You’ve heard it a million times, games these days are easy. This is said often, also mocked, parodied, and cited. Is it even true? I don’t think it is at all. I think there are other underlying factors to this.
Even though I have completed over 300 games in my lifetime and that’s just the ones I remember, I will admit that there are several that I simply was unable to beat for a multitude of reasons. These reasons vary from not knowing what to do, how to do it, or simply not finding the game at all enjoyable. However there are not many games where I was unable to win because of sheer difficulty.
I will admit that some games back then were quite brutal. One of the games I played was the Genesis game Jewel Master. A warrior’s quest to find twelve magic rings, and use their powers to create a holy blade and defeat Jardine the Mad. A challenging game indeed, especially if you don’t know how to take the four Lv3 rings and make the Blade. Going back to it likely ten years later after finding my old copy in my Gran’s attic, I was able to complete it easily.
I am no stranger to difficult games, and over time my base skill at a game, along with my logic of learning the basic mechanics and the concept of DPS, has improved. I now pick doing 10 damage three times on random targets over 40 damage to one. As a result I am better at games in general. I assume most gamers have five, ten, maybe fifteen years of experience playing games, perhaps even twenty. Years ago, I picked up the Sega Genesis Classics Collection, and I played through some classics apparently from an era where games were difficult. Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4, Shinobi 3, Altered Beast, Kid Chameleon, all challenging games (except Altered Beast, that’s just a shoddy game) and I stomped every one of them.
There are plenty of modern games however that have made me rip my hair out. Etrian Odyssey 3 for example is one of the hardest JRPGs I’ve played, Devil May Cry is a joke on normal, a challenge on Hard, and I will never utter the horrors of Dante Must Die. Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the Seven Devils is also hit and miss on its difficulty, being a bit crazy and unbalanced on certain aspects, and you know by now Touhou is just downright cruel stage 4 onwards.
Those are things I can agree are difficult, but there are some things where I have to bite my lip to hold in my laughter when people say it’s hard. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is often said to be a very difficult game. Yeah, if you play on hard mode, on a new game, with a level cap of 1. The fact Shanoa can get in five or six attacks in one second doesn’t make for the hardest game even with her fairly lackluster attack power. How do I attack that fast? Years of experience. Hell, I play Super Meat Boy with a keyboard, I’m that fast with my fingers.
Well I have 2994 deaths and have 54% progress but that’s besides the point.
I don’t think that games have gotten easier at all. There are many parts of game difficulty I can put down to poor game design. The controls of some older games are bloody awful. Simon for example in classic Castlevania can jump at a fixed angle, straight up, and swing his whip. That’s it. Ys on the Master System had mobs right outside the starting town that would kill you in a single blow, and attacking a mob was touching the very edge of their sprite with the very edge of yours with pixel-perfect precision or else they would slaughter you in an instant. Until you get a decent weapon, then it becomes much less brutal.
Anyone will tell you that their first reaction to Dwarf Fortress was “What the Hell?”. The game is poorly optimized and trying to work the interface is a bloody nightmare. The finer points of the game and building in three dimensions is when the game goes from a learning curve to a learning cliff. It’s not a difficult game if you know exactly how to work the interface but before that it’s a nightmare.
Another factor is how back in the day, we didn’t have sites like GameFAQS, we had to get our cheats from magazines and there was no certainty those magazines played the same games you played. The fact we now have access to boards, detailed guides spanning hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages, wikis that can gather a very dedicated fanbase collaborating, and so on. Name one quest in any game and I’ll give you detailed info in five minutes even though I’ve never heard of it before.
There is also the theory of difficulty setting curves. Most Japanese games follow a formula where easy and normal are both easy, hard laughs in your face, and the difficulty with a name exclusive to the series douses you in gasoline and sets you on fire. If you play a game on the default settings, do you have the right to say the game is easy? The difference between Hard and Dante Must Die in the Devil May Cry series is an entire world apart.
Next time you pick up a game, stick it on hard and unplug the internet until you complete it, tell me how long it takes you to start crying.
Or you can keep going on about dirty casuals.