Mighty No 9 (2016) (PS4)

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…Then she goes down, overwhelmed in the feasting grins of pressmen and Press women who’ve moved from being owned by men to being owned by fashion, these are more deeply merciless.
-Les Murray, A Deployment of Fashion

 

 

 “The following is a contributor post by the Badly Backlogged Mage.”

Mighty No 9 is quite fun.

It says something about Mighty No 9, and the internet in general, that this feels as comfortable as saying “I eat puppies”.  But my firm view is that if Mighty No 9 had been released minus all the hatred it would have been warmly received and probably have a little die-hard following, instead of the punchline that it now is.

It’s almost impossible to talk about Mighty No 9 without talking about its infamous development cycle.  So let’s do that because I like a challenge.

Mighty No 9 is a spiritual successor to the Mega Man series.  But I’ve never played Mega Man, so that means little to me.  Actually, that’s not true, I played Mega Man 2 briefly as a child but found it too hard and frustrating to play.  I tried again as an adult with Mega Man 9 on the PS3 a few years ago and had exactly the same reaction.  So from my perspective, Mighty No 9 is already looking good compared to its predecessors.

 

 

But while I don’t know Mega Man, I do know NES-era platformers.  And Mighty No 9 is definitely inspired by those, for better and worse.  Move from left to right, shoot bad guys, beat the boss, don’t fall down.

 

Journey to Silius, Streetfighter 2010, Bionic Commando, Probotector (aka Contra)

The interesting part is the “dash” move – when the player shoots enemies they don’t immediately die, they are first staggered, and then flash.  If the player dashes into a wounded enemy, the enemy is absorbed for a score bonus and a brief (and minor) power-up for the player.  The faster you absorb the enemy the more points you get (based on a percentage that ranges from 10-100%).  Each 100% absorption adds to your combo counter, with a satisfying “achievement” sound and golden combo-counter.  Alternatively, you can just shoot the enemy again to kill it for no bonus.

absorbed

This mechanic is brilliant because it offers the player a constant risk/reward struggle.  Your weapons are long-range, and you’re vulnerable while you dash.  So if you dash into an enemy, you’ll get hit.  If you dash and wind up standing next to a new enemy, you’ll also get hit.  The obvious answer is to try and injure all enemies in a group at once so you can dash into them all in one go.  But if you fire into a group of enemies and miss one…will you take the risk?  How well do you think you can judge the distance of your dash?

The dash also allows for some interesting platforming, because you dash horizontally very quickly with no vertical movement.  So you have a maneuverability that isn’t immediately obvious.

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Each time you finish a level you get ranked from A – D, with “S” for a great success.  Your end ranking is determined not only by score, but combo, damage received, time, and overall absorption percentage**.

Also, and this is the obvious Mega Man influence, each time you defeat a boss you’ll gain the ability to transform into a creature with that bosses’ powers.  There are 8 bosses (excluding the end boss) so there are 8 forms in total.  You can switch between forms at any time, although each form has a power level which decreases each time you shoot that form’s weapon.  The power bar recharges with time and, you guessed it, absorbing enemies.

You can tackle each of the game’s 8 initial stages in any order you want.  Each power makes one other stage (and usually its boss) a little easier, and the game will helpfully tell you which power is useful in each stage.  Each stage is typically quite unique too, each level usually has a different emphasis or some unique mechanic (such as one level which incorporates “hide and seek” with a sniper).

The net result is a game that has a pleasant array of different experiences packed within a fairly short space of time.  I played this game over about 2-3 months, by finishing one stage each Saturday.  It was a lot of fun.

But, as you’ve no doubt heard, Mighty No 9 has its share of problems.  The worst of these come from the game’s 8-bit roots; there is a reason we stopped making games like this.  The main offender is an unholy trinity of 80’s platformers – limited lives, insta-kills and cheap deaths.  It works like this:

  • as you play a level, you’ll come across various traps which will kill unless you know they’re coming.  So the first time you come to them, you will probably lose one (or more) lives;
  • when you finally get to the boss, you will probably lose the last of your lives as you learn how the boss is moving.  Losing all your lives though means you have to restart at the beginning of the level;
  • replaying a level is tedious and frustrating, which means you’re more likely to make mistakes; and
  • the game is filled with areas where any mistake results in an instakill.  So while you’ll avoid the cheap deaths, the more frustrated you get, the more you’re likely to lose lives before you reach the boss again.

