Game Design Talk: True Lies and NintendoHard Done Right

Discussion in 'Games' started by Xylia, Jan 4, 2020.

  1. Xylia

    Xylia Tiy's Beard

    I'm sure most people by now know what NintendoHard means, but for those of you who don't, I'll explain the trope real quick:

    NintendoHard refers to the fact that many NES games back in the day were designed to be as frustratingly difficult as possible, because the largest NES cartridge was 4MB in size (Dragonwarrior 4) and many cartridges were 256-512KB.

    That's not a lot of space to work with, and to make a game take any amount of the player's time (otherwise it would not be worth developing and selling), it either had to loop endlessly, or it had to be so difficult to get to the end, that players would have to try and try and try and try and try, hence the insane difficulty of many of these games and hence the trope "NintendoHard".

    Many games that tout ridiculous difficulty might start you off easy with a level or two and then beat you over the head with a "You ain't good enough yet" bat with a sudden jump in difficulty to the point you only get to have fun with a level or two and then the game just becomes too difficult for most people to ever hope to achieve any sort of morale/confidence-building success to convince them to keep trying, and so most players will end up quitting when they hit that wall (or they will cheat their way past it with Save States in modern Emulator days).

    I want to talk about a SNES game called True Lies. It was a licensed movie title which is actually an amazing game, and I think because it's a Movie Title, it oftentimes gets overlooked. It was incredibly well-made, and while not exactly faithful to the movie, it was recognizable enough that you could tell what they were going for with it. It was a top-down shooter (something that was rather uncommon in the NES and SNES days) that featured a somewhat slow-moving character, but given Ahnold's size that was to be expected. He did, however, have a dodge roll (completed with I-Frames), and the gunplay is oddly similar to Enter the Gungeon, only far slower paced and without the ability to kick over tables and such (that I remember?).

    Littered throughout the levels were a ton of powerups, weapons, and ammo, and the levels were long but yet fun as there was plenty of shooting, lots of environmental obstacles to use for cover, and so on.

    But we're not here to talk about that, are we? We're here to talk about the game's core design and challenge.

    True Lies is very generous. It gives you several lives, and a rather long health meter that lets your character take a lot of damage before he dies and enemies in general don't feel too bullet spongy, so the game is easy to pick up and have some fun with, and given the number of lives you have, and how much damage you can take before you die, you might be tricked into thinking the game isn't all that hard.

    You would be, of course, entirely wrong. While the game lets you crank out a couple levels with ease on your first try, you will quickly find that you have limited lives and continues and you will run out before you get to the end of the game, but that won't be until a couple hours later after a good long play session. This gives you time to practice general gameplay, reactions, getting to know the weapons and which you should use in what situations, and the like.

    The game never beats you over the head with a bat, but yet it will slowly chip away at you until you run out of resources and end up getting the Game Over quite a ways in, but yet you were able to play for a long period of time and still have fun at it. Maybe you would get through the first level and run out of lives about halfway into the second level.

    Then you pick the game up again the next day and you might find that you made it to the beginning of the third level, and maybe a couple days later you try and you're now able to stretch halfway into the third level.

    This is a result of you being more efficient with your shooting, getting better at dodge rolling, learning enemy placement, to the point you don't even realize the game is conditioning you and teaching you over time how to play it better while you blow away baddie after baddie (it helps that the shooting is fun, the weapons are varied, and the feedback you get, the sound effects and graphics are amazing for a SNES game!).

    This is NintendoHard done right.

    I highly suggest giving the game a look if you're into emulation, and you like difficult games.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020

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