The value of bad video games

I was reminded today of a game series generally named as the Earnest Evans Trilogy. There’s no reason to call this game series with this name when you play as Earnest in one game only and the rest are starred by Anette, a mysterious girl found in the Peruvian ruins… in the second game that canonically is the first one. Don’t try to make too much sense out of this.

Personally, I love this late 80’s / early 90’s anime style

Rather than going through the games one by one, I’ll just give you a link to Hardcore Gaming 101 and you can check rather nice overview there.

What I want to discuss here why EE Trilogy is even known to common populace. First of all, El Viento and Earnest Evans was released at least in the US, which automatically puts the games into nostalgia zone to some. However, the games are not that bad. OK, I lied, Earnest Evans and Anette Futatabi are bad games. The only game with proper play value really is El Viento. You can play Earnest Evans to see how well they can animate a character when all of character’s limbs are separate sprites bound to some strange physics modelling. This makes the game look rather… unsettling. There’s no doubt that the game is well animated, but it’s over animated, which ultimately degrades the game’s value. It’s still an interesting to see it at least one. Anette Futatabi is a Golden Axe clone to the core. It has the same balance, and rarely arcade games’ coin chomping balance works for console original game. There are a lot of examples how to create an arcade difficulty with nice balance, like Battle Toads or even Super Mario Bros. It’s just uninteresting game, which is worse than just being bad.

If El Viento isn’t really a good game, then why does it fetch around 90 bucks on auction sites and around 6000 yens on various Japanese sites? The answer is… that it doesn’t really have a proper reason. OK, let’s see some points to clear the doubts. Most likely El Viento was produced in somewhat limited amounts, at least in the west, as finding carts here and there does take some effort, and I’m talking about physical copies outside the Internet. In Internet I could track about six US copies and at least five Japanese copies. So we can say that I’d hard rather limited run overall.
The Second reason most likely is that people really want to collect the series. When you get one part of the trilogy, why not collect the other two? It doesn’t really matter whether or not the games are bad or not, you just want to collect them all. Even if you don’t have any room in your shelves. When there’s a demand and the quantity of the demanded item is low, the price usually gets jacked up. A far too high price at times.

Then you’ll ask Why does people want to buy bad games at high price perhaps? That’s a valid question. To some it’s a status question, as enlarging their collection by any means makes their e-penis grow. To some it’s to buy expensive stuff just to spend money on stupid things. Then there’s the people who want to buy these games because they actually enjoy them.
Personally, I own slew of games that I can openly admit that are really bad, and there’s just one purchase I’ve ever regret; Red Ninja. I can’t say any good thing about it as a game outside the art direction.

There’s always the fascination of bad games. It’s easy to draw comparison to bad movies, but with bad movies you don’t have to stand frustrating gameplay that makes you want to eat people.

It’s a widely believed assumption with shaky scientific basis

However, playing bad game doesn’t necessarily mean bad gameplay. Most of the time it does, like in Red Ninja. However, in Earnest Evans its the physics, level designs and the overall weirdness in everything. That doesn’t make it a bad game, just forgettable outside the animation. Another example would be Super Robot Wars Scramble Commander, which is clunky, slow, stupid and lacks any sort of polish. It’s a bad game, but it has giant robots. Scramble Commander’s sequel is everything the first one was supposed to be. Mega Man X7 doesn’t really have bad controls or anything like that, it’s just so goddamn unpolished to the extent that I’m arguing that it was released unfinished. I could fill some five thousand word essay and more on Mega Man X7 but I’ll never do it because of the fandom.

So yeah, people are buying bad games out of shit and giggles in the most basic sense. I admit that I’m attracted to purchase 13 000 yen Super Famicom game just because it had a limited run and is about show wrestling chicks that may or may not be based on a manga but it had a real wrestler or all of this was made out from the real wrestler. The thing I do know is that Blizzard Yuki wasn’t just for show in the matches. SNES Bishoujo Wrestler Retsuden – Blizzard Yuki Rannyuu!! is a bad with truckloads of charm, like the Earnest Evans series. In games charm and uniqueness go for a long way and even more so in bad games.

So the value in bad games is really about the subjective mindset of the customer. So you might want to play these games just to enjoy how bad they are, or because you just want to fill your shelf. All good games have the same basic values that are constant to everybody. Bad games just don’t have that luxury. What bad games have is riff value. Angry Video Game Nerd and his derivatives have made game riffing a phenomena. Riffing is basically something we’ve always done. Sure, you can riff something like Samurai Showdown, but you have more material to laugh at with a hilariously bad games. Like Disney’s Fantasia on MegaDrive!

Now if you excuse me, I’ll try to drive myself through Red Ninja once more. Perhaps with large amounts of alcohol.