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"'The cold-blooded tyrant that slaughtered countless men and destroyed many nations? Where is she now? She stands before your very eyes to become your new ruler. HAHAHAHAHA,' Edea says calmly. I think this may be a preview of what we US citizens can expect in the next four years. Yeah, I said it."
     -Jeanne, Final Fantasy VIII Part 8

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06.16.03 :: Licensed to Suck

The opinions in this letters column aren't necessarily those of Jeanne Rubbo, owner of Even so, Jeanne owns *us* and has locked us in a dark closet with Tidus and Rinoa until we think of something funny. HELP! In the meantime, send in your comments, queries, whining, flames, spam, opinions, facts, opinions that you think are facts, and general idiocy to

Welcome back to the VGR Mailbag, brought to you by The Hulk: coming to theaters June 20!

Apologies to all our readers for the lateness of this edition; LC is very, very lazy and kept putting off the thing. Fortunately, we got a gaggle of good letters this week on our topic: licensed videogames. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the ones that are Tiduses in cartridge form. Without further ado, let's get to it!

All hail the Mailbag Divas!

Before I begin, I'll be honest and admit to not having played that many licensed games since the mid-90s (there was GoldenEye.. and that's it).

Anyway, we all know why so many licensed games suck: the companies that usually get these licenses tend to go for the "quick buck" mentality, at the expense of such things like proper gameplay.

Still, when a license falls under the care of a good developer, the result is pure, unadultered brilliance: there's Capcom's old Disney games, which were fun for at least a rental; Konami's TMNT games, Virgin Interactive's The Lion King, and the king of licensed games himself, Kingdom Hearts, are fine examples of licensing done right.

So yeah, there is such a thing as good licensed games. But when the only worthwhile part of the game is about an hour of cutscenes that help you understand an intentionally obtuse movie, well, there's something wrong.

~Quartz Falcon

You mentioned my two favorite licensed games, other than Kingdom Hearts (which, I swear, despite our tones in the recaps, is loved by both AG and myself)--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Goldeneye 64. I had the first TMNT game for the NES, and that was, for me, the Best. Game. Ever. Explorable world maps! Varied platforming and ass-kicking! THE TURTLE VAN! I could go on. Goldeneye is, I'll be honest, the only FPS I've ever really liked. (Don't kill me, PC gamers!) It had the flair of the movie and really great gameplay. I've spent so much time in the multiplayer mode of that game it's not even funny. Two most excellent examples of good licensed games.


Hear, hear, QF. The whole "The game isn't complete without the movie and the movie isn't complete without the game" thing did not make me want to rush right out and spend $50.00 in addition to the Home Equity Line I'd have to take out for the ticket, popcorn and soda to go see the movie. I have to say that Kingdom Hearts is the best derivative game I've ever had the pleasure of playing.


Greetings those of the recapping world ^^

Hmm, games on movies... Well, I own very few of these - pretty much the only one I've played truly, and completed, would be Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers. Now I simply adore LotR, I love the books and like the movies, and seeing that there were two games released about the same time, one based on the books, one based on the movies, I decided to get one of them and try it out over Christmas. Well, there were good points and bad points. One good thing was that you got to play as Legolas and Aragorn, who were really kick-ass fun to fight with as characters: the bad points were that you also got to play with Gimli, who invariably *when played by me, anyway, probably I just suck* got his ass kicked by the boss monsters and had half the reach of the others, and horrors, you couldn't play as Boromir. Ok, admittedly, he wouldn't be in the second half of the game for obvious reasons, but even one level would make me a little happier >< The fighters each have their own highpoints - with Aragorn it's brute strength and with Legolas it's a fast martial-arts-type style of fighting, and admittedly it is lots of fun going through the levels and fighting Orcs, trolls, uruk-hai etc. The graphics are great, it's nice to see Gandalf doing a 'cameo' and using some nifty magic that decimates a LOT of orcs. Ok, so that's a lot of good stuff... now for the bad stuff. There are in no way enough levels - and also, they have I think 4 levels from the first movie to about ten from the second, which is annoying, and it's all fighting. I know it's supposed to be like that, but considering the depth of the books/movies, its kinda disappointing that there's no actual 'adventure' since the game apparently falls into the category 'action/adventure'. There are some cool cutscenes and clips from the movies, and again, every level is ...just...pure..fighting. I'm all for fighting games, but I expected a little more for a Lord of the Rings game. Again, lamenting the fact that you can't play as Boromir, and I always fancied being Sam and bashing orc's with a frying pan...

