From around the Interweb: Impossible challenges and difficult games

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Whether it was trying to take on Bayou Billy or pressing through the long dungeons Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, everyone has had a frustrating experience playing video games. Games are meant to be challenging, but sometimes the learning curve is too steep or there are developmental flaws that unnecessarily add to a game’s difficulty. For our second a “from around the interweb” column we have a group of game journalists musing about what games they found challenging to downright impossible. The authors are:


RawMeatCowboy, who is behind the massive source of Nintendo news at GoNintendo.


Video game bargain hunter and podcast host, CheapyD from CheapAssGamer.


PSP Fanboy editor and the source for today’s interview with the Nintendo Shortcuts contest winners, Andrew Yoon.


And last but certainly not least, JC Fletcher who blogs for DS Fanboy and NintendoWiiFanboy.


I throw my hat in at the end and I welcome you to post up your reactions and what games you found difficult to beat too.


Different minds, different thoughts and different perspectives on difficult games are past the break.


RawMeatCowboy from GoNintendo says:



I'll be really surprised if I am the only one that thought of this game.  Back in the days of the NES there were a lot of tough games, but one stands out far and above all other memories.  Battletoads kicked my ass so many times I can't even keep track.  It seems like everything after the first level was made to drive the player insane.  I never was one to throw controllers in a fit of rage, but Battletoads pushed me closer to then any other game.  It would take weeks of practice and memorization to make it past just one level.  I still don't know why the hell I played it so much.  I just went back and tried it again a few months ago.  I thought that maybe after all these years of gaming experience that I would be better prepared to handle it.  Well, I was definitely wrong.  The game is just as hard as I remember it.  Now I am trying to figure out how the hell Rare expected kids to be able to play this!


Still though, Battletoads game me a better sense of accomplishment than any other game.  Beating a level was such a momentous occasion that it was deserving of a victory dance, as well as a cool drink and a wipe of the brow.  I'll never forget the first time I made it through the turbo tunnel level.  Riding some sort of speeder bike, dodging walls and hitting jumps all at breakneck speeds.  I can still hear the base-heavy thuds from smashing into wall after wall.  That level puts me in a gaming trance like none other.  I feel like I'm in that scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Lights and sounds zipping by my head lulling me into a deep gaming state.  The only issue that came after beating that level was realizing that the next would probably be even harder.


Beating that game is still an impossible feat for me.  I've tried everything I can think of to make it through.  Having a friend tag along for the journey makes things even worse.  You usually end up beating the crap out of each other by accident.  I even tried using the Game Genie.  I tested out some of the later levels which quickly showed me that the earlier levels that I thought were tough were child's play.  The final level has you climbing a rotating tower to fight the Dark Queen.  If the other levels didn't drain your reserve of men, this one would eat them up in a matter of minutes.  Still, more Game Genie codes were used to get to the final fight.  I managed to take down the Queen after a ridiculously hard fight only to find out that it didn't count.  The damn game knew I was using a Game Genie to beat it!


My hat goes off to you Battletoads…you are truly better at everything than I am.



CheapyD from CheapAssGamer says:



For some gamers, a tough challenge presents an opportunity for them to show off their skills, and perhaps even earn some bragging rights, which the kids tell me, is oh so important on the Internets these days.  I am not one of those gamers.  Much like my women, I prefer my games to be cheap, easy, and have oral fixations.


Here are some games from modern times that are way out of my league.


Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)

Ninja Gaiden is one the best-reviewed games on the Xbox, but also one of the most difficult.  I really liked this game, but I had to give up after a few hours because I just didn't have the skills.  My ninja master disemboweled himself due to embarrassment.  The "remixed" versions, Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox) and now Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3) added an easy mode called "Ninja Dog" for gamers like me which are long past their prime.  I picked up Sigma this week (it's out in Japan now) in an attempt to reclaim some of my lost honor, even if I have to accept a labeling as a dog.



Final Fantasy X (PS2)

Although the story is certainly difficult to understand, I doubt this one will wind up on many other gamers' "toughest games" lists.  This was my first Final Fantasy game and I was very interested to see what all the hubbub was about.  After approximately 100 hours of grinding through random battles with strange characters and a bizarre storyline requiring a Ph.D. in Crazy to understand, I finally made it to the final boss.  Little did I expect that, even with my 100-hour investment, my characters were way too weak to even put a dent in "Sin". With the help of an Action Replay Max, I was able to vanquish that demon-whale thing and reap the rewards of one last CG movie.



