Somewhere along the way, game design forgot how to be sloppy.
This week’s featured Brave Fencer Musashi adventure saw our hero venture through the Frozen Palace. If you listen to the stream, you will find that I was using fanboymaster as a living FAQ, because the Frozen Palace and its surrounding environs are confusing as heck. Despite being a “typical Zelda dungeon” with three jewels to fish out of the nooks and crannies of a dilapidated mansion, the Frozen Palace hosts a number of memorable and esoteric challenges. Beating every monster in a room or avoiding taking a hit is pretty straightforward; but some of the rooms that require a hidden copy ability or being thrown around by a yeti are less than forthright. Even getting there is a challenge, as Frozen Palace is guarded by a Lost Woods-esque forest maze that requires properly interpreting three oblique clues and combining them with expert knowledge of a Japanese boardgame. In short, the Frozen Palace is a playable reminder of exactly why strategy guides were so popular in the 90’s.
And maybe there’s something to that. While the standard of “a dungeon” goes back to the early days of gaming, it seems like gaming dungeons became very standardized sometime around the Playstation 2 era. The puzzles you see in Brave Fencer Musashi are nothing unusual, but their seemingly random smattering throughout the dungeon are a product of their time. There are three crystals to find in this ice world, and you actually have to backtrack from one area to another if you want to make progress. That barely ever happens anymore! Everyone knows that when a dungeon has three sections, they are all completely separate, and never the three shall meet. And if you are going to include puzzles in this kind of dungeon, they should all follow the same theme, likely including a development in ability/thinking as the dungeon progresses. You simply cannot have a platform that can only be reached via yeti-hurling, and then never showcase that skill ever again. There should be three distinct yeti challenges! And don’t throw a random “you have to get the anti-spike ability” detour in the middle of it! That will distract the player!
Of course, there is a reason game design doesn’t do that anymore. Our brains are much more receptive to carefully segmented, progressive challenges. Human beings universally do not want to master their combat or movement abilities only to be waylaid by some silly challenge that involves (what the hell is) shogi. Worst still, people do not want to get “stuck” on any given puzzle. If the way forward is too oblique or cryptic, then you hit a wall, and time spent googling up a FAQ is time not enjoying the game. While some players in this era claimed that game designers were always trying to build the baddest mousetrap that no player could solve, the reality has always been that developers want to make games people will enjoy. An “unsolvable” puzzle is about as fun as biting into an unbreakable jawbreaker…
But sometimes you can see the appeal of the old days. As a result of the eclectic challenges, the Frozen Palace winds up being a memorable dungeon. All the little trips and pitfalls are remarkable in their risks, and finally clearing the place and banishing a frozen dragon does feel appropriately epic. Even greater/more confusing challenges would appear again in the final dungeon for Brave Fencer Musashi, and that feels reasonably impressive, too.
They might not make dungeons like this anymore… but that might not be a bad thing.
Even Worse Streams presents Brave Fencer Musashi
Original Stream Night: September 13, 2022
Random Notes on the Stream:
- Fanboymaster is here to remind you that Various Daylife was always something on Apple Arcade, and Jeanie is here, too. Our usual angry skeleton is in Europe.
- Ed and Ben stop by. Uhh… in the game. They’re not real.
- We’re on the quest for gear! Like… a straight up gear. Not gear you wear.
- After hunting some random side quest content, Musashi sleeps in the fountain to visit an antique store for goggles. I approve.
- Oh, this stream was back during the Armed Fantasia Kickstarter, specifically just when they hit “more whistling”. I will support anything that is Wild Arms adjacent.
- You save an entire town from burning down, you get a calendar… Huh.
- I maintain that this is the first time in this playthrough that I ever saw that rock slug. Anyone want to watch the previous streams again to see if I’m right?
- Ample Vigour joins us as we find the fire scroll.
- Important question: Who was the last president that would have sucked dick for peace?
- And then we chat about the eating habits of Diamond Jim Brady. From his Wikipedia entry: “Luncheon would consist of ‘shellfish…two or three deviled crabs, a brace of boiled lobsters, a joint of beef, and an enormous salad’. He would also include a dessert of ‘several pieces of homemade pie’ and more orange juice.” He was not a slender man.
- Oh, this is the night we first talked about a sandwich that drove people insane on twitter that I would eventually eat live during the Goat Sim 3 stream.
- “This is like someone sent a ransom note for themselves. Unless my demands are met, I will be eating this burger.”
- After talking about Final Fantasy 1 and Wizardry, we discuss how AAA games nowadays overly encourage seeing all their content. That could be the subject of an article here!
- As we arrive at the ice palace, fanboymaster presents Way of the Samurai 3 and how you can draw a sword at any time in that game to make talking go away.
- Let’s review our favorite story-based songs while I get wrecked at the Frozen Palace.
- “Ghostbusters caused a generation of people to have baby bird brain disease and imprint on the franchise like it was their mom.”
- “As a child, I thought Scooby Doo was a direct insult to my intelligence.”
- Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama are very alike.
- Okay, we’re signing off as we examine how joking about raping women in movies was considered okay until… about 2006. Possibly later…
Next time on Brave Fencer Musashi: Brave Exterminator Musashi