Breaking the Narrative Episode 59: Game Journos, not every game is Dark Souls. Dark Souls Isn’t Even That Hard.


If you are a regular to my articles I’m sure you are extremely familiar right now with the antics of Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat, what with his inability to tell a Mega Man X styled platformer from a Mario styled one concerning the game Cuphead, maybe even the comparing of many other games such as Crash Bandicoot to Dark Souls.  Personally, to be honest, I haven’t played all of the Dark Souls games. I haven’t even had the time nor the interest to play any of them to completion. This isn’t because I have found it too difficult and rage quit from it. It’s because, from what I could tell through the gameplay that I have experienced, it wasn’t going to be the most challenging FromSoftware experience I would have. What do I mean by this? Well Let’s Hammer This In!

I have been playing FromSoftware’s games since the PS1 with the original Armored Core. For those of you unfamiliar with these outings by FromSoftware I will explain, Armored Core is a series of third-person mech combat games. You play as a nameless mercenary known as a Raven who pilots a giant customizable mech known as an Armored Core Unit (AC for short). You start with a very basic layout that is nothing special and have to earn better parts as you go through increasingly more difficult missions in order to get the best equipment in the game. The catch is, you can customize yourself as you please and there is no real ‘wrong’ answer in how you play, as long as you can win it. A glass cannon can beat the final boss just as readily as a tank. However, you’ll have to gauge your tactics depending on your playstyle.

Now if you lose a few missions you don’t get a game over…immediately. Lose enough missions and get over 50,000 credits in debt then you will have to start from the very beginning and as an insult you get made into a Human PLUS. That’s basically a cyborg setup that upgrades some of your setup to basically turn it into easy mode because it also lets you keep your prior equipment but not your name. This is the game mocking you for sucking so much. This is a setup in many of the earlier games in the franchise which have some extremely difficult missions to run through later on. We have fast reached the 20th anniversary of the series and are expecting From’s next game to be Armored Core 6. For the longest time they were guilty of the game a year trope, stopping about the time Demon Souls was released with Armored Core Verdict Day.

Now difficult games don’t necessarily end with From Software, and my point is as follows – many who claim that the Dark Souls series is the epitome of difficult gaming have no clue what they are talking about. There are a plethora of very rage inducing and extremely difficult games that have come out in the past 30 years and I’m not talking poorly programmed ones like recent Sonic games. To go forward I’m going to mention a type of game then mention a fairly difficult game in that genre that you likely haven’t played, that is extremely difficult.  How about we start with a survival horror game?

Rule of RoseThis survival horror game developed by Punchline and published by Atlus in the United States is one that was nearly banned in a few places due to its extreme and mature nature. You could even say part of why it was being pushed towards a banned state is because this is an already existing example of a female Lord of the Flies. It touches a lot upon bullying, how little girls aren’t the glorious angels everyone makes them out to be, and shows the inhumanity of immaturity. In short, it’s what a feminist doesn’t want to see when looking in the mirror. This shows difficulty in more than plain game skill, however. It gives difficulty with dealing with the emotions involved along with fighting against the demonic imps with a characteristically small amount of available items to work with. This game will put you through both a mental and emotional wringer and spit you out without remorse.

EinhanderThis side-scrolling bullet hell shooter is a surprise coming out of late nineties Squaresoft. You play one of three Einhander units with two unlockable ones depending on your performance. You have at least one machine gun unit and can get a choice of gunpods which you get from your enemies. From my experience this game can be soul-crushing as most games of this type are. However, the biggest difference between this game and many others is you have a lot of difficulty getting anything that will protect you. You can only depend upon your reflex speed here. No Force or bits like R-Type to save your ass here. This game will ream your asshole without lube and take seconds.

Ninja GaidenNow when it comes to platformers not a lot think of Ninja Gaidan because they are used to the 3D games of the series now, and not the classics. But the original trilogy of games helped define the term “Nintenhard.” Specifically, the second game in the series is what I’ve found to be the most nerve wracking when it came to difficulty. That’s not because of poor enemy placement like the first game or poor level design like the third, but because of genuine strong level design not based around cheap tricks and workarounds to trip the player up.

