For the new year I’ve decided to more or less wipe clean my current slate of games and try very hard to just focus on playing what I feel like playing instead of scrambling to finish whatever just came out. First on the list is completing Super Mario Bros. for the first time.
I may have gone on about it more than once here, but for some reason I’m not a good 2D Mario player at all. I’ve owned and constantly played one version of the original SMB or another throughout my entire life, and only just now finished it. It’s kind of funny that I get back into that game around the time I get back into Dark Souls, because they’re really very similar in terms of how you’re supposed to approach them.
I honestly don’t see a lot of analysis on the why or the how of Dark Souls being a difficult game — only people calling it an Everest of games or accuse it of having “artificial difficulty.” These are probably many of the same people who defeated Bowser and Tyson on the NES back in the 80’s, and they probably did so the same way you need to beat Dark Souls — learning the game by dying a lot.
I never learned this until recently, but the design of SMB really comes out when you take the time to learn the secrets and intricacies of each level through various attempts. Today we might call that trial-and-error, but I think the difference lies in how the player feels about it. A trial-and-error game makes the player constantly guess at what the designer wants them to do. A game of proper old school difficulty makes the player keep coming back because they feel like getting closer and closer to working out a strategy each time they die, while learning more about the game in general. The older Mega Man games do a great job of this.
This is how games like SMB and Dark Souls slowly reveal their depth to players, which in my opinion is always more exciting than a game that blurts out all its secrets in loading screens and forced tutorials. I didn’t even know about the A Start trick in SMB until a few weeks ago. I think the people who don’t realize this now or say that SMB is an easy game forgot the process they went through to learn how to play it 25 years ago, possibly at a formative stage of their lives.
Still though, I hope Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World aren’t as hard as the original game. People tell me they aren’t — that SMB is the hardest Mario game ever save Lost Levels (which I’ll be skipping). I feel like I don’t really have the right to buy, say, New Super Mario Bros. 2 until I get through the classics.
On that subject, with Fire Emblem: Awakening coming around in February 8th, I’ve decided to see if I can actually finish Rekka no Ken (the first English language Fire Emblem) on the GBA, which I think I’ve had since 2003. That month is a little bit crazy though with that game, Metal Gear Rising, and BioShock Infinite being just the games I actually plan to buy. Before the end of January though I’ll try to get Ni No Kuni.
My hope though is that I can avoid being buried under another avalanche of games, forget about keeping up with the times, and just play what I want to play. Last year I tried to declare that I wouldn’t buy a game at full price unless I was ready to play through it immediately, and I’d love to make that a resolution, but we’ll see…
- Somewhere along the line I also realized that the original Legend of Zelda might be the only other NES game I’ve ever completed.