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This happened to me so much in level 1 that I almost quit right then and there.  And I would not have blamed anyone else if they had done so.  I replayed that stupid first level so many times until I finally memorised the bosses’ movements well enough to defeat him.

But before you wail too hard on Mighty Number 9 for this, remember that it was standard game design back in the day.  Heck, it was usually worse – in Probotector (aka Contra), if you lost all your lives you had to restart the entire game, not just the level!  And that wasn’t unique to Probotector, that was the norm!  CastlevaniaMega ManMarble Madness, Jungle HuntSuper Mario Bros.Sonic – I cannot think of a single platformer of the era that did not use that mechanic.  And don’t think they were above cheap deaths either – they weren’t.

But the mechanic sucked.  We got rid of it for a reason, and Mighty No 9 should have left it in the grave.  It ameliorates it a bit by giving you extra power-ups when you restart a level, and thankfully you don’t have to restart the entire game.  But it’s not enough.

Despite all the broo-ha-ha over this game, that is the only mistake that I think really mattered.  And I understand why they made it; if they’d put a checkpoint in each level just before the boss, the game would have been a lot easier, and a whole lot of self-declared defenders-of-the-gaming-faith would have been up in arms for daring to make their beloved genre of 80s-style-platformers accessible to outsiders.  But it was the wrong call.

hqdefault2Also, lest we forget how annoying knockback can be.

There are two other significant problems with the game, although comparatively, they’re minor annoyances.  They are:

  • the visual design is cluttered.  On one stage in particular you’ll keep mistaking oncoming obstacles as being part of the background; and
  • the game sorely needs a good tutorial.  Or (even better) a well designed first stage that demonstrates the ins-and-outs of the dash move (like the famous World 1-1 on the original Super Mario Bros.), as well as a little section after you defeat each boss which shows you the pros and cons of each new power you absorb (like in Little Big Planet 3, and many others).

You will notice that I have not included the big issue that people won’t shut up about and that’s the graphics  (“Oh it looks PS2 era!  Quick, burn it with fire!”).  Now listen to me very carefully, because I’m only going to say this once:

I do not care about “graphics”.

And honestly, I don’t think anyone else cares about graphics.  Heck, Mega Man 9 came out in 2008 and it looks like this:

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No-one jumped up and down whining that it looked like something from the past.  Mighty No 9 is not AAA, it was never going to compare with Assassin’s Creed XXII:  The Quest for Relevance and it’s not meant to.

The lower-res graphics match the game’s aesthetic, which is 80-90s children’s anime.  Which, let’s be honest, was done on the cheap and was never that good.

Now what is a valid criticism is that the game’s visual design is not great.  It’s not awful, but it’s insipid.  While I’ve never played the Mega Man series it’s quite obvious that despite the inferior tech its games had a much more cohesive and engaging visual style.****  Here’s a comparison with Mega Man X from the Snes era:

 

The Mega Man X screenshot has a clear location and visual theme (there are skyscrapers and he’s standing on a highway, the world is dark and grimy).  Mighty No 9 is…well he’s supposed be in a fuel refinery, but it appears to consist of one cylinder.  Where’s all the refinery equipment?  And where exactly is he in the refinery?  And the background is dark-ish, but there’s a lot of bright pink in the foreground so…what style are we doing here?

But it’s only an issue that stops the game being great.  It doesn’t make it bad.  The visual style of Mighty No 9 is consistent enough and mostly serviceable (except on that one level where obstacles look like part of the background – that’s both annoying and unforgivable).  Put it this way – my toddler was fascinated with the robots in this game in the same way I was once fascinated with Astro Boy.

There are two other criticisms often lobbed at this game that I’m going to deal with:

  • There are some kinds of movement, particularly a “leapbackwards while shooting” move, which is vestigial and rather pointless.  I don’t know if it turns out to be super-important if you’re interested in getting S-ranks, but as far as I’m concerned, this means nothing more than “there’s a move I don’t use, and it’s not annoying because I don’t use it”.
  • Some of the forms are more useful than others.  I don’t think that’s a criticism at all; with 9 different forms in total, you don’t want to be constantly switching between 9 equally valid forms of attack.  This is a good design choice, not a bad one.

