One of the aggravating things about posting reviews on GameFAQs - besides how they've taken aggressively to hiding user reviews - is the constant changes in their scoring system. A good while back, they put one-word labels after the numerical scores ("5 - Average") that didn't always match the feel of the ratings. Later, they switched from a 10-point scale to a five-point scale. Now, they're back to a 10-point scale, but the scores are color-coded green, yellow, and red. The upper end of the red scores is 3, with which I agree, but the upper threshold of yellow is...7. 70%, the traditional threshold of passing in the U.S. school system, is not considered a good score anymore, according to GameFAQs. (All right, maybe that's more an argument in favor of the change.)

The obvious answer is to continue ignoring the constantly-shifting scoring criteria and just use the 10-point scale as it reads to me - but what is that?

  • A 10, to me, does not mean "perfect" - though a 10 cannot have many, if any, major flaws. Rather, a 10 does something so well, so wonderfully and irreplaceably, that it represents an achievement in the medium. Silent Hill 2 is a 10 for tackling difficult subject matter with extraordinary success and its environmental storytelling that very effectively leverages the unique characteristics of the gaming medium. Phantasy Star II is a 10 to me for its marriage of environmental storytelling and presentation - though that case is harder to make nowadays, as its style of gameplay would get in the way for a lot of people.

  • 9s are really polished in nearly every facet. The presentation is a cut above just ("just") good or great games. 9s, again, should not have many, if any, major flaws. 9s, perhaps, aren't all-time classics but are standouts in their generation. 9s don't come along that often. Baten Kaitos is a 9 to me.

  • 7 and 8 are good and great. A 7 is a solidly good game, a title to which I could give a blanket recommendation. The classification of a 7 as middling is puzzling to me. 70% is passing. 8s are a cut above 7s in terms of quality and are really great titles - they just don't have the extra across-the-board infusion of go-the-extra-mile polish of 9s, as few games will. 8s are generally as good as it gets for your "everyday" games, for lack of a better term. 9s and 10s are for something really special.

  • 6s are the weirdest category. 6s aren't quite bad, but they're lacking something. They have positives - sometimes very strong positives! - and might be worth your trouble given specific circumstances, but I can't give them a general recommendation. I personally like The 7th Saga's atmospheric depiction of a lonely journey, support for a diverse selection of protagonist classes, impressive battle sprite work, and music, but it's too grind-heavy for a general audience. That said, I've gotten a lot out of it and wouldn't have wanted to miss it. Golden Axe III is a 6 despite bringing lots of new ideas to the table, showing some real heart after a truly lousy second installment, and, to get right down to it, being fun, because there are some corners that needed more ironing - better graphical detail in spots, though it's miles above II - and because two of the characters have a move that is more or less unblockable and can, with a little skill, get you through the entire game. The visual novel Otogirisou is looking like a 6 because, despite some impressive branching, the stories are all kinda goofy - though you can get a kick out of it if you set expectations accordingly.

  • 5 is ehhhh?. Good and bad are up in the air, present in equal measure. A 5 is mediocre and probably not worth your time.

  • 4 is where the scale decisively settles/weighs in on the negative side. 4s aren't bad - not definitively bad, anyhow - but there's more bad than good, or the bad is more salient than the good traits. I gave NightCry a 4, but I'm consistently rethinking that, as that death by vending machine is a gift most other games don't give.

  • 3 is bad. A 3 is, flatly, a bad game. 4s are still too much of a mix to dismiss as flatly bad, whereas 3 are defined by bad. Neverending Nightmares has a strong, if highly copypasted, art style, but the game is wholly defined by its creator's love of extravagant, in-your-face images of suicidal mutilation, which is completely at odds with its ostensible anti-depression message. Whereas I can equivocate with NightCry over stuff like "ah, that vending machine scene!", there's no such conflict with Neverending Nightmares. There's very much a gut reaction of "fuck this game."

  • 2s and 1s are experiences that are not worth your time and are irredeemable pieces of media. The difference a 2 has something worthwhile in it even if the game around it is certainly not worthwhile. Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within, which had some really interesting ideas despite abysmal execution, is a 2. A 1 has nothing.

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