Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Well, I Don't Know What I Expected

Every bloody online review that I read mentions being able to use stop signs as shields. I don't think any of these people have actually played the game. As far as I can tell, this occurs only on the cover. I have yet to find any shield--stop sign or otherwise--in the game, and the manual doesn't even mention shields.

Fair warning: this is a light one. I'm still trying to find enough automobile or boat parts to win Scavengers of the Mutant World, and I won't have much to post until I do. If it drags on much longer, I'll start Sentinel Worlds.

I thought every famous TV clip was posted to YouTube, but I guess the producers of Arrested Development have issues with that, because I couldn't find the clip I really wanted to lead this post with. (You can get it on bootleg sites, but that would likely cause me a bunch of hassles.) In it, Michael opens up his refrigerator and finds a bag with "Dead Dove. Do not eat!" written on the outside. Curious, he opens it up, looks inside, grimaces, and says, completely deadpan: "Well, I don't know what I expected." calls this trope "Exactly What It Says in the Tin." The entry leads off with a great quote from Roger Ebert:

Moviegoers who knowingly buy a ticket for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor are going to get exactly what they expect: There is a mummy, a tomb, a dragon, and an emperor. And the move about them is all that it could be.

Other famous examples are, of course, Snakes on a Plane, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and my favorite, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.

They have a few entries for video games, but the best possible example--Scavengers of the Mutant World--isn't one of them. This is an outrage, really. You don't get any more literal than that: in the game, you play a bunch of scavengers, who--and this comes as no surprise--live in a mutant world. It doesn't try to fool you like, oh, Star Command. What the hell is that about? Do you get to boss Bruce Willis around? Are you the head of a public works team on Hollywood Boulevard? Do you utter lines like, "Evacuate?! In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances"? Ultima? Isn't that a Nissan model? Phantasie--oh, that helps. You jackasses can't even spell it right. But this game: It's set in a mutant world. You scavenge. Don't like the sound of it? Don't buy the goddamned game.

I could go through the list and identify games that are good examples of this trope (Rogue Clone is particularly notable), but I was actually more interested in the opposite: games that have utterly baffling or inappropriate names. Here's a sample:

  • Baldur's Gate II: Sure, it's a sequel to Baldur's Gate, but it doesn't take place anywhere near the city of that name.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Arena is notable for not having an arena, nor having anything to do with an arena (not to mention any scrolls). The story, apparently, is that the game was supposed to be about gladiatorial combat but it changed in the development stage. No one told the marketing department.

The cover even has a bunch of warriors in an arena. I'd like to see someone try to battle in that outfit, incidentally.

  • Pool of Radiance: As I noted in my review, the eponymous pool is never well-explained and really plays no role in the game. As in Arena, one senses changes between concept and execution.
  • NetHack: Doesn't it sound like a game about, I don't know, hacking? Over a network? Yes, I understand the history of the name, but that doesn't make it any more sensible.
  • Neverwinter Nights: The first word has no problem--it's definitely set in the city of Neverwinter. The problem is the overall title, which sounds like it's suggesting you get to explore the seamy underbelly of Neverwinter when the sun goes down. Instead, the city is in the grip of a plague, and there's nothing special about the night
  • Faery Tale Aventure: Book I. Awfully cocky, weren't you?

Yeah, so I didn't really have a lot of time tonight. What are some of your favorites in either category?


  1. I usually have to ask: Are you talking about the original Neverwinter Nights (SSI, 1991) or the better known newer Neverwinter Nights (Bioware, 2002) ?

  2. It's hard to judge things by their name that's for sure. Even when the name matches what is in the game you don't know that going into it. Which makes it all the more funny when it turns out to be what was said on the label.

    I've judged trying games by how interesting their names are before. Then in a fit of boredom gone back and tried them and found out they are not as bad as their name made them sound. I've also tried games that had really nice names and ended up being garbage.