 

 

 

The 8-bit Review
visual Visuals: 6/10
If you don’t compare this game to world-famous games that have remained popular for decades, then the visuals are pretty decent.  The bosses in particular are well designed – they’re all unique with individual personalities that come across quite strongly, and their animation conveys a strong sense of how each one moves, thinks and feels.  Every character who is not a boss is cliched to the point of self-parody, but fortunately, this is a game, not an anime.

Audio: 7/10
A step-up on the visuals.  The sound effects are quite good at building tension, with a series of soundscapes helping to place and distinguish each of the sages.  The main theme, for example, does a good job of conveying the game’s retro/robot aesthetic.

gameplay Gameplay: 8/10
The gameplay is quite clever – once I got through the initial hump, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  Giving the player a long-distance weapon but then encouraging them to get in close and do it quickly…it’s genius.  It’s the same idea that Doom (2016) would apply to the FPS genre in the same year.  Although when Doom did it, people didn’t make 30 minute YouTube videos explaining why it sucked.

Add to that the nice range of variety with the 9 different attack forms, and there’s quite a bit of gameplay depth here, especially if you want to get into chasing S-ranks.

accessibility Accessibility: 2/10
The game’s biggest weakness and the reason that ultimately I can’t recommend it.  Most people would probably quit in frustration at the first level, and I can’t blame them.  I think the only reason I stuck with it was I had nothing else to do that morning.

diff Challenge: 8/10
Once you get a grip on this game then you’ll find that the challenge is just right.  I played this game once a week for about 1.5hrs at a go, and each day I’d finish a level.  That was enough time to make beating the level feel like an achievement, and not too long to make it annoying.

replay Replayability: 9/10
If you’re so minded, there are a lot of extras here,  and that’s not including chasing S-ranks.  I wouldn’t even normally score replayability, but the game was so obviously designed with this being a core feature that it must be mentioned.

story Narrative: 2/10
The bosses in Mighty No 9 are great to deal with.  Otherwise, the characters, story and general narrative are terrible.  This wouldn’t normally be a big deal (“kill Dracula” is hardly a plot for Castlevania) except this game seems to have delusions of adequacy when it comes to story.  It puts a surprising amount of emphasis on conversation, for example, and heaven knows why because the writing is painful.  Fortunately, there’s not much of it.

pgrade My Personal Grade: 8/10
I loved the challenge.  I loved experimenting with different forms.  I loved the thrill of learning how to beat each boss.  And, most of all, I loved the way that it delivered the experience in neat 1.5hr packages that I could enjoy once a week on Saturday mornings.  This is not a brilliant game, far from it.  But (if you get over the initial hump) it is a fun one.

I’ve read long diatribes about why the game is awful and picking apart all of its minutiae and I do not agree.  I’ve responded to some of the more common criticisms in this article, but you can feel free to tell me about how Keiji Inafune killed your dog in the comments.

Aggregated score:  6.3

* Yes I know I should go back and try Mega Man again.  But I can only write of my experience to date.
** And probably some other factors that I can’t be bothered looking up.  But these are the obvious ones.
*** Qudos to the Well Red Mage, a true Mega Man fan, for the following comparison.

 

The Badly Backlogged Mage courageously fights a rearguard action against his unfortunate spending habits. You can follow his crusade at https://mrbacklog.wordpress.com/ 

 

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15 thoughts on “Mighty No 9 (2016) (PS4)

  1. No worries, apologies for responding in bits and pieces! Also my responses are going to be VERY long so I think the apology for length should really come from me.

    Next two issues to deal with – the dash/assimilation move. If that comes straight out of Mega Man that does rob this game of what I thought was the clever part of its design. At least it recycled/stole something worth stealing.

    Now the visuals. My view is that the visuals did some things well and some things badly, my overall assessment was that they sort’ve balanced out. I’ll explain this assessment in three points:

    – First to explain how I assess visuals, which is how I assess all elements of art – I start with assessing my reaction (and those around me) and work backwards. I think this is what everyone in fact does, consciously or subconsciously.

