Posts by Tag / GAME: Kirby's Adventure (3)

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Kirby and the Curved Difficulty

I’ve been thinking lately about difficulty curves.

Not all games are about creating flow. Games are about creating all kinds of experiences. But for the ones that are about flow, a gradually-increasing difficulty curve is a natural approach. As the player gains more practice and experience with the game’s mechanics, they will find its challenges to be easier. The game must therefore become objectively harder in order to provide the same subjective level of difficulty and keep the player engaged.

This is well-known and sounds simple, but is actually quite complicated and full of traps–some of which are also well-known. The same level of challenge will vary in difficulty to different players, which can be mitigated with easy modes and the ability to skip challenges. Players may put a game down unfinished for any number of reasons and then come back with their skills rusty and find the game isn’t re-approachable due to the elevated difficulty of mid- or late-game challenges, which can be mitigated via always-accessible tutorial/training/practice modes or level selects.

(Note that things get even thornier when you talk about difficulty across installments in a series or genre, given that you want to challenge veterans but still be approachable for newbies. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.)

One of the more insidious traps comes from the fact that there are a lot of elements of difficulty, and thus a lot of ways to make a game harder–and different players will react differently to these different ways, even if the overall level of difficulty increase appears similar.

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I complained before about how the Nintendo Switch...

I complained before about how the Nintendo Switch Online NES SP Editions started out as ways to increase the approachability of games designed in a different era, but became about just skipping content instead. I’m relieved to see that this month’s batch are back to the old philosophy - there’s one for starting Kirby’s Adventure with Extra Game and Sound Test already unlocked, and one for starting Zelda II: The Adventure of Link with maxed out Attack, Magic, and Life stats. Great to see!

It’s also been a bit interesting to me since I’ve previously argued that the reason why hardcore gamers sometimes object to Easy Modes in their favorite games is because it makes it harder for them to use those games to signal their own skills. This is the first time I’ve really gotten a taste of that myself.

I have a tradition of fully completing Kirby’s Adventure on every platform it becomes available on. I was planning on posting a screenshot here when I’d done that on Switch, where I have just finished unlocking Extra Game on all three slots. Now the SP Edition lets anyone start right there. I have to acknowledge that one of my gut reactions to this news was mild annoyance.

But I recognize that having to clarify in my screenshot post that I didn’t use the shortcut is a small price to pay, and I’m glad people have the option to use it.

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Kirby's Adventure is coming to the Switch NES...

Kirby’s Adventure is coming to the Switch NES thingy! I have been waiting for this since the Switch NES thingy was announced. So this also seems like a good time to muse briefly on why it’s still my favorite Kirby game: the Copy Abilities.

Back in Kirby’s Adventure, each enemy would literally give Kirby one ability. This meant that they were situational, easy to remember, activated with a dedicated button, and you’d learn to use them well. It was exciting to run into new enemies doing things you hadn’t seen before, because it meant you’d get a brand-new ability to experiment with.

In modern Kirby titles, it’s more like each enemy gives Kirby a form with several abilities activated various ways, making them harder to learn and remember (even the pause screen explanations now take up multiple pages). They’re also less distinctive, as there’s a ton of mechanical overlap between ability sets. It never really feels like it matters which ability set you have, so finding new enemy types isn’t exciting.

It’s less about playing with different tools, learning which are good for which situations, and learning to use them well - it’s more about just grabbing any old enemy to power up, and at best picking your favorite flavor of ability set. And I find I get bored with that pretty quickly.

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