Neither is an especially good idea.

Big fan of overworking, Jon? I guess you figure that the main problem with the Giants is that their hitters don’t spend enough time on the DL. And what’s wrong with pulling the ball? I mean, it’s sometimes a good idea, yeah? It’s worked pretty well for David Ortiz, hasn’t it?

5. Indians

Wasn’t the big reason they had to trade Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee that they wouldn’t be able to make any moves this winter if they kept them both?

No, it was because the Indians are a fucking wreck, and those two guys get really expensive at the end of the year. But, yeah, the management didn’t say that. Bad for morale, you know? Read between the lines, Jon.

6. Angels

I love this franchise from top to bottom.

This is about to become apparent in a highly entertaining way. Get ready!

But there’s no getting around the fact that they lost their ace pitcher (John Lackey) and lineup instigator (Chone Fggins [sic]), two major defections for a team that’s been built around pitching and speed ever since Mike Scioscia got there.

Lackey was hugely overpaid by the Red Sox. The Angels were right to let him go. And Figgins had a spectacular year, but I’ll be surprised if he can maintain that level of play. And if he doesn’t, well, then he got a massive overpay, too.

Hideki Matsui ably replaces Vladimir Guerrero as DH, Fernando Rodney upgrades a beleaguered bullpen and Piniero again gives them as much rotation depth as anyone.

Vlad’s career OPS+ is twenty points higher than ‘Zilla’s. Fernando Rodney has been, over his career, almost completely average and unremarkable. And Joel Pineiro sucks. So, hey, good upgrades, Angels!

Still the AL West favorite. But they’ll miss Lackey, and especially Figgins.

I love this. Love this. Hey, Jon, some objectivity would be nice. I know they’re your favourite team and all, but the Angels aren’t really the AL West favourite. I mean, the AL West? Where the Seattle Mariners play? Holy shit, no. Jon, the Angels are currently in a struggle for last place in the AL West. The Rangers are better, the Mariners are way, way, fuck-you better, and the damn Athletics aren’t much worse, if at all.

7. Pirates

Yeah, fuck you, Pirates. Why didn’t you spend more on free agents?? Turn that shit around!

8. Braves

Blah blah blah. Jon’s running out of steam, and so am I. The only really funny thing he says here is that, hey, good thing they got Eric Hinske, since he’s a lucky charm! I’m thinking, hey, at least he has something going for him.

Then he carps about arbitration for a while, and then there are these two fun little snippets:

One option [Johnny] Damon is not considering is retirement. "I don’t think the game’s ready for me to retire," Damon said by phone. "I think I have way too much to give."

I love that. The game isn’t ready for Johnny Damon to retire. He kind of thought about it, but then he got a phone call from Baseball, and it was all like "whoa, Johnny! Can’t just go cold turkey like this! I am not prepared." I wonder if Boras coached him to say that, or if he really does talk like a giant caricature of himself.

• The Mets are thought to be falling behind in the John Smoltz derby.

I don’t believe there is any such derby, and, if there is, I don’t believe the Mets won’t win it. However, if there is, and if they don’t, well, good on them. John Smoltz, 2009: 78 IP, 69 ERA+, 1.449 WHIP, 11.0 H/9 (!), Age: 42.

February 3rd, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

I’ll be the asshole who points this out

Jeff Passan last November, complaining about how baseball needs a salary cap:

Be it Matt Holliday, Jason Bay or John Lackey, the Yankees can offer more than anyone and can do so with the backing of a big, fat, knuckle-to-knuckle ring.

Anyone care to guess how many of those players signed with the Yankees? Of course you don’t, because you already goddamn know, because I wouldn’t have written this article otherwise. It’s zero. Lackey signed with the Red Sox and Bay with the Mets, and Matt Holliday signed (boo hiss) with the Fatinals. Yeah, the poor, beleaguered Fat Louis Fatinals, stuck with their below-league-average payroll which makes it impossible for them to compete.

Which is I guess why they totally haven’t won the second-highest number of championships of any franchise in Major League Baseball.

February 2nd, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Mass Addendum

I added a bit to my Mass Effect 2 review talking about the sex scenes, which apparently slipped my mind last night when I wrote the thing. It’s there now.

February 1st, 2010 Posted by | Meta-meta | no comments

Massive additional effects

I have finished effecting mass. You can find my wordy bullshit on the worthiness of said endeavour here. Is it worth playing? Well, I won’t spoil anything here, but I will say this: Elcor Hamlet. Now go read the review.

February 1st, 2010 Posted by | Games, Meta-meta | no comments