Cheap Game Extensions: The End of Game Grind

How many times have you played video games where the end-of-game difficulty is a quantum leap over  the rest of the game?  I can think of numerous titles that gave me little trouble over the twenty or more hours I played, when all of the sudden, the challenge ramps up to astronomical levels.   Even if a game that has an erratic difficulty curve is phenomenal, it can leave a sour taste in your mouth.  When I think about difficulty spikes, a few games come to mind: Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Suikoden V, Dragon Quest IV, and Terranigma.  Sure, there are games in other genres that have this problem (Mega Man comes to mind), but this problem seems to be especially frequent in RPGs. 




Out of this entire list, Star Ocean: Till the End of time is the most blatant offender.  For the most part, Star Ocean 3 is fairly easy as long as you fight enemies consistently and continue to buy new weapons.  There comes a point in the game however, where the difficulty curve makes a leap the equivalent of a small town like Podunk growing into a bustling metropolis like LA.  I was making quick work of the game's bosses, when suddenly, regular enemies started making me run for the hills.  You would think it'd be wise to sit and fight these insanely difficult enemies to gain massive amounts of experience, but as they say in Star Trek, resistance is futile.  Not only do these enemies send your characters crying to their mamas, but they also give paltry amounts of experience.  Why waste your time fighting these nearly invincible foes when you can waste hours fighting paraplegic enemies that give you the same amount of experience?  The problem is--neither option works.  What you have to do instead, is spend countless hours with a weapon-making mini-game.  Some people might enjoy that kind of thing, but for someone like me that mainly wants to experience the central story, this forced side quest turned me off as quickly as Fabio repels straight males.


As I mentioned earlier, Star Ocean: Till the End of time isn't the only guilty party.  Suikoden V is another game that infuriated me towards the end.  To me, Suikoden V was a great prequel to the Suikoden series that lived up to the legacy of the first two games.  The politically charged narrative was great, and the various battle systems gave me no trouble as usual.  However, like FFVI, the end forces you to split up into three parties of six.  This probably doesn't sound that bad, but when you consider the fact that you have to spend several hundred thousand potch (Suikoden's currency) on upgrading weapons and armor for your characters, this can be a grueling experience.  I was playing Suikoden V in the summer, and coming home from painting to grind for hours wasn't a fun experience.  I persevered and earned the money necessary to buy my characters equipment, but only because I cared about the Suikoden series enough to see the game's conclusion.  The end of Suikoden V was a pain, but at least I managed to complete it, unlike Star Ocean 3.



Dragon Quest IV is another game that robbed me of my precious time.  Previously, I hated everything Dragon Quest related, but this was the first DQ (besides the ice cream) that I actually enjoyed.  The scenario system was innovative, and the dialogue was charming, despite the sometimes poor accents.  As you probably already know, Dragon Quest games are about as traditional as you can get when it comes to RPGs, so there's non-stop grinding.  I didn't mind too much throughout most of the game, because the battles are generally fast-paced, and I didn't have to run in circles to level up that often, but things got out of hand at the end of the game.  I had been terrorizing the game's bosses, but the head honcho decided to give me grief.  This sleezebagano decimated my nearly unstoppable party the first few times I fought him.  I took the hint, and spent a couple hours leveling up, so I could thrash him, but once again, I wasted valuable time.  Square-Enix could have easily done a little fine-tuning to balance the final boss, but I guess they wanted us to work for it.  It would have been nice if they only made the extended portion of the game a grind fest, but I guess this is Dragon Quest.


The final flagrant fouler I'd like to mention is Terranigma.  In comparison to the other games I mentioned, the crimes committed by Terranigma are minor; Terranigma's end is the equivalent of shoplifting, while the other games committed capital murder.  I recently played through Terranigma, and I only died a couple times during the entire game, mostly due to careless mistakes.  Fast-forward to the final boss, and the game is suddenly incredibly unbalanced.  Terranigma warns you to save before descending to the underworld to encounter this godly foe, but with three save files, it's likely that some gamers would ignore the warning.  There was a reason for this warning: You can't return to the surface to level up to prepare for this brutal boss encounter.  Due to using an emulator, I managed to beat the final boss with relatively low levels (level 29 to be exact), but it took nearly two hours of utilizing my quick reflexes and the handy save state option.  If I had known about this unbalanced final boss, I would have gained two to four extra levels to do uber-damage to this titan.   This boss is so unbalanced that players with a character level of lower than 31 will have an extremely difficult time defeating him.  When you're below level 31, your attacks do a paltry 2-5 damage, so you have to strike him for what seems like an eternity.  This game is old, so I can let that slide, but it's inexcusable that games of today are still using these cheap gameplay extension tricks.


After experiencing multiple games with erratic difficulty curves, I've decided that enough is enough.  I'm sure that I'm not the only gamer that feels this way, so I thought I'd ask what you, the gaming community thinks.  Are games with huge difficulty spikes inexcusable in this day and age?  Should developers spend more time balancing their software?  Is this kind of practice acceptable as long as they warn us ahead of time? 

It is time for game developers to hear our voice.

4 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by bshirk

How many times have you played video games where the end-of-game difficulty is a quantum leap over  the rest of the game?  I can think of numerous titles that gave me little trouble over the twenty or more hours I played, when all of the sudden, the challenge ramps up to astronomical levels.   Even if a game that has an erratic difficulty curve is phenomenal, it can leave a sour taste in your mouth.  When I think about difficulty spikes, a few games come to mind: Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Suikoden V, Dragon Quest IV, and Terranigma.  Sure, there are games in other genres that have this problem (Mega Man comes to mind), but this problem seems to be especially frequent in RPGs. 




