So much hype was made over Dark souls III at launch that I had to download the Prepare to Die edition of the original. Hearing all the buzz about it being super hard, I assumed it would be something like Monster Hunter, difficult but rewarding. The leet language I’d heard out of some players lead me to believe it to be a game of skill, secret knowledge treasured like it was Zelda in ’85. Quick YouTube searches for noob tips warned me to steer clear of spoilers.
As a child of the 80’s I expected all of Nintendo’s games to grow up with me, only to find that Nintendo always has plans of its own, and each release was more childish and curated than the last. Secrets were hinted at by crumbling walls. Boss weak points all but painted red. I agree with Derek Yu, that Dark Souls has taken up the mantle left by an older Zelda. By the time Ocarina came out, it was what we wanted stylistically, the first vibrant 3-D world we took seriously, but Navi wouldn’t stop trying to hold my hand.The immensity of it, and the timing of its release, demands top marks, but after time and perspective it starts to come off like a big open world chock full of curated events. A perfect blend of old and new, which for Nintendo means reminding long time supporters of a time when things were innovative and challenging, but rounding off the edges so that all that’s left is Disneyland.
When I started Dark Souls I thought thats what was going on, but in death. Hints on the floor I didn’t realize were left by other players, clear warnings of danger, I suspected critics had stumbled again like with Ocarina, where enough of what they want to see is done with perfection that the momentum of goodness carries through the whole review. But that is not the case, as I found with the first troll. I had all the information so they set me free and I died. My Monster Hunter reflexes helped, but the enemies seem more intelligent. By the time I got to the Undead Burg I understood why people put the game down for good. Already though, I could feel myself sinking into the controls, wrestling with each experience and realizing I was enjoying the difficulty. Dark Souls isn’t hateful like the programming of Castlevania I, but more a broadsword slice through the heart with love. The game is a confident coach that knows what it can expect out of its players. I’ve been as far as the Black Knight in the Undead Burg and I feel like I wouldn’t have these challenges in front of me if I wasn’t able to pass them. For FromSoftware its a respectable, “You’ll have to do better,” with a very clear YOU DIED, and time to think about how you screwed up before it makes you go back and do it again.
Wax on . . . wax off . . .
I heard on an IGN show someone say Dark Souls is Zelda in hell, that if Miyamoto had been terrified of, instead of fascinated with the caves that inspired Zelda, he might have made something like Dark Souls instead. It’s like the Zelda that grew up with us, the Zelda so many of us were imagining while farming Rupees on an NES.