Home CommentaryOpinions Non-Playable Character: Video games, past and present

Non-Playable Character: Video games, past and present

by Archives March 16, 2005

It may be hard to fathom, but those of us still gaming today are witnessing the rise of a new generation. For most of us, it’s hard enough to imagine ourselves as an older generation, much less as an older generation of gamers. Whichever way you look at it though, it’s true. Those of us born in the mid-’80s, considered by many to be the dawning of the ‘popular’ video game age grew up with technology. TVs were already in almost every home, so the transition from watching to playing was almost natural.

Nowadays, the face of everything has changed. Systems aren’t just for games anymore. Now, they have to do everything: play music, movies, be personal organizers and do about fifty other things, short of making breakfast, and it’s just a matter of time before that happens too.

Maybe that’s being a bit facetious, but you have to admit gaming systems have become far more complicated than their eight, 16 and 32-bit ancestors. Well…the hardware has become more complicated anyway. Not necessarily the software. Graphically, of course, today’s games are light-decades ahead of an 8-bit pixilated Mario in his static universe of left-to-right, inflexible 2-D motion. Two weeks ago, this column (which you hopefully read then, too) was about the lack of originality in games today. This week’s topic isn’t so much about that. It’s something important to the jaded veterans who still game, after all these years.

Aside from the originality issue, there is yet another thing that most games today have in common. They’re too easy.

Now maybe this is more of a contrast thing, like diving into a cold pool after sitting in a Jacuzzi. Some games we grew up on were ridiculously hard. Even revisited today, they still are ridiculously hard. Battletoads, Contra, Duck Hunt (that damn dog…), Final Fantasy…and so on.

Most games like these today are much shorter than their counterparts of yore, and even much easier. Wind Waker, the latest installment in the Legend of Zelda series can be blasted through in a matter of hours. I’d like to see someone try to beat the first Zelda game in that short a time. Then again…maybe they could.

The Internet, though it may not seem so, is a big factor here. Back in the mid ’80s to early ’90s, there were no walkthroughs posted online for us to follow like there are now. Everything was done by hand. Found a new area? Map it out yourself. Make notes, ask your friends for help, or in extreme cases, call the Nintendo Gameplay hint line.

Today, quick trip to http://www.gamefaqs.com, and you are all set.

This being said, there are still some games from the shores of Japan that are tough as hell. Ikaruga is one. Ported from arcades to the Dreamcast, the game is based on old arcade top-down shooters of the ’90s. Just beating it on easy mode is a pain, and requires hours of patience, redoing levels, and a very sturdy controller.

The Ninja Gaiden remake for X-box is another example. Merciless slaughter at the hands of annoying, sometimes overly cheap opponents, and that’s on easy. Keep people away from you as you play this, lest you disturb them with a string of obscenities as the undead dragon boss humiliates you again and again.

And who could forget the inspiration for this week’s column: Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. I haven’t played it yet, but I hope to soon. If you start off on easy, you will die. Die enough times, and you unlock an easier difficulty setting, which people say is still too hard.

So there you have it. Even though games are supposedly easier, some still have room to deflate your ego. So until next week, this is Velkyn wondering: “How many controllers have actually been broken out of frustration?”

Related Articles

Leave a Comment