Hitting an Anti Climax; Five Nintendo Games that failed to reach their potential

A good finale can mean everything for a title. In many of the best Nintendo games out, like the Galaxy games, Ocarina of Time and various others, one of the best parts of the whole adventure is the final world, boss and ending. The climactic build up as you storm the villain’s fortress, when everything in the story falls into place, when you fight the main antagonist while some epic Latin chanting goes on in the background alongside a medley of every piece of music in the game.

But in some Nintendo games, the finales aren’t that great. Maybe the company was rushed and wanted the game out before christmas, so a huge chunk of the final section of the game was cut for time. Maybe it fell back on old habits and the story become just another generic Mario or Zelda plot with Bowser or Ganon up to their old tricks again. Maybe the secret world is lacking in content and doesn’t build up to a second finale/conclusion. These are five Nintendo games that failed to reach their potential, that had a disappointing finale.

1. The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker

Where it went wrong: The Triforce Piece Collecting quest

Because to put it simply, the game past this point feels like it was thrown together in a matter of days rather than carefully thought out and made to any coherent plan. Whereas before you were exploring dungeons and helping minor NPCs become sages to restore power to the Master Sword, from this point on it feels like the game has lost all sense of direction.

The best explanation for this was simple, the developers ran out of time, cut two or three whole dungeons and numerous pieces of the story and tried desperately to finish the game with whatever filler they could find to round it all off.

‘First of all in terms of time for completion we had to delete two stages, which included some dungeons. Yet, of course, the volume is big enough, but we had to delete some elements we were originally going to incorporate in the game.’

I mean, none of the side areas where the triforce charts were found were ‘bad’ in any shape or form, it’s just that they quite clearly were not meant to contain these charts. The multi enemy gauntlets were probably meant to just be side areas, the equivalent of Ocarina of Time’s grottoes complete with an unimportant treasure map located inside as a reward.

And the likes of Ice Ring Isle were very, very clearly meant to have a dungeon based there. I mean, why would Nintendo introduce a whole bunch of ice related stuff like slides, ice physics, freezing, frozen treasure chests and enemies, etc and then completely disregard it for the rest of the game? Usually a minor area with a single item in isn’t seen as important enough to add whole resources to.

Heck, that giant statue head seems a bit ominous and a bit too fancy for something merely meant to mark a single piece of equipment, doesn’t it?

That ominous looking head to guard a single item?  Seems a bit suspicious…

Other signs the game wasn’t quite finished include how dull and linear ‘Hyrule’ was in the game, just the castle and temple, and a straight road leading to Ganon’s Tower. Also of interest, much of the land outside the path is actually solid and can be walked on if you somehow get there with glitches or hacking, and you can see quite a few far off doors and passageways in the distance that may well have been intended to be more ways to get around. There’s also hints Hyrule Castle and Ganon’s Tower were originally much bigger, more content filled areas in the past.

What’s this secret door and ramp for?  Were you meant to originally explore the area as a dungeon?

Not to mention that Ganon’s Tower is basically a whole bunch of challenges based on earlier dungeons followed by a maze of about 50 identical rooms. The fights with Puppet Ganon and Ganondorf himself are good, and the concept of refighting the bosses in black and white with only what you had at the time was clever, but Ganon’s Tower sure wasn’t the most interesting dungeon in the world layout wise.

All in all, the Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker is a game that badly suffers from being unfinished and rushed to completion due to complaints it was taking too long. Whole interesting areas and sections were cut out at the last minute, and what replaced them was pretty much just pointless filler.

2. Super Mario Sunshine

Where it went wrong: The point when Shadow Mario was revealed to be Bowser Jr

That’s nothing to do with Bowser Jr being a ‘bad’ character or replacing the Koopalings either. What the problem came down to was that the plot just completely became irrelevant, the game became just a standard ‘save the princess’ story.

Think of it like the Gamecube era equivalent of when Ganondorf was revealed to be the mastermind behind Twilight Princess and Zant a powerless puppet. Or like how in the later Mega Man games on NES it turned out that Dr Cossack/ProtoMan/Mr X was controlled by/alter egos of Dr Wily.

And true to form, after the Pinna Park reveal the storyline basically vanishes altogether. Oh sure every seventh mission has Shadow Mario involved and the secret ‘levels’ have him steal FLUDD beforehand, but generally the storyline from here doesn’t have a whole lot to it.

Why does Shadow Mario even appear after that?  Is he just bored?

The second point where it falls apart is basically at Corona Mountain. The level just feels half complete and rushed compared to all the more interesting locales you explored area and the boss battle afterwards was just plain disappointing. It’s a shame considering how fantastic most of the other island locations were that we never got a final level with nearly as solid level design rather than a linear series of deathtraps, and the game suffers immensely for it.

