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Thursday, December 11, 2008

That Shelf Moment: No More Heroes

A shelf moment is where the frustration from a game outpaces the entertainment to the point where you just don't want to bother anymore, so you put it back on the shelf. I think I first heard it from Matt o' Curmudgeon Gamer.

I think I just had mine for No More Heroes last night. Don't get me wrong, I really like the game overall. And I was not a fan of Killer 7, mind you - finding it surrealistic fluff with very little value other than being so unique that I found it something of an attention whore.

NMH on the other hand, is stuffed with solid gameplay mechanics. It's easilly one of the best uses of the Wii controls outside of Nintendo, if not overall. The style is perfectly suited for the Wii's hardware and the weirdness is just fun - not distracting. I've enjoyed the game all the way to becoming the third ranked assassin.

But this second rank battle? Bad Girl? (stop here if you don't spoilers)

The fight just isn't any fun. For one thing, for being the second ranked assassin, Bad Girl doesn't seem to want to fight. She mostly just saunters around. And you can't attack first, since (as with most NMH bossess) you need to counter and dodge their attacks to do any damage.

Which brings me to the real core problem with the fight - Bad Girl has a ridiculous amount of HP and hence it feels like you do very little damage overall. I've spent this whole game mowing lawns to buy a better beam katana, and honestly that sliver of damage done to her health bar is a bit insulting. Especially since I have to keep waiting for her to get done strutting, perform some pretty lame attack, and hit her three times.

It's slow. And it's boring.

But it get worse. After you take out about half of her health, which can take upwards to ten minutes or so, she starts playing gimp baseball. This is where she hits men in gimp suits at you, and you have to fight them (if you haven't played NMH, this may sound weird - but when you've played it ... you don't even really blink at this kind of thing at this point in the game). You can't attack her ... and she can play gimp baseball as many times as she wants.

I now uncontrollable groan every time she struts half way to me, only to go running back to hit more goons at me. It's just laborious and dull.

Worse, Bad Girl has an attack which is 100% lethal. Now, it's easy to dodge, and once you realize when she's done with it, you can get hits in ... but one attempt last night ended because she performed it while I was in a corner. I had been dancing around this idiot girl for near twenty minutes, and the whole fight ended simple because I had to be close to her at the time.

Twenty minutes later, I realized my shelf moment had come. I could have spent an hour trying to beat this boss, but I wasn't going to have any fun doing it. Sure, I'd love to see how the game ends - but at this rate the reward doesn't seem worth it.

The game is in good company. I didn't finish Shadow Of The Colossus either because it took so damn long to get through the last boss, only to likely perish towards the very end. Dark Cloud 2 was, in general, one of the most brilliant JRPG experiences I've had - and I'm not normally a big fan of that genre - but when the designers decided "what would be neat is to go replay all the old levels with just much, much hard monsters" ... I said enough was enough.

I *might* unshelf it at some point, when I have a free afternoon to devote to trying to get past it. NMH fans can plead if they wish. Again, great game - which actually makes it that much more annoying. A moment like this in a bad game is just the end of an inevitable conclusion. Situations like this feel like just an ounce of really bad balancing, a moment where the designers thought "maybe the game isn't hard enough, right here ... let's add a zero to her health points..." kind of thing.

Oh well, PS3 should return tomorrow. And then I'll plenty to worry about...


Thomas said...

That fight was frustrating. If you shelve it now, you've managed to see most of the good stuff it offers, but you will miss out on the awesome meta-fuck-you of the ending sequence.

On the other hand, at this point, you could just find it and watch it on Youtube. I've done that for more games than I can remember now--the Metroid Prime titles especially, once they turn into tedious secret passage hunts.

Josh said...

Oh yes, Metroid Prime: Corruption. There was another one. Adored that game, but when I realized I was just jumping from planet to planet, wondering where I had left that lost shaker of salt, it dwindled the joy value immensely. Probably will never finish it.

Yeah, I might just Youtube it...

sterno said...

I had a similar moment at the end of Ninja Gaiden Sigma. It is overall a very fun game but the end segment was atrocious. I forget the details of it but the last bad guy is pretty hard to beat. That, in itself is not the problem.

The problem is that to beat the bad guy you have to do a rather difficult series of platform jumping moves to even get to the bad guy. Every time you die you have to redo the same bloody platforming. So basically I'd get to the bad guy, get killed, then try another half dozen times to get back there and fail repeatedly. Then get to the bad guy, die again...

Finally just gave up. I don't care enough to waste my existence on that. The game had crossed from challenging into a pixel driven purgatory.

Greg Tannahill said...

You may or may not have spotted my own experience with No More Heroes.

My memory of the fight with Bad Girl is that if you're only doing marginal damage then you're hitting her at the wrong part in her cycle. I could be wrong. And her cheap one-hit-kill gives you practice for an even cheaper one-hit-kill later.

That's not in any way an encouragement to keep playing. The boss fights are the best part of the game, and if you're not enjoying them there's really no reason to keep going forward. Certainly the ending is more like someone spitting in your face than it is a reward.

Best of luck with whatever you try next.