Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Best Video Games... That Drive You F*$#ing Crazy

We've all had it happen. Here we are playing a video game we very much enjoy. A game that is most definitely awesome and then - BAM! - something happens that is so beyond aggravating that you want to scream.

I was just playing a video game that caused me such annoyance I was to the point of shaking. No, scratch that... I damn well had a spasm. I shook my DS like it was a baby that just wouldn't stop crying. Here are some of the best video games and game series that pushed you over the edge.

5. Mario Kart Series (Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit, Mario Kart Double Dash, Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii)

Here you were loving life and having a leisurely game of Mario Kart. It's so simple! You have your favourite fun-loving Nintendo characters driving around in cute little go-karts! All you have to do is hold in the gas and take your time. You can get weapons! That's so great! Ooo, a red shell. It homes in on your enemies, friend! This game is so much fun. You have such a commanding lead now. There isn't a car near you. I think you're gonna win the race!


Just then Wario, that unforgiving prick, comes out of nowhere with star power sending you flying off the road, unable to keep control of your kart! The rest of the racers, that just moments ago seemed so far away, blaze passed you. When you finally gain control of your kart again you pass the finish line, dead last.

You have just been raped by comeback AI.

This is pretty much a staple of the Mario Kart franchise, but it rears its ugly head in all kinds of racing games. Hell, it's not even restricted to racing. It shows up in all kinds of great sports games. Let's just focus on Mario Kart though, shall we?

Basically the idea is this. If a person that is very good at a game is having an easy go at racing passed his competitors, reaching the first place position, and making his way to the finish line (and glory, I might add) then the game is designed to fuck that person... so hard. Why? Well, for a more intense and enjoyable experience. If all you had to do was have the skill and perseverance to out-race your competitors everytime, well that would just be boring. As a result, even if you're enjoying a commanding lead right from moment one and never falter in any way you still have to be on your toes because the game might decide to have one of the other racers show up with just the right weapon to kick your ass off the course.

If I could count how many times Wario or Bowser showed up and ran straight through me to victory, or (as of late) Diddy Kong (Mario Kart Wii). That little bastard has it coming, I friggin' swear. What's worse about the whole thing? There's nothing you can do about it. I mean, it's designed into the game to cause you annoyance if you're doing amazing. So what? You should play a mediocre game and just narrowly come in first?

Yeah, apparently that's the idea.

I think the second most irksome aspect of all this is that comeback AI isn't technically (or admittedly) built into any game. I don't think there are any dev teams out there that will say, "Yeah, we built comeback AI into our game, just to make you want to shit in your own skull." If you were to mention it to them, I'm sure you'd get some kind of answer like, "The game is developed so that all players can enjoy a healthy amount of competitiveness for maximum enjoyment." Fuck that, and fuck you Nintendo! It's no coincidence that the blue shell just came at me while I was about to cross the finish line for the third race in a row!

You're all a bunch of liars and baby eaters.

4. Metroid Series (Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid Prime Trilogy)

Remember the first time you played Metroid? I remember when I first tried it out. I was shocked by how great the game controls were. I mean, the jumping could be sluggish, but that made sense! Gravity can be an issue in space. Your weapon, however, fired with perfect accuracy. The game had these great areas with all kinds of different alien species leaping at you from all directions. There were weapon upgrades and cool little platforming elements I'd never seen before. All I could think was, what a great game.

Then I tried to save and come back to the game some time later and I came to the realization that I had no rightly clue where in the name of sweet baby Jesus I was. Not only that, I had no idea what the hell I'd been doing. Was I trying to kill a boss? Attain a new armour upgrade? Get the spinny ball thing with the bombs?

Christ, I have no idea!

I know what you're thinking, "Well that's your own damned fault." There are so many games out there that build into them some option to find either an NPC or a computer screen (in game) and find out what you're up to. It's sort of a staple in really complicated games with arcing storylines and hard to navigate settings. But no, not Metroid!

What's worse is that you can forgive the first one. I mean, that's a given. Same thing in Super Metroid? Alright, you got me that time, Nintendo! But in Metroid Prime for the GameCube? This shit is just getting out of control.

I say this not as someone who has read about this issue, but as someone who has completely abandoned a game of Metroid Prime, a game I very much was enjoying, because I have no fucking idea what I'm supposed to be doing. There are these huge areas that have so many facets and angles. I mean you can climb walls in ball form, or just run through the open areas, guns a-blazin'. There are platform sections and spots to use special weapons to open certain doors. I have no frame of reference on where to start because I saved it for a time, tried another game, and when I returned there's nothing there to guide me.

What's worse is that these games are known for their backtracking in an open world, so just because I'm saved in one area doesn't mean that I can just continue down path A. I mean, I could have been popping back in here just to reach one little spot that I couldn't get to before without a certain item that I may or may not have obtained!

I've tried several times and failed miserably, and now I know that I basically have to start again to finish the game, and that makes me want to vomit, honestly.

Too many games, too little time, people!

