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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 5:53 pm 
I recently picked up a copy of Super Ghouls N Ghosts for the SNES. One of its predecessors, Ghosts N Goblins on NES, is notorious for being incredibly difficult and this series is in general. I've played Super Ghouls N Ghosts a few times since picking it up, and yup, it's hard. VERY hard. I still have not passed the first stage, I've died tons of times, but each time I manage to get just a little bit further along (sooner or later I'll pass that stage…and yes, I do intend to beat this game…). And yet, in spite of the fact that the game creams me…it's fun. It's fair. I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy getting destroyed, and then doing a wash, rinse, repeat on the whole process.

This makes me think…what makes a game hard yet fair and fun? What separates those games from those that are hard because they're cheap, unfair and often reviled? Ghosts N Goblins, Super Ghouls N Ghosts, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden…all incredibly difficult, yet considered good, classic games. Some modern games like Super Meat Boy and I Wanna Be the Guy, seem to be inspired by these classic titles. But others, like Silver Surfer on the NES, generally seem to be considered hard for all the wrong reasons and aren't counted among the good but hard titles.

What are your opinions on this? What makes a fair and fun challenge over a cheap and unfair one?

Edit April 26, 2014: Muskie award!

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Last edited by Wolf Bird on Sat Apr 26, '14, 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 6:30 pm 
Castlevania and Ghosts 'n Goblins represent, to me, the type of game that's difficulty largely because of the unresponsive or limited controls. Castlevania plays pretty fair on this in a lot of ways, in that it's responsive enough, just really limited (especially with jumping) and the hit mechanics mean you fly into a pit if anything sneezes on you. Ninja Gaiden, on the other hand, is the sort of game that is legitimately difficult and yet has very reasonable controls.

I would list Snake Rattle 'n' Roll as one of the most legitimately tough games I've played. It's responsive enough, very good controls, actually, in my opinion, but just mind-numbingly difficult. Battletoads is one that I think is a bit on the unfair or at least silly side, I mean, apparently you can't even legitimately beat the game 2-player, because of a design bug. Kind of a shame, too, because it's generally a great game.

I do think it's kind of funny that when I think of tough games I inevitably think of tons of NES games, ha ha. They made them very differently back then.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 8:56 pm 
I'm going to have to bring out some controversial opinions here, but I honestly don't think Castlevania on the NES is all that difficult. Once a player has a decent amount of experience with the game under his/her belt, I think it's pretty tame in terms of difficulty.

All in all, it's a pretty unbalanced game. Holy Water absolutely wrecks any sense of challenge the game has, the dagger is worthless and the axe only is useful for one boss and that's it. The cross is the only other subweapon worth a damn, but the Holy Water is easily more broken (One can murder death before his scythes appear!)

Castlevania III on the other hand, is a much more difficult game. I'll elaborate more on that if anyone's interested in my thoughts on that game.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:01 pm 
So. Hard, difficult, awful NES game. Mad Max. It's based on the first two movies, so no Beyond Thunderdome, no "bust a deal, face the wheel," no Auntie Entity, no "Two man enter, one man leave."

Let's begin. You get a badly-digitized picture of Max, accompanied by a cut version of the "My life ends, my vision fades" speech from the beginning of The Road Warrior. (How cut? It omits the bit about the nuclear war that destroyed most of the world.) From here, you are thrust into the desert of Australia Generica, no direction, no information, just your V8 Super Interceptor and an extremely limited amount of dynamite and gas. Expect to see the death message "YOU RAN OUT OF FUEL" frequently.

Did I mention that your car isn't exactly the most well-built thing in Australia the Mojave Wasteland Wherethehellever, so it crumples in after about eight or so hits and completely explodes eight hits later? And that there's random murder pits you can try to jump across (hope you're going fast enough, or you get to see death message of frequency number two, "YOU DIED IN THE WRECK".)

So, what the hell is the point of all this random driving around Australia the Capital Wasteland Not Australia? You go into buildings! Ugly buildings, with awful screechy background music, where you're assaulted by an endless horde of people. Things. Hard to tell because they die after 1d3 shotgun blasts, whereupon they go "BRWNNNNN" and melt into the floor. Why are we in these random sheds in the middle of Australia Gamma World God knows where? You have to get supplies! An extremely limited amount of First Aid Kits (for restoring health, natch), Ammo (for your trusty shotgun), Gas (for your not so trusty car), Dynamite (the EXTREMELY limited ammo for your car; makes me wish the modern Mad Max game is out so your mechanic/best friend who lives in your V8 Super Interceptor's back seat can take the wheel for a while so you can shoot some raiders, and believe you me, I am not making a single word of that last sentence up.), and food and water!

