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6/09/2012

Top Ten Worst Minigames

10. 100 Jumps (Super Mario RPG)

I continue to maintain that Super Mario RPG is a great game - easily among the top ten games ever made from both the Nintendo and Square Enix camps.  It's a perfect blend of turn-based RPG, platforming and even fun minigames, and it's still a ton of fun to play to this very day.

However, there is one mini-game that has always given me trouble, and that's the 100-jump challenge.  Hell, I can't even break the vaunted 30-jump mark to get the lesser of the two items it provides - I always get to about 17 or 18 jumps, then the timing abruptly changes without any indication of having done so, it throws me off, and my entire effort is wasted.  If there was some kind of visual or audio cue I may be able to do it, but just abruptly changing the timing with no indication?  That's pretty lame, guys.

9. Arrange Dice (Grandia 3)

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Grandia 3's arrange dice.  This game is also laughably bad, but for the opposite reason - the odds for this one are heavily, HEAVILY stacked in the player's favor.

How it works is this: You have cards numbered from 3-11 (which can be arranged in any order you choose), and you roll two dice five times. Rolling a 12 is an immediate loss, rolling a 2 doubles your bet, and rolling a given number on the dice moves a card up - if you move three consecutive cards up, you win money according to their numbers (3, 4, 10 and 11 giving more winnings, while the middle numbers give lower amounts).  The problem, of course, is that even with the default consecutive layout, a roll of middle numbers (which you have very high odds of rolling) gives a considerable payout.  Hell, my first time playing I went from an initial stake of one chip to well over 100,000 chips in just under an hour's work.

Of course, Game Arts seems to have realized this small flaw in their game's design, and the really good stuff you can win from this minigame requires extraordinarily high numbers of chips (one even requiring the maximum amount of 999,999).  So while you can consistently win at the game with little trouble, you're going to be playing it for a very long time if you want to get all the best stuff.  Hey, if you can't provide players with a challenge, provide them with hours of annoyance, I guess.

8. Graveyard Tour (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

Following up on that note, Ocarina of Time's graveyard tour, which provides all the excitement of watching a guy very, VERY slowly troddle around a pathway.  When he reaches a gap in the path, you can pay him some rupees to dig on that spot, which usually nets you a few rupees at best.  Then it's back to waiting for him to slowly plod along to the NEXT diggable spot on the path!

Why would you bother with this at all, you ask?  Because there's a heart piece randomly hidden under one of those spots, of course.  A completionist's torture is never-ending, especially when it comes to 3D Zelda games.

Case in point...

7. Roller coaster (Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword)

If you thought getting an absolutely perfect score on the skydiving minigame was ungodly annoying (especially with the curator's obnoxious sobbing voice clip and condescending tone every time you fail), then the Roller Coaster game is just downright torture.  For one, you're racing against the clock, which has an unforgivingly short time limit - one or two small mistakes will cost you the heart piece.  For another, you have to deal with the less-than-stellar Wii motion controls which - even with the Motion Plus - are still far from perfect (tilting too far on curves will somehow register it as "not tilting at all" and you'll go sailing off the track to a painful death).  Third, the motion controls which - again - are not all that precise in spite of the addition of the Motion Plus, which can result in you missing a turn to a shorter path and sabotaging your entire effort.  It just makes the whole thing feel like you're fighting against the controls rather than the challenge the game has set before you. Admittedly, the controls for must of the rest of the game are quite good, but with constant complaints like this about Wii games, is it any wonder that the next Nintendo system is dumping motion controls completely in favor of a touch-screen interface?

6. Triple Triad (Final Fantasy VIII)

Ah, Triple Triad.  Now admittedly, this game doesn't start off so bad - it's a simple little game of strategy and skill where you strategically position cards to flip your opponent's over and try to have more control of the field by the time all nine cards are placed.  Moderately fun, plus it allows you to convert spare cards into useful items for the main game.  So far so good.

But then we get to other regions and the rules for the game start becoming downright asinine.  Match up the same number totals on two sides?  You flip not only the two cards with matching numbers, but all the cards THEY'RE touching as well!   Better yet, you have basically no way to tell what cards your opponent's have (unless you were lucky enough to spread the "Open" rule to worldwide prominence through sheer repetition), so it's impossible to even form any kind of strategy and winning becomes a matter of pure luck.  And every time you lose, your opponent will always take your strongest cards, so guess what you'll be doing?  That's right - saving and reloading for hours on end just to get one card you need to get that last item required to upgrade your weapons!  Hooray.

But even better than that, we have...

