You can please all of the RPGamer staff some of the time, but there is just no pleasing some of the staff with a few of last year's big-name RPGs. Perhaps we were disappointed by the failure of these titles to deliver on their pre-release hype, or maybe these games attempted something innovative and didn't quite manage to pull it off. Whatever the case, three games stood out as deserving our more dubious year-end award.
Biggest Letdown 2004 Winner
The honor of biggest letdown of 2004 goes to Fable, that long-awaited Xbox RPG that promised a vast world of play that would provide the player with a virtual lifetime of gameplay. Gamers eagerly anticipating Fable had to wait more than three years to finally play it after the game's initial announcement under a different title. With all of that time in development, some (including the game's developer, Peter Molyneux) were expecting Fable to be the greatest RPG ever made, while others were just excited to see the Xbox's answer to the Zelda franchise.
In the end, Fable arrived and presented a solid role-playing experience combined with an interesting character-building system. Yet with over four years of development, Fable still couldn't live up to all of the hype surrounding it. Many found the storyline too short and linear, the gameplay simple to a fault, the NPC interaction stale and unrewarding, and the world not nearly as expansive as originally advertised. Perhaps another four years of development would have been enough to iron out the game's massive wrinkles and turn this Fable into a more refined reality.
Nintendo fans rejoiced upon hearing the news that a GameCube-exclusive Final Fantasy title was in development. Indeed, the idea of a multiplayer RPG using Gameboy Advances' for controllers was heralded as a huge innovation for the genre. Sadly, the gameplay of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles left most wanting more, especially from a game brandishing the Final Fantasy name. Even with Square-Enix's intriguing multi-player ploy, potential players ended up passing on Crystal Chronicles because they couldn't round up the people and hardware to fully enjoy the game. A good idea plagued by bad execution earns Crystal Chronicles the number two slot in our list of Biggest Letdowns.
And then there's Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Rarely does a game provoke such a gamut of reactions from our staff. While some of us thoroughly enjoyed its story and unique card battle system, others decried its uneven difficulty and repetitive gameplay. This was one case where the staff just had to agree to disagree. With over a million copies sold, there is no denying the success of Chain of Memories, but enough of our staff felt it was disappointing enough to earn it the award for third Biggest Letdown of 2004.
by Nick Ferris