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Soft Boiled Hardcore
Posted on Saturday, January 5 2008 @ 23:08:36 PST

Outside of the adult film industry, the term "hardcore" needs to be dropped. All this talk of "hardcore" games versus "casual" games and "non-games" just serves to inflate the egos of attention starved *******s and feed the veracious marketing machines.

Some games may take more dedication and skill from the get-go, but just about any game, any activity, can take endless hours and provide an opportunity for complete mastery. While you may have to sink two hours in to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to get past the starter dungeon, I could easily spend an equal, if not greater, amount of time learning the intricacies of catching a ball on a string in a cup.

Is a cup and ball game more "hardcore" than Zelda? No, by most accounts it probably isn't. However, this just goes to illustrate how meaningless and idiotic a buzz word "hardcore" is.

Ridiculousness set aside, anyone who feels better after patting themselves on the back for solving a "hardcore" needs to have some serious knowledge dropped on them. After a week of revisiting classic NES, SNES and Genesis titles, I can report that, comparatively, modern "hardcore" games are rivaled by Nerf sports equipment in hardness.

While today's games have all kinds of conveniences like tutorials, instant saves, save points and difficulty settings, there was a time when brats younger than you were solving games infinitely harder than anything you'll find on a modern console.

For perspective, I'll compare my recent experiences with a difficult modern game and an incredibly famous classic game. The modern game in question will be Ninja Gaiden (Black or Sigma. Played 'em both and either will work for this comparison) and the classic title Super Mario Brothers. Ninja Gaiden is a brutal modern action game. It is quite possibly the most involved, difficult and competent action game to be released in the last decade. That said, it still has handy save points, a varied combo system allowing flexible combat, an easy beginning tutorial stage and enemies that often drop health regenerating orbs. Super Mario Bros. is far more simplistic, but also more difficult. You'll reach checkpoints here and there in SMB, but aside from the odd invincibility star, you have one shot to screw up before dying. That only applies to enemy related deaths, too. Screw up your aim or timing on a jump and you'll be falling straight to your death. There are no health bars. There are no gamesaves. There's no tutorial giving helpful pointers about how to kill enemies most efficiently.

That's just one game, too. Not only is it a single sampling of "hardcore" of yore, but it's the game that made home console gaming big worldwide post-80s-gaming-crash.

These days, even "hardcore" gamers can't stomach a challenge comparable to those of their predecessors. Frustration doesn't sell to a mass market anymore, just like typewriters don't get shelf space at Circuit City. Don't be surprised when hard things get easier, because it's bound to happen. Until then, only feel free to consider yourself "hardcore" when you're swapping bodily fluids with someone else for the camera.
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