Because that’s all Corona Mountain is, a straight line filled with traps and tricky platforming found very rarely in the rest of the game. There’s no exploration, there’s no charm or character to the place and it’s nowhere near as interesting as the likes of Bowser in the Sky or Bowser’s Galaxy Reactor/Generator from the other 3D games. Compare:

Corona Mountain:

Bowser in the Sky:

Bowser’s Galaxy Reactor/Fate of the Universe:

Now, obviously the stakes are a bit lower in Super Mario Sunshine, you’re not exactly saving all of existance here. But it still doesn’t excuse a rather poorly designed finale which doesn’t really follow the rest of the game. It also doesn’t really excuse the fact any interesting story or setup completely vanishes at the halfway point, almost as if Miyamoto upended the tea table at Pinna Park and complained it was too confusing or something.

Really though, Mario Sunshine just suffers from feeling a bit unfinished and a bit like two distinct games were bolted together at about the halfway point.

3. The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess

Where it went wrong: Ganon’s introduction/presence in the story

But unlike the other games listed here, the problem isn’t an obvious one down to lack of content or time. No, what goes wrong is that when Ganon is introduced, the story basically becomes ‘yet another Zelda game’.

That’s not to say it’s a bad game, but you have to admit the whole twilight realm, wolf Link, etc thing just got less and less relevant as the game went on. Was this a good thing? Perhaps for some people, for those who hated the standard Zelda game gimmicks and wanted Ocarina of Time 2.0, the increasing lack of story and disjointed feel of the second half of the game must have felt like a god send.

But for anyone who wanted a new story, the reveal kind of shot it all to hell. Zant became a joke with nearly no relevance to the scenario, the twilight stuff fell into the background and even the well designed dungeons could have literally been in any game in the series, they have no reason to even be in this particular title. Not to mention when Link does get to the twilight realm, it’s simply one dungeon with a couple of new enemies and a boss battle. What could have been an interesting parallel world or a new step for the series became a single dungeon, kind of like Hyrule in The Wind Waker.

So at least story wise, Twilight Princess kind of fell apart about the halfway point with Ganon being revealed as the man behind the man and the whole theme of the game slowly becoming irrelevant.

4. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Where it went wrong: Either World S or the Green Stars

Now to be honest, Super Mario Galaxy 2 had quite a lot of problems, notably a lack of content and a ridiculous amount of sidequests and bonus missions to make up for it. But even for this game, there were two points where the game kind of went downhill.

The first is world S. The idea of a super secret final world with lots of hard levels is a good idea and all, but the one in Galaxy 2 wasn’t well thought out at all. For the whole world, you had literally three original levels, the Rolling Coaster Galaxy, the Flip-Out Galaxy and the Grandmaster Galaxy.

All others? Levels taken from other games. Like that secret level taken straight from Mario Sunshine. The Mario Squared Galaxy, which was basically Luigi’s Purple Coins the level, the Stone Cyclone Galaxy which was basically a single planet taken from the first game and made into a ‘level’.

The laziest excuse for a level in the whole series.

Oh, and the Boss Blitz Galaxy, some bosses from the first game complete with the same planets used for their arenas. Nice enough idea, but it’s hardly the most difficult thing to construct, is it?

But at least this is some content. The Green Stars aren’t even that, they’re just randomly placed in all the galaxies in the game. Some are placed in clever/hard to reach spots, I’ll give the designers that, but most seem to be in obvious locations you can reach extremely easily, or even right next to the normal Power Star.

All these green stars in the Battle Belt Galaxy are on top of identical shields.

It’s technically better than beating everything again as Luigi, but it still feels much like random padding to increase game time before the Grandmaster Galaxy is unlocked.

And while the Grandmaster Galaxy is a decent enough endgame, the bit from after the final boss up to it being unlocked really aren’t as good as the rest of the game is, and feel very much like they were added purely to add hours to the time played.

5. Donkey Kong Country Returns

Where it went wrong: At the Golden Temple

That’s not to say the Golden Temple was a bad level. No, the concept was pretty clever and the level was designed well, but for a lost world/true finale, it really didn’t feel too much like a reward. For starters, just one level?

What we got in the game.

What we were meant to get in the Golden Temple.

Nothing like in Donkey Kong Country 2/3/Land 2/Land 3 where you got a whole world of extra levels to explore, a new final boss and a new ending? That’s kind of disappointing, especially considering all the fantastic ideas and concepts that were shown in the unused concept artwork. Like the Mario styled levels, the Virtual Boy styled level or the rollercoaster type stage. It seems like they had tons of ideas for what could have been a lost world to remember, then scrapped everything except the floating food land idea.

The reward wasn’t much cop either. Oh yay, you get to replay everything except mirrored, and one hit kills you! That’s less a reward as much as being brought out of the frying pan and into the fire. Imagine how much it’d suck if the real world worked like that. Hey, you’ve just succeeded and made your dreams come true! Now do it all again except backwards and where one hit kills you! Have fun!

It’s not the worst secret final level in history, but compare it to the Lost World or Krematoa, and it really doesn’t compare.

Yeah, the food based land in the sky is good, but it should have been merely one level out of a whole secret world, not the whole secret world all by itself.

As you can see, quite a few Nintendo games have disappointing finales that didn’t quite live up to the high quality of the rest of the game.  What other games do you think ended on a bit of a low note?


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