3. Goldeneye 007

I think you all know where I'm going with this one. Goldeneye wasn't a revolutionary game but any means, but what it did exceedingly well was take a franchise license and make an incredibly fun first person shooter. Honestly, how often is it that a game based on a movie is worth a damn? Not often, but not only is Goldeneye a great licensed game, it's one of the best FPS out there, and a classic for the Nintendo 64.

It did so many things great. Fun weapons that worked quite accurately (sans the Klobb, but that's the point!). There were lots of cool missions. The stages gradually became harder and harder, but never overwhelmed, unless you'd become a veteran and were rocking the 007 difficulty. It had lots of unlockables and material to add to the gameplay value. Most importantly it had the sweetest multiplayer going. Four-player deathmatches with well-designed maps and tons of different features, which allowed the players to make their own games.

I can't even begin to calculate the amount of hours that I've put into this game. Everything about it screams classic, except for one thing. One excruciating, mind-numbing, fucking thing... and her name was Natalya.

Escort missions, my friends. I can feel the shiver that just ran down your spine.

In a game so well-made, with every detail taken into consideration, there could not have been a more broken and painful experience than trying to escort that hateful, blue-bloused bitch through any level. And woe, there were multiple escort missions with this heinous wench.

She has a complete mind of her own, running into combat with dozens of Russian soldiers at any moment. You could carefully, so very carefully, work your way through a stage, and just as you reached the end - WOOSH! - Natalya thinks it's a good idea to barrel into a room full of guards and then attempt to run through a wall to her right for several minutes.

Oh, the screams I released at her foolishness. What was worse was that going through the 007 difficulty was already hard enough without her constant blunderings. Then there were unlockables that required to you replay stages with her in them under time constraints!

I can't tell you how many times I buried a cap in her ugly, boxy head out of sheer aggravation, and I'm sure all of you did, too.

2. Mega Man Series (Mega Man, X, Zero, ZX)

Mega Man needs to explanation, whatsoever, so this will be brief. Combine great platforming with incredibly thought-out level design, a fun story involving cute robots and mad scientists and the outcome is Mega Man.

The coolest thing about these games was how they were played, which was damned well innovative. They are "choose your own path" games (or at least were pre-Zero and ZX). You could play through them however you pleased. However, the main theme here is Rock, Paper, Scissors, hence the Japanese title of Rockman, and characters like Gutsman (who throws rocks) and Cutsman (who literally had scissors on his head). A weapon acquired from one Robot Master could easily destroy another, but the trick was figuring out the pattern.

It was something completely different and it offered not only fun, colourful gameplay, but a decent amount of difficulty that kept any gamer coming back for more.

But there were times... oh, there were times where you just wanted nothing more than to crack the casing on that cartridge, tear out those metallic innards, and perform some long forgotten sacrifice on the game's black, thoughtless soul.

There were spikes, and they were oh-so cleverly placed. Sometimes navigating them literally required reflexes like a jungle cat. A slight tap of the A button would give you just the right amount of velocity to make your way through a particular bitch of an underwater level, spikes coating every wall and ceiling. And why were these stages always underwater!?

That wasn't all, though. No. How many times did you work your ass off to make it to the end of a particular boss' stage, narrowly making it with a single life and less than half an energy gauge, only to begin crying knowing you'd never survive the Master that awaited you at the end of that hallway?

I know your pain, friends.

Or, on those occasions where you completely mastered the stage, running through it like a perfect servo, only to reach the end, and come to the realization that you didn't have the weapon to beat this enemy, and could only attempt, so weakly, to take him on in short bursts of humiliation before being destroyed and having to start back at square one.

What's worse is with all this raining down on you, an onslaught like no other, they had the nerve, the complete and utter gall, to hit you with disappearing, fucking blocks.

The memories are too fresh, I need a moment.


Okay, time to soldier on.

I can remember the days of Heat Man's stage, and the beginnings with Ice Man. You're working your way through the level like the fighting robot that you are. Then you drop into a new section. What's this? A wall I can't jump over. The sound of the blocks appearing finds its way to your chest, deep in where your essence is housed, and it simply tickles it, sending your body into heaves of hate. You know what's coming. You'll have to work through screen after screen figuring out the pattern. If it were only that simple, though.

No, the game developers, sado-masochists all, have placed these warping blocks of pure depravity over massive chasms, just to make things interesting.

1. Ghosts n' Goblins Series (Ghouls n' Ghosts, Super Ghouls n' Ghosts)

Another Capcom title. Colour me shocked.

Ghosts n' Goblins was a great arcade title released by Capcom in 1985. It has been released for many consoles, including the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 16, and the Sharp X68000. It was most notably ported, however, to the NES with future iterations (sequels and remakes) on the SNES, Game Boy Colour, GBA, PSX (PSone for all you system name retconners), Sega Saturn and PSP. And I'm not even getting into spin-offs here.

My point is that this game has seen so many different versions, and each one of them will make you want to go back in time, find the ape that first touched the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and bash his brains in before he ever discovers technology.

Why, do you ask? Then you must not have played. How blissfully ignorant you are. You see, in this game, you play as Arthur, an iron-clad knight that must save his beloved Princess Prin Prin, from the clutches of evil incarnate.

