Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Henry

Living eating sleeping games. Sometimes it's hard to muster up the time and energy to actually play some games. As we are want to do we took a long hard look at our backloggery and became determined to turn some of those medals from bronze to silver and from silver to gold. The games industry and the marketeers that surround it are all but obsessed with making you crave the new, the shiny but often new games fail to build on what's gone before. We've been hoovering up a lot of the content created by the games community which actually goes a long way to celebrate the history of games and gaming like the industry fails to do. Here we tip our hats to Two Best Friends Play. Puerile, sometimes but what TBFP does and does well is celebrate games. It's connoisseurship coming from the stands which is odd considering that most other media play a part in celebrating the culture they create. 

Anyway, one of the marks on our backloggery profile, whilst hunting for the easy wins is No More Heroes. Waaaay back when we consumed the game like a hungry rabbit loving nearly every minute of it. Now if you've played it you know that when you beat the top assassin you're taken to a menu screen that has two options: return to Santa Destroy or View Ending. Around this point our gaming sense completely left us. If you're ever given that option in a game YOU RETURN TO THE GAME BECAUSE THERE'S SOMETHING YOU MISSED. Instead we made the error of watching the ending and then on top of that saved over our game file with the new game scenario. A quick Gamefaq later and of course, obviously, it barely needed checking, there's a true ending you can get if you buy all the katana upgrades. So we had two options; play through the whole game again or watch the true ending on Youtube. Now, we ain't claiming to be progamers but watching the ending on Youtube is the coward's way out. We're not against watching playthroughs, hell there are some games where watching playthroughs is ultimately more fruitful than playing through a game. Again, we tip our hats to all those playthroughers who upload their videos plus commentary. It's yet another way to consume games and if you've taken a look at traditional Tellyvision all of a sudden watching 12 hours of other people play through Chrono Trigger seems far more compelling than watching endless repeats of Come Dine With Me and Pregnant Celebrity Farmers Dancing On Jungle Ice. Also all you young'uns who whine and whinge about there being not enough games on Wii/Xbox 360/PC and hungry for the next generation of consoles I say to thee a) Stop lying and b) cherish your time. Cherish the seeming endless hours you have to waste/invest in gaming when you're at school, college or University. Life catches up with you and months, weeks and days of gaming turn into minutes and hours at most. All of a sudden that replaythrough of No More Heroes, that replaythrough that you wouldn't have thought twice about in younger days equates to the next year of your gaming time. But like a cat bringing in a dead pigeon, we're here to show you that we did it. We went the full nine yards, we went the distance, we burned the candle at both ends and we almost turned that silver medal into a gold. Almost. There's just one tiny problem who goes by the name of Henry. 
There he is. You see even if you muster up the free evenings to re-plough through the game, beat all the assassins again and buy those two sword upgrades the 'true' ending is a fight against this guy. And it's really fucking frustrating. It's not frustrating in a unbeatable way it's quite clear what you have to do, after one or two tries you get a feel for when you can get some hits in but he has a ton of health to whittle down and at a certain percentage of health he busts out OHKO (well kills actually) moves. You can't afford to make that many mistakes but you can't play cautiously either. On top of that, there's nothing to be gained from beating him. We're playing the Wii version so there's no cheevos or trophies. At best there's a cutscene that's no more than two clicks away from me right now. It's a prestige thing. Except prestige requires an audience and I don't think both of you count as one. So is it a principle? Am I enjoying myself? Is it a (unhealthy) compulsion? We're already conscious of the games we probably won't finish before we die (read Too Many Toys over at the excellent Cardboard Children on the super excellent Rock Paper Shotgun) and every failed attempt to take down Henry is precious gaming time taken away from other titles. Newer titles. Older titles. Titles we actually enjoy just playing for the sake of it without stressing about 'completing it'. And it's totally a personal stress. Friends and families won't look down on us for not getting past this wall but leaving it undone will leave a black mark on our soul. We can feel it. When we get to gamer heaven (which actually exists) Saint Peter will check his clipboard, slowly shake his head and remark on how we never got the hand cannon in Resident Evil 4, how I gave up on the last 4% of Boom Blox, how Ruby Weapon stands undefeated, how I only got a Copper trainer card on Pokemon Sapphire, how I never unlocked Apocalypse Frank in Dead Rising Chop 'Til You Drop, how I never read all 100 books in 100 Classic Book Collection and how I never got the NiGHTS Wig in Project Rub. Those imagined virtual black marks get ever impossible to scrub, consoles conk out, reflexes dull, older control systems get harder and harder to return to (hi Fade to Black and Medal of Honour:Underground) online games get switched off, cheevos unachieved. Henry will not be on my list I've enough black marks if I never pick up a new game again. I'm determined to beat him even if it's the last boss I ever beat.

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