Airship Canon
Tympest
Airship Canon
Frogerst
Airship Canon
i shall disagree, i think games with sad ending, if used correctly can be a great Plus! for both the story line, as well as business. FFX was an amazing game IMO, and with the sad ending you fought for, you really feel for the characters. It works well. Also it helps to sell the 2nd game which was horrible.
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I'm not saying a sad ending in a game is bad, what I'm saying is shooting the shaggy dog is bad.
There's a difference. (Also FFX wasn't that good).
A sad ending is more like Shadow of the Colossus, Muv Luv Alternative, etc. Hell, Mass Effect.
Those are good.

Shooting a shaggy dog is from a certain POV, taking "Game Over" and making that the canon ending. You died and accomplished NOTHING.

If you keep on holding,
Holding dying flowers..!
A soft answer turns away the Wrath!!

RAIN IN VAIN!!
But what about games like the Fatal Frame series where the canon endings tend to be the ones where the protagonist is left alone and hasn't changed much? You still get the story and they did lay the tortured soul du jour to rest. reminded them of who they were, is it still a bad game?

I tend to disagree with you about X-2, I found it to be a fun bit of fluff.
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It's not the magnitude of change, it's the intent, direction and feel of it.
If what the ending is could simply be accomplished by simply game overing in the first 5 minutes, then you've got a "shoot the shaggy dog" ending that makes for an absolutely terrible ending- it'll leave your players feeling betrayed- their efforts were useless, and that they've wasted their time playing the game.

Something to think about:
There's a rather great little gem of a game for the Super Famicom (Japanese SNES, this game is Japanese only.): Fire Emblem 4 (Seisen no Keifu-- "Genealogy of the Holy War" wink . Now this game is, overall wonderful. But it's got two distinct parts, and the game is incomplete without either one, despite the fact that the two parts are so distinct that they feel like separate games at times. What I'm going to be pointing out is just the first part, really.

Looking at the first part of the game, we follow the hero Sigurd. Standard FE fare: The hero is a noble with a shiny sword. (Except Sigurd is the first of his Archetype, which'd go on to include his son, Celice, Hector (FE7), and Ike (FE9/10), and now Krom and Lucina (FEA)... a "Sigurd" is a Lord who has very high stats, and is a total wrecking ball-- Sigurd himself is notable as it's standard of FEs to give you a Paladin at the start of the game to make things easier, but it's a bad idea to overuse said Paladin, because XP hog. Sigurd... IS that paladin.) His country is invaded and well we've got some crazy dudes with axes floating about. Along the way, Sigurd meets various characters and uncovers an evil plot by an evil villain. He undergoes many trials, attempting to stop said plot where he finds it, and is paid back with failure- no good deed goes unpunished. Ultimately, Sigurd has everything (his lively hood, his wife, just everything) taken from him- and so he turns his sword on the two douchebags who set him up. He kills 'em dead... and then he's trapped by a certain man and... burned alive. Nothing Sigurd did mattered. Everything he tried to accomplish backfired- and in the end, yes, he killed two evil men, who would've been killed by the villains anyway; his wife ended up with her brother- who turned Sigurd into a pile of ashes (In a battle that you as a player are not allowed to participate in because it defies game mechanics (mechanics wise, it's impossible for Alvis to have killed Sigurd)). His army was massacred and the few-and-far-between remnants scatted to the winds. In about 10 years, the villains succeed in resurrecting an evil god who eats children (via hot incest action), and the continent is plunged into darkness.

THE END.

How's that for an ending? Would you honestly play thru a game just for that as your ending?
More importantly would you play thru a game that is pretty damn ******** hard, for that ending, when you know absolutely nothing else of that universe?
There's a reason why FE4 has gen 2. (And FE5)

Yes, a shoot the shaggy dog ending can work well in a game, but only with immense setup:
I.E. Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core.
Zack dies. We know this. Anyone who's played Final Fantasy 7 knows this.
Why does FF7CC's ending work? Because for FF7CC, it's all about the journey: You already know the ending.
But then again, FF7CC's ending isn't shoot the shaggy dog proper. Neither was FE4's Gen1.
Both carry on into more. FF7CC is a prequel, and FE4 has Gen2.

If you keep on holding,
Holding dying flowers..!
A soft answer turns away the Wrath!!

RAIN IN VAIN!!
I think your reply was essentially what I was trying to say with my comment, I don't mind so much if I get a downer ending so long as it fits the story leading up to it and so long as the story is well played out. I would play the Fire Emblem game as you described it, I'd complain about the ending, but knowing that it's part of a larger series with a larger conflict I would probably look at it as set up for later events. Kind of like Shepard dying at the beginning of Mass Effect 2, yes it's a bit of a player punch, but it sets up stuff for later in game.