Sunday, February 7, 2021

Toughest Tasks in Gaming History - Volume Nine

New year, new Toughest Tasks in Gaming History! Welcome to the first edition of TTIGH in 2021, and hopefully not the last either. These tasks are harder than (or just as hard as) Sony trying to supply enough PlayStation 5s to meet demand. That should give you an idea on just how difficult these next five gaming challenges truly are. We start off with a trio of 3D platformers, including Super Mario 3D World, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and even go retro with a Nintendo 64 classic. Then, we change directions to some rhythm game goodness with Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, and then end this edition with our fists-a-flyin' with Streets of Rage 4. Regardless of the game, you're going to encounter some gaming challenges that are seriously taxing to overcome!

Before checking out the latest five entries to our ever-expanded list of tough tasks in gaming history, check out all past volumes with these convenient links:

Clearing Champion's Road - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

With the updated Nintendo Switch version of Super Mario 3D World releasing this week with a brand-new mode and updates to the old 3D World adventure, it seems like a prime opportunity to leap into this edition of the Toughest Tasks in Gaming History with 3D World's toughest trial. The final level awaiting players of Super Mario 3D World in the Crown World is only unlockable if they earn all of the game's stamps, Green Stars, and hit the top of every level's flagpole in the game. Then, and only then, can they challenge the extra difficult super level that tests every platforming skill learned over the course of the game, Champion's Road.

Champion's Road isn't just difficult because of the myriad platforming challenges presented in players' paths, but it's also quite the endurance run, requiring almost perfection to complete in one run. There are no checkpoints to speak of, no power-ups to collect, and every obstacle is more intense and difficult than the last. 

Screenshot source: IGN

Here's just a sampling of the platforming and traversal challenges on offer on Champion's Road. There are narrow platforms that require running across as to not fall between the gaps to your demise, all the while avoiding the bum-rushing attempts of Chargin' Chucks. There are beat blocks that vanish and re-appear, requiring utterly perfect timing to leap on. There is a showdown with three Magikoopa that must be defeated while battling them on incredibly unstable ground. Then, there's a test of your underwater swimming abilities as you rush through a spike-filled passageway. Finally, a dangerous ensemble of dash panels suspended over the abyss necessitates the need for precision running, jumping, and avoiding the shockwaves of nearby enemies as you collect five key coins to unlock the way to the end. 

Whether Nintendo's "Thank You" message spelled out in clear pipes is to show gratitude for playing 3D world or being enough of a masochist to make it to the end of Champion's Road unscathed is up to interpretation. Either way, you're a Super Mario 3D World master if you can complete this level, especially with all five characters!

Getting a Gold on the Ripsnorter - Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

Speaking of endurance runs and no doubt a level inspired by Super Mario 3D World's Champion's Road, we have Sackboy: A Big Adventure (which itself has close 3D World influences) and its final Knitted Knight Trial: The Ripsnorter. Leading up to The Ripsnorter, you tackle 15 unique platforming obstacle courses, attempting to clear each which have their own hazards and gimmicks to play through. Some deal with bounce pads, others with rotating platforms, others with rising and lowering spikes. The point is that just clearing these with the gold medal times is challenging enough.

Then, you have The Ripsnorter, which isn't just what you'd expect to be a hard trial itself, but this level actually takes all 15 of the previous Knitted Knight Trials and stitches them together to craft one insane challenge! Simply surviving all 15 sections of The Ripsnorter, with no checkpoints, AND the need to clear it in under ten minutes (which shows just how lengthy of a trial The Ripsnorter is) will make even the most confident and proficient platformer sweat and shake. Each run I attempted usually ended in quick failure, but eventually muscle memory kicks in, you make more progress with each run, until finally, you reach the goal--and with a Gold medal to boot! Sackboy: A Big Adventure's Ripsnorter may just be a tougher trial to overcome than its clear inspiration, and those who do will not only feel accomplished but also feel relieved that they won't have to do it again!

Achieving 101% Completion - Donkey Kong 64 (N64)

Let's continue our 3D platforming kick with a retro classic, which was arguably designed a bit too big for its britches. In fact, that's where the main challenge of this particular tough task in gaming history from Donkey Kong 64 comes from. Past Donkey Kong Country games required you to find every possible secret to achieve the highest completion percentage, something you could show off and be proud of. Donkey Kong 64 continued that trend, though with how ridiculous and convoluted earning everything in the game was, this was no easy task!

