Tuesday Top Ten: Irritating Collections in Video Games


It’s that time again, friends—time for another Tuesday Top Ten!  Every week, we go through the top ten something-or-anothers related to our hobby, and this week is no different.  Relating to yesterday’s thoughts on collecting things in video games, today, we’re going to count down the top ten irritating collections in video games.

As I confessed yesterday, I don’t much care for hunting all over and peeking in the oddest corners for collectibles.  I like that it’s there for gamers, but I generally don’t like the break in the “flow” the act of hunting all over necessitates, or how ill-fitting the concept usually is to the plot and character.

Now, that said, there are some that are irksome no matter what one thinks of the concept in general.  There are some that are anywhere from merely something we sigh softly and grit our teeth at, and then there are others that make us re-think even playing the game.  It’s this latter category that we’re going to run through today.

10. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War: Falken Parts Hangars
The Ace Combat series, above all else, has been a mostly fantastic flight-simulation series.  The physics definitely tend toward the arcade-y end of the spectrum, but it doesn’t feel arcade-y.  Plus, the stories have usually been deep and engaging, telling a story of loss and determination, duty versus desire.

In Ace Combat 5, you can get an extremely powerful aircraft, reminiscent of most video games, period, where you can finagle your way into getting some incredibly powerful item or another.  How you do it, here, is by destroying five specific hangars.  That doesn’t sound too bad, really.

The problem is that some are incredibly out of the way, with there being little reason for the player to be out there in the first place.  Then you have the fact that there are a lot of hangars in the game, and it’s sometimes easy to miss the confirmation (you’ll get a report from your A.W.A.C.S. saying that they found parts and will retrieve them later)—so easy, in fact, that the player can become used to it, and thus be unable to be sure if there was a hangar in the level they just decimated or not.

09. The Godfather: The Game: Execution Styles
The Godfather: The Game offered the player quite a lot—a large world that looked believable, a compelling story that blended the plot from the film and a new one made for the game rather well, and combat that was easy to get into but also brought as much tactical complexity as the player wanted with it.  That complexity in the combat was actually a double-edged sword.  If you didn’t care about getting achievements, then it wouldn’t have affected you, but for the completionist, getting achievements for every execution style would be daunting—if not mind-numbing.

For example, there’s one where you get an enemy killed by having him be run into by a pedestrian vehicle.  So far, so good—except that enemy gangsters only count, not civilians.  Plus, they have enough health to survive being run into unless you whittle their health down a fair amount, first.  You can’t toss them into the car, and it’s all too easy to toss them too far, too soon (so they get out of the way), or too late (so they hit the car).  That the pedestrian vehicles stop at the slightest provocation doesn’t help.  Lastly, if you don’t get it before you rule the city—and thus have next to no enemy gangsters around to pick on—the frustration gets cranked up quite a bit.

If it were a case of one or two Styles being so obnoxious, that’d be one thing—but most of them were difficult to some degree, and a good amount were this insane.  That made it, at times, more frustrating than anything else to try and figure out how to pull them off.

08. Spider-Man 2: Tokens
Though it came with more glitches than we usually expect, Spider-Man 2 was a fantastic game, especially with the web-swinging mechanics, the likes of which haven’t been seen since.  One of the few real downsides, though—the tokens.

You had four different kinds—Buoy Tokens, which hovered above buoys strung around Manhattan and Roosevelt Island; Hideout Tokens, which could be found in around a third of the gang hideouts strewn around the city; Skyscraper Tokens, which were hidden on skyscrapers; and Secret Tokens, which were hidden wherever the developers felt like it.

The only ones that weren’t obnoxious were the Hideout Tokens, as long as the player was even half-decent at the combat.  As for the rest, well—getting to most buoys was fine, but there were more than a few that required unhealthy doses of luck and/or precision swinging around things like sailboats.  Some of the Skyscraper Tokens were, first, on buildings that could only be called a skyscraper technically, (including buildings half as tall as their neighbors without tokens), and were usually hidden near or under an out-of-the-way corner or over-hang that the player would race past often during the normal course of play without realizing there’s a token there.

The worst, though, were the secret ones.  The developers seemed to go out of their way to figure out where to put some that truly tested Spider-Man’s abilities—and gamers’ patience.  Some were tucked into places the player would never think to check, or obnoxiously difficult to get to—and, often, both.  It made trying to get them all a frustrating exercise in mental pain-tolerance.

07. Final Fantasy VII: Turtle’s Paradise Fliers
Ah, Final Fantasy VII.  It was a sensation; it helped reshape our hobby with effects still felt to this day, and spawned the first financially successful film.  It’s also seen numerous sequels and spin-offs, most of which were positively eaten right up by gamers.  Like in nearly every other entry in the Final Fantasy series, there were plenty of things in Final Fantasy VII that could be frustrating.

What made collecting the six Turtle’s Paradise fliers irritating was how easily-missed one was, especially because they were spread out over a huge game world, yet further, for all that effort, you didn’t get much of a reward.  You get items that boosted stat points, though they didn’t make much of a tangible difference, and a Megalixir, which fully restored a character’s health and magic—but they weren’t exactly uncommon in the game.

For as unimportant as the reward was, collecting all six fliers was rather difficult, making using a guide almost a necessity (though, in fairness, so did much of the rest of the game).

06. Need for Speed: Carbon: Reward Cards
The Need for Speed series is pretty much the undisputed leader of the racing genre, with each title offering more cars, larger game worlds, and, well, more speed.  Need for Speed: Carbon offered all of these things, too, after you unlocked them.

Special cars and car parts were unlocked through Reward Cards; there were twenty-five of them, each comprised of four parts.  You had to do things like win X number of races in Career Mode, cross the finish line in a Sprint race backward, get to a high level of on-line “experience”, win X number of games on-line, and so on.