    Do you feel cheated that you can not equip stop sign shields? I think that would have been an interesting addition to the game (not meaningful but original at least). That goes to show you how misleading official art can be for games (especially back then). That TES: Arena picture goes a long way in selling the game without having much to do with it. Far better than the name ;)

  3. I think it's interesting that they registered the title as a trademark. I mean - they thought Scavengers of the Mutant World was going to be a some kind of major hit / product identity / franchise or something.

    I guess they were kinda new at it, still, having only had a couple of Star Fleet games before that. Maybe they were wildly optimistic, couldn't tell their baby was ugly, or they had some biz guy running the show who didn't think copyrighting was ever going to be good enough.

  4. Next one is Sentinel Worlds?? Man I can't wait for that! SWFM is one of my all time favorites, don't spoil that one! ;)

  5. Here are a couple recent ones I've come across - not necessarily from the RPG list - that are exactly as they sound, both from Atlus:

    -3D Dot Game Heroes ... a Zelda homage (and thus a weird action/adventure/RPG hybrid) which is a game, featuring heroes, in 3D, with lots of dots everywhere.

    -Demon's Souls ... an action/RPG game about, guess what: collecting the souls of demons.

    As for ones not even remotely descriptive, I'd choose:

    -Any of the Resident Evil games. What is so "resident" about it, anyway? And is it really that evil to have a virus-induced biological imperative to eat slightly more carnivorously than usual?

    -Castlevania, any of them. That word appears, as far as I recall, approximately never. The only one that gets some credit is "Symphony of the Night," which indeed has a marvelous soundtrack, thus fulfilling the symphonic requirement, and does in fact seem to take place entirely over one night.

    -Virtua Fighter, the later ones. I'm pretty sure they're fighting for real now that the wire-frame polygonal look is long gone.

    Actually, I can think of quite a few that don't make sense...

    1. Resident Evil, they got that name because Capcom couldn't trademark Biohazard outside of Japan. Also the first game is about EVIL experiments happening in a RESIDENCE. The name is perfectly cromulant.

      Similarly, it might not appear in game, but certainly the early manuals for Castlevania make it clear that it's the name of Dracula's castle, which is where the game is set. Again, these are mostly known by other names in Japan, usually something with Dracula in the title.

  6. Let's see games with accurate names.

    Gratuitous Space Battles- exactly the game it claims.
    Minecraft- you do two things, not hard to guess what they are.

    Games with terrible nonsensical names

    Dragon Age- there is a dissapointing lack of actual dragons in the game. One real dragon, that is entirely optional/ easily missed.

    Mass Effect- what does that even mean?

    Legend of Zelda- lies! Legend of Link would be more true.

    Final Fantasy- descriptive huh. They are neither final, nor exclusively fantasy. Later ones draw a lot from sci-fi and steampunk.

    Eh I'll add more when I think of them.

    1. Ironically, the "legend of Zelda" is explained in the second game, titled "The Adventure of Link."

    2. About Mass Effect, the trilogy originally was meant to revolve around the mass relays whose use creates dark energy. That was meant to be called the "Mass Effect". Only after game 1 did they choose to turn it into a more ordinary space opera. There are some internet sources about this (explaining the somewhat disappointing end of part 3).

    3. I'm four years late to correct, but Dragon Age has at least 2 major dragons (both skippable, but I wouldn't call them "easily" missed), many required smaller drakes and dragonlings, and that's not counting the Big Bad which is really a demon but looks like a dragon. They also have explanatory text as to how ages come and go, and this one is named for dragons. Still not an all-dragon-slayer game, but not completely missing, either.

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  8. I disagree about Castlevania: Reading it as a mash-up of 'castle' and 'Transsylvania', it's actually pretty descriptive.

    Very good examples of 'name on the tin' would be one-world titles like Pirates! or Thief, I guess.

  9. Anon, I'd guess you haven't played Mass Effect? The term is explained early on, and it's integral to the games' setting. The backstory is that a substance called "element zero" was discovered which can be used to generate a "mass effect field" which can raise or lower the mass of objects within it. In the game this enables, among other things, faster-than-light travel, and thus has a radical effect on galactic society. The More You Know.

