Giving Up A Competitive Advantage

A few entries down, I gave my preliminary thoughts on some of the MAGFest VII Challenges. In the comments for that entry, Ryon, who’s running the booth, asked me if I thought any of the challenges were mis-rated besides Castlevania II. Because it seems like my comments have actually caused this challenge’s difficulty to be changed, and because I don’t want to seem as though I’m colluding with Ryon to change some of the difficulties for my own personal gain, what follows is the entire text of the e-mail I sent him regarding this, with his replies interspersed throughout.

For readability purposes, my words will be in red, while Ryon’s will be bolded. Typos have not been fixed; the only change I made was that the word between “Mike” and “Tyson” was not originally starred out, and I removed our respective signatures. I’ll be pointing stuff out as we go; that will be in ordinary black text with parantheses around them.


Earlier today I went and finished up my first looks at (Most of) the MAGFest VII challenges. I’m honestly a bit leary of giving you my thoughts on them, for a couple reasons. The first is that, like you, I’m only one person, with a skillset and familiarity that’s different from yours. The second is that a lot of these are based on rather short practices/first looks (Go ahead and presume this to be the case unless I say otherwise)–with enough time, I get the feeling I could eventually handle most of them without major problems (Exceptions: Some of the ones I tried and failed at least year, and Mike ******* Tyson). The third, and most important reason, is that I really don’t want to make it look like I’m colluding with you to change difficulties to make things easier on myself. As such, if you don’t mind, I’d like to also post these comments to the various places people would be interested (Off the top of my head: My site, The Shizz, the thread, and SDA). That way, opinions from other people could also be solicited, and even if they do all plan on competing in the Challenges Booth to varying degrees, a cross-section of opinions is almost certainly better than going off of the opinions of one high-finishing person who has a vested interest in how the difficulties ultimately end up.


You’re feedback really helps, even though I have to take your opinions with the notion that you’re an Expert NES gamer. :)

I’ll comment on your thoughts individually (and probably on The Shizz if you get any discussion)

Oh, and since the Castlevania II challenge appears headed for a difficulty change (Which I don’t mind), you may want to put some kind of “difficulties subject to change” message on the site up to a certain date based on opinions from others.

I still can’t get Drac stuck, despite trying for quite a while tonight. Hard is a better difficulty for it, as a random person walking up to the booth with no clue what they’re doing will definitely find it challenging. Interesting side note: I really thought that one was impossible, as it was damn near impossible getting to Drac with only the Leather Whip and the Holy Water. Oh well, that’s why we want people to test them for us beforehand.

(I tried this challenge again today to make sure it was as easy as I remembered. It is, although Drac escaped the lockdown several times in each attempt, which was something I hadn’t experienced before [Usually it was once or twice].)

That said, my thoughts:

-In general, I note that a lot of “one-hit kill” challenges are on the Normal difficulty, which is weird to me. Again, take this with a grain of salt, as this is really my first time playing through a lot of these, so they’ll probably get easier with more practice.

Usually, if someone can play a Normal a couple of times and beat it, that’s about right. I don’t usually consider it Hard unless it’s pretty unfair from the start.

-Balloon Fight is an odd one. I actually haven’t been able to Perfect the bonus stage yet, even knowing you can cross the screen by going off its edge. Maybe I’m just bad at it, I don’t know.

I think you’re just bad at it.


-Battle of Olympus: I found that the Lightning Bolt you can shoot (Up + B) helps a lot here, particularly if you can get a good six or seven hits on Hades first. That said, this is probably fine where it is.


-Burgertime’s save state didn’t work for me. I’ll presume the problem is with the ROM I have for now.

Probably. Try getting the ROM from where I’ll told you earlier. Also, which version of FCU Ultra are you using?

(No, I’m not publicly telling you where he told me to get them.)

-The difficulties of Castlevania and Castlevania II could probably be switched and you’d be fine. As with a lot of the challenges, play the Castlevania one long enough and you can eventually figure out how it works, so to speak, but even then, taking the knowledge and actually using it to kill Death with no special weapons is still pretty tough.

