Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!? ~ Obtuse Things in Games - Volume One

Time for an all-new series of articles for SuperPhillip Central! Here, I'll be talking about those moments in games, whether they be puzzles or parts, where the solution to progressing isn't very clear. In fact, it might just be incredibly obtuse, resulting in you rushing towards a walkthrough or guide. Hopefully you'll find this series as enjoyable as SuperPhillip Central's others (and hopefully you actually like THOSE!).

The Red Barrel of Doom - Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)

This first "How Was I Supposed to Know THAT!?" moment in games has been mentioned before, and for good reason! It is such an error and example of obtuseness in game design that the creator even apologized for it. It's the otherwise fantastic Sonic the Hedgehog 3's infamous red barrel of doom! Dun-dun-dun!

The barrel in question is located in Carnival Night Zone Act 2. There are myriad barrels throughout the first and second acts, but none of them are required like this one is. Therefore, the player never has to interact with them, nor do they have to solve how to get past them.

The premise here is that a barrel that bobs up and down when weight from Sonic and Tails land on top of it must somehow move down enough a shaft for Sonic to sneak through a gap to continue the level. Considering that mindlessly jumping up and down on the barrel shows some kind of progress doesn't help things. In fact, it's totally misleading.

What you actually have to do is alternate between the up and down directions on the d-pad in time with the bobs of the barrel. This makes it so the barrel adequately moves enough for Sonic and Tails to move past this otherwise impossible to pass obstacle. Many fruitless efforts were had trying to cheese my older brother's and my way past the obstacle. The zones after Carnival Night seemed like impossible dreams that would never come true. The only thing that ever did come true before learning the truth about the red barrel of doom was the time always running out on us while playing this formerly cursed level.

Canary Mary's Second Stand - Banjo-Tooie (N64, XBLA)

Canary Mary is a human-like character dressed up as a canary, gifted with the power of flight. She requires Banjo and Kazooie to race her twice within Banjo-Tooie in order to get two separate Jiggies from her. (Jiggies being the equivalent of Super Mario 64's Power Stars, for the uninitiated.)

The first race in Glitter Gulch Mine is by no means that difficult. All that is required in this race is to mash a button repeatedly to speed across a rickety rail system through the tunnels of the mine. Beating Canary Mary to the finish line results in her surrendering her Jiggy to the bear and bird pair.

However, it's the second race, a flying spectacle in Cloud Cuckooland, that took most players, including yours truly, through the wringer. It seems to follow the same format as the first race-- rapidly mash on a button to coast to the finish, thus beating Mary. Nonetheless, this line of thinking is folly.

What isn't said about this second and final race is that Canary Mary has rubber band AI. This means that the faster you mash the button to speed up, the faster Canary Mary will fly, eventually making it so it's not possible to beat her without having a heart attack after mashing on the button like a madman. No, the goal here is to not actually rapidly press any button, just do so gingerly. This will make the race all the more feasible to complete.

That Final Freaking Percentage Point - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)

Many of you who read a lot of articles and reviews on SuperPhillip Central probably are deep into gaming. You most likely want to get the most out of your gaming purchases, and that means doing as much in a game you enjoy that you possibly can. For Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (which for the longest time I mistakenly [and stupidly?] read the subtitle as Diddy Kong's Quest), the mighty goal here was to collect all of the bonus coins, DK Coins, beat the Lost World, and get the ultimate percentage amount possible for the game, in this case, 102%.

However, many players, including myself, fought with plenty of effort to find every hidden bonus barrel, complete every bonus challenge, find every secret DK Coin, and battle and defeat Kaptain K. Rool not once but twice and only end up with 101% to show for it. Where is the other percentage point?

It turned out that players needed to visit all four of the Kong buildings in the game at least once. This meant going to pay Cranky, Wrinkly, Funky, and Swanky a visit to get that final point. It's something that for the most part, most players wouldn't think about or even have a reason to visit half of those locations. It took me a long time to figure that stipulation for 102% out myself, and that was only because I caved and bought the Nintendo Power players guide!

Kneel Before Zod-- Er.... This Innocuous Wall! - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)

What a horrible night to have to put up with incredibly cryptic crap. Now, to be fair, I only used the word "crap" for alliteration purposes, but then again, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest isn't the best game in the series. In fact, I'd call it one of the worst. Featuring cheap deaths aplenty, an annoying day and night cycle that interrupts the player with ten seconds of slow, scrolling text every time the sun rises or sets, and some astonishingly obtuse progression, Simon's Quest has more than its fair share of issues.

I could really pick a lot of instances within Simon's Quest to focus on and complain about, but the part of the game I'd like to pick apart, albeit briefly as I was never one to like getting angry, is an instance where your character reaches a curious dead end in an outdoor area. There is no hint that there is anything to this wall, even though you're supposed to go through it. Also, merely walking up to the wall and physically walking through it is impossible.

No, what needs to be done is something totally non-intuitive. First, you need to have the red crystal highlighted. Next, you have to crouch down and thus kneel in front of the wall. You are required to do this for more than five seconds before a small tornado appears and whisks you away to the next area.

Imagine this game not having any hints about this, and you as a young player or however old you might have been when Simon's Quest originally released trying to explore every area of the game to make some form of progress. By the time you've exhausted every potential possibility, you wind up with no progress made whatsoever. Simon's Quest was essentially impossible to beat without the help of magazines like Nintendo Power and tip hotlines. It's an example of a game that is unfortunately filled with ambiguous and enigmatic design, having Simon's Quest make Lords of Shadow 2 look like the greatest Castlevania game in comparison.

The Trials and Tribulations of Reaching The Cave of Trials - Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1)

The Cave of Trials in Star Ocean: The Second Story (also available on the PSP with the subtitle of "Second Evolution") is a secret, end-game dungeon that houses some of the most powerful weapons and abilities in the game for Claude and Rena's party. Unfortunately, it also houses some of the most challenging creatures, monsters, enemies, and bosses in the game, also making it so the real final boss of the game is significantly more difficult to beat by a fine measure.

With such goodies lying about in treasure chests inside, just waiting to be opened, a player enjoying the second Star Ocean would most likely want to enter and explore the dungeon. The process upon doing so is something that I don't know how anyone would do without a guide.

It revolves around reaching the final save point within the last dungeon of the game (the one just outside the final boss' chambers) and leaving the tower to head back to a specific town within a game. It's not just that, but it's a specific and unassuming NPC in a crowd of countless others in the back of a coliseum that must be spoken to. Talking with him with transport the party back into the past where the first planet of The Second Story, where most of the game took place. It's here where the party's power of flight, not previously available to the player, allows Claude and Rena to reach a desert island where the dungeon is located.

How the player would know they needed to return to a game's town and a specific NPC after reaching the last save point in Star Ocean: The Second Story is something that weighs on my mind like a sumo wrestler would. Many RPGs, specifically JRPGs, feature some off-the-wall and unimaginable ways to get end-game and post-game content, and Star Ocean's second game has one of the greatest.

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