Game Anatomy Is Great Comfort Reading
January 21, 2014
During my recovery from my recent health event I've been spending a lot of spare time laying in bed with my mobile browser tuned to 2-Dimensions.com where I've been reading (and, in some cases, rereading) Jeremy Parish's outstanding and generally interesting Anatomy Of A Game series in which is takes classic 8-bit and 16-bit video games and analyzes their designs on a level by level scale. Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Kid Icarus, The Legend of Zelda, and more are included (as are some of their sequels) and I love some of the little design nuances he notices and openly questions. For instance, in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, the townspeople Simon Belmont meets are all lying scumbags:
The idea of unreliable in-game characters isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t work out as well here as I think the designers intended. The problem? Castlevania II doesn’t offer enough detail and clarity to help you effectively sort out truth from fiction. While it’s all well and good for someone to tell you that you should hit your head against Deborah Cliff to make a hole to mislead you, that tip would be more obviously ridiculous if not for the fact that the real solution — kneeling in front of the cliff with a Red Crystal equipped for five seconds — is no less arcane or ridiculous. Simon’s Quest employs too much 8-bit logic to give deliberately misleading tips; rather than shake your head ruefully once you figure it out, you’re far more likely to shake your fist in annoyance because the real solution is equally dumb.
This all goes back to the mythical graveyard duck, of course. Reading about my favorite old games in this manner has been terrific comfort reading during my recovery. Due to my general lack of stamina and ongoing pain, I've been unable to climb the stairs to my game room on the top floor of PTB tower, so I've been left with my handheld systems to play from bed which means a lot of Virtual Console time on my Nintendo 3DS. The more I read of the Anatomy series, the more I plunge back into old favorites all over again. It's a vicious (and at $5 per game, expensive) cycle, but I've managed to acquire conservatively. I just replayed Wario Land 3 last week to total completion and polished off the Game Boy version of Bionic Commando yesterday, but there's no way I'm dealing with Castlevania II again right now. Not for all the ducks in the graveyard.