I think I’ve mentioned it once before, but I love schmups. The millions of bullets I could evade in even the tiniest of spaces never ceases to inflate my ego. Castle of Shikigami 3 withstanding. If I had any recording tools, I would showith all my talent so that you could marvel at my feats and that I could generate envy and hate from ye onlookers. I art more kickass than thee.

In all seriousness, I invested in some free mobile schmups, Space War, Thunder Assault, and Air Strike in particular. It is both interesting and annoying using just your thumb to move around your ship. Would’ve been piss easy avoiding bullets if my thumb didn’t cover half the damn screen. All 3 of these games would’ve been fine if not for 1 lingering issue. Well… 3 issues including crashes and the stubborn monetization (only allowed to use 1 ship while the other 4-5 costs money. Fuck you too). No, the real problem is the upgrade systems. 

Its not in how they’re designed, its that they exist at all. You see, what I’m used to is having enemies die in less than 30 shots. At later levels I started encountering enemies that refused to die. Damned indomitable spirit! Even when I collected enough powerups to fill up a warehouse, these fucks would not go down in less than 10 shots. I was real confused. Cause if I entered rampage mode (super powerful ass beam shit when you get enough powerups), that should be the end of my foes. But no. They were still stan-…flying. I haven’t seen bullshit like this since Goku vs Superman 2 (really bullshit fight I might add).

Ofcourse because I knew I was the whole package, I completely ignored the upgrade option altogether. That bit me on the ass. Course that meant backpedaling to previous levels and collecting enough bullshit just so I can increase my firepower…. just so my rampage beam could actually kill enemies in later stages.

Now…*sigh* you can imagine my disgust at this shit. To have all those years of Galaga, Raiden, Gigawing, Blazing Star, etc. to be told your skill isn’t enough for the future of gaming. Now you must grind and farm just to stand a chance!

It was one thing for RPGs to be slow and boring dreks for it’s early years, but to see it’s upgrade bullshit creep into everything else is… troubling

The omnipresent upgrade system has it’s vile tentacles in just about every genre, most notably FPS’s. The concept is simple. You take what was normally a powerup and you dole them out in specific statistics as single points. These stats provide permanent upgrades to your abilities such attack power… idk why I’m explaining this, ya’ll know what I’m talking about. People today would refer to this as player progression. I would say it’s a countdown to boredom.

On one hand, I could see the perks. Instead of randomly dropped powerups that dissappear after death or stage completion, you have permanent boosts to your abilities for the rest of the game. But on the other, it removes the very idea of consequence. Without a notable consequence, the player derives no real incentives or motivation from the game.

Take this Geometry Dash game for instance. This game presents a notable consequence for losing. If you play insanely long levels, you are more desperate in trying to complete them. Why? None of the levels in game give you a check point. You die, you start from the very beginning. 

Maybe not the best example so going back to the shmups, the idea of a powerup is to give you an edge in fighting, but the consequence of dying are that you lose all of your powerups, bombs, and continues. Then you’d normally start over from the beginning. Then you’d have to regain those powerups again. With a standard upgrade system, you could begin a level with all powerups and immediately go into a rampage. That and you need increased firepower as well. With something like this, the powerups lose all value. This may not sound like a bad trade-off, but there is a reason RPGs are flawed to their core. These upgrades require gems that you get during levels, and the numbers they pull for each upgrade becomes astronomical, so you will need to farm like a mother fucker. As the game pushes you toward upgrading, the farming is bound to get repetitive and boring, and you find yourself thinking that it is a waste of time (and you’d be right). You spend more time revisiting levels just to grind or farm for upgrades, you:forget the meaning of fun.
Had these shmups kept the regular powerups as your edge in a fight, the need to revisit levels would be reserved for preference rather than necessity

The incentive of powerups would remain, and the game would a natural shmup. Alas, there is another problem with upgrade systems. Say you completely upgrade your w/e. Character, weapon, vehicle,  etc. You now have all the power to not give a shit anymore. Once you’ve reached maximum output, combat with enemies become less of a challenge,  and they are simply a minor annoyance. Soon enough it becomes boring on it’s own as there is no challenge present after all this time. The only means of getting that challenge is to start a new game… but then you think “I did all of this work to get my character maxed out, I don’t want to do it all over again”. The only thing developers can do is provide a new game plus with harder enemies, or scale up enemies as you grow, but it’s nothing more than a bandage over a laceration when it needs disinfection. When you reach maximum output, there is no risk to you, the player. Meaning no consequence. Meaning no incentive. Meaning no interest. Meaning no fun.

Upgrade systems are far more saturated than FPSs. And they come in many forms, whether by  standard leveling, point allocation, or restrictive equipment systems like those found in Sonic Generation or DBZ fighting games of late. And all have the same issues. You’re grinding for permanent power that eventually takes all the fun out of the game. 

 I feel there’s no coincidence that the NES classics sold out so fast. Even with 30 games, the incentives are ever present. Maintaining powerups throughout a game is rewarding in itself. And personally, I enjoy the fact that You actually have to get better at these games via practice. Rather than rely a system that does all the work for you, your own talent and ability is what pulls you through.

I can’t help but think an obsession with RPGs is rampant in this industry. Those idiotic mechanics are literally in every genre now.  That Alien Syndrome game on Wii would’ve been better without upgrades. Fighting games aren’t completely assfucked (yet) so there’s little hope for the future. its either an obsession with RPGs or the 3D necessitates some workaround for that camera (hehehe)

Kinda makes you appreciate all of these retro re-releases.