Vagrant StoryThis is a RPG that I truly find difficult and engaging. One of my biggest complaints about the Souls series is the seemingly minimal strategic value of its battle system, which is frustrating because the later Armored Core games had a mechanic which led to losing parts and abilities if you took enough damage, adding to what you need to succeed. This is where this Squaresoft classic shines. First, each of your limbs and your body have a health gauge, and the more damaged you are the harder your ability to hit enemies is. Secondly not just any weapon is good on any enemy.  You have to constantly improve your weapons and switch between them on the fly depending on the enemies you come against to win. You also have to choose between dodge and defense. You could even say this is built upon a similar engine to the Parasite Eve games which preceded it.

Shadowgate – Ok, here I guess I’ll be a little gracious. Many journalists like walking simulators, yes? Well here is a classic one that’s been remade recently. But here is the thing: This advertises itself on how many deaths you can encounter in the game!  There is even an achievement based on getting killed A LOT!  Its not so much if you will die, but when you will die and how many times you will die. Not only will this game kill you mercilessly, it will make you go ‘Oh yes daddy! Give me another! Hurt me more Daddy!’ This is the game you play when you hate yourself and want to really embrace the reaper. In the reimagined version that’s on Steam, you can even amp up the difficulty and add more deaths to your route to stop the mighty Behemoth and the vile wizard that is summoning him. This is a first person puzzle adventure at its most intense. It has 30 years, and as of this writing 362,788 player deaths attributed to it! This, all according to the website’s own counter. ( I wager it’s actually more deaths than that and the count is actually the amount of people who own the game)

“Alright, what does this have to do with Men’s Rights Alex? Are you getting off subject again?” Not completely. While this is more in line with journalistic incompetence and ignorance of games by mainstream news outlets, there is an issue that all of these games bring up. Save for Rule of Rose, all of these games star a male lead that is seen as extremely disposable and usually in service to others rather than to his own interests and devices. Rule of Rose still bases itself around a ‘disposable’ character but is a female character that is seen by the female antagonistic Red Crayon Aristocrats as a masculine figure… so much so that one of the unlockable outfits for the character is that of a ragdoll. Even her dog Brown is considered disposable by the little harlots you grow to despise throughout the game.

So the difficulty of these games can be an aspect of the gameplay that can be said to make a point about how men are viewed as a whole. As such I suggest that all of these games be played, not because they are difficult, but not because of their narrative value either. Play them because all of these games are extremely good games that will help you hone your skills in video gaming and help you enjoy other games more easily. They will help you, as the phrase goes, ‘git gud’.  Will you get frustrated with these games? Yes. Will you curse like Pewdiepie at these games? Most likely, perhaps not with the same vernacular but with the same intent. Will you feel like you are trash because of these games? Maybe for a short time, but you will eventually enjoy conquering these games and proving your worth not to some arbitrary gatekeeper, but to yourself.

This is where the most important thing comes in deep down. We can say whatever we want about who lets who into the gaming community and all that. But truly there is only one person who can decide whether or not you are a gamer and that is… yourself. Do you enjoy video games whether you can beat them or not? Whether you can beat an opponent or not?  Then you are a gamer. Do you enjoy the challenge that a video game provides, and do you enjoy earning your way through a story? Then you are a gamer. Most importantly,  do you see gaming as its own unique medium that has an immersion unrivaled by any other due to its inclusion of interactivity that can put you into the boots of anyone you play as despite identity? Then you my friend are a gamer! No arbitrary journalist, no chucklefuck on twitter, no ideologue on a high horse can take that from you! We gamers break the narrative every day and keep thinking outside of the box because that’s what video games have taught us to do – think differently.

I hope that was an enriching bit of information for you. As such we will move on to something else fun next week. Now as I finish writing this article I have to go finish preparing for my son’s third birthday. I’m not talking about that damn Parasite Eve sequel failure now, but my son’s legitimate third birthday. That’s right my little boy is technically a #GamerGate baby as he was originally supposed to be born on August 28th. But he was born on September 15th. I simply thank the gods he wasn’t born on 9/11. That would have been rough on him. So while I go have fun with my son, Please Remember to Game Freely!


Alex Tinsley
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About the author

Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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