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Breaking down gaming brick walls

Brad Gallaway's picture

Have you ever had a game that you just knew was going to take serious effort to complete, but you dug in for the long haul and stayed with it until the end? I'm not talking about the average (and tedious) 60-hour Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) or anything that's a simple matter of hours devoted. No, I'm talking about something that's really difficult, or something that presents some sort of extraordinary obstacle to overcome. Something like the video game equivalent of a brick wall.

For me, I've had two.

The first brick wall (believe it or not) was the original Mega Man on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It may seem a little ridiculous that this game was such a huge hurdle for me back in the day, but it's true.

Getting through the bosses was no big deal, but the fight against Rock Monster drove me absolutely crazy. The way that thing split up into small pieces and warped back and forth across the room just tore me apart, and with the game skills I had at that age, I just couldn't do it.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this to anyone before, but it took me about three years to get past that part. Of course, it wasn't three years of trying ten times a day every day. I'd put it down for a few months and play other games and then come back to it when the mood struck me, but I did not see credits roll on Mega Man until literally three years after I bought it.

… of course, after I finished it legitimately, I found out there was an exploit to get past the bastard by hitting him once and then rapidly pausing/unpausing the system. If I had known about it earlier, forget three years. I would have polished the game off in three days.

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite Screenshot

My other brick wall is Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PlayStation Portable (PSP).

If you read my blog regularly, then you already know that I'm a recently-converted fan of the series. Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii got a lot of things right for me, and I still had a bit of an itch to scratch after I polished it off. I knew the PSP games had a dedicated following, so I figured I'd jump onboard that train and kill more giant beasties while on the go. Immediately after starting, I was glad I did.

Despite enjoying it a great deal, Tri felt like a stripped-down, über-simplified kiddie pool compared to the amount of content I found in Freedom Unite. There are a ton more monsters, loads of new and different weapons, and a mountain of varied armor sets to collect. Interestingly, Freedom Unite also has tons of information, tutorials, training arenas and lots of other little bits that are completely omitted from Tri. When I saw how much was here, I was utterly amazed and quickly fell in love. Any way you slice it, Freedom Unite is just a better game, all-around.

Better all-around… except for the camera.

While it's clear that Capcom has made some concessions to PSP players (i.e.- slower monsters, lower difficulty) the fact is that Sony's handheld is physically lacking a second analog nub to handle camera duties and the Monster Hunter developers have never come up with a satisfactory workaround solution.

What are the options? Players either constantly click the left shoulder button to auto-center the camera directly behind their character, or they can control character movement on the nub with their left thumb while pushing left/right on the D-Pad with the left index finger. This tendinitis-inducing maneuver is "affectionately" known as the claw. Also, it's about four times more uncomfortable than it looks, especially in extended play sessions.

As I'm sure you can imagine, the giant hurdle to overcome with Freedom Unite is finding techniques and strategies to survive while dealing with the absurdly unsatisfactory camera system. If it was any other game I probably would have kicked it to the curb after an hour, but it's impossible not to acknowledge the amount of quality content in the title. It really is a fantastic game for players of a certain stripe, and if there was some solution to the camera dilemma, I'd easily rank it as one of the best games available for PSP.

Unfortunately, this is a game where even half-seconds count, and being unsure of whether a Tyrannosaurus with wings is on your right or your left is more than enough to trigger a "Mission Failed". Death by crappy camera is frustrating in the extreme, and I have questioned my own sanity more than once as to whether I'm really dedicated enough to see this game through. After forty hours, I think I am... although whether that means I'm sane or insane, I can't say.

So, what are your personal video game brick walls? I'd love to hear about 'em.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS3   Nintendo DS   PSP   PC  
Series: Mega Man   Monster Hunter  

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Brick Wall

Starcraft & Starcraft: Brood War for the N64

It took me FOREVER to beat that game. I was only a preteen when I bought it, and some of those missions kicked my butt. Losing a mission I had been playing for two hours (Save...what's that?) would make me stop playing the game for a good few months. The worst was Mission #8 for the Zerg in the Brood War campaign, To Slay the Beast. It took me at least a year to beat that mission. After that, I sailed through the final two missions. It was such a great feeling to finally beat that game. Not being able to use cheats on the 64 version definitely slowed things down.

Sonic 2 on the Game Gear

My first - like you, as quite a young gamer - was the first boss in Sonic 2 on the Game Gear, an orange robot crab:

We drove to the South of France each summer for a camping holiday, and it took several years of on-off attempts before I could finally beat it consistently. Of course, when I unlocked the Game Gear Sonics as a bonus in a GameCube game (years later!), it turned out the boss is actually a bit of a pushover to an adult.

Some of my toughest challenges have come in role-playing games, often courtesy of my little brother - who would never have the patience to grind, and got sick of a couple of JRPGs with just one save, by the boss, horrendously under-leveled. That's a problem that went away as soon as he had the money to buy his *own* games instead of playing ones he didn't really like...

