On Star Fox and Invincibility

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I’m going to preface this by saying i don’t much care for or about Star Fox. The only game that i have owned (or for that matter played) in the franchise is Star Fox Command. However some interesting news about it having an invincibility mode so that people can choose to just cruise through it without dying if they wished. Its enough of an issue that i feel like i can weigh in despite my lack of experience with the series.

 

I heard about this news from Rich of Reviewtechusa, who gives his opinions on the subject matter, and why he’s against it:

 

His argument basically boils down to we had harder games as kids (kids born in the 80’s specifically), how kids these days don’t know consequences, and its a shame that video games don’t teach them that. I will admit to paraphrasing his video, i strongly suggest that you watch it before continuing on and making up your own mind if he’s right or wrong on his points. But i’m not talking about his arguments, i want to weigh in on the prospect of an invincibility mode in Star fox Zero.

I have to say that i’m for the principle of having an invincibility mode, but not for the execution in this game. In order to explain that sentiment i have to reference my Brutal Doom article, and how i lament the absence of cheats in modern games. I will admit that i play Brutal Doom primarily with god mode and all weapons on. I enjoy the 20 or so minutes of carnage i reap (before i get bored and turn it off), and i relish in the impunity that the modes allow me to dispense the violence with. As i said in that article its a way that exercises any anger or frustration that i feel.

I often wonder why cheats have disappeared to in modern games, and i wonder why its just such a taboo thing to have in games these days. Why can’t i have unlimited resources, or all technologies unlocked in Napoleon Total War? Or why can’t i have unlimited ammo/bullet time and access to all weapons in Max Payne 3?

I’m not blind to the obvious answers to those questions; the biggest reason being that cheats are not the way the game was built by the developers to be played. All challenge, and all incentive to get better at the game is lost when you build a mode that lets you circumvent them. That is as good a reason as any, and i get it. But it still sucks.

I’ll admit as a kid i used cheats to circumvent challenge, for example i sucked at Starcraft* without using cheats. I didn’t learn to manage my economy, i didn’t know what units were good for, and i didn’t learn or have a sense of the tactics and strategies needed to become good at Starcraft until i turned the cheats off. But now as an adult i find that cheats can open up new gameplay opportunities, and can increase the time i spend on a game.

For example after i played Deus Ex: Human Revolution the way the developers intended, i downloaded a debug mode for it. Its essentially a console to activate and play around with any number of modes and conditions, and included with that is the ability to enable all of Adam’s upgrades and gain unlimited energy to use them with. This made me want to play the game through again, as all of these advantages finally made me feel like that Jensen in the cinematic trailer:

jensen don’t give a fuck

 

It was fun. Really fun i might add, it allowed me to explore other avenues of play, strategies to employ, skip past the bosses, and indulged me in a bit of a power trip. Now that style of play isn’t for everyone, nor am i saying that is should be. But for me, cheats can open up a game and increase its play ability and longevity for me. Which brings me to what i find contentious in Star Fox Zero’s invincibility mode.

The biggest problem that i have with it is that it is being touted as a mode of play and not as a cheat. I have no compunctions admitting that i cheat (in solo play btw, online is a different ball game) nor do i hold delusions that my cheating isn’t exactly what it is (cheating). I think that Invincibility or unlimited ammo (or whatever the Star Fox equivalent is) should either be a temporary power up or a cheat, not a legitimate style of play. Because it isn’t.

Now wax and wane all you want about how it teaches kids to avoid challenge, or not learn consequences all you want. I’m not interested in that argument, as that’s the parents job and not the video game’s nor the designer’s responsibility. What i find most interesting is Shigeru Miyamoto’s quote:

“…One thing that I think is a misunderstanding, is that I’m not very supportive of simply making a game easy so that people who don’t play games can play the game themselves…”

I think there’s an implication that perhaps he’s not intending to make, and that is that it takes time and therefore it takes money to make different playable modes in a video game. You have to program different enemy logic, you have to design the game with easy, normal, and hard modes in mind, and you have to test the modes out to ensure that they indeed provide the challenge that they state they will. Again that takes time, money, and effort.

Maybe Miyamoto has never liked designing or even the concepts of easy modes (i think the quote heavily emphasises the latter), and thus making a mode where a player is free to cruise through the level kills three birds with one stone. It provides an (obscenely) easy mode for newer or less skilled players to play through the game, it allows more people to enjoy his work, and lastly more people enjoying means more money for the company he works for.

So am i a yay or a nay for this mode. I’m going to say that i’m in the yay camp if a black and white decision must be made. I’m for it because Miyamoto has stated that there will also be a harder mode for more skilled players to enjoy as well, and ultimately its the choice of the player as to what mode they want to play. Just like how it’s my choice to turn on unlimited invisibility in Human Revolution and snap necks with impunity.

 

 

* Starcraft 2 is one of the few modern games in my collection that has cheats, it even has them in its heavily scripted story mode. I applaud this decision, but i feel i must state that i did not use them to finish the game, i played through as intended and loved most of it.

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