Star Fox Zero has optional easy mode, and that’s OK

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There’s a weird sort of badge of honour in gaming circles, that finishing games on their most brutal difficulties makes you better than everyone else. That sort of culture has gone on two spawn entire games and game series – with things like the Souls games and the completion thereof acting as both rites of passage and measures of worth. And it’s stupid.

I’m not taking away from those sorts of accomplishments, of course – and I understand that finishing a challenging game, or beating a game with as many imposed barriers as possible is ridiculously rewarding – but I think that sort of difficulty should be there as an option.

Games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne have just the one option; brutally difficult. Of course, there are arguments about that being the point, and that sort of ethos being part of its charm, but I don’t think options are a bad thing at all. Some people are bad at games, or some genres of games – and difficulty options at least allow them to have an approximation of the experience, without the frustration.

BloodBorne

Not everyone wants to die a million times at the hands of some nigh impossible midboss – but might still want to see what Old Yharnam has to offer. To that end, the new Star Fox Zero on the Wii U will have a super, duper easy mode. But rather than be some sort of dumbing down of the game as a whole, it’s there as an option for those who aren’t able to, or just don’t want to power through an unduly difficulty game.

In an interview with Time, Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto has explained why the game will feature a mode that essentially turns the player invincible.

We have additional ones for people who like the game but find it too hard to get past certain levels. So for instance there’ll be a way for them to get an invincible Arwing, so that they can fly through and see the levels. “

That doesn’t mean those looking for challenge are excluded though.

“But at the same time, we’re also preparing modes for Star Fox fans looking for an even harder challenge, such as a ship that does more damage, but which also takes more damage.”

sfz

As Miyamoto explains though, it’s not about making the game as a whole too easy.

“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. Obviously part of the fun of taking on a challenge is that the challenge has to be a hurdle that you overcome. Simply lowering the hurdle doesn’t necessarily mean that the challenge will be fun. What’s fun is you mastering the skill and having that sense of accomplishment—of achieving something that’s difficult.”

Instead, it’s all about making the game more accessible to others, without sacrificing its “core” appeal.

“So I think that action games like this have to have a certain level of difficulty to achieve that satisfaction. And particularly with Star Fox Zero, if you try to complete this game, I think you’re going to find it to be quite challenging. But it’s because of that, that we have things like Star Fox Guard and the cooperative mode in this game. What those do, is allow people who maybe can’t deal with that level of challenge or difficulty to easily be a part of the gameplay and enjoy this universe.”

White Tanooki

And that’s the sort of thinking I can get behind. I’m my now advanced age, I’ve started playing many games on easier difficulty levels (especially the ones I’m not reviewing) for a number of reasons: I play so many games, I don’t have nearly the time or patience I had in my teens and my twenties and I no longer give a damn if people think less of me for not finishing a game on its hardest level. It’s not the first (and it certainly won’t be the last) Nintendo game that makes it a little easier for people to get involved. Mario games have offered White Tanooki Suits and Golden Mushrooms to players who repeatedly die so they can make their way to the next level, and Yoshi’s Woolly World has an option that helps mitigate some of its challenging platforming. They ‘re optional – so if you don’t want to play on easy mode, you don’t have to.

It’s something I wish more games would do. What’s the harm in making a game accessible to newcomers and people who aren’t good at games, if there are options for the game to be demanding for those who like a challenge? There really, really isn’t any.

Last Updated: March 14, 2016

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • Jan Prins

    Nicely put. I find the dumbing down of games a blessing in my life right now. Well poop. My sword broke mid fight. So please tell me again, why did I leave that cache of repair hammers at that cave again? Oh yes. I did not have the capacity to carry them.

  • GalacticLordCaptainAwesomeness

  • Ir0nseraph

    I like options in games, I just don’t have the time or the need to go at every game on the hardest level so let me choose.

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