You will not be eating or drinking the food and water you find. Nor will it come easily. Most of that is behind locked doors or in boxes, which are unlocked with keys. They MUST be unlocked with keys and only keys, because for some reason every locked door in the random sheds are built to take more bullets than you can ever hope to carry. Keys are in finite supply, and once used are gone forever, so I hope you unlocked the right doors.

Anyway, food and water. You use it to buy supplies at the supply store, which is an unusual sight in post-nuke Australia Sheffield in the (even more) depressing half of Threads Where The Hell We Are. Along with an awfully-color-converted picture of a raider asking "Something you want?" you get a choice of repairs for your car (not worth it, you'll see why), gas (reasonably worth it), and other supplies. Of the mysterious "other supplies" he's got on offer, you want the Arena Pass. This costs 7 food/water, so I hope you got enough. Did I mention that, like keys, currency is in equally limited supply? Yes, if you waste money and keys, you can't beat the game.

Arena pass in stock, we drive to the Arena (no map in-game, no directional indicator to tell you where it is, so you get to drive around Australia the world from Adventure Time, and yes, look it up, that's a post-nuclear war setting Generic Desert World until you either:
*Find the arena.
*Run out of gas.
*Die in the wreck.

Arena is found, huzzah. We are treated to more awfully-digitized pictures of some random priest guy from Mad Max, Max himself, and some random doofus. "They're bad," we're told, "They're crazy, and only one will leave here alive!"

And then we're in our car, which is miraculously repaired, refueled, and stripped of dynamite. This segment of the game, we have to destroy 35 cars by either ramming them until one of us explodes, push them into the mazelike arena's central pit, or push them into the random murder pits that open and close at arena intersections/corners. There are no resupplies here, and it gets harder as you get further in the game. The arenas get more complex, there's more cars to deal with, and more random murder pits.

Road War 2 and Arena 2 are more of the same crap I talked about up above.

Road War 3 is about more of the same driving through Australia Car Wars-era America, yes, that's post-apoc too, technically Genericola Desert Classic, except you're looking for a new supply: Crossbow bolts. Crossbow bolts? Why the hell do we need crossbow bolts?

We get to find out after the extremely excruciating Arena 3, where fifty cars are sent hurtling to their makers and we leave the arena after finding the exit (somewhere.) Ominous music plays, picture of Max and his Interceptor, with the text "THE FINAL BATTLE AWAITS"! Yay! Maybe something good will come of this--

.....Nope. It's a one on one side-view fight between Max and the completely out-of-nowhere Master Blaster, so I guess there is a Beyond Thunderdome link after all. Anyway. End guy fight. You have to put fifty crossbow bolts into Master Blaster to make him dead. Max Rockastandy doesn't get the same luxury of durability that Master Blaster has, and about 25 or so crossbow bolts sends you to the great "YOU DIED OF INJURIES" in 8-bit Hell. Before you get any ideas about staying far away from Blaster so you can avoid his crossbow bolts, the arena floor starts collapsing from the left, and you're limited to a narrow horizontal strip in the middle of the screen. Veering too far left/up/down, and you fall into the flaming pit below, so "YOU FELL TO YOUR DEATH" and you die. So, uh... learn to dodge and/or jump over(?!) crossbow bolts.

Speaking of which: You are given an initial supply of 48 crossbow bolts to try and kill the extremely fat nearly naked man on the right side of the screen. Remember how I said you were looking for more crossbow bolts? And that Master Blaster can easily take 50 crossbow bolts before dropping dead?

That's right. The game does not give you enough crossbow bolts to kill the final boss if you don't go driving around Australia I'm running out of better post-apoc settings The Random Desert, so you need at least one pickup of crossbow bolts (for another 48, hope you're a good shot!) The kicker here: There are passwords for each area of the game except the Master Blaster fight (Arena 1, Road Wars 2, Arena 2, Road Wars 3, Arena 3.) Each password gives you the same stuff you start the game with-- including 0 extra crossbows.

That's right, too. The password for Arena 3 is fundamentally worthless, because you don't have enough crossbow bolts or gas to finish either fight.

Anyway, assuming you actually managed to put up with all of that massive list of crappy game design up above, Master Blaster takes his fiftieth crossbow bolt and drops dead at your feet. How are we rewarded for our Herculean efforts in getting through the game?

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THIS.

Hand on heart, I did not knock that together in MSPaint. That is, 100% for real, your ending: A badly-colored and digitized picture of the V8 Super Interceptor, and the question "And where does a man like Max go from here?", just in case the image is lost later on.

Where, indeed? Hopefully to a better damn game.

My best friend had this for the NES when he was younger. I felt really sorry for him because this game really sucked.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:03 pm 
Hukos wrote:I'm going to have to bring out some controversial opinions here, but I honestly don't think Castlevania on the NES is all that difficult. Once a player has a decent amount of experience with the game under his/her belt, I think it's pretty tame in terms of difficulty.

