Imagine that you are a developer who knows that they are going out of business as soon as your next game is released. Maybe for money reason, maybe you just want to change your field of work, for whatever reason this is it. Your next game is the final one. How do you go on making it?
I can’t say I know the answer, but my idea is that the reaction would depend on the reason why you are going to stop. If you are doing it because you want to do something else, maybe you’ll make a swan song worthy of that name, of course within possibility. But if you are doing it because you are all out of money and can’t afford to make games anymore… well, I think morale might be low enough that the game will be affected.
This is what Knight’s Contract, Game Republic’s final game, feels like while you play it. The whole thing reeks of developers who just couldn’t be bothered to polish their last effort to any acceptable standard. The base game underneath is solid, but everything around it definitely isn’t.
Most of the trouble looks like it stems from budget issues (the game sold terribly, and Namco probably knew this would happen), but some others are most likely just due to poor planning. And in general, there is a huge lack of attention to the details, something which instead characterized just about everything in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, again within a reasonable budget.
A small list of things: death cutscenes that take 5-10 seconds to load (and run for 3 seconds before asking you to reload), complete lack of certain animations (pulling switches and valves, and Gretchen even lacks a basic climbing animation), pretty obvious balance issues in many levels (one temporary companion has an attack which is almost one-hit kill even against bosses), the camera often cuts away during pre-rendered cutscenes in order to avoid showing some difficult special effects such as a transformation (couldn’t they have used stills then?), save points placed pretty much at random (and rarely before bosses), and so on.
Imagine if this game had been made instead of Majin: what would we have got? And how would Majin be like instead, if it had suffered from that same trouble? We can’t know that, so the only thing we are left with, is a clearly half-baked game that shows just what happens when your money simply runs out.