Second, Kingdom Hearts, containing a lot of Disney characters. Now when I was a kid, along with so many other, thought the Disney movies were great, the excitement has somewhat died over the years as they ran out of ideas, but anyway. And I adore the voice-overs they've given to Squally and Bitch - genius. But Sean Astin as Hercules? Hello? And why is it that Squally/Aeris (I know they call her Aerith in the game)/Bitch/Sephiroth etc all look pretty neat, and Yuffie looks waaay too intensely cartoony? Her eyes scare me, for some reason... I'm not quite sure whether the rest of the Disney cast are the same - pretty sure that Danny Devito is per usual Phil, the hairy-calved little squirt, but I just wish they'd used the Lion King as a world - one of the most popular Disney films done, I think, so why is Simba merely a summon? Oh, and most terrifying of all? Wakka's new voice: an octave higher fuelled by extra-strong-pot smoking. Run.

Third: I know the film was based on the games, not the other way around, but... it has to be said...Tomb Raider. For a game based entirely on the goal of attracting the male gender, it has some pretty cool fights and bosses. But they are intensely hard - my pet-hate = The Last Revelation. Many evil zombies and the bitch of all bosses TR style in my opinion; a huge Egyptian ox/bull thing, which takes about half your hp in one charge, the camera is so damn frustrating that you can hardly ever see it coming, and worst of all, you have to play chicken by standing in front of four different pedestals, wait until it's practically stomping on your ass, then do some complicated leap out of the way so that the damn beast presses the switch on the pedestal that ONLY IT CAN PRESS. Damn the evil game designers! And this is using the guide, only about a fifth of the way through the game. Curse them... And do we have to see, every single bloody time she climbs something, a close-up of ass or chest? YES, we realise she's well-endowed, game-designers. Well done. Coupled with the guttural grunts as she climbs, its enough to make me lose my dinner.
Sorry about the long list, keep up the good work, guys ^^

My goodness, that is a long list, Alice. I think I'll leave LC to tackle the LoTR portion of your letter, since I am not nearly a worthy enough LoTR fan to do it justice. Should they ever make a game based on Bored of the Rings you can bet I'd so be there.

And wasn't the whole point of Kingdom Hearts about showcasing as many Disney/Squaresoft characters that Nomura possibly could? Oh, and belts. Lots and lots of belts.


Well, I hate to disappoint on the LotR expert front, but I've never touched even one of those games. It is disappointing, though, to hear about the lack of Boromir and Samwise, easily my two favorites of the Fellowship. And Legolas fighting martial-arts style? With high kicks and shit? Gee, they weren't looking to please the Leggy fangirls at all, now were they?

As for KH voice acting, I'm one of those people that will never, ever hear a bad word spoken about David Boreanaz, so I of course love Squally's voice. Sean Astin and Lance Bass as casting choices somewhat mystify me, though. What exactly about a boy band member screams "Bad-ass bishounen"? Oh well. I agree on your point about untouched Disney "worlds": I would have personally preferred a Jungle Book world to a Tarzan world. Bagheera owns all. And Shere Khan is WAY better than Sabor. Then again, we would have ended up with Mowgli or Baloo as playable characters, and I don't know if I could have taken that.


Too many companies try to pull off big profits like this.. Take one thing that's popular, and turn it into a game! Why not? Well for one, many of these companies know nothing about what people like, but they that it will sell as long as it has the oh-so-popular name of whatever the hell it's based on.

Do you remember the Noid? Oh, yes, that little rabbit-eared dude with the big face who like to break stuff. Domino's sure came up with an interesting idea, even if they were ripping off someone else's idea...

The Noid had a game. Like everything else, it was called "Avoid the Noid!" I can't remember how it was available, but I do remember that it was on the SNES. The entire object of the game was to get the pizza delivered while it was still hot, and your only obstacles were the Noids that would pop up here and there.

It was probably the worst, simplest, and most boring game I ever played. Did I say probably? I mean definately. The fact was that Domino's knew nothing about making a video game. They just did it because video games were popular, and they used an idea that was doing so well for them, it actually attracted to attention of the creators of its British counterpart. Heh.

Kebbam Sylrehy

Sadly, yes, I am old enough to remember the 'Noid campaign very vividly. A friend of mine in high school had a 'Noid doll hanging from a noose attached to his rearview mirror. As you may have guessed, my friend worked for Domino's. I also remember the game. I rank it right up there with the Addams Family games for sheer, unadulterated gamer torture.


Speaking of food mascot licenses, does anyone other than me remember the 7up Spot game for the NES? As I remember it was your average puzzle game, but with those little red spot dudes with sunglasses. Terrifying. It seems like the NES was more cursed with those sorts of titles than any other platform in history--perhaps because it was the only game in town.


Good time of day to you both. Been a while since I wrote... I think. Anyway, lots of real-life stuff has been happening, so I have good excuses. Be warned, there are minor spoilers in this letter concerning The Two Towers game.

I think the factors that make the average licensed game really awful is the same factor that makes most movie sequels (Toy Story 2 and X2 being exceptions) "teh suckage": none can compare to the original.

Let's take, for example, The Two Towers for PS2 and whatever other consoles you can stick it on. Now, I wasn't too pleased with the movie myself (not as much as with FotR, that is. TTT is still a very beautiful film taken from a non-reader standpoint), but the game is just... guh. I didn't like the graphics, the actual gameplay was slightly choppy and, at times, confusing. Not to mention having to watch the same level introductions fifty thousand times over with three different characters (two of which who are a gajillion-times cooler in the movie than the game) to completely defeat the game was a little, to put it bluntly, redundant.

The storyline managed to follow the movie's quite well... except not. Granted, you can't make EVERYTHING the exact same, but when I find myself in a random forest hacking at trolls that lob giant tree limbs at me and seem to have endless defensive powers, there's something horribly, horribly wrong.

What really kills me is the fact that the game starts at the entrance to Moria and proceeds from there up until the point when TTT ends. That, in and of itself, isn't aggravating; it's the fact that I had to go through Boromir's death. They taunted me by putting his face at the top of the screen with a little energy bar that slowly deteriorated. And the Horn of Gondor was honking away desperately during the whole ordeal. Incidentally, it's impossible to save him. I should know, since I tried thousands upon thousands of times. But I'm not pathetic or anything....

I love Lord of the Rings; I really do, but I think the franchise should stick with action figures and picture books or make an attempt to make their games somewhat recognizable.


Playing...Boromir's...death? Those BASTARDS.

Really, as far as I'm concerned the only LotR game worth playing is getting Aragorn and Boromir together in their very own Sims house. Shounen-ai wackiness ensues!


"Licensed" games.... these pieces of tripe make the latest version of any recent sport retreat game look good. I am ashamed to admit it, I broke down and bought a couple of these franchise games over the years and, fortunately, lived to regret it.....

Sorry, excuse me while I try to get this facial tic under control, it's frightening the cats.

Anyway, the first one I bought, and the very worst of all time, was the original Star Wars game for the Atari 5200. I mean, this console had some serious power for its day, and what do you get? A blank screen. With a few white dots that float around, evidently stars. Then, every so often, a wire-frame of a tower pokes up out of the darkness and shoots you before you can shoot back. Oh, I get it, the black at the bottom of the screen is the death star. See, there are no white dots down there. Pong had better graphics than this awful thing. George Lucas picked up his prize from the P.T. Barnum Sales Club (a gold plated sucker) and laughed all the way to the bank.

Then, in SNES days, I was fond of the Ranma 1/2 manga, so I picked up the Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle game. Gee, it was just an old street fighter game with the manga characters dropped into it. Oooooh. They must have spent all of four days creating this stinker. (Ewwwww... you don't want to know what mental picture that phrase just gave me....) Not to mention that it was hard. It is one of those games where if you fight the computer, it always wins because it doesn't make mistakes, and you will, eventually.