What made it obnoxious is that not everyone had their console on-line, but more than that—some of the races were incredibly difficult on their own, yet it asked you to win X times, sometimes in a row.  The races could already be a rather frustrating aspect f the game, and it was basically asking you to “suck it up”.

05. Ōkami: Stray Beads
Ōkami offered what few other games did.  Sure, like others, it offered a large, open world, and there were numerous side-quests and such.  Also like others, you could gain specific weapons relevant to your play style, so you didn’t have to hang back if you were a more in-your-face combatant, or vice-versa.  One thing it did differently, though, was offer a truly Japanese story.  Oh, plenty of other games had their stories translated from Japanese, but this was the first truly Japan-specific story.  Where others had Japanese themes in their tales of post-apocalyptic culture, in love and loss—this was the first about Japan.

Also like other games, there were things to collect.  Some, called Treasures, were for nothing more than selling.  Another collectible, however, the Stray Beads—an exercise in frustration.  There are one hundred to collect, which require everything from pin-point platforming skills, developer-like knowledge of where to go, or incredibly fantastic luck.  Sometimes all three.

You could play through the game numerous times, and the amount of stray beads you collected would carry over—but if you can’t get to a spot, you can’t get to it.  If you don’t know that there is one rock wall out of a dozen others that’s breakable where the others aren’t, then you don’t know.  The embodiment of Guide Dang It, really.

04. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball: Swimsuits
When someone unfamiliar with the franchise watches pretty much any bit of it, it’s understandable that they’d think this was a series solely devoted to certain male stereotypes.  It might not even be immediately believed that a lot of gamers, of either sex, play the titles for their complex fighting mechanics, or the usually interesting, often tongue-in-cheek nature of the combatants’ back-stories.

Where the argument is really difficult to make is Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.  Girls parading around in all sorts of swimsuits, playing volleyball, with ways to basically have them show off their—suit.  I admit to enjoying the heck out of the game, because the volleyball is deceptively complex.  It seems shallow at first, but the more one plays, the more one discovers that the volleyball in this game was given about the same attention as combat in other games.

That said, it does appeal to “collect everything possible!” mentality that most of us gamers have, as conditioned as we’ve been by characters like Sonic, who has to collect rings to survive.  the primary collectible in Xtreme is the swimsuits.  Of course, it’s not as easy as just buying every one possible.  The store only has the “theme” for the girl you’re playing, and even then it doesn’t have them all at one time.  Sometimes you’ll only see a swimsuit available for one day, and you’re there for fourteen.

Then you get into trying to give swimsuits to other girls.  The date-sim-like mechanics at work are incredibly frustrating, since you won’t be quite sure if the other girl likes you enough to take your gift—and getting her to like you enough in the first place is insane.  It made an already tedious process mind-numbing.

03. Chrono Cross: Forty-Five Playable Characters
Chrono Trigger was insanely popular—it featured an interest cast of characters and a tweaked leveling system, but more importantly, an interesting story that saw the player travel through time itself.  Both the original Super Nintendo version and the later Nintendo D.S. port remain popular to this day.  It was almost a no-brainer that a sequel would come about.

Chrono Cross debuted to mixed reactions—an insanely large number of playable characters, the originals nowhere to be found, and only Hironobu Sakaguchi from the original development team worked on it.  It eventually won players and critics alike over, and these days it’s more popular than its predecessor.

The large number of characters, while interesting and providing for a plethora of intriguing stories to be woven into the over all narrative, also proved to be a good bit, well—nuts.  Besides the expected aspect of needing a guide to figure out how to get some of them, by the way the game is set up, it’s impossible to get them all on one play-through.  Even assuming the player knew what to do and when to do it, it required, at minimum, three full play-throughs, to find every playable character.  Being an older R.P.G., it’s not exactly a short game, so there are plenty of players who, even now, still haven’t gotten them all.

02. Donkey Kong 64: Pretty Much the Whole Game
For a while, there, in the mid-‘Nineties, there was almost a whole new sub-genre to video games.  Dubbed by some as “collectathon”, many platformers were heading to where the entire point of the game was grabbing as many things as possible.  An earlier, famous example would be Sonic the Hedgehog and his rings.  This sub-genre didn’t really have the chance to become full-fledged, however—thanks to Donkey Kong 64.

You had to collect golden bananas with the help of a few other playable characters with their own special abilities—but you also had faeries to take pictures of, regular bananas, medals, coins, blueprint pieces and more.  Naturally, few of the things were all that easy to grab.  It was a collectathon-overdose even for gamers who enjoyed the heck out of the concept.

Interestingly, collection-focused games after this wisely toned it the heck down.

01. Pokémon: The Entire Freaking Franchise
Where to begin?  There’s a non-legendary creature in a place the player will only visit once, in a very much out-of-the-way spot the player wouldn’t think to go to, where the encounter rate is one percent.  And the creature has more common stats, making all that work for nothing more than bragging rights.

Then there’s one that you can only encounter in a certain body of water—on a specific pixel.

Then there are the ones hidden in caves, the entrances to which are sealed.  You can open them—if you read Braille.  And if you have two specific Pokémon in two specific slots.  After that and a few more steps, you get to battle stupidly powerful creatures.

The list goes on and on and on—and these examples are from the more recent titles.  The entire series has been rife with it, including things like needing other players with their own copy of the game to trade for it (so good luck on that after it falls out of popularity for a newer title), and then there’s this Pokémon being lost forever if you don’t have the right version of that Pokémon.

As each generation of consoles and computers allows for more complex games, this kind of thing is only going to get even more insane—and gamers will still continue to line up around the block for it.

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