The battle with Death can be reasonable or hard thanks to the randomness of the sickles. If you get a good pattern, I wouldn’t consider it an Expert. The Legend of Zelda challenge is similar. If the severed Gleelok heads stay in the top left and right corners, killing the rest of him with the wand is cake. Since randomness factors quite a bit, that’s what separates it from being Expert. (my opinion)

(I’m not actually convinced that the sickles are totally random, though I suppose it’s close enough, and I consider this challenge on the Hard/Expert border even taking this into account)

-Code Name: Viper was really the most obvious of the “Yes, this is my first time playing the game, but this is really only worth one point?” challenges I went through.

If enough people complain, I’d raise it to Hard. Or drop the difficulty in the game to Normal, which slows down the bullets and enemies quite a bit.

(Note that Rolling Thunder plays pretty much the same way, but I found that challenge much easier for some reason)

-The US version of Contra wasn’t in the torrent of ROMS I downloaded at all, unless it’s hiding under some different name. Weird stuff.

(I have no idea why I included this in the e-mail)

-There’s an Hour Glass in your inventory that makes the end of the Faxanadu challenge pretty easy (Presuming the challenge is merely “get Pendant” and not “get Pendant and escape tower”). I’m not sure if that was intentional–if you didn’t know, the hour glass stops the Wyverns from firing their fireballs while it’s in effect.

Whoops! That wasn’t supposed to be there. Pretty much makes the two Wyverns a cakewalk. That’s removed and will be updated on the site.

(I now wish I hadn’t mentioned this. ;) )

-Ghosts N’ Goblins is an interesting one in that “Clear level 1 with a weapon generally thought to be awful” is apparently the same difficulty as last year’s “Clear level 1; how you do it is up to you.” I don’t disagree with this at all (Level 1 isn’t THAT bad; it’s about the second half of level 2 that the game starts kicking your ass), just thought it was interesting.

Since so many people hate that game, I figured anyone could walk up and run through it. Probably the hardest part is the Red Demon at the end of the cemetary with the Torch. So, it’s a little challenging. Dan probably laughed at this one.

(Of all the people to give “FREE POINTS HERE!” challenges to, he picks Dan. That said, it’s only 1 point, and the challenge itself is actually not bad at all, for the reason I mentioned above. Plus, I guess I shouldn’t complain, given last year’s Battletoads challenges)

-Gradius and Ice Climber both had bizarre behavior for me. As with Burgertime, the problem is likely on my end (Thanks for that link, by the way–I’ll check it out in a bit).

Strange. Both of these challenges can be performed w/o the save states. Start a new game in Gradius and select Mountain 5 in Ice Climber. The save states were only for show.

(I had a feeling about these being doable without save states, even though the challenges page says Mountain 10 for Ice Climber. Not sure which one is wrong. And no, I’m still not publicly giving you that link.)

-I note that a “one life” clause has been added to last year’s Mega Man Hard challenge to make it Expert. Probably a good move.

Especially since no one gave it a try.

(This challenge minus the one-life clause was “Hard” last year, and was basically ignored in favor of the corresponding Expert challenge “Beat the Yellow Devil/Rock Monster with only the Arm Cannon”..which was actually easier in my opinion).

-I’m sort of confused as to why the Mega Man 4 and 5 challenges are Hard and Normal respectively, whereas similar challenges on Mega Man 2 and 3 last year were Expert, and 2 even gave you an energy tank to use. Are the bosses easier as a whole? Does the Mega Buster make a difference? Are you expecting that lots of people will have played the games before (Like with MM2 and 3 in particular)? Just curious as to the reasoning here.

When the Mega Buster was introduced in MM4, tackling bosses with just the cannon got easier. MM4 is still tough, but there are several bosses that are a cakewalk for energy refilling. MM5 is a joke (my opinion here) with the charge shot. But, if the MM4 is too hard, I’ll bump it to Expert. We’ll see what the masses say.

