Initially, I liked Chrono Trigger‘s Ayla. She’s got one helluva introduction, dropping in all Tarzan-like and beating up a bunch of wicked dinosaurian creatures. And she likes to party. Party hard, that is. Especially when soup is at hand. I mean, I love brontosaurus cock-a-leekie just as much as the next guy, but she really takes the meal to heart. More on that in a moment.
Upon arriving in 65,000,000 BC, you’ll be attacked by the aforementioned beasts. They aren’t too tough, not surprisingly weak to lightning, which is the greatest tip one could heed during their time in the prehistoric days. After Crono and gang get their collective butts saved, Ayla will take them back to Ioka village to speak to the chief and…well, party. Evidently, Ayla knows where this Dreamstone thingy is, but to get that information out of her, Crono must first beat her in a soup-guzzling contest. And that all boils down to doing one action perfectly and repeatedly: pushing a button.
I hate pushing a button repeatedly in rapid succession.
Usually, the first attempt is a failure, as it’s not clear just how fast the button needs to be pressed. To beat Ayla, seems like…pretty fast. That girl can guzzle. I failed my first three attempts to out-guzzle her, and by then, my hands were cramping. One has to remember that I’m playing Chrono Trigger on a Nintendo 3DS, so I’m not just mashing a controller, but an entire system. Had to be careful not to break it. For my fourth try, I rested the 3DS in my lap, turned it sideways, and used my pointer finger to hit the button again and again and again. That did it, but still required a lot of effect, and my hand was already tired at that point. All for soup and a Dreamstone and to wake up the next morning with a soupy hangover to find that all of Crono’s stuff was stolen. Greaaaaat.
Let’s look at some other games that have featured this tormenting gameplay element and their lasting impression on me. Yes, let’s:
Metal Gear Solid
The button-mashing sequence in Metal Gear Solid is one you can fail and continue on with the story. However, there’s a great consequence for failing. Snake gets captured by Liquid Snake and is strapped into a machine that can shock the living skin off him. Ocelet wants some answers, and if Snake doesn’t give them, Meryl will die. But if he speaks and gives in, then all will be fine–so to speak. When being tortured, your options are to press the circle button repeatedly to recover strength or press select to submit to Ocelet’s demands. You will be tortured for a limited period of time, and you must press circle nonstop to survive the torture sequence. You have to live through four intervals, and then you have to take a break to ice your fingers.
Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game
Actually, I didn’t mind the button-mashing in SPVTWTG because it actually felt rightly implemented. Sometimes a group of enemies will suddenly dogpile Scott or Kim (like you’d play as anyone other than them), and to break free you have to mash the attack button with a fury that one sparks when one needs air and just can’t reach it. Same goes for when you want to kick off a super hit combo, mashing X again and again until you are flashing and somewhere in the the high 60s. Still, after a few of these encounters, your thumb does get sore.
God of War
Hydras can only be defeated by button-mashing. It’s true. Look it up. Actually, not even your thumbs are strong enough to pierce their heads on ship-made pikes; I remember having to wedge my PS2 controller against my leg and use a combo of other fingers to get the speed I needed for Kratos to do some killing. There’s also some button-mashing for larger enemies, not just bosses, plus when the going gets rough you’re always rolling around and swinging those chains like a madman. It’s enough to break one’s hand.
There used to be turbo controllers for the PlayStation 1/PlayStation 2 that could help players get around button-mashing sequences–basically cheat–but those days are gone. Or maybe they aren’t. I don’t know. I’m not big on buying more controllers than I ultimately need, and the stock that comes with the version is generally sufficient. I am just waiting for the day when this mechanic goes away or stays where it belongs, in social games like Mario Party 17, where it’s a race to fill up a balloon with air or something, and to do that you gotta be the fastest at pushing a button.