    – Second, to argue against a negative view of its visuals. I think the visuals in this game get an unfairly bad rap because of its development history. That’s because of two things (1) The games’ reputation encourages people to view the visuals in a poor light. When someone has a strong reputation, people (myself included) naturally start by subconsciously adopting the establish viewpoint but look to the game to prove otherwise; It effectively flips the onus of proof. No doubt this is not a pretty game, it could not discharge that onus. (2) A related effect of the history and reputation of this game is to invite comparison to Mega Man as a benchmark. If the game’s visuals are worse than Mega Man’s, then it’s easy to judge the game a “failure”. The game’s visuals are worse than Mega Man’s, but that doesn’t make it a failure. If you don’t view the game through the lens of comparison to Mega Man X, you get a different result. All of this said , yes the game is definitely not pretty. But I don’t think its problems in this department are as big as they are made out to be.

    – Third, to explain why I thought there were positive elements to the visuals. The robot designs. The boss robots I thought were well designed and implemented, with unique personalities. I note that if you do an image search for Mighty No 9 what you get is mostly drawings of the bosses, not the pictures of the gameplay. It looks to me like they put all their design effort into these robots, then threw the levels together afterwards. Not a clever approach, but I think they deserve credit for the achievements they did make. Which I suppose brings me to a big factor in why I thought the bosses were well designed – my toddler was FASCINATED. Mighty No 9 is the only game that he has ever asked me to play, and anytime the avatar or the Bosses were on the screen he was transfixed. That’s an achievement, it deserves recognition.

    Balance the good and bad together, I wound up with a score of visuals for 6/10.

    Oh – finally, in response to the PS2/Mega Man 9 comment. The complaints about PS2-era graphics was a repeated one I saw on social media when I started looking into the game, and what I was responding to. The other criticisms that we’ve talked about, yeah those are valid issues that the game has, and I wasn’t intending to argue that everyone who considers the game ugly was doing so because it wasn’t in hi-def.

    I should also acknowledge that you have a history, training and skill in visual art and design that I don’t. Ah well, I can only do what I can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Last response!
      – technical glitches at launch – can’t say, didn’t see them. I didn’t experience an unusual level of glitches, those I saw didn’t interfere with gameplay.

      – re: whether the difficult should have made the hard-core crowd like it. (Heh, nice one). I think high difficultly is a “helpful but not sufficient” factor in gaining love from the hard-core crowd. In this case it was outweighed by other factors.

      – re: whether the difficulty made it better. I think it did, and you’re right, the challenge got me invested which got me engaged. Personally I think there are other ways of achieving that result than having to repeat areas you’ve already bested, that just feels like adding tedious busywork. For example, Super Meat Boy has very short levels, and no need to replay earlier levels that you’ve beaten before just so you can attempt the hard one you’re still working on (that actually is how I played Super Punch-Out!! courtesy of the save/restore function on an emulator, and I promise it was still loads of fun and plenty challenging). One option for Mighty#9, it just occurred to me, would have been to allow the use of checkpoints if all lives were lost, but if the player used the checkpoint then the level could not be “cleared”. That way the player can learn how to beat the stage without having to repeat the same thing over and over, while retaining the challenge of being able to complete the whole stage in one sitting.

      – I agree, I think a lot of feedback to Mighty had to do with fan hatred that was already in full flight before the game even hit the shelves. Inviting comparison to Mega Man probably didn’t help, because then if the end experience is sub-par to Mega Man then the game is a failure. That’s a pretty bar for an video game company’s first release, no matter how experienced its CEO.

      – re: comparison to older games, the good ones (like Punch Out!!) were better at teaching the player through gameplay. Super Mario world 1-1 is the example I use, but I think Punch Out!! was a bit similar in that it began with Glassy Joe, then each new boxer demanded that you perfect a certain technique before moving on. That was always going to be hard for Mighty No 9 because of the “play stages in any order” format, but even so, it relied far too much on text instructions. I’m sure it could have found a way to retain its difficulty while being more accessible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Segmented responses, I love it! 😀

        Re: the dash thing, I think it’s a good mechanic, one of many good things lifted from Mega Man. Did they have wallcrawling in Mighty?

