Too Damn Early For This
I think the media called it “SnowTober”. In reality, snow in October is not completely unheard of, but the massive amount that was dumped on much of the Northeast was something of an aberration. I heard a tree explode. The power outage lasted for several days in some places, but as I mentioned last week, I was able to escape after only a day or so. I was the lucky one. I still can’t believe I flew 3000 miles for that shit.
I spent some time hunting down a few GameCube games that I sold in a fit of madness when I was moving to Los Angeles and decided that personal possessions were unnecessary dead weight. I found Tales of Symphonia at my favorite game store, Pastime Legends in Albany, but Skies of Arcadia has proven far more elusive. Nearly every store I have talked to has told me that they have not seen a copy anywhere. I even went to that store run by a bunch of assholes. On a lark, I went into GameStop and asked at the counter. Apparently they had a copy in Rutland, Vermont for 20 dollars, a more than fair price. Rutland being 90 miles away however, I decided to check on their website for locations in the LA area. Their store locator claims that every store in Los Angeles has a copy. I think it might be lying to me, but it gives me hope nonetheless.
Last week I started playing the original Metroid and found the difficulty far beyond my expectations. It reminded me how easy games have become. Still bereft of any modern console games, I decided to start playing Dragon Warrior III on the original NES cartridge. It is a game of whose difficulty I am fully aware, having played it numerous times. I’ve never actually finished it, but that was more due to its historically vexing saved game failures than anything else. Having roughly half a week to play, I was not going to finish it this time either, but it did bring back some memories and highlight a few other hardships left behind in classic games.
Dragon Warrior games are a relic of the days when video games were much more difficult. In the old days, it was not assumed that you would eventually beat a game. Now an unbeatable game would be reviewed poorly and despised by the general public. As such, modern RPGs are heavily based on the much easier Final Fantasy series. The most glaring difference between Dragon Warrior III and modern RPGs (and even some other classic RPGs), is the consequence of death.
In Dragon Warrior, resurrecting your characters is a huge chore, costing large quantities of gold and requiring you to return to a town. If all of your characters die, the hero is revived free of charge with half of your gold presumably stolen by monsters. On top of that you will have to pay to revive the three remaining characters in your party. In Final Fantasy and in pretty much every RPG made in the last decade, character revival items are cheap and spells that perform the same function are learned very early on. In Dragon Warrior those items are practically non-existent and the spells aren’t learned till at least halfway through the game. Even then, the first spell learned only works half the time and uses a large portion of your healer’s precious mana pool. Mana which is extremely limited and irrecoverable without resting at an inn.
In most modern RPGs, party death means restarting at the last save point. This usually isn’t that bad, since saving is possible anywhere on the world map and at numerous points in a dungeon. In Dragon Warrior you can only save at castles. In theory, you could reset the system after death and reload, but the lost playing time could be on the order of several hours if you have not been extremely cautious. Even then, if you didn’t know the correct path through a dungeon, you could lose a good hours progress.
The difference is even more blatant in other genres. In most old platformers you had a restricted number of lives to use in a level and sometimes a few continues. Now you hit a checkpoint every five minutes and any number of deaths will only bring you back that far. Extra lives are either forsaken entirely or given away for nothing. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, hailed as an extremely difficult game, you are given 4 extra lives and start at the beginning of the level every time you run out of lives. If you start a level with less than 4 lives, they give you the difference for nothing!
I’m not saying I want to start a game over every 5 minutes, but it is important to have a little perspective. Now I’ll be getting back to my modern consoles and Uncharted 3, Arkham City, Skyward Sword, and the endless list of new games releasing in the coming holiday season.