Monday, November 29, 2010

Breaking Down Brick Walls  

Games: Have you ever had a game that you just knew was going to take serious effort to complete, but you dug in for the long haul and stayed with it until the end? I'm not talking about the average (and tedious) 60-hour JRPG or anything that's a simple matter of hours devoted. No, I'm talking about something that's really difficult, or something that presents some sort of extraordinary obstacle to overcome. Something like the videogame equivalent of a brick wall.

For me, I've had two.

The first brick wall (believe it or not) was the original Mega Man on the NES. It may seem a little ridiculous that this game was such a huge hurdle for me back in the day, but it's true.


Getting through the bosses was no big deal, but the fight against Rock Monster drove me absolutely crazy. The way that thing split up into small pieces and warped back and forth across the room just tore me apart, and with the game skills I had at that age, I just couldn't do it.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this to anyone before, but it took me about three years to get past that part. Of course, it wasn't three years of trying ten times a day every day. I'd put it down for a few months and play other games and then come back to it when the mood struck me, but I did not see credits roll on Mega Man until literally three years after I bought it.

… of course, after I finished it legitimately, I found out there was an exploit to get past the bastard by hitting him once and then rapidly pausing/unpausing the system. If I had known about it earlier, forget three years. I would have polished the game off in three days.

My other brick wall is Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on PSP.

If you read this blog regularly, then you already know that I’m a recently-converted fan of the series. Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii got a lot of things right for me, and I still had a bit of an itch to scratch after I polished it off. I knew the PSP games had a dedicated following, so I figured I’d jump onboard that train and kill more giant beasties while on the go. Immediately after starting, I was glad I did.

Despite enjoying it a great deal, Tri felt like a stripped-down, uber-simplified kiddie pool compared to the amount of content I found in Freedom Unite. There are a ton more monsters, loads of new and different weapons, and a mountain of varied armor sets to collect. Interestingly, Freedom Unite also has tons of information, tutorials, training arenas and lots of other little bits that are completely omitted from Tri. When I saw how much was here, I was utterly amazed and quickly fell in love. Any way you slice it, MHFU is just a better game, all-around.

Better all-around… except for the camera.

While it's clear that Capcom has made some concessions to PSP players (i.e.- slower monsters, lower difficulty) the fact is that Sony’s handheld is physically lacking a second analog nub to handle camera duties and the Monster Hunter developers have never come up with a satisfactory workaround solution.

Finger joint degeneration... GO!!!

What are the options? Players either constantly click the left shoulder button to auto-center the camera directly behind their character, or they can control character movement on the nub with their left thumb while pushing left/right on the D-Pad with the left index finger. This tendinitis-inducing maneuver is "affectionately" known as the claw. Also, it's about four times more uncomfortable than it looks, especially in extended play sessions.

As I'm sure you can imagine, the giant hurdle to overcome with MHFU is finding techniques and strategies to survive while dealing with the absurdly unsatisfactory camera system. If it was any other game I probably would have kicked it to the curb after an hour, but it's impossible not to acknowledge the amount of quality content in the title. It really is a fantastic game for players of a certain stripe, and if there was some solution to the camera dilemma, I'd easily rank it as one of the best games available for PSP.

Don't take time to re-orient the camera... Tigrex gonna getcha!

Unfortunately, this is a game where even half-seconds count, and being unsure of whether a Tyrannosaurus with wings is on your right or your left is more than enough to trigger a Mission Failed. Death by crappy camera is frustrating in the extreme, and I have questioned my own sanity more than once as to whether I'm really dedicated enough to see this game through. After forty hours, I think I am... although whether that means I'm sane or insane, I can't say.

So, what are your personal videogame brick walls? I'd love to hear about 'em.

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2 comments: to “ Breaking Down Brick Walls


    I pretty much gave up on every NES games that gave me brick wall moments. I only started to tough them out during the SNES era, and for the most part I succeeded.

    My first was Street Fighter II. For two years I couldn't execute a Shoryuken. I've read the command list, tried it multiple times, but I just never figured out that I had to do a slide motion. Instead, I tapped forward, down, forward and that'd only occasionally register as shoryuken. So I just chose E Honda and hundred slapped my way to M Bison. And then I'd keep coming back to Ryu and Ken again every so often, to no success. Until two years later when I finally did it, at my cousin's place. My brother, who had a similar predicament, was amazed that I was literally shoryuken-dancing all the way through a fight.

    I know you hate the game, but DKC's mine cart level. In my first playthrough I practically had to replay that level some hundred times to get right. Now? I can DESTROY that level.

    The yellow monster you point out in MM1? That's chicketfeet compared to Dr Wily from Mega Man 7. He had this attack pattern that was near impossible to avoid, so I had to choose which of his attacks dealt the least damage. Took me weeks to beat him.


    I remember taking a over year to best the Gameboy Battletoads. It was essentially an abbreviated version of the NES game, so while not as hard, it was still a beast.

    That was when I was a kid and had more free time and fewer games. These days I'll buckle down real hard for a day or two on a difficulty spike and if I still can't conquer it I just lose interest and give up.

    For example, I slowly plodded my way through God Hard mode in Vanquish before reaching the final boss. I spent about 3 hours on that nonsense and didn't seem to be getting any better, so I just said "fuck it" and hightailed. It just stopped being fun.