My other 'wall' was Rock Band: I'd picked up RB2 after enjoying it at a friend's house, and set myself the seemingly impossible challenge of beating the Endless Setlist on Expert Guitar & Bass. A year later I succeeded - and thanks to that focus on self-improvement, I now love the series to bits and I actually feel quite good at it (as long as I avert my eyes from the tops of the leaderboards).

A literal wall I hit way too often

a literal wall i hit way too often:

the slalom section at the end demanded perfect timing and i never was able to beat Battletoads.

Geometry Wars 1
Took some hours to get 11 of the 12 achievement. Took many more hours to not get the last achievement. So far... i haven't given up yet and will try it again later.

At the end of normal i was ready for hard, and at the end of hard i was ready for climax. The game was a series of walls, but it made me lower my head and just run hard...

Super Meat Boy seems similar. At some levels i have to die on every possible place before i know how it might work and then it takes some more lives before i finally make it. Don't know if i ever 100% it, but that will easily double the deaths i already have for 70%.

Ridge Racer 64
Played it, i think, 5 hours to beat two thirds of it. After some years i came back and it took me another 5 hours just for the next track- in one quite obsessive session-, and on the track after that i was in return beaten another hour in a frustrating way every time by being lapped. I have no idea if this is even possible or the game just forgot to tell me that i have a turbo i didn't use or whatever.

The 120th, the last star in Super Mario 64 in the clock level for 100 coins. Tried it and tried it and tried it and always fell somewhere. Actually i have a lot of patience when it doesn't demand precise inputs. Retry after retry and with some luck finally beating it, that is my thing, but if it needs real skill, i fail.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. That guy is so fast and his pattern changes from round to round and during rounds. Those dynamite punches he starts out with are lightning fast. I never could beat him as a kid, even though I tried and tried. I usually could not get past the first round. I was about 9 at the time.

Then about 11 years later I discovered the joys of emulators (which I don't approve of now, but I didn't know any better at the time), and I decided it was time to put Mr. Dream to sleep. I bought a few cheap NES-style controllers that plugged into my PC, until I found one that felt right, and the buttons didn't stick. I played Mike Tyson for a week straight, and finally beat him. Then I continued to play until I could TKO him in the 2nd round.

A couple of good choices

Haha, a couple of good choices above my post with that boss in Sonic 2 (I had it on Mastersystem myself, and found it equally as frustrating, especially as a kid!), and Battletoads (dedication to anyone who can play that, seriously!).

I've had many brick walls in gaming over my many years enjoying this form of entertainment, but my most recent one is StarCraft 2 on PC. There's one specific achievement I need on the very last mission on hard, and it really has me beat at the moment. I've tried so many times I've lost count, and yet I keep coming back.

If I start the campaign again I can alter the challenge of the mission by choosing a different path that will make things more doable, but I keep thinking it's faster to just try and beat it now. Ironically, if I spent the wasted time failing on the mission to replay the game I would have probably done it by now!

Mine as a kid was Ninja Gaiden

Ok, mine as a kid was Ninja Gaiden. I rented or borrowed it a ton of times. While I did get stuck a few different places on the way, the lead-up stage to the final boss is infamous. It's a pretty unforgiving bit of platform memorization, and you need to save a decent amount of life left at the end to try the boss.

Because until you get his tricky movement pattern down, Jaquio's first form (of three!) is basically about trading blow for blow.

Probably the first game that made me appreciate difficult games. Finishing that story was worth the effort.


Now here's the one that got away - the first Shmup I really enjoyed and got into was Silpheed for the PC. It has some classy soundblaster music and in some ways seemed like a precursor to Starfox. Anyway, the final boss, Gloire, is a total beast. It gives no indication of what part you have to hit, no sign that you are hitting it at all, and it fires lasers so randomly that it basically amounts to bullet hell in an 80s Sierra game.

I never beat it legitimately, though I went back often. Even when I used a cheat code, it takes ages to finish the fight and there isn't really anything at all in the way of a payoff once you do win.

Definitely Ninja Gaiden.

Definitely Ninja Gaiden. That level leading up to the final boss stymied me for a very long time and cost me money when it came to replacing broken controllers. Those fucking birds are so goddamn cheap...I still get pissed just thinking about it.

Hoenstly, when I beat the game (finally) I considered smashing the cart to pieces just so I'd never be tempted to subject myself to that torture again.

There was a few NES and

There was a few NES and Master system games with rather bad pacing that I just could not continue playing(whats was the multi family member side scroling action RPY thing on the early NES?).

Any the only new game that I quite was FF8 it was getting to dumb, then I found the code breaker and all the bad games became fun a shame bad games can not be fun anymore.....

Ghost in the Shell on PS1

2nd level had that construction site where you had to run around defusing bombs before they went off, I remember trying it dozens of times before I gave up with a whimper.

Upset me too, because being a huge GITS fan, I thought the Tachikoma's jumping spider movement was implemented quite nicely.

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