Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

This week started as many others, continuing the exploits of the previous week, and saw me dismally fail to improve my AstroPop survival time (stuck just over the seven minute mark), as well as making no discernible progress beating Stampede in Rub Rabbits‘ Memories. In fact, I decided to start keeping records of Stampede’s heart-of-hearts attempts midweek; the record currently stands at 12 attempts, 0 successful completions.

A little more Burnout Paradise and Halo 3 with friends didn’t offer enough variety to tickle my palate, so I had a peek at The List to grab a few outstanding targets to tinker with. The winners were Killer7 and Super Monkey Ball. The former is still a delight, and – despite my love for No More Heroes – really highlights the maturity of Suda51’s previous work in comparison. I’m just playing through Normal Mode again (to re-familiarise myself with the level structures) before tackling the harder difficulty modes.

Super Monkey Ball, on the other hand, has led to me questioning the extent to which I can satisfy my OCD tendencies. It’s a fantastic game, of course, and both me and the ex had big grins on our faces as we started belting through the main game levels (she’s not one for the included party- or mini-games); but after she disappeared, I started considering my Completion Target for the game. It’s pretty reasonable, I thought: have all main-game levels unlocked in Practise Mode. But here’s the problem: it’s really, really, really hard to unlock all of SMB‘s levels.

The progress on my most recent save-file indicated that I’d happily unlocked all of Beginner, Advanced, and Expert modes, along with Beginner Extra and Advanced Extra. That merely left Expert Extra, Master, and Master Extra for completion. Piece of piss… couple of hours tops, eh?

Um… no.

After about six hours of concerted effort I couldn’t replicate the unlocking of Advanced Extra, and Expert truly does seem like a monumental effort – four hours of unlimited continues only saw me at level 43 (of 50), and the idea of being able to complete Expert without using a continue (to unlock the Extra levels), and then completing both Expert and Expert Extra without using a continue (to unlock Master) just seems like a Herculean task.

And so, faced with my gaming mortality in Super Monkey Ball, coming off a fortnight of depression with Rub Rabbits and AstroPop, I started asking myself the question: Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

My compulsion is to fully explore each game, witness all the assets that a production has to offer – which I think is an appropriate goal, and respectful to the artists responsible for creating these games. And, certainly, the presence of Achievements on the 360 creates a tangible definition for “Completion” – though, again, the need to experience the game in full can often override the simple 100% GamerScore “completion” (Ninety-Nine Nights remains on the list purely because I haven’t collected all the in-game items yet; Rez HD is still there because I owe it to Miz to 100%-shot-down every level). But let’s look at some games from other platforms that are still on The List, along with the requirements for Completion that are sketched beside them in my head:

  • Wii Sports and Wii Play: get all Pro rankings, all Gold medals (not Platinum).
  • Time Splitters 2: finish all skill levels, Gold Medals in all Challenges / Arcade Leagues.
  • Outrun 2: unlock all cards, all Missions.
  • Halo 2 and Halo 3: finish singleplayer campaign on Legendary.
  • F-Zero GX: witness every driver interview, complete story mode.
  • FreQuency and Amplitude: unlock every song, every skill level.
  • Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari: collect all items.
  • Cybermorph and Zero 5: 100% completion (without cheating!).

Just looking at that mini-list, the Katamari and Wii games are the only ones there I’d feel at all confident about satisfying – and even then, the Wii Boxing medals are looking a bit dodgy.

In fact, a quick skate down The List reveals that – by my current optimistic estimates – I’ll probably only ever Complete 36 out of the remaining 66 games. Bloody hell, just typing that makes me darkly shudder with depression. But then I think about those other thirty games… There’s no way I’ll beat Meta-Ridley in Metroid Prime on Hard. There’s no way I’ll steer every driver to a series win in F-Zero GX, let alone dent story mode. There’s no way I’ll hit Round 100 on Robotron, or Black-Belt Grandmaster Mutant Storm Reloaded. Neither of the GameCube’s Monkey Balls will be mastered. Bujingai will likely never advance past the two-thirds point on the penultimate skill level; Tempest 2000‘s Beastly Mode will see me off, and Tempest 3000 will melt my brain long before the final level. And there’s no way I’ll manage to A-rank all of Ikaruga – and that’s on The List twice.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll have fun trying.

And a little part of me is anxiously looking at all the new games coming out, arguing and baiting their attractiveness with the part of my brain that says “you’ve still got sixty-six games left to finish, Monkey-Boy”. And yes, I’d love to be playing the same things that my friends are playing – those friends with their shiny next-gen games and new thrills and greener grass.

But then I remember the fucking massive thrill I got when I saw that Papillon end-game in P.N.03, or how I wept with joy seeing that extra couple of seconds footage at the end of Halo‘s Legendary, or the fist-pumping thrill of getting that final Ridge Racer 6 achievement, or the glorious flood of relief when I found that final Agility Orb in Crackdown.

And I fire up the Wii again, giggle inside at the sheer insanity of a monkey in a ball, and pick up the controller.

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