I recently complained about people complaining about games that were too good at being games and not being other things; such as movies. Somewhere along the way, people came to expand grand sweeping storylines with their video games, or tons of tacked on additional modes, no matter how irrelevant they were to the core gaming experience. This is a complaint I’ve had with modern gamers for a long time now (I feel it was a mindset ushered in with Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid on the Sony Playstation.)
But can a game be enjoyed for its additional aspects (storyline, music, etc.) despite the game itself being lacking? A couple of months ago I played through Brütal Legend on the PS3. The game was not exactly well-received by gamers and critics, with most criticizing the fact that despite its outward appearance and promotion touting it as a Zelda-like adventure game there was an unexpected emphasis on an almost RTS-like battle system. In the end, the adventure aspects were disappointingly under-developed; while there is a benefit to exploration one of the core aspects of a Zelda game–where powers acquired later in the game open up exploration of earlier parts–was largely missing. Additionally, half of the epic battles took place during what was essentially an extended training sequence as you were collecting new units along the way. In the end, the game lacked any real focus in terms of gameplay; it did two mediocre play styles (although one was somewhat unique) rather than at least one excellent one.
But I enjoyed playing it. The game is a love letter to heavy metal music tropes. The voice acting was fantastic. The art style was eye catching and imaginative. The soundtrack was extensive and effective.
In the end, the game excelled at everything except being a video game.
Double Dragon Neon is a great beat ’em up, but the music is oddly effective and its humor is spot-on, especially the villain, Skullmageddon. So even if you weren’t enthralled with the straight up combat, would it be acceptable to like the game for its other aspects? Can that be a thing? Would people accept a review that came down to: “The game sucked balls but everything else about it was fantastic so it warrants a purchase.”
Could a game find mass acceptance (Brütal Legend didn’t, sales wise) despite not doing anything well? A sort of gaming equivalent of the movie The Room where people support incompetence for the sake of irony or even genuinely?