  10. Games that are aptly named:

    Starflight - You have a spaceship. You fly in space with the stars.

    Treasure Island (Windham classics) - Though it's based on a book with an accurate name I belive it still applies. There's an island with treasure on it.

    Autoduel - You have a car and you battle other cars.

    King's Quest - There is a king who gives you a quest.

    Quest for Glory - You are questing for glory :)

    Space Quest: Chapter 1 The Saurian Encouter - Once again, there's a quest, it's in space this time and you encounter Saurians. Oh and it was just the first chapter.

    Leisure Suit Larry - There's this dude with a leisure suit and his name is Larry. A biography of sorts about his life.

    Din's Curse - There's a god named Din who has cursed you.

    Delve Deeper - You have a dwarf party and your mission is to delve as deep as you can in search of riches.

    Dead Rising 1 & 2 - The dead are rising and out for blood.

    Frayed Knights - There's a party of adventurers who by all accounts aren't the most heroic, but they are knights of a sort and they're frayed at the edges.

    Dungeons of Dredmor - There's this dude called Dredmor who has a dungeon with 10 levels to it.

    Dungeon Keeper - You are the Keeper who has a dungeon and must keep it. The title works on so many levels :)

    Dungeons - It's a game about making dungeons.

    That is just to name a few. I could literally go on for days.

    Now for the most messed up title of all time. An absolutely great game with the dumbest title that makes absolutely no sense: DIVINE DIVINITY

    1. As a fan of the game, you should have researched its history to understand why the name is so dumb--the game name was censored(!) by the American publisher. Its original title, which I always installed it as of course, was "Divinity: The Sword of Lies," but apparently putting "divinity" and "lies" in the same title was HUGELY OFFENSIVE so they had to change it...and they changed it very, very poorly, because English is not their native language.

    2. I think we're going to need a citation on that one. The source I've read, from one of the developers, is that it was simply a off-handed change from a CEO who preferred alliterative titles.

  11. "Divine Divinity" as a name is the video game equivalent of the oldschool US Heavy Metal band, "Liege Lord". So dumb it's kind of awesome.

  12. I have played and loved Mass Effect emordino, I am simply referring to the fact that it doesn't make sense from the perspective of a person shopping for a game.

  13. How about "Adventure"? You have an adventure as a square and with a bat and three dragons.

  14. Castlevania is the name of Dracula's Castle, which appears in pretty much every game.

    Final Fantasy refers to how Square was about to go bankrupt at the time, and decided to make one last RPG before going under. They certainly weren't planning for any sequels at the time :)

  15. I don't think Baldur's Gate 2 qualifies as a nonsensical name. You need to take the full title into account however. Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Ahm. And both parts make sense. The Baldur's Gate 2 tells you that it is a direct follow up to Baldur's Gate. The second part tells you that the game is based around the city of Ahm.

  16. I've never seen a more precise game title than Gary Grigsby's War in the East: The German-Soviet War 1941-1945.

  17. Hey Helm! Liege is one of the strangest words in the English language. It can mean a kind of lord in a feudal system, but it can also refer to the subjects under such a lord. It can even be used as an adjective describing the relationship between the subjects and their lord, as in the phrase "liege lord". More importantly, however, Liege Lord the band rules!

    Back on topic, I think Zak McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders is pretty much what it says on the tin. You play a man named Zak McKracken investigating aliens who are trying to bend people's minds.

  18. Wow, you play fast, you've already left pool of radiance, I never leveled past level 2. I guess Super Mario Bros 2 is a strange name for a game because it was not a mario game at all originally.

  19. I assume you needed it from youtube in order to easily embed into the post, but still, here's the "Dead Dove" clip hosted elsewhere... because Arrested Development deserves every minute of recognition it gets:

  20. Dragon Age's name refers to the time period the game(s) are set in. FWIW.

  21. This is a bit of a different example but, a friend of mine once bought a "Special Limited Edition" of Deus Ex for $10. He thought it was a steal. It turns out though, that it was some sort of demo or extended demo disc that he'd paid for. It was a _limited_ edition, but... I always figured that the marketing director behind that release had some huge balls.