Marvel Trading Card Game (DS)

As a fan of Marvel Comics, cards, and games, I was pretty sure a combination of the three would be enjoyable.  Hell, I was right about chocolate and peanut butter, so I figured I would take a chance on the Marvel Trading Card Game.  After completing the tutorial hosted by Professor X, which might be the least helpful tutorial in the history of video games, I realized it would probably be easier to develop my own comic book company and accompanying card game.  I am still unable to even come close at beating the first level.  I will stick to easier endeavors like trying to cure cancer.



Andrew Yoon from PSP Fanboy says:



As a PSP writer, I have no choice but to get the obligatory PSP jokes out of the way. Clearly, "WWE Smackdown" is the most difficult game on the PSP; how can anyone stand its infamous 10-minute load times?


With that out of the way, we can seriously discuss some of the more challenging games on Sony's handheld. Blame the recency effect, but just-released PQ2 stands as one of the most challenging games I have played on any system. In theory, this game should be childishly simple: the main goal is to reach the exit by shoving boxes around. However, many of these puzzles are absolutely diabolical. I've been told that there are answers to all the puzzles, but as a gamer, I couldn't help but think that this was a developer's way of torturing us with impossible tasks. My mind still can't get around some of these challenges.


Another PSP game deserves special mention: Crush. It takes the dimension-smashing idea of Super Paper Mario and goes into a whole new direction. Being able to transform 3D worlds into 2D, and back again, pushes your mind to think in a whole new way. The only thing more challenging than figuring out how to solve each level is to actually make them: the team at Zoe Mode should be commended for such an ingenious, and well-executed concept. Impossibly difficult? Maybe. But also, refreshingly satisfying.




JC Fletcher from DS Fanboy says:



Shocking confession: despite around 25 years of intense game playing, I never obtained any skillz. I can't play most of Hard mode in Guitar Hero, which is really shameful for me, because I consider music games my favorite genre. I definitely never completed Ninja Gaiden, although I did get through the NES version in college– with the help of a friend and probably some unseen voodoo rituals being performed in my honor. Even though I rarely finish them, I've always been attracted to skill-testing games, even going so far as to purchase Deadly Towers (whose difficulty is but one of its many problems.)


Two factors have contributed to my continued weakness in adulthood: easy mode and the availability of a large number of games. In most cases, if a game has an easy mode, I will choose it. I see no shame in it for games like Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid that I just want to experience, but I do feel pretty bad about it in arcade-style games. In previous generations I delighted in the use of cheat codes and debug menus that let me play the game without fear of failure. In addition to completely nerfing the games, these menus often had amusing side effects (like the weird upside-down sprite in Pac-Land) that, I felt, enhanced the game and justified the cheating.


Nowadays, having collected games for years and years, if a game is too hard, there is great temptation to just move on to another game. There are always other games on the shelf that I have yet to finish. And I really see no problem with that. I'm not going to torture myself when a game stops being fun. Who cares if I haven't seen a final boss in a Final Fantasy game since Sephiroth? Most of the time, though, when I get bummed out by a hard game, I'll just go back to something like Symphony of the Night or Parappa or Elite Beat Agents– these are the “comfort games” in which I seek solace.


Spencer from Siliconera:



I’m not surprised Ninja Gaiden was mentioned, man that game is hard and it is a really good example of a well designed game that is made intentionally difficult. Good luck to everyone trying Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the first time! I tend to think games have gotten “easier” since nearly all games have some kind of save point system. The first game that drove me nuts was Super Mario Brothers 2 better known as Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. Super Mario Brothers 2 was designed for people who mastered Super Mario Brothers 1 and even for them it was a serious challenge. You have to master bouncing on enemies to clear large gaps and dodge flying bloopers. Even warp zones can screw you up because they can go backwards. What made the Famicom Disc System version even harder was that Poison Mushrooms and Super Mushrooms didn’t look that different from each other. Thanks to the NES’ limited palette you could easily mistake the two and lose a life.


Out of the recent games I’ve played Odin Sphere was exceptionally difficult. On “normal” difficulty you have to replay levels multiple times to earn Psyphers and grow food to boost your HP. It only takes a few hits to die, but at least Odin Sphere is forgiving. Each time you run out of life you are brought back to life right before the boss fight or minutes before you got killed. It’s sort of like having unlimited lives and that mitigates the difficulty a tad. Thanks to merciless AI Puzzle Quest on the PSP was pretty hard too, but since you gain experience whether you win or lose it never felt frustrating. On the other hand Shadowgate which has no AI and is really easy drove me nuts because the puzzle solutions are so ridiculous. Also everything kills you, even reading books.


A special thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts in this column and please share some stories about games that challenged you!

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