A Question for the Readers #9: Cutting it Close

Any experienced gamer has doubtlessly run into a situation where their character is facing certain death. Most of the time, this situation is accompanied with a feeling of annoyed resignation. A reload is inevitable and all of the progress you made since you last saved is seconds away from being forfeit. However, every so often, a minor miracle occurs – you manage to stave off certain defeat long enough to turn the tables and win. Though gamers typically win more often than they lose, these particular victories stand out – even if no one else is around to appreciate it.

The fourth generation of Pokémon introduced double battles wherein you fight alongside an NPC against two trainers. This makes for an interesting gimmick, though its first implementation left a bit to be desired; your partner may not send out a backup Pokémon if theirs gets knocked out. Late in the game, I managed to find myself in a situation where I was fighting two Ace Trainers and my NPC partner lost by the end of the first (or second) round due to the trainers exploiting his Lucario’s weaknesses. Astoundingly, despite only having four Pokémon on hand (an Espeon, a Gyarados, a Staraptor, and an Infernape) to the opposing team’s six, I managed to pull through, effectively defeating two trainers at once singlehandedly.

The endgame of Metroid Prime 3 involves the player trekking through a particularly hostile environment. Said area has a unique gimmick; your health gauge is replaced by a featureless bar. If it fills up completely, Samus dies and you must restart the stage – which culminates a multipart boss fight. It gradually fills up on its own and if Samus takes damage, it fills up faster. Only by getting health units can you make the meter decrease, though it takes longer to fill up the more energy tanks you had going into the area. Though it took me more than one attempt to get through the stage, I was astonished when I managed defeat the final boss on my first try. That meter was mere centimeters away from filling up completely. If I had to estimate, I would speculate I had 10 or less health when Samus landed the finishing blow.

Though Phantom Hourglass was, at the time, the weakest Zelda game I’d played, its boss fights were undeniably solid. They employed the unique aspects of the DS and pushed the use of their respective dungeon items to their fullest. For one dungeon, the developers saw fit to bring back a classic boss from the game that started it all: Gleeok. True to form, it is a two-headed dragon, though it quickly becomes apparent that you cannot employ the same tactics as you could in the original (or even Oracle of Seasons). Running up to the dragon and mindlessly slashing one of its heads will prove futile. What you must do instead requires ample use of the grappling hook in a clever way so as to reflect one head’s attacks back at the other. It took me some time to realize what I needed to do, and I wound up getting reduced down to one heart on the health meter in my attempts to figure it out. Amazingly, despite having only one heart left, I managed to go the entire rest of the fight without taking any damage at all.

Every so often, I get the urge to replay Goldeneye. I really liked the game as a kid, and even now, it still has quite a bit of charm. That it was made before many FPS sensibilities solidified makes it a unique experience when compared to its spiritual successors. Anyway, I decided one day to finally complete the hardest level in the game: the Aztec Complex. This level doesn’t pull any punches at all; just getting out of the first room without taking damage is an accomplishment. Moreover, several enemies have grenades, which are powerful enough to fell Bond in one hit. It’s also quite long, and though being able to take ten hits without dying may seem merciful, you’d be surprised how quickly it depletes. This is because there are no health pickups in this game. You can find body armor, which allows you to take several extra hits, but if your health meter is damaged, there’s no fixing it. To make matters worse, once you’ve dealt with a major enemy, an infinite number of guards carrying lasers begin spawning and can easily ambush you. Said lasers are far more damaging than normal attacks.

With all of these factors in place, it took me several hours to finally complete this stage on the hardest difficulty setting. I was reduced to zero ticks on the health meter, meaning any successful hit would kill Bond. After ensuring the shuttle would launch (which is how the level is completed), I had him stay in the corner near the console controlling the exhaust bay, equip the laser (which doesn’t require you to reload) and never let go the “Z” (fire) button. It was a good thing I did because, sure enough, one straggler wandered into my barrage; if I hadn’t done that, I would’ve lost. I was highly relieved when I saw the shuttle launch because I knew my hard work finally paid off.

Super Smash Bros. Melee was also a childhood favorite of mine. What set it apart from its predecessor was that it made for a great single player experience in addition to being fun to play with friends. The original has its place in history, but the single player campaign wasn’t fleshed out well, and any advantage it may have had as a fun party game was rendered moot when Melee came out.