        Re: As we agree the game is not pretty, that’s the most I’d stress about it. Comparatively, it suffers from having come into existence in the context of Mega Man. Maybe it would’ve had a kinder reception had it not been a Kickstarter by Inafune, but in the end, not pretty is what I think of it, too. I do think the character designs, and boss designs are cool, very much Mega Man and fun!

        Re: We both agree on the hi def thing! As far as skill in design on my part… well…. not really hahaha

        Re; I brought up the glitches only to say I think that might’ve contributed to the initial backlash (that among some other things like that trailer) but fixing it over time is good on them.

        Re: Good answer on the difficulty statement. Again, maybe if this had not been a game related to Mega Man… There’s a lot we agree on, really. I was thinking of Super Mario World, also, with its checkpoints. That was very early 90s and I am not sure how many checkpoints were used in the 80s, though maybe the levels and games were shorter then due to limitations.

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  2. Long comment! I’ll respond in parts. First on the obvious one – I didn’t deal with the hype build up. That was deliberate, I was using the phrase “development cycle” as inclusive of hype.

    The reason for that choice was that I’ve never seen a review for this game that didn’t do so from the angle of “comparison to the Kickstarter”. I think it’s more interesting, and the game deserves, to have at least one treatment that considers the game on its own merits. The Kickstarter reaction is really its own seperate article. I’ve read some detail on how that unfolded and it seems apparent to me that Comcept had already incensed its fan base into blind hatred well before the game even came out. But how and why is a different question. As I had not played Mega Man, or followed the Kickstarter, I had no expectations that could be broken. I’ve never seen anyone write from that angle, and I think it results in a different appreciation of the game.

    Will reply to your other comments soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah I see! I agree it results in a different perspective on the game. Fortunately, neither of us were backers and were told “at least you got something”, which allows us I think to take a look at it from a more distanced perspective. Haha sorry again for the long comment, mon frere!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been curious about Mighty No 9 for some time, being a fan of the Mega Man series since… forever? Haha I like Mega Man X and the Classic series a lot, especially for their difficulty and pace. The air dashing image above is straight out of the Mega Man X series text book. Lots of structural similarities here.

    I would like to pick your brain on some things. You didn’t mention Kickstarter but that’s how the hype initially built up for Mighty No 9, I imagine, especially with Inafune attached to the project. The game was from the beginning something which was funded because of its ties backward to Mega Man, so certainly delivering on that emotional attachment and nostalgia was its promise to its backers. I was not a backer, but imagine if the creator of your favorite series from the 80s or 90s announced they were making a new game after a long sabbatical? It’d be hard to contain excitement if Miyamoto or Kojima or Ueda (whoever you might pick) were making a game after a long time had passed. I think that explains the initial excitement (and potential for disappointment), though the Kickstarter campaign was apparently plagued with miscommunication and misdirection and delays, not good signs, especially if you spent real money on a game you had been led to expect would be different (for whatever reason).

    I remember when it came out and my friends and I talked about it. The consensus was it’s just plain ugly. They’re not “bad” graphics but I think the style of the whole thing (encapsulated in that trailer thumbnail at the end) is it’s not easy on the eyes. We’re naturally drawn to things that are appealing and I think Mighty misses a lot of those beats from what I’ve seen (comparison with MMX appreciated). Now, I don’t think or hope that anyone actually expected it to look like a AAA game, which might be a strawman there. Surely there were screenshots and concept art as part of the Kickstarter campaign so people understood it wasn’t good to be highly detailed and gritty and realistic. Still, the cartoonishness is better achieved in other games like Rayman Legends, which I’ve played recently, whereas here it looks stiff. The comparison with Mega Man 9 isn’t really an equal one since MM9 is part of an earlier series most noted for its NES entries and is therefore a deliberate throwback whereas Mighty doesn’t appear to deliberately throwback to anything, visually speaking. This is on full admission of not having played it but in only seeing the final result through gameplay videos and trailers.