-I took a few cracks at the Metroid Hard challenge and decided that the time and effort it would take me to learn how to execute it would be better spent on the Expert challenge. Make of that what you will.

Each challenge is worth points individually. So, beat the Hard and Expert Metroid and you get the points for both challenges. That way everyone tries all the challenges, not just the most difficult for each game. That’s part of the reason I picked more games and fewer challenges per game. Unless the challenge for a single game was too evil (see Snake’s Revenge).

(This is a rule change from last year, even though Metroid and Snake’s Revenge are the only two games where it comes into play.)

-Ninja Gaiden II’s Expert challenge is something that I’ve done as a sort of personal challenge before this, so I’m not sure you should take anything I say about it seriously. From an objective standpoint, given that I was the only person to complete either Ninja Gaiden challenge last year (If I remember right, even Dan tried and failed the harder one), I suppose it’s okay on Expert; just be aware that it’ll be a fairly easy 3 points for me (Which, currently, is offset by my general lack of Mega Man games later than 3).

Must be nice to be good at Ninja Gaiden 2. And Battletoads. (Grumble…)

(Ninja Gaiden II final boss gauntlet with no special weapons? Easy. Battletoads? Piece of cake. Balloon Fight’s bonus stage? Just too darn hard for me.)

-Stupid yellow car in R.C. Pro-Am. That’s all I’ll say on that. Yeah, I know what you’re supposed to do, but I can’t seem to make it happen for some reason.

That’s the only reason I picked that stage. I can’t wait to see how many people start yelling at that stupid yellow car!

-Snake’s Revenge’s Hard challenge has a definite pattern to it, though both timing the rockets right and actually getting them through the corridor 14 times in a row with no mistakes is still pretty difficult such that it’s rated fine. As for the Expert challenge, holy Christ is that accurate. There’s some secret to survival that I haven’t figured out yet (And don’t tell me what it is please), apparently.

Allegedly, the Expert challenge is possible. Good f*kin’ luck.

Everything else seems okay (Though I share Metal Dream’s inability to beat Pro Wrestling, heh. Always had that problem, actually). And again, take everything with the requisite grain of salt. It probably looks like I’m slamming your efforts to try and rate these things, which isn’t my goal at all (Like you said, you’re one person, and these things are always kind of subjective anyway). Just my honest opinions, which are subject to change as I practice some more of these.

Great Puma keeping you down, huh? Funny, Phil and I both didn’t think much of that one. Just goes to show how much difference in opinion on these challenges there is.

Hope that helps you out. And again, let me know if it’s okay to post these thoughts elsewhere–especially as they may actually have some influence, I think it’d only be fair if they were public knowledge.

Please post away (even keep my comments if you’d like) as I’d really like to keep people interested and excited about the booth. Even if people figure out tricks to finish one challenge or another, unless you’re awesome at all 67 games, there will be enough competition to keep things interesting. Plus, we’ll actually have all the prizes in-stock this year!

(So here you go)


    • wickedcodeferret on November 12, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Ice climber is mountain 10, not 5 as I stated in my comments. It was really late when I was writing all of that.

    • Metal Dream on November 13, 2008 at 4:08 am

    Yeh, some of the challenges can be easy for some and hard as hell for others.

    For me, if I don’t count the Metroid and Punch-Out challenges, the only ones I can’t complete are ones that I just suck at the game, it’s not what you have to do as a challenge is the problem. For example, double dragon is just impossible for me but I show it to my roomate Pooyan and he can finish it in a breeze.

    As for the Megamans, well Ryon is right, Megaman 5 is a joke, the bosses are way easier to beat. As for Megaman 4 it’s really hard since the patterns of the bosses are weird (and they hit hard too!) but it’s still doable. Same goes for MM1. Personally, I think that MM1 is easier but if you get the patterns of MM4 right, it should be ok. It’s tough to call!!!!!

    I’m gonna try to send an e-mail thru the shizz, hopefully he’ll be able to recieve it (since i can’t find his e-mail anywhere heh)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.