I mentioned Arthur is iron-clad, correct? Well that's just an illusion, folks. You see, in Ghosts n' Goblins all armour does is give you a false hope, because in one foul motion you're beloved suit of protection will be swept from your body, leaving you naked and vulnerable. That's right. In this game, you only get two fucking hits.

It's not just the fact that you can only get hit twice, but that these games are so chaotic. There are enemies everywhere, the screen is shaking, there are projectiles. Oh wait, that background of water you thought was just for show? Well now it's hurtling at you, attempting to wash you away in a furious ocean (which is a one-hit kill, I might add). There is no room for error when playing any version of Ghosts n' Goblins.

Just for measure, though, Capcom decided to add some further kicks to your balls (or "femmy areas" for our lady readers, of which are most certainly non-existant). During the game Arthur can get bitchin' armour upgrades. First there's bronze armour, instantly upgrading your weapons. This is followed by gold armour, which upgrades your weapons and gives you a charge feature. This can make for an even more powerful ability or attack from your desired armament.

Guess how many hits you get now? STILL FUCKING TWO. All that hard work you went through surviving that gauntlet of enemies and madness so that you didn't get hit, not even once, and finally got to receive an armour upgrade means nothing if you get struck, even by the smallest annoyance in screen. I mean, it would've been downright decent of the developers to allow you to at least go back to your regular suit of iron. That is not the case, however.

But wait, you can get your armour back! It's a droppable item. Yeah, when the second moon faces the setting sun of Jupiter. Okay, maybe it's not that impossible, but it's still damned well infrequent.

So after you go through everything that this game shells out at you; the manic screens full of enemies, the constantly destructive environment that can at any moment end your life, the massive boss battles, and the rare weapon upgrades. After you survived all of this, most often in nothing but your friggin' underwear, and done so with a timer of three minutes per stage, for around ten or so stages, and taken on the end boss of the game, which is a Herculean task in and of itself... the game lets you in on a secret.

You've finished nothing. All of that was merely half of the game. No, now you must start at the very beginning and make it through Hell once more, to truly save your princess and finish the game.

It's enough to make you want to somehow devour your own brain.


Bruce Burns said...

I see you too know the pain of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. I never got too far into it but I saw it consume my brother as he furtively attempted to beat it. Watching him die in the last stage of the second play through was agony even for a bystander.

Although I love the Metroid series (and like many count Super Metroid as amoung my most favorite of games) I never see people point out the "stop playing for more than 5 days and you're lost" quality they share. I think it's virtually impossible to beat Metroid Prime (or even get very far) if you are going to university or have a demanding job. I love that game, but so help me god, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to beat it.

And yeah, Wario is a dick.

RyHo said...

I know, isn't he!?

But yeah, the only Metroid game I didn't have this problem with with was Metroid: Zero Mission for the GBA, which I didn't put down until I finished completely. I guess that's what you have to be prepared to do, but I generally take breaks with games, and as a result Metroid Prime has been lost on me.

Glad to see I'm not alone!

Cole D'Arc said...

That's exactly why I've only finished 2 Metroids - Super Metroid, which I actually played fanatically over a number of years before finally completing and Metroid Fusion, my personal fave which I never put down.
Ive experience everything on this list firsthand but my most frustrating gaming moments still have to be in my first time through my beloved Final Fantasy Tactics, as you well know. Luckily, your copy which i damaged in such a rage, still works very well to this day. I've never before or since taken out my anger on a game in such a manner.
ghost and goblins is just hateful. probably what i hate the most is how you can't control your fall in a jump - so many times ive launched myself into the air, thinking it a good idea at the moment only to realize my landing was going to kill me and i was helpless to alter my course in any way.

RyHo said...

Yes, I left Tactics out of it, although the first time I took on the Wiegraf/Velius battle it most certainly drove me crazy.

I forgot to mention that awful jump. What I like is that they gave you a double jump, which gave you the illusion you could change your course, but all it really does is delay the inevitable. You will die.

Shane Patenaude said...

I'm happy to say that I've beaten 4 Metroid games including Metroid Prime, but I totally agree that Metroidvania style games don't allow you to take breaks of more than a few days.

Your points about Megaman are perfect, and the reason why I've played many, and beaten so few.

Also ... Super Ghouls and Ghost .... more like Super Kick in the Fucking Balls. I love and hate that game so much it's stupid. The opening music to that game rocks, and pumps you up, and then you're let down half a minute later. The double jump is only there to allow you to savor your failure as you careen hopelessly into a enemy.

RyHo said...

SGnG is a constant kick in the dick, for sure. Every step of the way Capcom seems to have found a way to take you down a notch, to the point where you become numb. I've never beaten the game, and I dunno if I ever will. I still think it's fun, though. It has nice graphics and I enjoy the weapons and upgrades (when you have them), but there's only so many times I can get thoroughly ass-kicked and keep coming back.

Shane Patenaude said...

I guarantee you I will never beat it, since I once attempted to by playing it on an emulator and employing all manner of save state cheating, and I still hit a brick wall of difficulty I could not triumph over.

That's not just difficult, that's cruel.