    Street Fighter has a pretty perfect name, imo.

    In the category of WTF titles, Xenosaga springs to mind. It's a jrpg trilogy about... well, you'd never figure it out based on the title anyway. I'm not sure that Xenogears had much to do with its content either other than that the giant robots were called Gears.

    Also Resident Evil. I'm not a huge fan of the series, but does that mean anything about the zombies you end up fighting in those games? The Japanese name "Biohazard" makes more sense since the zombies are all some sort of engineered product.

    1. Xeno, meaning alien, does fit well with the games as far as I can tell, although it doesn't say a lot. Xenogears (alien gears (machines)), Xenosaga (alien story?), and Xenoblade (alien sword), could fit, but I've only played Xenogears so I couldn't rightly say.

      I think the point was to keep the Xeno part of the titles going. I believe they're all made by the some development team if not the same company.

  22. Crimson Tears - The back of the box even explicitly states that "androids shed no tears" and there's no blood in the game that it could be referring to.

    Nightmare of Druaga - Druaga was a dragon that had kidnapped a priestess in the first game, Tower of Druaga, but this game doesn't plunge you into Druaga's dreams or nightmares (he's dead, anyways).

    Angband variants - Some of these take the game completely out of Middle Earth, making the title untrue (though a good deal of those do us the courtesy of ending in just -band and not -Angband).

    This is related to the last post's comments on EGA etc., but I think you'd appreciate this:

  23. Resident Evil mostly fit for the first game in that there was evil brewing in a residency. It kinda worked for 2 in that it was set in a city (full of residences!). 3 was also in the city. In the overall scope of the series though... eh. Biohazard is a much better title.

  24. I still disagree about Castlevania, especially since the word only appears on the cover (IIRC). I got the first game for Xmas back in '87, and it would have been helpful to have a single text screen saying "You have arrived at Dracula's castle, Castlevania!!!" or something, anything. But nope. The castle is just there, nameless, in the first game. In fact, to a 7-year-old, the whole situation is definitely confusing. Your character, dressed in orange leather, just walks up, unimpeded, to the gates. Might be coming back from his role in some community theater at the local tavern for all we know. He strolls on in the garden, enters the quite-inviting door, and BAM, zombies are chasing him to death. Wait, what?? Castle...vania?

    To raise the confusion further, the second game is mostly a hunt through mansions, and so few of my friends completed it (read: none) that I didn't even know there was a proper castle in the game. Mansionvania!

    I did some research and found out that in Japan, the series is called the much more logical "Devil's Castle Dracula." Well, sure, ok. Why and how the title was changed I'd love to know. Same with "Biohazard" into "Resident Evil."

    Funny site I ran across:

    But to conclude, I wonder if someone took the Japanese phrase "Devil's Castle Dracula," and then translated it through about twenty other languages before ending up in English. Which, to be honest, results in some GREAT titles. Messing around with Google Translate, I was able to convert the following:

    "Scavengers of the Mutant World" becomes "Mutant Carriers Worldwide" after a brief jaunt through Estonian, Hebrew, and Filipino. It sounds like a great idea for a company: We Ship Your Mutants For Less!

    Somehow I turned "Pool of Radiance" into "No Pool" after Thai, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Latin, and about 9 others got involved. Prophesy!

    However, nothing could destroy "Gary Grigsby's War in the East: The German-Soviet War 1941-1945." I ran that title through every language they offered and it came back the same into English every time. Rarefied air, indeed.

  25. Love the Arrested Development reference. I hope there'll be some way to work "I've made a huge mistake" into a later posting :)

    I like the names which can be taken more than one way. Like in Angband, where you spot a Death Sword across the room. Not realizing it's a monster, you think, "Cool! A death sword - that's way better than my +1 main gauche! Let's just walk over there and...AAUGH! NOT IN THE FACE! NOT IN THE FACE!"

