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The Difference Between “Hard” and “Frustrating”

I would like to preface this by saying I love hard games. I love Demon’s Souls and most Atlus games. I play Touhou, though I have only beaten one of them and only on easy mode. I measure difficulty in ‘Megamans’. I do not believe those who play easier games are lesser or inferior, I just like hard games. The thing is, “hard” is an ambiguous word. A game can be hard for a lot of reasons, but as far as I am concerned, there are two kinds of difficult games: those that are “hard” and those that are “frustrating.” As a final preface note, unless stated otherwise, everything discussed in this article is set to the “normal” difficulty.

“Hard” games are deliberately hard. They are designed to be difficult, and make you work to complete a level, to get an item, to win a fight or complete a puzzle. They are games like Super Meat Boy that kill you a lot but keep death a quick thing and don’t make a big deal about it, or games like Persona or Megaman that are simply difficult. They are nothing short of challenging, and despite the difficulty I rarely find myself frustrated when playing them. Dying a lot, for example, does not have to be a source of frustration, especially when handled correctly. Demon’s Souls is a great example of this. Death is so frequent it is actually part of the narrative and, more importantly, it is quick. There is no long game over upon death. The character simply falls over and respawns at the beginning of the level. All you lose are your “souls,” the sort of all-purpose currency/experience you have on hand, and you can always go back to where you died and recollect them.

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Shadows of the Damned next big thing

Let me hit you with a little math. Suda 51 (creator of such games as Killer 7 and No More Heroes) + Shinji Mikami (Producer of games such as Resident Evil (all up to and including 4), Viewtiful Joe, God Hand, and the original Devil May Cry) + Akira Yamaoka (composer and producer of the Silent Hill series before it crashed into a bus). What does that equal?

Shadows of the Damned. That’s what. A completely badass looking new action title from Grasshopper Manufacture (where all the aforementioned gentlemen work, occasionally). A game that looks like it takes the good parts of Resident Evil 4 (the visceral behind the back combat), No More Heroes (the irreverence and the “schtick”, though Mikami hasn’t been opposed to that in the past), and Silent Hill (well, not all the good parts. The soundtrack, really) and mashed them together into a big, happy pile of want.

I’m not usually into these types of games (usually; in about fifteen minutes there will be a post about the one time I am into these types of games), but this looks just fantastic enough that I’ll have to give it a serious look. It’s a 2011 product, so we’ll probably see it next holiday season. A wait, but hopefully for a fantastic game that could be as enduring as No More Heroes.