Games have a hard mode for the same reason men do: it can be incredibly frustrating to keep doing the same thing over and over, but success feels amazing. Nightmare difficulty was how gaming used to deal with obsessives who memorized every pixel of the map but forgot how to work their bedroom door handle, back before Xbox Live connected them together for the world’s most schizophrenically homophobic trash-talk. (When you enjoy digitally teabagging dead men you lose all right to criticize other lifestyles.)
Some games increased difficulty by adding enemies, others by removing ammunition and missing the whole point of a game with ammunition in it. Forcing players to count bullets while battling hell’s demons isn’t fun, it’s how you train an accountant to stay boring under enemy fire.
But we were raised by movies which taught us that going up against an enemy army with half a pistol wasn’t just fun, it’s how you get to first base. That’s why I’m focusing on truly difficult games for “Nightmare Mode”–games which aren’t just hard, but hard to play. Games of such horrific design and concept they make Silent Hill look like Mario World. Games like Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad
Japanese Bikini Samurai Squad is one hell of a name, the reason a few thousand disappointed Googlers left this page before reading this far, and the only good idea the makers of Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad ever had. The game is about scantily clad ladies fighting dead bodies, which should be brilliant, except the programmers only knew how to animate the latter. Your combat stripper moves in a manner both horribly stiff and disturbingly loose, and that’s a combination of problems only people who regularly play with corpses understand.
The only selling point is “half-naked ladies!”, and like most attempts to use advanced technology to make a woman, it ends in horror and death. The last time a fictional woman wearing so little fought this many mindless enemies, a Wonder Woman cosplayer was trying to exit Comic-Con
The characters don’t just come from different designers than the rest of the game, they came from different decades. The lead characters are lovingly rendered in 3D–albeit 1990’s CGI 3D–but everything else in the game makes Pac-Man look advanced. Especially the level design. If The Doctor was told this mess hit North America in 2009, he’d leap into the TARDIS to find out who’s screwing with the timestream. And Pac-Man requires more sophisticated strategy than the Bikini Samurai Squad, because you need two big, round things before that game’s designers are interested.
The levels make Gears of War look like a fireworks display in a Skittles warehouse. The graphics are so bland you need to bash against a boundary before you realize there is one, which you’ll be doing a lot because the compass steers you due North even when every direction but South is solid building. Every stage is limbo, a pointless emptiness whose only plus is that it’s better than the hell you’d otherwise be in. Anyone voluntarily playing this has a life that would make a colostomy bag grateful.
It also came out on the Wii so that they’d have an excuse for crappy graphics. And because clumsily flailing with an underused rod is the player’s primary skill.
The characters glide around the vast smudges of texture so loosely you can’t tell whether every programmer was an idiot, or just the one guy who forgot to render the ice-skates they must be wearing. Which doesn’t mean they move effortlessly – I mean they clunk and slip with the easy grace someone wearing ice-skates on concrete and muddy cemetery dirt. Despite this flash of realism, the characters’ feet and the ground might as well be in parallel universes, except parallel universes usually end up meeting in most fictions.
The designers put their entire experience with women into the game, which was unfortunate, because their experience is “awkwardly stuttering around while repeating themselves” and “something filling with blood leads to humiliating failure.”
The heads-up display is dominated by a sword filling with blood as you chain together combos, and if you kick enough ass to fill it your thumbs get an accurate and horribly sexist reward for a female filling something with blood: debilitating cramps. Your character has to stop doing things and awkwardly clean up the blood, leaving you utterly defenseless in the midst of the crowd of undead you were butchering. These misogynists found a way to make a sword jam in a fight where nobody has any guns.
The game includes a secret item which can prevent this from happening, proving that they knew what they were doing is wrong. But when your design document includes “Teenage girl you can disrobe by hacking apart enough bodies,” you left morality in the rearview mirror.
The game lets you play with an underage schoolgirl, make her take her clothes off, then throws her to a slavering horde of desperately hungry bodies…just like the game’s designers did. Completing multiple levels and difficulties lets you take off her clothes, which is less of a gameplay challenge and more a way to keep people who want to do that busy. This game was probably funded by the police.
Since its only selling point is showing half-naked women on a monitor, it’s a pity it came out more than a decade after the internet. There are words to describe these women but only mortuary attendants know them. The still screenshots don’t look too bad—just like corpses, it’s only when they move that you know something’s badly wrong. Because “just like corpses” is what they look like. What’s meant to be an attractive sweat-slick sheen looks like they’ve decomposed enough to start leaking, but because their Barbiefied plastic skin can’t rot, the death-grease is seeping out of microscopic plastic pores. And if that’s disturbing imagery, I’ve accurately described the game.
The game completes the “laziest development possible” checklist by making almost all the achievements “Complete a level”, and then “Complete the entire game again on a harder difficulty.” They’re the most thoughtless awards ever created. But anyone playing through Onechanbara four times gets emotional when their alarm clock remembers to ring on their birthday.
It’s so terrible it achieves the impossible: the movie of the game is better than the game. A result which did for terrible videogames what Oppenheimer did for nuclear science, and is probably more dangerous to look at than a nuclear blast.
Though we’re quite prepared to end looking at that.