For those of you awaiting the results of yesterday’s politics survey, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Because of a change in management, vacations, and office politics, I’ve somehow been assigned the task of managing open issues - usually assigned to the company president - on a mutli-million dollar project until the new president arrives in a week’s time. Should be fun.
But do you know what’s not fun? Games that are too fucking hard.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve tried a few games that I just couldn’t stick with because of an unfair difficulty curve - Fire Emblem 4, Star Ocean, Tactics Ogre and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. They’re all hard for different reasons, mind.
Fire Emblem has perma-death, but the enemy AI is also trained in such a way that it targets your most vulnerable party members. So you can mount an offensive with your strongest blokes up front and your support in the rear, but if you’re not actively safeguarding your healers and underlevelled mates (which significantly extends the time it takes to beat already-long levels), they will die. And the penalty for this is massive: you can’t simply recruit or buy more troops. If your healer dies, it’s never coming back. You’re permanently down one healer, which makes the game more difficult still. Thank the lords of toast and muffins that Awakening changed this.
Star Ocean is different. I just had no idea how to control my characters; battle is active, but the menus are very confusing. I died within the first five minutes of gameplay. I will probably watch some gameplay videos and then return to this one, but it must be noted: The consequence for failure is steep. If you walk into this game and die in those first few fights, you have to start all over... And sit through a good 10 minutes of cinematics and dialogue again. Not at all welcoming to new players.
Tactics Ogre is a game I want to love, but it’s a game that is impossible to advance in without level grinding. The third story battle is what ended the game for me. I had a fair challenge in the first two battles, but the third one, not even an hour into the game, ups the difficulty curve significantly. Your non-unique troops do almost no damage, but take a ton in return. Your unique characters are the only ones that can make a dent. The problem? A unique character dying is an automatic fail state. Oh, and this game has perma-death. So the soldier you spent five hours level grinding? Pissed away if the enemy scores a critical hit or two. I remember a similar difficulty curve with Final Fantasy Tactics, but I also remember spending a month of summer in high school playing that game. Most of it level grinding. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.
And X-Men Mutant Apocalypse is just a bad game. It looks pretty, but the controls are clunky as hell and the game has no checkpoints. You die? Back to the start of the level. Oh, and you only get three lives. And if you die three times with the same character, that character is permanently dead.
Have I ever mentioned that perma-death is fucking stupid?
Anyway. These are three good games and one bad one that were ruined by excessive difficulty. Now to be fair, these are all Super Nintento games - times have changed for the better since. But it does stink that you can’t get the value of of some of these older games because of the massive time investment requiring to enjoy them.
For me, gaming is all about the experience. The music, the story, the sights... It’s not about overcoming a challenge. I think that way of thinking about gaming is antiquated.
What do you think?