5. Tetra Master (Final Fantasy IX)

Oh, Tetra Master.  What the hell.  Square somehow took Triple Triad and made the whole thing even more asinine and backwards.  It's on a 4x4 grid now, which means games last a tad bit longer.  However, cards can only "attack" in given directions - being attacked from any direction an arrow isn't pointing is an immediate loss for that card.  But even if you place a card in such a way that it can defend from any possible angle, you then get to match up numbers to see who the winner of a fight is.  And guess what?  Even if your card has a high double digits and the card attacking yours has low single digits for stats, you'll still lose a good 75% of the time - and losing will immediately flip over any cards that the losing card has arrows pointing towards too!  I cannot even explain how frustrating it is to have your card with 75 points lose consistently to a card with eight or nine.

Thankfully, the dev team this time seems to have realized that card-based minigames are, well, infuriatingly lame and made this whole minigame totally optional outside of one event.

Speaking of games that are heavily balanced in the computer's favor...

4. Cerulean City's Casino (Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow)

Another bane of all completionists, the casino in Pokemon's Cerulean City, where you could spend thousands of dollars (a limited resource in the first-gen games) and literally hours on the slots and come away with dick-all.  Now, very rarely you would get a slot machine where you would win on a consistent basis and could rack up a couple thousand coins in about an hour's work, but guess what?  That Porygon you want?  It costs 9999 coins!  The only other option is, of course, to make a few dozen runs through the Elite Four until you have enough money to just buy enough coins to trade, but for one final spit in the player's face, you have to buy them 200 at a time, and scroll through several lengthy dialog boxes to do so.  Urgh.

The Safari Zone was also pretty damn annoying (with another three varieties of Pokemon that could only be accrued through a luck-based exercise), but you could at least work around that with an exploit.

3. Racing (3D Dot Game Heroes)

Another minigame that boil down to an exercise in sheer frustration is the foot race in 3D Dot Game Heroes.  Once again, you're fighting against an incredibly short time limit, and once again, making a single mistake can and will sabotage your entire effort.  What makes it even worse, though, is that as your character dashes, his speed steadily increases, making it harder and harder to keep him under your control.  Add to that the game's less-than-stellar camera, some spotty polygonal collision detection and a slight delay in the controls, and you have a game that's so damned near impossible that the developers actually took pity on gamers and raised the time limit ever-so-slightly to give them just a bit more of a fair shot at it.  But you'd be surprised at low little of a difference five seconds makes when the rest of the game's design is so fervently fighting against you.

2. The infamous fish minigame (Tales of Symphonia)

How do you take an already bad, childish, patronizing game and make its awfulness the stuff of legend?  Add obnoxious chores in the form of "minigames" that bring the entire experience to a screeching halt until you finish them, of course!  But by far the worst and most insulting one has to be the infamous fish minigame.  TVTropes has already summed this one up perfectly, so I'll just do a little C&P from them.

"One needs to find the Ymir Fruit in Ymir Forest before being able to reach Heimdall. This evidently necessitates the painfully tedious process of making the fruit drop into the water, and then getting the little fishies to guide the floating fruit all around the forest before one can obtain the item. Apparently, eight people cannot try anything else other than this รข€” like summoning Undine, using their various weapons to try knocking it somewhere closer by (although it drops into the water reasonably close to the player anyway), asking the party member with * wings* to fly up and grab it, or best of all, just reaching down and grabbing the freaking item (something about "dangerous-looking fish in the water"). "Dangerous-looking fish" is made all the more pointless when you realize that the party contains The Messiah, a pair of incredibly powerful magicians, and an angel. Over the course of the game they've dealt with bunnies more intimidating than the "dangerous-looking fish" Lloyd is bitching about. Genis even poked fun at Lloyd for "squaring off" against the fish."

Ugh.  Patronizing, obnoxious and now just outright stupid weeabooish garbage.  That's this franchise in a nutshell.

1. Final Fantasy X's minigames (All of them)

But by far the worst of the worst of the worst has to be Square's collection of "challenges" for one of my most despised games of all time.  Not only do you hate yourself for playing such a badly written, vacuous and insulting game, but the road to 100% completion is an outright insanity test.  From winning 200 consecutive games of Blitzball (an astonishingly boring ripoff of Tecmo's Captain Tsubasa games with significantly worse mechanics and bad AI) to dodging 200 consecutive lightning strikes on the Thunder Plains (an incredibly tedious exercise that does not allow saving at any point in its interim) to fighting against incredibly unresponsive controls in a race against time on an obstacle course full of birds with huge hitboxes that will attack you in droves if you get clipped by one even once, sabotaging your entire effort.   In short, it's all absolute, brain-shredding, controller-smashing torture.  Hey guys, minigames are supposed to be fun diversions, not torturous busywork!

But then again, their idea of "fun" is on full display in Final Fantasy X-2, where we get to contend with such challenges as pushing people into elevators (fighting against bad collision detection once again), a particularly bad rhythm game, and matchmaking for monkeys.  And yes, these are all required to advance the main plot.