  26. Should I even mention Elder Scrolls: Skyrim?

    Sorry... I'll er... get my coat.

  27. What might have made more sense for games like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter, branding the series "Tales of the Sword Coast" (to steal from the expansion pack), then adding the city name. Tales of the Sword Coast: Baldur's Gate, TotSC: Amn; TotSC: Neverwinter, etc.

  28. I commented this on the wrong place previously, but it's worth preserving if the Addict deletes the wrongly-placed comment:

    Run "Curse of the Azure Bonds" through enough languages on Google Translate and you get "this is fucking heaven".

  29. Well, let's see:

    Curse of the Azure Bonds
    maldición de los lazos azules
    vloek van die blou linte
    forbandelse af det blå bånd
    Blestemul panglica albastră
    Πληγή του μπλε κορδέλα
    Curse of the Blue Ribbon

    Can't replicate it, buddy. I'd love to know how that happened itthe first place.

  30. Not sure how it happened myself, to be honest.

    All I remember is that I used a lot more languages - almost all of them in fact, except for the ones with alphabets totally different from the Roman alphabet used in English.

    I think I broke it. ;)

  31. One word titles don't always work:

    Faxanadu - What?

    Crystalis - I had no idea what this meant as a kid, but even now realizing, it has little to do with the game proper.

    Cadash - Random letters thrown together?

    Gemfire - What does this have to do with provincial warfare?

    Obitus - Don't know Latin? Then this is meaningless. Know Latin? I still haven't figured out how it pertains to the game.

    Chulip - This game is as crazy as it sounds, so maybe it does describe it well.

    Sometimes they're all you need:

    GUN - Lots of them, western themed setting even.

    Yakuza - Play a member of the Japanese mafia.

    Magician - Play as a magician.

    I'm not sure where to place the games where the title is a character or location. In some sense it'll make sure when you play, but at the same time it doesn't tell you anything about the game. (e.g. Vay, Opoona, Sudeki, Alundra)

    1. Faxanadu is Famicom Xanadu, the Famicom (Jp NES) version of a computer game called Xanadu.

  32. You can always just add a massive subtitle if your main title makes no sense. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean springs to mind... Apparently, Baten Kaitos comes from Arabic meaning "belly of the sea monster." Which has nothing to do with the game that I can see... Though, that subtitle is probably just as confusing.

    1. Actually, if you've played the series that title makes sense. The lost ocean is a big part of that world.

    2. Yes, that's what I meant; the subtitle makes more sense to the game world than the main title. I wish I could have played the entire series, but only the first one was released here. Still waiting for the second... (Maybe it will end up on the virtual console at some point in the distant future.) I hate it when only part of a series is released, and then you're forced to import the rest of it (or just not experience it at all). (Hmm, I was going to mention the Obernewtyn Chronicles as a case in point, but apaprently they did just get published here a mere 12 years after they were out in Australia. Time to visit a bookshop!)

    3. I'm still waiting for them to release Terranigma in the US. I shouldn't complain though, as we get more releases than other countries outside of Japan.

    4. Hummm. Belly of the Sea Monster sounds like a Johana and the Whale reference, but I didn't finish the story. I should. It is one of the few games with a plot twist I did not see coming. I mean, I'd thought of it, but was like "Nah, they'd never do that" then BAM.

  33. Well this may be stupid but I do think the characters use shields, the icon fir your party looks like he's using a shield though not a stop sign, but in battle all your characters look like they're holding shields and they're red so maybe stop signs even if they aren't an equipable item. Maybe not though, I might be giving too much credit to the bare graphics, though I agree it doesn't look like the reviewers played the game.
    As to game names that don't match the gameplay, Metriod Prime: Hunters. Sure you play a bounty hunter, and there are more than one, and I'll even give thst it takes place between other Metroid Prime games; but there isn't one Metroid in the whole game, let alone Metroid Prime in any form.


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