As players enjoy Cuphead, Nex Machina, Pulstar, or any shooter at this time, the bullet hell, watch the screen, multitasking shmup genre has had a revolution of sorts in today’s industry. Mixing RPG elements with Smash TV or studying the important design of Mega Man X, testing your simple skill in a challenging way has become more acceptable. Hard games would scare players away in the past and most people who decided to do the hard mode in a game wanted to see how good they were at the game.
Of course, you can say that the 8-bit days contain a lot of unfair and unpolish difficulty but that may be due to budget, testing, and poor decisions. As much as we love the Ninja Turtles or Space Harrier, those games would make you thank From Software designing Bloodborne with Co-op and recovery points. Think that’s insane? Go ahead and play those games on an original system and not through emulation if you can.
Contra, on the other hand, told a different story. After all the bullets, respawns, falling to your death missing that power up, dying for not going up with another player, getting your life stole, forgetting the Konami code, and other “it’s your fault” mistakes, Contra made simplicity the hardest thing to acknowledge. The basics were supposed to keep your hands non-sweaty but alas, the attitude of blaming the game instead of paying attention made you rush and die which caused frustration. Watching yourself die and hearing that “brawww” sound effect was enjoyable to the viewer. For the self, not so much.
Through patience, memorization (and for some the Konami Code and another player), and concentration, you made it to Alien’s location. Shooting eyes, mouths, spiders, and other evils trying to stop you, making it to the end level was the joyous moment a gamer can have. THAT HEART HAD TO DIE AND DIE HARD IT WILL. The more you pumped bullets into it, the faster it beat. It was easy, a relief, and a reward for all the obstacles that were thrown at you.
Every boss in Ikaruga. Getting through the lasers in Flash Man Stage in Mega Man 2. Surviving the driving mechanics in Grand Theft Auto IV and V and every other part of that series. You got that unspeakable joy of conquering and showing the inanimate object who the winner was.
Until you start it all over or lose the progress/save file. Now you have to redo everything.
The last level in Contra is a testament to player’s joy. When overcoming all odds and being given something easy and pleasant, are a rare treat nowadays. Too many developers want to drag out the finality of the game to prove something grand when in reality, you just want it to conclude.
I know some of you won’t get the chance to experience that level physically but if you ever do, you’ll love that moment.
Unless you pop in Ninja Gaiden for the NES and deal with the Eagles. You’re on your own for that one.