In order to clear Donkey Kong 64 with 101% completion, proficient and utterly patient platforming players needed to: collect all 201 Golden Bananas (equivalent to Super Mario 64's Power Stars or Banjo-Kazooie's Jiggies), earn all Banana Medals (for collecting every banana in the game's levels), earn all Battle Crowns (for completing arena battles), photograph all Banana Fairies, collect all Boss Keys, and finally, earn the Rareware and Nintendo coins (from completing the classic Jetpac and Donkey Kong arcade games respectively).

Now, this might seem like a tremendous amount of playtime and almost work to complete, and as any DK64 player will tell you, that's because it is. With five Kongs to play as, the most work comes from having to find barrels to switch between characters, as the Kongs could only collect their specifically colored bananas. The levels in DK64 were huge and expansive, offering plenty of nooks and crannies to hide bananas, Golden Bananas, blueprints to find and obtain, and much more that were exclusive to each Kong. That meant a lot of switching between Kongs, backtracking, and utter frustration. And don't even get me started on that dreaded Beaver Bother mini-game either! While enjoyable to play, much like a game featured in our previous edition of Toughest Tasks in Gaming History, clearing Donkey Kong 64 completely really isn't and is more trouble than it's reasonably worth!

Accomplishing All Feats - Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (PS4, XB1, NSW)

Rhythm and music game lovers received an entirely new game to adore this past holiday season, and that adoration would only increase if they were Kingdom Hearts fans. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory took the Theatrhythm formula from the Nintendo 3DS games and transplanted it from a 2D perspective into a 3D one. With Yoko Shimomura and company's music to join them on their journey through the game's multitude of songs, Melody of Memory ended up being a generally enjoyable music game, as evidenced by our SPC review.

There is no shortage of songs and content to sink one's teeth into in this Kingdom Hearts rhythm game, and that proof is no better seen than in the game's 80 feats. These are in-game challenges that require either consistent play through the game or a high level of musical skill to achieve. Some are easy enough to accomplish, such as beating a boss level, beating the game, or clearing a set number of songs--things that are natural to the completion of the game's World Tour mode. Others are meant solely for diehard fans of the game and experts alike. These range from grind-like feats like defeating 100,000 enemies and opening 100 treasure chests, to more skill-based challenges like clearing a myriad of the hardest difficulty's songs with a full chain (never missing a single note) or getting a score of over 9.800,000 on a Proud mode song. Suffice it to say, not only are a lot of these feats incredibly arduous to achieve, but many also require a dedication to the game that most probably won't have! 

All S Ranks on Mania Mode - Streets of Rage 4 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

The development group of DotEmu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush delivered a terrific revival of the Streets of Rage series with Streets of Rage 4. It played as great as it looked--and SoR4 was no stinker when it came to its visuals! The game also brought with it a stiff challenge as well, even on the easiest difficulty level, So, when you've got the toughest difficulty level, Mania Mode, it's certainly not for the weak-skilled. 

Simply beating a level in Mania Mode is a tough task to ask for all to itself, and beating the game in Mania Mode is even harder. But, what about clearing each level with an S Rank? Good luck, as that requires you to keep up your combo streak to impressive levels, where a quick potshot from an enemy will make you lose all those priceless points. As any Streets of Rage 4 player can tell you, that's all too easy to have happen in any difficulty, much less Mania Mode! Enemies are fast, enemies are highly skilled, and while the number of them is pretty much unaltered, they're far more dangerous. Surviving is a challenge all on its own, so if you can master Mania Mode, you are without a doubt one of the best beat-em-up players around.

Fortunately, there is no trophy or achievement for earning all S Ranks in Mania Mode. In fact, all you have to do is beat one level in said mode to unlock the difficulty's sole trophy/achievement, so most players won't find a desire or need to overly frustrate themselves. That said, if you're still wanting an intense and supremely difficult challenge, then just try to S Rank all of Mania Mode. Just try not to break that controller of yours in half out of a streets-induced rage!

No comments: