Ending on a Low Note - Apozem Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Ending on a Low Note

Too many games seem similar. This one's a shooter. This one's a platformer. This one's an action-adventure game. They all blend together. 

I wanted a unique experience when I picked up 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. It's an adventure game for DS centering on 9 strangers trapped aboard a sinking ship with only 9 hours to solve deadly puzzles and escape. 

The plot makes 999 instantly fascinating. Who are these people? Why are they trapped aboard the ship? How can they escape? 

I had to know the answers. Few things bug me as much as a secret I can't know. I was going to find the answer, and not from a walkthrough. I had to beat this game in every sense. 

So I played. I solved each puzzle as it came up and made careful decisions. The story pulled me along, dropping obscure hints and strange clues. What did it all mean? 

Finally, I got to the end. The characters walked into the final room, and... nothing. The plot ended abruptly, leaving me only with "To be continued" on the screen. There was no conclusion, no wrap-up, and no payoff. 

Apparently I had made the wrong choices. In order to get the real ending, you have to get one specific bad ending, then play the game again to get the real ending. I hadn't done that, to my frustration. 

First of all, really? What kind of game makes you play it twice to see the real conclusion? Why would you do that? It's asinine. It arbitrarily lengthens the game and cheapens the experience. How is the player supposed to know which bad ending to pick without looking up a walkthrough? 

Okay, fine. I restarted the game and played it again. This time, I cheated and used a walkthrough to find out which path I had to take to get the wrong ending so I could play the game a third time to get the right ending. Seriously. 

The second playthrough was better. It revealed some of the secrets of what happened, and explained things. That ending was still a bad one, though, so I had to play it again.

Finally, I got to the real ending... and it disappointed me. 

999 mandates two playthroughs at minimum and spends the entire game dropping obscure hints trying to justify some paranormal bull excrement that ends up being critical to the plot, a plot which doesn't even make sense. 

There are so many plotholes in this game. The timeline of events looks like a piece of abstract art covered by projectile vomiting, it's so messy. 

When you think you understand what's going on, the game ends on a ludicrous cliffhanger. There's no explanation, no reason, and no sense. It's like 999 wants to be clever without understanding that cleverness requires coherency. 

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the game. It's interesting to watch the events unfold, and the whole premise is riveting. Think Saw, but with characters and plot and less gore. 

It's just... the ending of the game soured my experience. I feel let down and misled. The developers made me an implicit promise of a good plot with that beginning, and they failed to deliver. 

That got me thinking- how much can an ending affect your perspective of a game? 

The obvious example is Mass Effect 3. Despite excellent gameplay and story, fans panned it for the deus ex machina cop-out of an ending. After that smack in the face, nobody wanted to talk about how cool ME3's multiplayer was. The ending ruined it for some people. 

We humans need a good ending in order to really appreciate something. When a story ends on a low note, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. You keep thinking about the poor finish despite anything else that went right. 

It's a real shame. I enjoyed 999 and Mass Effect 3 as compelling experiences, but their endings make it hard for me to recommend them wholeheartedly. Both lead on the audience and promise a better story than they deliver. 

The ending really is one of the most important parts of the game to me. Dead Space, Mass Effect, and Halo 1 stand out in my mind for their excellent finales. They go out with a bang, leaving the player impressed. That's how a game story should work. Ultimately, if a game can't pull off a good ending, then what good is it?

I'm trying to think of some other games that dropped the ball within sight of the finish. What are some good games with bad endings? 

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