So I learned my lesson, and I avoid licensed games like the plague. Still, I see lots of people buying the latest 007 - The Man With the Golden Turkey games, and I've heard that the Spiderman game was actually playable and enjoyable, but none of that for me! I don't have enough time to finish all the great RPGs gathering dust on my shelves to waste time or money on one of these things. I am willing to bet that every time somebody shells out fifty bucks on a licensed game, a little bell rings up in heaven and P. T. Barnum laughs his holy arse off. But, hey, we're talking about a society in which some guy made millions back in the 70's selling Pet Rocks.

Drat, ever since mentioning that Star Wars game, I can't stop these convulsions&&&


CS, how many times to we have to remind you that sports games do not automatically = TEH S+00Pid? It's like saying that all fans of RPGs are single men with cats, don't you think? For me the worst derivative game had to be E.T. for the Atari 2600. My lord, that thing was a steaming pile of crap. So much so that most of the copies made are reposing out in the New Mexico desert, along with quite a few consoles. Ah, well, you know what they say. You can fool some of the gamers some of the time, the rest just spend for the rental.


CS, don't make us beat on you AGAIN for dissing the genre of sports games. As amazing as this may sound, people with more than two brain cells to rub together CAN in fact enjoy them, yours truly included. But that's neither here nor there.

I've played the Star Wars game you mentioned, but in the arcade, and I thought it was kinda cool in its own way. I don't think they were really going for a style at the time--it was just the best they could do, but I appreciated it. Very retro. Or something.


Ooh, finally, a subject that I can complain about! Um, hello, by the way.

Buffy the Frickin' Vampire Slayer.

Now, if that isn't the worst game of all time, I don't know what the heck is. The characters' faces make them look like Wakka escorted them to a blitzbong party, the martial arts are... Well, the less said about *them* the better, and Oh, My, God, who gave 'Buffy' license to kill sarcasm?! Well, here's news, Buffy baby. You killed it. Sarcasm is dead. I hope you're happy. With a line like, "Hi! I'm Buffy, and you're history!", she deserves to go. And the plot. Yes, well, what plot, may I ask? Train. Kill Vampires. Fight Spike. Kill Vampires. Fight Angel while wrestling with Buffy's badly acted feelings of regret. Oh, and then more vampire killing for good measure. I hope the First gets Buffy, and her little Slayerette's, too.

Pokemon Yellow - because someone decided Blue and Red just weren't full of enough cute animals saying their own names and killing each other.

I'm actually ashamed to admit that not only did I spit out ?40 for this game when it first came out, but I have also entirely completed it. Oh, the shame. Anyway, Pikachu ate too much for breakfast when they made this... Oh, wait, they just wanted him to fit into one pixel square-thing, instead of two, so he wouldn't be as big as Smashed... Er, Ash. Oh, fine, Nintendo, have it your way - Pikachu is prettyful and yay, even squashed up like a sardine. Oh, how goody, you get to play the Pokemon series, this time with a crabby little yellow mouse who got fired from British Power for drinking on the job. Feed him poitions, level him up, get the little wanker happy (or make him so crabby he shocks you on sight, like I did)... And of course, you gotta catch 'em all. Feel free to tear your own eyeballs out. Just don't give them to Nintendo, or Visioball, the laser eye Pokemon, will hit our shores by next year... (I bet this game only sold more than two copies because of the TV series. Hell, I'll bet the same thing about Pokemon Blue/Red.) Nintendo... they're the smartest people in the world. Which says nothing good about us.

Well, those are the two that I've played so far - and I won't be doing it again. Although, I've heard the Matrix is supposed to be passable. - But, then, that's probably the film's rep. talking. Snerk.

Anyway, I think what makes these games so utterly blowable (and yes, that came out so totally wrong) is that the makers are trying to make it just like playing the original. Unfortunately, it's like trying to make the same shade of paint twice - absolutely impossible, and the new copies never look as good.

Well, I've pratted on long enough.
(Love your recaps, by the way - sounds corny, but they really make my day!)

I've never had the "pleasure" of playing the Buffy game, and I'm very glad for that. The seventh season of the show was bad enough--I don't think I could take Bitter Bitchy Buffy in ugly polygon form. My deepest desire was for the First to kill the entire cast and for the producers to leave Angel the fuck alone. But nooooo, I'm stuck with GOOD NOBLE Spike whinging about his sooooooul on the better show, too. God hates me.

