As I’ve made my way through Rayman Origins for the third time, I have been surprised at the amount of nostalgia I’ve been feeling while playing this game. It’s not a particularly old one in comparison to many other games in my library, and yet it already has formed this special attachment in my heart that just doesn’t happen that often anymore. Sure, I feel plenty of nostalgia for old SNES and N64 games like A Link to the Past and Banjo-Kazooie, but games nowadays don’t feel as important to me unless they’re really good. I guess I just have too many to love all of them at this point. Ni no Kuni, for example, fills me with glee just thinking about it, while Super Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, does not. Maybe it’s because the latter is filled with difficult platforming that made me growl like an enraged shark, while the former is…pretty easy, so maybe that might account for…wait a minute, that can’t be it.
Back to my opening sentence, Rayman Origins has become very special to me over the last few years, and it is by no means easy. In fact, it is also difficult enough to make me snarl in anger like an enraged narwhal (too many references to aquatic creatures?). So that is solid proof I don’t just feel happy when I think about easy games. There needs to be something more. So much more. And then it hit me.
You see, I was playing Rayman Origins at the same time as an old retro favorite of mine, Donkey Kong Country, and that was how this comparison managed to drift up out of the waters of my subconscious, like the Loch Ness Monster emerging from…okay, I’ll stop. To this day, the old DKC trilogy (well, really just the first two games) remain as my favorite platformers of all time. They had great graphics for their day, they were challenging, and they had fun characters. My favorite pair was Diddy and Dixie from DKC2, and I just loved fighting all those awesome pirate crocs with them. But, as the years went by, my love for DKC did not wane, but the challenge certainly did. It is still an amazing series of platformers, but it’s become so easy. I remember the days back when I literally had to play the games off and on over the course of years just to beat them. Years! Do you have any idea how long I was stuck in Vine Valley? Years! Y-E-ARS!
Now Vine Valley can be completed in about an hour. Which is a lot more reasonable. Of course, I should be pleased at this clear evidence of my mighty improvement as a gamer, but it still feels kind of weird to have so little that challenges me anymore. (I should try and get 100% in DKC some time, if only to shut Cranky up, but once I do, then what?) And then, the day I typed this post, I literally spent about two hours recording gameplay for a five-minute stage in Rayman Origins, Riding the Storm. That was not including the fifty additional minutes I spent attempting to get through it several days prior. I mean it, this level was one of the most vile things I have been forced to spend time on in quite a while. I hated. Every. Second of it.
Then again, I didn’t. Okay, no, I seriously hated Riding the Storm. It took all my willpower not to scream, not to mention the reminder that my microphone would record every near-profanity that left my mouth. Darn! Frig! Crap! This is my arsenal, folks, and it took all my might not to use it. Ahem, but I digress. While this game can be so difficult as to be illegal, I still love it. The graphics are absolutely beautiful, the characters and enemies are inspired (the Mocking Bird is so darn funny!), the game is a joy to control (thanks to the abilities of your characters to hover, slide on walls, and wall jump with ease, there are far less deaths than there would be playing as, let’s say, Mario…with his blasted slippery shoes), and it is positively refreshing to have a game that actually requires effort to complete.
Does this sound familiar? DKC, too, also sported lovely graphics (for the SNES) and fun characters and locations. While only Dixie could “fly” and no one could wall jump, the characters still felt pretty easy to control (Mario’s shoes are the reason my ducklinghood was fraught with frustration). Plus, once upon a time, the games were challenging. And that’s why it kind of feels like Rayman Origins is my new DKC. I still like the DKC trilogy just a tad better; I’ve owned it for over a decade longer, after all, but I think I finally have a new platformer that has a lot of the traits that made DKC great, while at the same time bringing something completely new and unique to the table. Rayman Origins is a spectacular game that renewed my love of sidescrollers and kept me on my toes with challenges that surely made me an even better gamer than ever. And to think, I didn’t really like it that much at first. I think Pirate’s Treasure was to blame….
Ducking the Storm