It's easy to be happy and gush over the RPGs we loved throughout the year, but sometimes we have to come down off of that cloud and get down in the dirt. These aren't just RPGs we played for a bit and called it quits (*cough*Final Fantasy XIV*cough*), but RPGs at least three of us toughed it out to play a good bit of and still found them irredeemable. Needless to say, take this category with a large grain of salt and realize we are just whining here.
The original Puzzle Quest got accolades for being a surprisingly successful melding of the RPG and puzzle genres. Puzzle Quest 2 demonstrates how to meld these genres also, but substitutes the word "interminable" for "successful." Combat is the bedrock of most RPGs, but it takes real effort to make battles enjoyable throughout the game, and Puzzle Quest 2 demonstrates just how boring a series of fights against enemies that are interchangeable except for the time necessary to defeat them can be. Combat is all the game has to offer, since it lacks anything else of interest. Boring to look at, listen to, and play, the game is an excellent means of convincing RPGamers that the genre really isn't that worthwhile, and that spending time in the huge rainstorm raging in the outside would at least be an unpredictable use of the day. Playing Puzzle Quest 2 will produce an inescapable deja vu in everyone who does it, as the actions being taken creepily feel like ones that were taken just a few hours before. There will come a point at which the player is ready for the game to be over, since its insanely repetitive nature has become apparent. That point arrives roughly 10% through the game, and it's all downhill from there.
There is nothing quite like the feeling that comes from eagerly waiting for something that only ends up leaving you frustrated and disappointed. Such is the case with Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals. As an action-RPG, Curse of the Sinistrals is mediocre. RPGamers not familiar with the series would probably play the game and soon after forget about it. Fans of the Lufia series, and Curse of the Sinistrals' namesake Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals in particular, however, would find a game that not only fails to meet the level of Lufia II but also changes the game in ways that make it a Lufia game in name only. Curse of the Sinistrals is hardly a horrid game, but disappointment is sure to follow when a game attempts to reach the height of its model and falls horribly short.
Glory of Heracles demonstrates that a beyond-solid localization cannot save a fundamentally unremarkable game. No matter how colorful Nintendo's translators are, the game's overuse of amnesia (already an overused plot device in RPGs) results in a story that had passed its sell-by date in the 90s. Good gameplay can make up for such a flaw, but Heracles' battles took a long time and wore out their welcome quickly. If this is the best that a revival of a series last seen in the SNES era could offer, maybe it needs to take another lengthy break for retooling.
by Mike Moehnke, Ken Staples, Michael Cunningham