    Finally, the thing that ultimately turned me off of it was word of its technical glitches at launch. I didn’t contribute money to it but I’d be pretty mad if I had and got a broken game out of it, though I’m sure they’ve patched it over time.

    All this to say, I haven’t been a part of the outrage machine online regarding Mighty No 9 but I understand the core disappointment surrounding the project WITHOUT condoning the hyperbolic reactions the game has received. Dead puppies is a hilariously internet-esque analogy to how infuriated some people can get, and I’m not one of them. I don’t have a dog in the fight, being just a fan of the older Mega Man games, the two earliest series of which were run into the ground anyway.

    Regarding the surprising statement I read here, that the 80s mechanic of having the restart and memorize entire levels sucked… I’m surprised! Haha it’s my opinion now that games are too easy with auto saves and that pattern-recognition and memorization were interesting ways in which retro games played upon the development of skill. However, setting that aside, do you think that there’s a conflict here when you say that this is the main flaw of the game, yet if that’s so then surely the try-hards, the self-declared-defenders, would have enjoyed Mighty rather than hated it?

    In my opinion, which is all this is at this point (a theory), challenge is good for video games (with exceptions, of course). Challenge means stakes and stakes mean investment, investment means being engaged, as I suspect you were when you mentioned you were on the edge of your seat. You were, if I might guess, because the game was challenging. If it wasn’t, if it had the pendulum-swung-too-far structure of auto saves in every room, then it’s a matter of walking down hallways and beating a boss at the end, with nothing really lost should you fail to play on the game’s terms.

    Whether some games from the era were too hard or not is an interesting consideration to attend to (some other time), but I think that has helped them retain their playability and how engaging they are. To end on an anecdotal statement: my kid brother got into Punch-Out!! on the NES a few months ago. He’s far too young to have any attachment, meaningfully, to the game or the NES for that matter, but he called it a game with “deep boss mechanics” and compared it to Shadow of the Colossus. He praised the game’s difficulty even though if he lost he also lost some progress. That kept him glued to the television. Imagine what kind of game it would be if you could save before every fight or had a checkpoint between rounds? Challenge has much value, if implemented right, in video games and I wonder if Mighty’s feedback has more to do with it being a Kickstarter project that created infectious outrage.

    Sorry for the long response! We do discussions, as always! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also should’ve said that what piqued my interest most about your review was the good score for gameplay. Reading what it’s about, it sounds like typical Mega Man rock-paper-scissors gameplay, which sounds fun enough to me. The speed/dashing mechanic and absorbing enemies also sounds interesting, enough to make me want to play the game. So kudos for that!!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think while challenge is important in video games it also needs to balance with not wasting your time. If you have no warning something is coming, and can’t avoid it, and the only way to get around it is memorization, then that is poor game play design. Just because it is old game play design doesn’t mean it is right, and that is why the industry has grown beyond it.

      It is important to give your consumer a choice. Take Shovel Knight for instance. This is one of my most favorite games of these last couple generations, but I likely never would have finished it if I had to bash my head against those last few levels. Fortunately they have an ingenious checkpoint system where you can keep checkpoints as safety nets, or destroy them for ever greater rewards and play without a safety net.

      It gives the consumer a choice, without having to resort to baby mode in order to proceed. The game is no less hard or challenging, the fact that I can get through it no less impressive, but I don’t have to carefully play for 20 minutes over and over to get to the part I die at.

      Hardcore retro gamers and Dark Souls players alike always have the same battle cry of games being too easy today, but I whole heartedly disagree. Celeste can be EXTREMELY hard, but you restart instantly and can try the challenging portion again. It doesn’t lose out in challenge because constant checkpoints, it benefits because of them. In fact, they can make far harder segments than anything in Mega Man, because you can jump back in and try again instantly.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wholeheartedly agree that challenge MUST be balanced. It’s an interesting substance in that it’s not the same thing as other metrics in gaming where more typically equals better. I attempted to hint at the potential for games to be too hard when I wrote “Whether some games from the era were too hard or not is an interesting consideration to attend to…” Some games certainly are. Most memorization in Mega Man, for instance, is pattern recognition with the bosses and with enemy movements and attacks, even with disappearing/reappearing blocks in which the pattern reveals itself right away within seconds to the player. Cheap deaths on the other hand are where a game is really too hard, as I recall someone in Mage Chat was attempting to say about Dark Souls. I don’t advocate for cheap deaths where a pattern isn’t present, but patterns are present in droves in retro games (not all but many).

