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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Video: Eryi's Action: Where difficulty is pure poetry

Video by Harvard L.

To get a full understanding of what Eryi's Action is and why it exists in the first place, we first need to look at two approaches to games which until recently have been fairly exclusive to Japan. Ever since the platformer genre took off in the 80's, a small subgenre has been bubbling beneath the mainstream releases.

Known as Masocore or Platform Hell, these games sneered at the difficulty level of commercially released NES days even though by today's standards those games are already punishing. These platform hell games mostly existed as hacks and modifications, taking commercial game engines and rearranging enemies, spikes and other obstacles in the way which would most effectively kill the average player. The developers of these games narrowed the creation of difficult levels to an art form - the result was a perfect storm of sociopathic gameplay designed to frustrate players.

Meanwhile, a movement was developing among Japanese gamers known as "kusoge" - "Ge" is the shorthand of the Japanese word for video games, and "Kuso" is a Japanese all-purpose expletive. The movement is akin to the Z-movie phenomena where filmgoers would deliberately seek out poor quality movies to admire how bad they are. Kusoge tend to be marred with a variety of flaws ranging from poor gameplay, bad writing and, of course, unfair difficulty.


Eryi's Action is objectively bad and at times intentionally so. Its art, music and gameplay, while passable, aren't going to win awards and developers XTAL Sword can hardly be blamed for it, being a small indie studio operating out of Japan. After that, I'd have nothing else to say about this game except that it gets one little thing so perfectly right, and that's the level design. It's so intricate, devilish and playful that for most buyers it'll be the standout quality, and yet players who are uninitiated into the masocore genres will feel ripped off at just how unfair the game is.

It would be wrong to dismiss the level design as "just cheap", however. The developers play with expectations to deliver an experience which can be engaging, addictive and even funny. Somehow, levels and traps are designed so creatively that at times I've found myself looking forward to seeing how the visually tame environment will turn against me.

At DDNet, we recently published an article about overly difficult games, and by the guidelines of that article Eryi's Action is a terrible game. Its level design focuses not on player skill but instead on pattern memorisation, determination and trial and error. Despite this, Eryi's Action doesn't deliver frustration and at times can even be a joy to play. Developers XTAL Sword have mastered the art of making a terrible game in the best possible way. Some will love it, and some will hate it, although for the cheap price it might be worth checking out if you're looking for something different.

Enjoy the video!




- Harvard L.
Contributor
Video: Eryi's Action: Where difficulty is pure poetry
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