Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sparkly Retro Magic: Part 2


Touching back on my previous post, I'd like to summarize what made Mega Man 2 so great. Just like any good story, a video game requires pacing to keep the player interested. Given the limitations of that era's technology, the Mega Man franchise on the NES excelled in continuously interesting the player with new abilities and not revealing too much at any given time. Generally the player was given a single new ability after defeating each level. Of course, there were other ways of pacing the game to reveal just enough at any given point in time, but for a game like Mega Man that had separate levels within a menu structure, a new ability per level was a natural way to maintain player interest.

     Mega Man 2 was also one of the earlier games to exhibit non-linear game progression. As mentioned before, the player was given a variety of levels to choose from in any order they wished. However, defeating a certain boss was usually easier using a certain weapon they were weak against. Navigating levels in Mega Man was not unlike a puzzle- trying different combinations to find the path of least resistance. There is a surprising amount of dpeth to be found in this simplistic structure.



The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the finest classic examples of fantastic pacing. However the structure is far removed from games like Mega Man. Whereas Mega Man gave you a level menu to choose and rewards you based upon your completion of that level, Zelda gave you an open world- you rely totally on your own exploration skills to find new items and progress. I suppose, in that sense, it is not best to refer to the game's progression as "pacing"- because in reality, the game waits for you to make the decision to progress. A Link to the Past is in my opinion, one of the best Zelda games- because it is a full world, so to speak. At every turn there is new content to interest and engage the player, each new item or event complimenting his overall quest. It never feels broken or disjointed. Rather, the game is an uninterrupted whole from beginning to end in a single, expertly interwoven story. Unless, of course, you can't complete a quest- then you'll run around frantically like a bee with no hive and eventually regress into controller-flinging rage. The temper tantrums are your OCD's fault, though, not Zelda's.

On a related note, is it kosher for me to insult my reader? Oh well, too late.

     If you're interested in purchasing a copy of either of these games, you can find both Mega Man 2 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Wii's Virtual Console. If you're cool, you can also find them on their original consoles.