        The choice of checkpoints in Shovel Knight is brilliant, and I thought of that game and Super Mario World as examples where checkpoints helped lower the difficulty while still preserving the difficulty of boss fights and level design. Shovel Knight’s still taking those cues (as with boss pattern memorization) from older games and its checkpoint system from the same (albeit with the treasure mechanic involved).

        “Hardcore retro gamers and Dark Souls players alike always have the same battle cry of games being too easy today, but I whole heartedly disagree. Celeste can be EXTREMELY hard,” Celeste is an interesting example to use here since it’s a retro-inspired indie platformer, of which there are plenty which take their cues from the retro age. I haven’t played it and know it only through reputation, but playing through Slime-san right now, it’s also about memorization and each stage requires some trial and error, some replaying of segments, though the stakes are lowered in that you don’t have to replay entire areas, it’s still hard in that the levels themselves are brtual microcosms. So when I mention that I think games today are too easy, I’m not at all talking about retro-inspired indies. The brutal platformer scene sprung up out of a craving for the very era under consideration here. Rather, I just finished Horizon Zero Dawn for instance and now I’m replaying it on Ultra Hard (not because I’m a try hard or consider mysef a “hardcore gamer” but simply because I thought the normal game was too easy).

        Multiple difficulty modes are an easy way round all this, but not every game has them. In this case, the story’s progression is center-stage, of course, so that’s what drives the player forward, but if the story doesn’t grab, well, that’s why you hear about some people giving up on big games and RPGs. If the story doesn’t grab, there’s no underlying challenge to press on the player’s sense of tension.

        In that regard, and to summarize, challenge is important but in balance. It’s not the most important thing, but it can however create great tension between the game and the player, driving forward the experience. It needs to be implemented well, though. Not too hard, and if it’s too easy, then there at least has to be something else to replace it (Horizon’s story).

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        1. I’m surprised to hear you thought Horizon was an easier title, I felt like it had this wonderful arc of being incredibly difficult up front, but as you became more powerful naturally through the game and learned the creatures more it became easier. The only thing that interrupts it is the armor you can get towards the end of the game that makes you nigh invulnerable on normal mode. I think the game is wonderfully balanced difficulty wise other than that, and of course that armor is entirely optional.

          Mega Man for instance has those laser beams moments, that unless you memorize the pattern by dying a ton of times, and know exactly where you have to go to beat them, then you simply cannot. You don’t have the time necessary to react while falling, so you have to memorize in order to beat it.

          I typically play games on Normal, but I don’t look to games to challenge me per say. Instead I want to experience the game as it was meant to be experienced, and typically harder modes just mean badguys hit harder or have more health.

          So many older games were artificially harder, because they had to be. You can beat all of Mega Man 2 in, what, an hour or less? They had to make the game difficult so that you had to beat your head against it to beat it, not to mention the technical limitations at the time.

          Most of the time people are talking about games being too easy nowadays, it all revolves around checkpoints lowering the cost of death in a game by allowing you to try again and again without losing 30 minutes of gameplay at a time. That is what people love so much about rogue-like games and Dark Souls, and I cannot understand it.

          Checkpoints are one of the best innovations in the history of gaming I would argue, and allow one to have a life and still play through a game. I might be talented enough to get through a difficult portion one time, but over and over again as I die to try and get through an entire level is a relic of the past, and not a good one.

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          1. I would agree that Horizon is at its most difficult early on before you become a walking arsenal, but even then it’s not too hard. I think at this point the conversation has gained a flavor of our differing appreciation levels for difficulty. I think we can both agree that if difficulty is well implemented and balanced that it can potentially create great tension to keep the player invested, like a tool, but the degree to which you and I want an easier or a more difficult game personally is a matter of taste, and that’s the distinction. I also play games on normal first, then consider any harder difficulties. Because I enjoyed Horizon so much I went right back into it on a different level.

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