As much as we enjoy feeding the hype monster, basement dwelling nerds that we are, sometimes we get a little too excited and end up raising our hopes high just to have cruel, harsh reality smash us back into the ground. This award goes to those special games we were looking forward to, pre-ordered, and told all our friends would be fun, and then, when we finally started playing the game, experienced slowly dawning horror mingled with disappointment. It's that feeling you get when you realize you just wasted not only money, but the many weeks you spent dreaming about how great this game would be. These are not the worst RPGs of 2009, but they are the ones that broke our hearts into the most pieces.
Upon seeing early, high-res screenshots of the characters in Cross Edge, many of us were excited at the prospect of playing an RPG combining characters from several well known titles. Master chef Compile Heart would surely take a cornucopia of delicious franchises and present us all with a scrumptious RPG meal. The result was more like a revolting concoction slopped together by too many cooks in the kitchen, as upon receiving the game we were quickly reminded how you cannot judge a book by its cover.
The gameplay mechanics, much like the above metaphors, were a menagerie of poorly implemented ideas that simply fell apart as they progressed. This disappointment was compounded by the hideous battle graphics, which appeared as if they were lifted directly from a SNES or PSX game. Many PS3 gamers looking for the next step in the evolution of RPGs, both visually and mechanically, found themselves not only disappointed, but angry after shelling out $60 for this abominable Frankenstein's RPG. Created by a lot of cooks. In a book with a cover. You were expecting coherent writing here, but you were let down, just as we were with Cross Edge.
Valkyrie Profile is one of the best RPGs on the PSX, and some staff members call it one of the best RPGs ever made. The original version sells used for double what it once cost new, even with a normally-priced PSP port available. It's unique. Touching. Sad. Fun. Wonderful. Tranferring everything that made Valkyrie Profile great into a tactical RPG would surely be a game for the ages. Then Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume made a total mockery of the series, twisting every element of Valkyrie Profile into something bland and annoying that reminded you of how amazing the first game was without providing any enjoyment. The main character was empty and moronic. The touching vignettes were minimalized and spiritless. The gameplay was a horrible, mangled thing, awkwardly wedging Valkyrie Profile's engine into a tactical setup and ruining both in the process. The one new mechanic — permanently sacrificing party members to blow past a stage — wrecked the difficulty and presented a huge missed opportunity in the storytelling. And most inexplicably, the series's one fascinating recurring character, Lezard Valeth, was left out of the game completely.
If nostalgia was everything, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled would be a champion among RPGs that want to forget the passage of time. Solid graphics and a desire for the good old days can't make up for frustrating combat, though, and Black Sigil's resemblance to Chrono Trigger falls apart there. In its inspiration, fighting was fun. A too-heavy random encounter rate and confining landscapes remove that aspect from Black Sigil and make it the loser in any comparison. Lesson learned this year — when you buy a game and expect it to be as fun as Chrono Trigger, you might end up being disappointed, no matter what Michael Cunningham and Maxime Viventi tell you, especially when their official quotes were misquoted.
by Glenn Wilson, Mike Moehnke, Phillip Willis