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Recently, I picked up Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I had to ask myself this question:
Are the days of pure arcade experience being pushed aside for more story based content?
It’s a common trait for anything to grow bigger and better as technology advances and people grow older, but where have all the hardcore platformers and difficulty-based arcade games gone?
Story driven games are constantly reaching new heights, as seen in recent AAA titles like Uncharted, and especially Bioshock: Infinite. Immersion is constantly getting deeper, but gone are the days of memorization and precision jumping. In Castlevania, if you misjudge the arch of your jump, it could result in an instant death. In Ninja Gaiden, if you are hit at the wrong time, you could fall back into a bottomless pit. These kinds of challenges are rarely seen in major titles these days.
So what is it that made these games so enjoyable, anyway?
If the games were beyond frustrating and took days of constantly replaying the same level over and over again until you could repeat the sound bites, then where was the enjoyment to be found?
It was found in the accomplishment. I have yet to feel as achieved in a game than I have with Castlevania and the like. You work so hard on completing one screen, almost giving up, but knowing you’re getting closer each time, and then you get there. You finally achieve what you’ve been working for, and because it was so challenging, it makes the moment so much more satisfying.
I haven’t really felt this way with the newest hyped up releases. Sure, you can crank the difficulty up and get a fantastic challenge, but with auto-saves and multiple strategies, it just doesn’t feel the same.
Personally, I feel like this isn’t an issue. It really comes down to me missing a particular type of challenge. Just because these games feel endangered, does not mean the big budget titles are on a downhill path.
Bioshock: Infinite has cemented itself as my favorite game of all time. It even has a 1999 mode, in homage to these older difficulties (which I’m very excited to start). There are also plenty of indie titles being released with this very idea in mind, but it would be nice to see a big budget game based around personal accomplishment. Dark Souls does come to mind.
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