The sad thing about Pok?mon is, the Game Boy games are the least corrupted and most attractive of all the franchise has to offer. The anime has gone severely downhill, and the non-Game Boy games are rarely more than accessories to the GB games. (I loved Pok?mon Snap, but I got most of the Pok?mon, uh, snapped in a three-day rental.) Let's not even get into the money-sucking black hole that is the card game. The less I say about that, the better.

Glad you like the recaps. And believe me, when you're bored at work or school, a funny recap can really make your day (as Jeanne's did when I first discovered the site). Keep reading!


Your next mailbag, games based on movies, Anime etc.

Well, I'd have to say Pokewank Puzzle league. Yes Pokemon started as a game, but at the beginning, Oak tells Ash (More of a wanker than Tidus, and that's saying a lot.) that he's invited to a league. (This is in real anime by the way) I'm thinking, 'Okay he's invited to a league, so far so good. Nothing to smash yet.' When I find out the rules of the game, I literally lose control in my mind and turn in the Hulk. For pizza's sake Tracy's catch phrase is: "Ready to get kinned?"Ew, Ew, Ew! I don't know how it even works, or even if it's a league! Team Rocket has a spa (James is gay) and you have to "Fight them" Kill me! I just have to get enough points to go to the next level in this Tetris Rip-off. It does not even have a 4-player mode! It's as bad as Pokewank Stadium. Let me give you a few examples on how bad it is.

Bulbasaur (Ballbasaur) sounds like a cross between someone taking a dump and a dog biting and growling at a mailman. Not to mention the announcer's voice when it talks. Pokemon Blue for the Gameboy is cool, but when I try to think of a Pokewank to use on Pokewank Stadium, the announcer says, "What's the matter trainer?" Totally shattering my concentration. The final trainer for PS is Mewtwo. Is Nintendo trying to INSULT us! Let me tell you, the only reason they created more Poke- 'forget it' Pokemon games was because of the anime. I liked for a while, but I still thought Ash was a wanker. Don't get me wrong, Pokemon Red and Blue are the only Pokemon games that make sense at all.

In conclusion, All Pokewank games are full of wankers, the exceptions being Pokemon Red and Blue. (I have all 151 pokemon in fact!) I hope to have your feedback AG and LC, but please, do not email me! My email is not working, but I will continue to contribute. Good bye now.

Until next time...


The Oathkeeper Keyblade

P.S. I saw that Jeanne locked you in the closet with Tidus and Rinoa. Do you do your mailbags when they are asleep? Also, how can you evade them without turning into a total Wanker? ^_^ Sorry I couldn't resist!

Mr. Oathkeeper, I'm tempted to return your last question back to you and ask if you're on the "what not to do" portion of the Wanker Avoidance poster. As far as I'm concerned anyone who uses not just one, but two silly 'net-speak abbreviations in an email needs to be locked in a room while Progressive Auto Insurance commercials play on an endless tape loop. Then again, that kind of treatment would only further degrade your language skills as the JAT Mind Melt Ray? works its evil mojo. And I think W would raid my house for harboring a WMD. I just had that statue to my evil omnipotence put up this week, too. Dammit.


After you defeated Crawler, you saw scenes with Tidus and Auron. What's strange is: I saw scenes with Rikku on my first game, and on the 3rd game I'm playing, I saw scenes with Kimahri. No. Not that kind of scene, in case there are perverts reading this (if it makes the mailabg). Rikku is talking about how mean Wakka is, and how Tidus is nice, when Kimahri is talking about how Ronso's take shit from Yevon, but he isn't like those Ronsos.

Is there a way to write to Sqauresoft? Cuz I don't get it

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. We don't get why you continue to confuse us with GameFAQs. If you want to write Squaresoft, a few seconds of your time would be all that is required to find their website on a Google search. And now that we've given you what you seek, please do us all a favor and look up a clue.

-AG and LC

Thanks to everyone for reading and writing in! We have a few more off-topic letters to print, but we'll get to them next time.

Speaking of next time, we're going to do something a little bit different. Instead of writing letters to us, we'd like you to respond to the poll questions below. For the next mailbag we'll clear out our inboxes and then discuss the results (read as: we'll make fun of those who disagree with us). So here are the questions, and we'll see you in the next mailbag!

- AG and Lita-chan

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