Caught One-Handed

How many ways are there to play single-player games? You don’t have to go at it alone, you know.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 02/16/2011 10:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

You get bored of games. It’s true. Whether it’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Dragon Quest IX or pretty much any Pokémon game ever, there’s only so much button mashing or level grinding or EV training you can take. So naturally you think of something you can do to keep yourself from being irredeemably bored, especially if the game in question is one of the only ones you own. It’s tough being bored.

Let’s talk about how you’ll keep from being bored. Let’s say you’re playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Obviously, the games in the Super Smash Bros. series are pretty well-known for their replayability, especially when certain gameplay gimmicks, such as watching Jigglypuff beat the bananas out of Donkey Kong, never get old. Or do they? After all, this is a series that you’ve played for dozens upon dozens of hours– hundreds, actually, when you take the series as a whole. A grizzled veteran, you have seen enough Jigglypuff-versus-Donkey Kong fights to last multiple lifetimes, and you’ve even seen them in slow motion, given your almost obsessive-compulsive penchant for pausing every other second. (Gotta take those screenshots, I understand, no need to be defensive.) So maybe that’s one part of Super Smash Bros. Brawl that might get old. But if one part becomes more boring and less fantastic, so does the rest of the game.

You do things like play against three level 9 computers, setting the handicap to ridiculous levels so that you don’t have a Goomba’s chance in World 1-2 in getting out alive. You’ll turn on (or off) items to keep things fresh, or just enable Pokéballs and keep trying to get Mew or Celebi to come out. (Cue sighing about how long it’s going to take.) But it doesn’t matter. Eventually, you’ll move onto another game, refusing to touch Super Smash Bros. Brawl again, even if your friends come over wanting to see a Jigglypuff fight. (If you’re reading this, you’re probably that guy anyway, who beats their friends at every video game ever nine times out of ten.)

So many characters, so little interest.

Soon, though, neither Super Mario Galaxy nor Zak & Wiki, neither Monster Hunter Tri nor Trauma Team and neither The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess nor Resident Evil 4 holds appeal for you, anymore. What a shame!– you’ll think to yourself. You begin wondering where your video game life will take you now, and whether you’ll have to settle for what those guys outside constantly call “real life.” It doesn’t sound very interesting, but according to the mom in Pokémon Blue, all boys leave home someday.

But lo! What’s that in the distance? Could that be your little brother? Or perhaps an older sister? Why, whoever it is could definitely help you with our little predicament. You look down at the Wii Remote, and it’s– goodness, it seems to be attached to some sort of Nunchuk. That makes two controllers. One player per controller– well, that just sounds perfect. You bribe your little brother (or older sister, whatever) with a piece of Princess Toadstool-esque cake, force the Nunchuk into his (or her–man, let’s just say her) hand, and pop in Resident Evil 4. You’re ready to rock some zombie Hispanic-disturbingly-racist-caricature ass.

Immediately you realize that everything is different. You’ve got the Wii Remote, so you can shoot and stuff, but you, er, can’t move. There’s just something about Capcom and not letting you move while you shoot. Normally– that is, when you have the controller to yourself– this is more of a nuisance than it is actually life-threatening. When your older sister decides that she’d rather stay put and look in first-person mode than shoot the extremely angry Spaniard in front of you, though, this becomes a very real liability.

First, after telling her to please stop would you please no seriously great we’re dying now finally THANK YOU, you whip out your SMG and immediately annihilate everything in sight, wasting far more ammo than necessary mainly because you can’t aim correctly. But there’s more out here than you can possibly take (“but this is normal mode!” you practically scream), and so you run. Well, or at least your left hand moves to run. Your sister, though, is the one with the Nunchuk, and has no sense of urgency whatsoever, probably because you forced her to play in the first place. You tell her you’ll do all her chores for a week if she just moves that darn analog stick and runs. Turns out, though, that you don’t need to. A rather terrifying tentacle monster has just sprouted out of the head of some poor zombie, and suddenly your sister has just as much reason to run away as you do.

Normally, these are simple to fight. With only one controller, they’re terrifying.

So she runs, and so do you. You tell her to turn around so you can shoot the thing, but she’d rather run into the nearest farmhouse, where a chicken looks up at the more-tormented-than-usual Leon Kennedy quizzically. You feel like you’re the turret operator of a tank, except that you can’t shoot while the tank is moving, and the tank is piloted by somebody who skipped boot camp. There are more tentacle demons now, and that elusive terror– that same one that people complain is missing from all modern Resident Evil games– creeps into your very skin. This is it. Leon Kennedy is just going to stand there and stare blankly into the face of death, and will be eaten by a tentacle demon. So much for being awesome, Mr. Kennedy.

Of course, just like it happens in the movies, Kennedy loses his wits and wastes the tentacle thing at the last second, essentially wasting all the ammo the game gives you and then some due to sheer frustration. Then you smash open the next monster, and the next one. Soon all is calm. “Well,” your sister says. “That was fun.” You sigh. It was fun. Just scary.

But that’s when you realize it. That was the most fun you’ve had in a long time. Sure, playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl against three beefcake CPUs is a nice challenge, but then again, that’s also something that people brag about online all the time. Playing RE4 with two players instead of one? That’s something to talk about. And of course, it definitely fulfills your initial goal– to learn new ways of playing the games you already had. Sure, you could’ve done this on GameCube, or on PlayStation 3, by giving one half of the controller to a friend and another for yourself, but that’s just crazy– the ergonomics for this kind of exercise definitely work much better on Wii. It’s a side effect of having a controller that many deemed unwieldy or unsightly at first– and certainly keeps in line with Nintendo’s vaulted ideals of innovation.

Even more, though, playing with separate Wii Remotes and Nunchuks gives a heightened sense of cooperation, especially in a game like Resident Evil 4, where the goal is ultimately survival. Each of the players– each of you– have something to contribute, and a role that absolutely must be played out. It’s a cliche, but that changes the whole game. And hey, it might even make you guys better friends. Now that’s something Jack Thompson can’t take to the bank.

And looking down at your Wii library, there’s a lot of games to change. How about Super Mario Galaxy? Sure, there’s co-op play already, but it’s fairly rudimentary. Giving your sister a controller, though, would make that co-op truly insane. Just make sure to take the Nunchuk this time.

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