Appropriately, I have two close call stories from this game: one from single player and another from multiplayer. As far as single player is concerned, I was elated when I managed to clear the final event match, which pits players in a 1 vs. 3 fight against Mewtwo, Ganondorf, and Giga Bowser. Though individually not particularly difficult, you have to contend with a small arena on top of having to knock all of them out three times. You yourself only have three stocks (lives) with which to accomplish this task. I managed to defeat Ganondorf and Giga Bowser, but I was down to one life, and my character had taken at least 120% damage by that point. I had to play extremely defensively against the final enemy, and when I did, it was my proudest gaming achievement at the time.

As for multiplayer, I once played a tournament of sorts with my friend back in junior high. The final round ended in a draw, so a sudden death match was in order. This meant whoever landed the first good blow would be declared the winner. We had our characters rush at each other right away and launch an attack. Both attacks hit, though his slightly before mine, and our characters were launched into the air. However, as anyone familiar with this game knows, there are two animations that play if a character leaves the top portion of the screen. One involves the character disappearing into the background accompanied with a twinkle in the sky while the other has the character appear to hit the television screen. As it so happens, the latter animation takes less time, so while my character was falling in the background, my friend’s character hit the screen and lost less than a second before I did. As a result I was declared the winner. Needless to say, neither of us could believe what just happened.

Now it’s your turn.

When playing a game, have you ever managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

8 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #9: Cutting it Close

  1. On my third run through Dark Souls 3, I was facing off against The Nameless King. It was my first time fighting him on NG+2, and I knew he’d be appropriately difficult. I beat the first stage with little difficulty, then faced him one on one. We whittled each other down until I only needed one more hit to die, while he had a third of his life bar. I went in for a desperate strike just as he raised his swordspear to strike…and I STAGGERED HIM! I unloaded hit after hit as I desperately sought to end him right there, knowing the odds were slim if he recovered. But he didn’t, and I stood victorious! It was one heck of a fight to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • With a lot of Dark Souls bosses, I don’t think you’re used to the idea that you can stagger them, so when it happens, it can really catch you off-guard. I have only played the first Dark Souls, but my playthrough was very strange; I would beat notoriously difficult bosses such as the gargoyles, the Capra Demon, and Ornstein and Smough on my first try only to repeatedly lose to comparatively easier bosses such as the Gaping Dragon or the Bed of Chaos.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have found this happens to me far more often in competitive games than in single player affairs. I can remember playing a LTS scrim in UT2k4, being the last guy left on my team, and taking out the remaining three opponents with a charged Bio Rifle shot, at the last moment, with barely any health left. There’s a really cool YouTube personality who goes by Maximillian Dood, who actually has a few videos on this topic. Of course he covers fighting games almost exclusively. But you still might find an interest in it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewNTLtUSXUk

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s something really awesome about defeating multiple opponents at once – especially when they’re more or less on the same skill level as you. Then again, whenever things come down to the wire like that, it’s very exciting. I think that’s one of the reasons I prefer games with health bars over ones in which you simply wait for your health to come back.


  3. That last bit in Goldeneye 007, yeah, the last level. I completed the level in 1998 with my mate Ben watching and we were left shaking in excitement like the fools we were. More recently, Hollow Knight. I was amazed to come out of some of those bits in one piece – stunningly difficult, but highly rewarding. And indie gem Dead Cells, too, as you’re constantly on the verge of snuffing it in that one.

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    • I remember having a lot of fun with that game as a kid myself; it was one of the best multiplayer games I had back then.

      The really insane thing is that some people have managed to complete the Aztec level maxing out the enemy’s stats on 007 mode. That means enemies kill you in one hit in addition to having ten times as much health, lightning quick reflexes, and perfect accuracy. In fact, every single level has been cleared using those parameters – even the Silo level.

      I really ought to check out Hollow Knight; everyone tells me that’s a great game.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are some freaks of nature when it comes to gaming. I watched some guy taking on Rainbow Road with Bowser on Super Mario Kart (SNES). And there was me thinking I was good at the game.

        Hollow Knight is fantastic, but also highly frustrating. It’s like Breath of the Wild, you’re rewarded for being inquisitive. But you HAVE to stick with it for several hours to get the most of it.

        I’d go for Ori and the Blind Forest first, if you’ve not made it to that just yet.

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