Give Mega Man 9 to a child and let him play it for a month. You’ll end up with either a gaming prodigy or precise numbers on the stress of a controller cable as it constricts a human trachea. Capcom made this game because it loves its old gamers, and we scream for more as their cat ‘o nine robots flails our dignity into a bloody, pixelated mess. No one designs a game this difficult by accident. It must have taken countless play testing sessions to expose humanity’s weaknesses. What horrors the Quality Assurance team must have suffered! The ledges, timings, and attack patterns are designed to unwire Homo sapien’s conditioned response to a platform shooter.
One of the problems with a throwback game is that it tends to hit you in the face. You can’t have a full serving of nostalgia without some unfortunate side effects. For example, which robot master do you take out first? Who knows? Try ’em all and see which one you can actually reach. I feel like a velociraptor testing for weaknesses in an electric fence. Once the weakest link is broken you’re “free,” but what then? Not only do you have to reach another of the eight robot masters, you have no idea if it’s the right one. Best consult GameFaqs, the modern equivalent of Nintendo Power.
I’ve conquered Galaxy Man and Jewel Man after six hours of controller-snapping frustration. My entry point for the Mega Man series was the third one, and there’s no way it was this hard. I’ll forgive them the silly robot progression, but there’s a thin line between a challenge and a suicide mission and they’ve overshot it by a mile. Scattered along that miserable road are flecks of blue metal.
Warhammer Online has ceased to be interesting. I wonder if it’s the structure: the game is so similar to World of Warcraft in terms of questing that I don’t feel like I’m doing anything new. Of course, the games that do try something new, such as Age of Conan, are awful because they screw up the game mechanics. What would be nice is a peacetime hook, like meaningful player housing or the democracy of A Tale in the Desert, alongside visceral, bloodthirsty combat. Not getting my hopes up.
I’m proud to say that I actually got somewhere in my game. Now there is a character that walks along the screen, collides with objects, and is tracked by the camera. Going from a stateless language like ColdFusion to the what-are-you-doing-this-very-second game programming mentality has been a tough switch. Garage Games’ Torque engine (the crappy 2D one) is a pleasure to use, once you figure it out. Until then you may as well play Mega Man 9.