All in all, it's a pretty unbalanced game. Holy Water absolutely wrecks any sense of challenge the game has, the dagger is worthless and the axe only is useful for one boss and that's it. The cross is the only other subweapon worth a damn, but the Holy Water is easily more broken (One can murder death before his scythes appear!)

Castlevania III on the other hand, is a much more difficult game. I'll elaborate more on that if anyone's interested in my thoughts on that game.


I believe you and I are going to have some interesting differences of opinions on the throwing dagger and the holy water in Castlevania, Hukos. =p

(Then again, I always thought the subweapons usefulness was, in order Boomerang > Throwing Dagger > Axe > Holy Water > Pocketwatch, but Castlevania IV is my favorite pre-SOTN Castlevania game, so make of that what you will.)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:42 pm 
Like I've said several times before, I hate difficult games ! But I can understand why some people like them...even if they are being often "destroyed" by the game ! ;)
For me a game is here for fun and while I'm playing at those difficult ones, I haven't got any fun at all....
But I'm eager to try and test them ! ;) To see if they are really as difficult as everyone is saying...

And so what could be the frontier between hard and good and hard and bad games ? Impossible to tell for me but I'm sure that a lot of people here will be able to answer it soon :)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:56 pm 
myau56 wrote:And so what could be the frontier between hard and good and hard and bad games ? Impossible to tell for me but I'm sure that a lot of people here will be able to answer it soon :)


It's really dependant on peoples' tastes. People like different styles of difficulty. Some people like overbearing odds, some people like limited resources, and some people like deep and complex games that require lots of practice and knowledge of the game.

I like "difficult" games that give you all of the resources that you need to win, but expect you to use them. This is how I see the newer Ninja Gaiden games. They are tough as nails games, but once you get your grips on your moves, attacks, and abilities, you start to notice easy ways to take advantage of your enemies, which will usually lead to your victory.

As for old school games that were ridiculously hard, I will go with Smash TV as usual.


Last edited by S4Blade on Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, '14, 9:58 pm 
Yeah, there's really something to be said for the distinction of "hard to beat" vs. "hard to play".

"Hard to play" would include games like Ultima 2, where you had to use undocumented keyboard commands in order to proceed in the main quest (and advance your character), or Valis II for the X68000, where successful movement tends to lie in the hands of fate rather than the player.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, '14, 1:29 am 
Wow, I can't say I expected to see this much response in a few short hours! I like seeing all these varying opinions. I am willing to admit that some of the games I named I haven't played at all, or not played in a good number of years. Games like Castlevania I haven't played since college (my roommate was a big fan of the Castlevania games…and I do have Castlevania IV in my SNES queue). I've never played Ninja Gaiden, but even then, I know it's a brutal, difficult game. My boyfriend's brother is a fan of it, but as far as I know, has to this day still not beaten it.

Bragatyr, I will have to disagree with you on Ghosts N Goblins. I have played the NES game (not beaten it). I found the controls perfectly responsive and functional for what you need to do to. For me, it was based on precision, skill, timing and putting in the time to practice and learn the levels. I get the same vibe from Super Ghouls N Ghosts. The game is a bit marred by framerate slowdown when there's a lot going on, but at least so far, I haven't actually found that to hamper my ability to play it.

I like a difficult game that is based on skill but still has fair mechanics. I even played Silver Surfer on the NES a few years back after watching the AVGN review. That game, IMO, is hard for the wrong reason - one hit kills you, and EVERYTHING kills you, even touching your environment, so dodging whatever flying obstacles is ridiculously difficult. With my current hard gaming activities on Super Ghouls N Ghosts, I don't have that problem. When I die, most of the time, I can look and say 'Yup, I fell into that trap AGAIN' (there's one jump in particular where I just keep forgetting that I will hit a zombie's coffin if I double jump to dodge a dog, and it's my fault EVERY TIME). You are given resources and power-ups, plus multiple hits. So it really does come down to killing/dodging the enemies and taking some time to learn the levels (plus a little luck with items that are dropped from enemies and treasure chests). That's a challenge I don't mind and find engaging. There's the right mix of skill, reflexes, some practice and just a tiny dash of luck.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, '14, 3:48 am 
Yeah, I haven't actually played Ghosts 'n Goblins much myself, but I was thinking more along the lines of unfair design than the controls in particular, my mistake. I do know from watching friends play and seeing stuff on Youtube that there are enemy spawning issues that can basically make it impossible to advance without taking a hit, making it more about luck and less about ability or experience with the game. Definitely one of the hallmarks of the less desirable form of difficulty, in my opinion.


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