Out of this entire list, Star Ocean: Till the End of time is the most blatant offender.  For the most part, Star Ocean 3 is fairly easy as long as you fight enemies consistently and continue to buy new weapons.  There comes a point in the game however, where the difficulty curve makes a leap the equivalent of a small town like Podunk growing into a bustling metropolis like LA.  I was making quick work of the game's bosses, when suddenly, regular enemies started making me run for the hills.  You would think it'd be wise to sit and fight these insanely difficult enemies to gain massive amounts of experience, but as they say in Star Trek, resistance is futile.  Not only do these enemies send your characters crying to their mamas, but they also give paltry amounts of experience.  Why waste your time fighting these nearly invincible foes when you can waste hours fighting paraplegic enemies that give you the same amount of experience?  The problem is--neither option works.  What you have to do instead, is spend countless hours with a weapon-making mini-game.  Some people might enjoy that kind of thing, but for someone like me that mainly wants to experience the central story, this forced side quest turned me off as quickly as Fabio repels straight males.


As I mentioned earlier, Star Ocean: Till the End of time isn't the only guilty party.  Suikoden V is another game that infuriated me towards the end.  To me, Suikoden V was a great prequel to the Suikoden series that lived up to the legacy of the first two games.  The politically charged narrative was great, and the various battle systems gave me no trouble as usual.  However, like FFVI, the end forces you to split up into three parties of six.  This probably doesn't sound that bad, but when you consider the fact that you have to spend several hundred thousand potch (Suikoden's currency) on upgrading weapons and armor for your characters, this can be a grueling experience.  I was playing Suikoden V in the summer, and coming home from painting to grind for hours wasn't a fun experience.  I persevered and earned the money necessary to buy my characters equipment, but only because I cared about the Suikoden series enough to see the game's conclusion.  The end of Suikoden V was a pain, but at least I managed to complete it, unlike Star Ocean 3.



Dragon Quest IV is another game that robbed me of my precious time.  Previously, I hated everything Dragon Quest related, but this was the first DQ (besides the ice cream) that I actually enjoyed.  The scenario system was innovative, and the dialogue was charming, despite the sometimes poor accents.  As you probably already know, Dragon Quest games are about as traditional as you can get when it comes to RPGs, so there's non-stop grinding.  I didn't mind too much throughout most of the game, because the battles are generally fast-paced, and I didn't have to run in circles to level up that often, but things got out of hand at the end of the game.  I had been terrorizing the game's bosses, but the head honcho decided to give me grief.  This sleezebagano decimated my nearly unstoppable party the first few times I fought him.  I took the hint, and spent a couple hours leveling up, so I could thrash him, but once again, I wasted valuable time.  Square-Enix could have easily done a little fine-tuning to balance the final boss, but I guess they wanted us to work for it.  It would have been nice if they only made the extended portion of the game a grind fest, but I guess this is Dragon Quest.


The final flagrant fouler I'd like to mention is Terranigma.  In comparison to the other games I mentioned, the crimes committed by Terranigma are minor; Terranigma's end is the equivalent of shoplifting, while the other games committed capital murder.  I recently played through Terranigma, and I only died a couple times during the entire game, mostly due to careless mistakes.  Fast-forward to the final boss, and the game is suddenly incredibly unbalanced.  Terranigma warns you to save before descending to the underworld to encounter this godly foe, but with three save files, it's likely that some gamers would ignore the warning.  There was a reason for this warning: You can't return to the surface to level up to prepare for this brutal boss encounter.  Due to using an emulator, I managed to beat the final boss with relatively low levels (level 29 to be exact), but it took nearly two hours of utilizing my quick reflexes and the handy save state option.  If I had known about this unbalanced final boss, I would have gained two to four extra levels to do uber-damage to this titan.   This boss is so unbalanced that players with a character level of lower than 31 will have an extremely difficult time defeating him.  When you're below level 31, your attacks do a paltry 2-5 damage, so you have to strike him for what seems like an eternity.  This game is old, so I can let that slide, but it's inexcusable that games of today are still using these cheap gameplay extension tricks.


After experiencing multiple games with erratic difficulty curves, I've decided that enough is enough.  I'm sure that I'm not the only gamer that feels this way, so I thought I'd ask what you, the gaming community thinks.  Are games with huge difficulty spikes inexcusable in this day and age?  Should developers spend more time balancing their software?  Is this kind of practice acceptable as long as they warn us ahead of time? 

It is time for game developers to hear our voice.

Posted by Bigandtasty

I think most of us wouldn't mind increases difficulty as long as they are beatable through skill rather than time consumption, but that is a tough feat to accomplish within the confines of the JRPG. Of the JRPGs I've played, I'd say Grandia II struck a decent balance - a lot of bosses killed me, but I never needed more levels; I needed to refine my strategy. Then again, I was 13 back then so maybe that factored into the difficulty.


That said a lot of other genres are difficult in ways that are not always unanimously loved, and also require plenty of time to master - shmups, fighting games, RTS, etc.
Posted by flyingace16021

I'm doing a run of Star Ocean... And is it really that bad? How soon to the end does it start? Do you suggest anything to get prepared for it? Man that's scary. I'm comparatively not good at games to the amount of time I spend. :p

Posted by flyingace16021

I'd also say that Legend of Dragoon is a game that definitely would make a list like this. Maybe it was just me, but that last boss fight was unbelievable. Melbu Frahma is no joke. It's like you say, it's almost unfair how difficult bosses like that are. 

Posted by Green_Incarnate

The game is straight up easy until you put the second disk in. And, I never noticed I wasn't spending my skill points until I was 3/4 done with the game, but I never finished the final boss.