Forget rainbows and sunshine; here we pick apart the three worst RPGs of 2009. Each of these titles might have some redeeming qualities about them, but these facets are hidden beneath layers of frustration and pure evil. Because these game deserve no further discussion, here are the lowest of the low.
Mana Khemia: Student Alliance is a PSP port of one of few RPGs released for the elderly PS2 in 2008. In just a short time, this average JRPG founds its way to the handhelds. Contentwise, the game is nearly identical to the original with only a handful of minor tweaks. At its core, the game is by no means bad, just average. However, the porting of the game is rotten in every way possible.
Each load screen takes at least thirty seconds, if not up to a minute at times. Unfortunately, entering or leaving an area activates a load screen, and all of the areas are small. At least 20% of the game's play time comes from staring at the same half dozen loading screens, and the game itself is around forty hours long. Of course, even upon loading an area, the code is still unstable. Frequent lag occurs, particularly at semi-vital moments, like using a timed button command to gain an advantage in and out of battle. In essence, Mana Khemia: Student Alliance was 2009's textbook example of how not to port a game.
One of the reasons why Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga hurt so bad is because of its rare moments of spark: the armor system is as smart and flavorful as any out there, and the occasional side quest reveals characters of greater sympathy than any in the main cast. The game's framework suggests that it could support something much better than it does in reality. Moments like this are not abundant, however. Primarily, the game is a dull monster-bash that encourages repetitive tactics and grinding through the same familiar areas for far too long. This could be excused were the plot a new spin on the old tale of disparate races banding together to defeat an ancient evil. As it was not, Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga has firmly cemented its place on this list.
Cross Edge is a title that was horribly flawed from the start. It wouldn't have mattered if NIS America had completely butchered the localization on this one (they didn't), because the fundamentals of this game are the low points. In-game interaction including combat is unintuitive, using almost every button on the PlayStation 3 controller and explaining very little about what is supposed to do what. Combine that with poorly explained customization options, and you just have a mess of an RPG. It doesn't matter how much charm can be found in the crossover storyline — the battle system, lack of explanation of game mechanics, and graphics that don't even come close to showing off what the PS3 is capable of are all the factors that make Cross Edge one of the worst RPGs of the year.
by Zach Welhouse, Alex Reimer, Michael Cunningham