The recent HD remaster of Full Throttle is an interesting package. In some ways, the game easily makes the jump from its origin in 1995 to the current day, but in other ways, the remaster fails to update the more frustrating design decisions of this 22-year-old adventure. This is actually less of a problem than you’d think. The frustrating things that remain in the game make it a kind of time capsule, a portal to an era when people played games differently.
Latest Blog Posts
Back in late August when the Great D.C. Earthquake struck and shook some places up, reports came in that the Washington Monument had suffered cracks and was to be closed indefinitely. A feminist writer I read every so often personally wished for the whole thing to crumble. Not for reasons of what some might view as purely political relevance, she wanted it to fall because she saw it as nothing more than a “giant erection.”
Arguments over sexual imagery in the modern world aside, the problem with this statement is that it’s completely and utterly void of any historical context or understanding, instead employing modern standards and philosophy exclusively to this reading of the monument’s meaning. Such statements are particularly damaging to rational thinking, for they presume that any particular event is a spontaneous point in time without causation, a logical fallacy. As such, it is useful to have some historical understanding when discussing anything made in or events that occur in the past.
A recent visit to Jeff Goldblum’s Wikipedia entry unearthed what initially appeared to be vandalization of his page’s filmography: a dubious and conspicuously silly credit as the voice of Dracula in a 1996 video game titled Goosebumps: Escape From HorrorLand. I thought for sure that it was someone’s idea of a laugh and a successful one at that. Yes, in the 1990s, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series spawned a commercial empire that branded every conceivable item that a child might demand from a parent, so a video game was certainly plausible. But with Jeff Goldblum? I smelled a Rickroll. Logic said that this Wikipedia claim couldn’t exist because if it did exist, there would be a wildly popular viral video in existence, making Count Goldblum synonymous with the word “slumming.” There was no way that something like this could escape the notice of the all-seeing, all-hearing, all-remembering Internet.
Thus, videographic evidence was sought, and YouTube was consulted. If Jeff Goldblum had ever vanted to zuck yer blood, some enterprising audio/video packrat would have a sample of the game. A quick search of the terms “Goosebumps Goldblum” returned promising results. Scroll ahead to 6:05 in the clip below to see Goldblum do a whole lot more than just voice acting.
I’d been playing the long game. While steadily making my way through the early acts of Diablo II, I’d carefully hoarded gems and runes in my private stash, sorting them meticulously by type, combining and upgrading them when opportunities arose. On approaching the end of Act IV, knowing that a confrontation with Diablo himself was close at hand, I carefully selected the ingredients that I’d need to create a weapon imbued with the powerful properties of a runeword. Checking and checking everything again, I finally took the plunge and inserted the runes into the appropriate sockets. Excitedly, I hovered the cursor over the newly runed weapon but instead of the impressive stats that I had expected, I saw a mediocre blade, crippled by my foolishly having inserted the runes into a sword classified as “rare” and invalidating the recipe. Damn it.
It’s not difficult to imagine who the target audience for Mega Man 9 is. A good number of gamers came of age during the heyday of the NES, when both challenge and level design encouraged multiple playthroughs of titles. These qualities were particularly important considering both how much more $50 was then than it is now, and how many fewer people were playing video games to begin with, indicating a much more hardcore fanbase. It doesn’t seem likely that newcomers to Mega Man will have any interest in Mega Man 9. However, gamers who spent a good deal of time with Mega Man 1 and 2 in their formative years will very likely find the prospect of purchasing a new 8-bit Mega Man for $9.99 irresistible.
That said, it’s somewhat interesting to try and determine who will actually complete the game, given its level of difficulty. From top to bottom, Mega Man 9 is a throwback to an another time in gaming. The audiovisual presentation aims to match that of the earliest 8-bit titles to a fault. Between that and the challenge presented, Mega Man 9 is strikingly content to present itself as though the last 20 years of gaming never happened.
As with the classic titles in the series, memorization, trial and error, and pure platforming ability are crucial to success in Mega Man 9. Experimentation is also required in order to determine the most efficient order in which to defeat the bosses. Again, Mega Man 9 is reminiscent of a time when beating the game was only the beginning of actually getting good at it, and punishing difficulty was welcomed, because level design and predictable enemy patterns meant that after the initial learning curve, dying was the player’s fault.
Normally, it might be difficult to argue that the “lost game”, retro feel that Mega Man 9 achieves was especially necessary in order to evoke nostalgia. Indeed, games like Bionic Commando: Rearmed have demonstrated that the reboot of a long dormant franchise itself is likely to ensure decent enough sales among those that remember the original. What makes Mega Man 9 unique is how active the franchise, or at least the protagonist, has been for many years regardless of the quality of individual titles. Revisiting the early days of Mega Man when the series was at its strongest, then, is what makes the design of Mega Man 9 particularly notable.
Although it makes perfect sense for Mega Man 9 to be distributed digitally (regardless of the brilliant limited edition physical packaging), it does seem somewhat at odds with the rest of the game’s aesthetics for there to be downloadable content and achievements for the Xbox 360 version. But beyond that, Mega Man 9 does an admirable job of revisiting a classic gaming franchise, leaving the original presentation untouched, while offering brand new content. For fans of the series, it offers a large amount of replay value for its relatively low price, though its retro brand of difficulty may prove too much for some.