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This is Hardcore: Demons and talking bunnies, dogs, raccoons…


I should clarify from the start: I’m not a great example of a “hardcore” gamer. Well, maybe in some respects: I own multiple game consoles and spend way too much money on games. On the other hand, I’m not threatening to rival Ice T’s prowess in Call of Duty 4 any time soon.

I bought two video games this week, Animal Crossing: City Folk and Demon’s Souls. One of these games occupies that odd grey area between ultra-casual and slightly nutty hardcore, offering to take only five minutes of your day but willing to take many hours more. The other is a staggeringly difficult game that involves sticking sharp objects into demonic monsters or soulless humans driven insane, shortly before dying and starting all over again. Guess which is which?

 He will cut you, fool.
 He will cut you, fool.

 I’m still waiting for City Folk; I ordered it on Amazon, caved when I saw they were offering it for half price. I can’t find my gamecube copy of the game. I more than likely had it sealed away to save myself. There’s only so much fishing you can do before you crack. I grabbed Demon’s Souls as soon as it was available, spurred on by some small section of my video game playing ego that decided that “old school difficulty” was an appealing concept.   

 Defeat the mighty dragon using only foul language.
 Defeat the mighty dragon using only foul language.

It has proved to be so. It took me quite a while to reach and defeat the boss of the first area in the game. The main issue in Demon’s Souls apart from its natural difficulty is the fact that when you die you lose all the souls you’ve collected up to that point. It just goes right back down to zero. This is fine if you can get back to your “bloodstain” but if you can’t make it back to the point of your last defeat, goodbye forever to the only currency in the game for buying weapons, upgrading equipment and improving character stats. 

I thought this would drive me crazy, and I think it has, a bit. This game is well worth it though. I don’t typically go looking for “challenging” games. I’ve never played Megaman 9 and I’ve had a lot of frustrating experiences with the GBA-based Metroid games. The only game I’ve ever played and thoroughly enjoyed that I can compare this to is Ninja Gaiden. The secret to both games, I realised, is that although they will drive you up the walls with the level of concentration required, neither game becomes cheap at any point. The end result is that once you’ve figured out how to defeat a certain type of enemy or negotiate a certain type of scenario, you can do it again. And again. And again…

Animal Crossing does not exactly overflow with such moments. Still, the game has its own way of drawing you in, whether it’s collect various fish or be at the right place at the right time. The genius of the game is the adherence to a real world clock. I always knew I could cheat at the game on Gamecube just by changing the game clock, but this was one game I didn’t want to ruin. Ok, I’ll more than likely never see the New Years party in the game. It’s become one of the great appeals for me, a central facet of this wonderful illusion that there is a living breathing town going on whether I decide to play or not.

So, this week, I am going hardcore in every which way. Loving it, too. Now excuse me, I’m off to battle evil demons in the dark and maybe get a hair cut, if I can afford it.

    Tom Nook gets his money.
    Tom Nook gets his money.