When the games get tough…
When games get tough, the tough get gaming…? I’m not so sure. There are some games that pride themselves on having a ridiculous level of difficulty. As a matter of fact, for those games, generally speaking, the difficulty is the only thing that really draws people to them. The competitive person in us says, “I will beat you, no matter how many times I have to die before I do it.” And then the game usually says, after hours of frustration, “Are you suuuuure?” They exist for the same reason that Mount Everest exists. Not because India’s tectonic plate is smashing up against another one to create the Himalayas (which by the way are getting taller). Everest is there rising above everything else, silently shouting, “You want an EASIER challenge? Then go climb the garbage heap that is your will to succeed, sucker!” Only, it probably says it more regally, with old English, or something. Anyway. These games are maddeningly difficult, and the cred you get for beating them is worth more than gameplay, graphics, plot, or pretty much anything else that makes a game good. Now that’s good marketing right there. The near-perfect example of this is Ninja Gaiden.
Ninja Gaiden is a pretty old game series, released for the NES in 1988. Yowza. But enough about classic gaming, I talk about it incessantly, and the old Ninja Gaiden games were nothing incredibly special. But the game I want to talk about is the Ninja Gaiden released for the XBOX in 2004. This game has got to have one of the most dubious plots of any game series ever. It generally consists of fighting (in no particular order) ninjas, more ninjas, harder ninjas that throw explosive kunai, regular monsters, big monsters, flying monsters, zombie monsters, and large evil-looking alien-things (which apparently are “demons.” Sure). Did I mention you also fight a cyborg-lightning-gun Pillsbury Doughboy? Hooray! The next draw of this game is that all of these evil demons and things spew slime and ichor when they die, which happens to be artistically (and liberally) splashed on demon-killing buxom babes clad in leather. Extra hooray! But the biggest draw of this game, even bigger than murdering thousands of unsuspecting baddies and watching photoshopped Lara Croft wannabes smash things with a waraxe… is its difficulty.
Many people try to button-mash their way through games. To the uninitiated, button mashing is where you mash buttons in some order and hope things die. Most games? Kind of works. This game? Do the words “you’re going to die 5 times on the first level” mean anything to you? Get used to the gritty slow-motion image of you dying and the words “Game Over” appearing on your screen. You’re thrown up against stupid odds from the outset of the game, and they only get stupider with time. You must have lightning-fast reflexes, get every secret thing you can, save up healing items, and be wicked-good with seemingly random button combinations. And occasionally you still die. The bosses are actually the best part for illustrating this. You fight: a giant bone dragon, two tanks and a helicopter (with a bow and arrow. Really?), a laser-eye-shooting-evil-flying-giant-statue-thing, superpowered-flying-telekenetic-girl (twice), and… Satan. Or something so close as to make no difference. Your main weapon is a sword. I think the difficulty of this game is illustrated perfectly in this lovely video by EgoRaptor (my favoritest of favorites). (I am aware favoritest is not a word.)
Now, I just beat Ninja Gaiden 2. That one’s even worse. The enemies get machine guns and cluster heat-seeking missile launchers. You have to blow up a plane the size of Manhattan. Oh, by the way? Still, main weapon is a sword. Although… you do get a pretty awesome harpoon-machine-gun that you can only use underwater but is SUPER COOL. Oh my gosh. It’s cool. Anyway that’s all I’m going to say about that game because it’s essentially the same as the first game only much, much harder. I mean, seriously? How do you do that?!? And I haven’t started playing Ninja Gaiden 3. Can you tell I’m looking forward to it?
But the game of games, the undisputed king of making things just a wee bit too difficult… has got to be Contra. The Contra code, which gave the player a ton of extra lives and (basically) the ability to beat the game, is one of the most often used codes in any game, and is practically a video game legend. It’s like the gamer’s club secret password. To get into conventions, you have to stand at the door and say, “Up up down down left right left right B A” from memory. The reason it’s so famous is because Contra is THAT HARD. And they have made a successful franchise, with numerous games, out of making this game really frickin’ hard. It’s you, some guns, and completely ineffectual armor against a menagerie of every imaginable enemy, from giant flying superships to laser-gun-toting mechazord things, to enormous alien things, to, well, you get the picture. Funny, they must have the same developers as Ninja Gaiden. Anyway, Contra deserves mentioning because it made the “super-hard-poison-and-acid-coated-incredibly-difficult-death-inspiring-death-game” genre popular. I’m not sure there are enough adjectives in there to fully express how hard these games are.
Also, they really have no plot. Or anything. Why bother?
Now, my favorite game type (due to its minimal cost) is Flash Games. And, like every other type of game, they have their HPAACIDDID games (see the acronym above). The first I’m going to mention is called “Spikes Tend To Kill You.” It’s loosely called a “platformer,” meaning that there are occasionally platforms that you don’t die by jumping onto. It becomes an increasingly rare commodity as the game goes on. As you may have guessed, there are spikes. And guns. And honestly not much else. If you feel like beating your head into a wall, enjoy this game to its fullest!
The next game which I have a soft spot for is called “Focus.” It’s a truly singular game, that involves a mixture of creativity, fast reflexes, and an incredible amount of frustrated screaming. The nice thing is, it has a relatively easy mode that allows you to experience the game mechanics and say to yourself, “Wow, that’s cool.” Then, for the sake of proving my point, try the hard difficulty.
Now, to end all things (and this really is the end of all things as far as games are concerned) is a game called “I Wanna Be The Guy.” This game is not even a platformer. It is a complicated meat-grinder, and you are the meat. You cannot react, you cannot expect it, you cannot survive. There is no tutorial, there is no help, there is no salvation. I’m not even going to give you a link to the game, but I’ll give you a link to a video of a guy beating it without dying. I watched the whole thing all the way through, because it’s honestly so difficult that it’s more fun to watch someone else than to even attempt playing it. (Also, as an added note, the realms in I Wanna Be The Guy are all modeled after classic games, from Tetris to Street Fighter to Kirby to Punch Out. It’s great.)
So the hard game is its own genre, because people love making games where the only thing that keeps you going is your insane desire to beat it. Even mainstream games like Mario and Zelda have picked up on it. There’s been a hacked version of Mario that’s incredibly hard here, and when Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released for GameCube, they included a thing called “Master Quest,” which redesigned all of the dungeons to make them more challenging. (And by the way, if you’ve ever played Ocarina of Time, the Water Temple is the source of more profanity in video games than anything except blue shells.) It’s a wonderful thing, in my honest opinion. For the hardcorest of gamers, it gives an unparallelled challenge, and it’s fun to watch people who are better gamers than you struggle and get frustrated. It’s another level of gaming, and even though most of these games are devoid of any of the aspects that I believe make a game “good,” these games are good. But most of us will never know, because we quit after the first level. Hooray for regular people!
P.S. I spent an entire post not talking about Mass Effect. Wait. DANGIT.
Posted on April 9, 2012, in Flash Games, Miscellaneous and tagged Challenging, Contra, Flash Games, Gaming, I Wanna Be the Guy, Konami, Mario, Ninja Gaiden, Video Games, XBOX, Zelda. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.