I busted out my old Nintendo Entertainment System a few weeks ago for laughs. I had played for all of an hour when I began to wonder: what’s happened to me? Has gaming become so streamlined that I have become a terrible gamer as a result of it? A gamer who needs his hand held to make any kind of progress at all? Or does the fault lie in me? Have my years of excessive drug use and rampant cannibalism finally taken a toll on my senses and dulled my reaction times?
I honestly think the answer may lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. While gaming has gotten undeniably easier (I foreshadow someone arguing this with the “Dark Souls” point, but sadism and hard games are two different things), I have also gotten undeniably older, and I believe it’s those factors that created the “perfect storm”. A crux where I am incapable of beating video games now that I could beat with ease as a child. The following are five such examples of games.
Mike Tyson’s Punchout
First and foremost, I loved this game as a child. I loved this game like someone loved their childhood pet. More than a video game, I felt like it was a precursor to Shadow of the Colossus (yes, you just read that) in the sense that it was really just a string of connected boss fights. Now that I am older I can see that the game is a string of connected stereotypes, but I still think it is incredible. Every character had patterns of attack and traits you could exploit. Usually, based around their stereotypes, actually.
In hindsight, this game is so tasteless, if it was made now it would have a suicide bomber character.
But all those stupid, politically correct points aside, the game had an amazing difficulty curve, and everytime you thought you were stuck, you would manage to press on. Well, until you reached this guy:
007-373-5963 is the code to get directly to him. I remember it like an old flame’s phone number. I am sad, I know.
Once you got to Tyson, forget about it. He would do this super fast hand motion, and then punch you in the face, one punch knockout style. It took every skill you got in the game up to that point, and added amped up ninja-like-reflexes into the mix. But the thing is, you COULD master him. You could fight him, time after time, and like all old games, you could master his pattern. It was not easy, and your hands would be shaking from psuedo-adrenaline after a minute or so, but it could be done.
I know because I did it.
And I even remember how amazing it was. To see his body twist through the air and the hit the mat for the third time. I mean, I heralded that moment from my childhood so much, I made that my Facebook Timeline photo.
And Tyson’s ” O Face” from when you win by decision is pretty amazing, too.
But something happened when I played Punchout again. I sucked. I really, really sucked. Not only could I not beat Mike Tyson. I could not make it to him. And do you know why I couldn’t make it to him?
Bald f*cking Bull. That’s why!
Now I know, with Bald Bull, you need to count to three as he charges, but when you do you start? All the skills I spent my youth acquiring were gone. He reduced me to rubble, time and time again. So I used to code. The only other code besides “The Konami Code” that I fully remember from my youth. And I went directly to Tyson, and after about an hour of having my ass beat, I came to the conclusion: No way. There is no way I could do this now, and I have no idea how I did it then.
What kind of awesome shit were my parents feeding me as a kid that ever made this possible?
Mega Man 2
Alright, I know all you need to do is go get the metal blade weapon from the Metal Man stage right away, and it is almost a game breaking weapon. I recall that clearly, so I tried to do it. And again, I just kept wondering how I ever did this. Literally. I now lacked the patience to even get myself all the way through one level. ONE LEVEL. Why? Because I had seemingly somehow forgotten that the game was designed by cruel, heartless people who grew stronger by drinking the tears of children.
In what sick world is every surface a conveyor belt leading to an excruciating death? It is like a precursor to the SAW franchise.
I know Capcom released Mega Man 9 not long ago, and with it, the same brutal difficulty, but I just lack any of the patience and timing required of me now to get through a game like this. How is it that I have less patience as an adult than I did as a child? And I know I beat it, because Mega Man 2 has one of my favorite bosses from my childhood.
Do you know how cool of a moment this is when you are a kid?
I know I could have chosen any early game in the series, but Mega Man 2 stood out to me because when I played it again as an adult, I was so excited to see the dragon boss again, and sadly, I couldn’t even make it to him.
*Hangs head in shame
Now this is really the big nerd reveal, because only nerds played games like Shadowgate. But Shadowgate was AWESOME. It taught me to think differently. Like insanely differently. And I have watched people play this game and never even get in the castle. Yes, even the first door is a puzzle, but if you are not familiar with point and click games, you will just be standing there, with no clue.
Really? I cried out “death to the Philistine!!” before I killed the cyclops? Dafuq?
Now you need to understand, I played this game in an ERA BEFORE INTERNET. Yes, there was such a thing. This is half the problem with gaming now. We all have immediate gratification at our fingertips, so if we get stuck, we get stuck for about a half hour (at most) and run to Google to check a faq or a Youtube video. But in those days, way back, when Scientology was known as Dianetics (true story) if you got stuck in a game, you generally had to mess around with it until you got unstuck.
You could ask friends or call the dreaded “Nintendo Hotline” which would cost your parents like seven dollars a minute, but normally, as gamers, we just worked ourselves on through the part we were stuck on. I know, crazy idea, right?
Who knew the whole thing was a deviant plan by the “Burger King”?
And so I popped this game in and played it again, and again, came to the glaring conclusion that I now suck at life. Seeing as to how I couldn’t get past the third room or so. And it isn’t even like a game like this changes or requires any kind of timing. It sits there, for as long as you do, and always lets you make the first move. So it is not like I was stuck on a floating platform or anything. I was stuck on a puzzle that I had beaten before with a definitive solution I have already come to.
In theory, that is like getting on a bike after ten years and falling over, again and again.
Like I said, what the hell happened to me? Play it for yourself here and see if you do any better. And remember, no faqs!