In a textbook-perfect videogame design, difficulty ramps up slowly and culminates in some event that's both narratively and technically climactic, so that, at the end, the player can stand over the game's tombstone and say "You were my greatest rival.... and my greatest friend." Another good move is to hide the really difficult parts of your game in parts where only the insanely dedicated will find them. It's best if the stupidity of the difficulty matches the stupidity of the player. I'm a really dumb guy.
The fifteenth mission of Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 (videos are from the Playstation 2 remake but I am playing it on the Game Boy Advance) is, at face value, unwinnable. After the first two turns of warming up on some random suckers, the real enemies appear on the map. These guys are bosses that you shouldn't be fighting in earnest until the end of the game, and you've got four fresh units: no upgrades, no custom weapons, and they aren't even the robots you've been using up until now. None is particularly overpowering: you have two custom Gespensts (SRW's basic cannon-fodder robot, but with nicer toys), the Valcione girly-super-robot, and your mothership, the Hiryu Custom. Nothing too fancy. Relatively speaking.
It's quickly established, as they kill all your (random sucker) allies, that your main party has no chance against them. If you're hit even once by these guys, you're probably going to die, and in this mission, a single unit down means game over. The game literally shows you the door (the right edge of the map), and all your characters tell each other to get the hell out of there. If you do, the mission simply ends. It's a typical Japanese RPG setup, where you run into an invincible enemy so as to make your endgame victory that much sweeter.
However, these guys can actually be beaten. There's a large area on this map that will replenish 30% of your HP and energy at the start of every turn: this allows you to hole the party up in a corner and whittle away at the bosses until they die. This is much easier said than done: allow the bosses into this area, for example, and they will gain more HP per turn than you can ever hope to take away, effectively making them invincible. They must be lured in to a safe distance, from which the silly computer will attack forever without thinking to move to the space that would guarantee victory.
Each boss has an unspecified amount of HP that is not displayed onscreen until you have them down to 99,999 HP, the most the game will show any one unit as having. The damage you will do to the enemy in a turn, meanwhile, ranges from 5 to 15 thousand HP. This isn't so bad, so far. It's a battle of attrition but it's still doable.
But this is the killer. As the boss robots and their pilots are far superior to yours, they are extremely hard to hit (you'll often have a one-in-three chance to hit), and it is extremely easy for you to be hit by them (they usually have a two-in-three chance or better). If a robot is hit, it dies and the game ends. Only the mothership can take a hit from one of these guys, and it can only take three or four.
These are not odds that can be overcome by simply being lucky: you have to save before every single attack, making sure to nail your one-in-three chance to hit, and then your one-in-three chance to stay alive. If you fail, you turn the game off, turn it back on again, wait for the title screen to come up, and reload your game. You do this over and over again, and the odds get progressively worse as the bosses' HP goes down. It's not really unfair to exploit the engine this way: this fight is very deliberately scripted and the designers are well aware that the reload strategy is the only way you can kill these enemies. This mission is a deliberate act of sadism. I didn't bother with it on my first run through the game, but I did on my second, and subsequently never played the game again.
Thursday night I was coming back home from a party, and I recognized that perhaps I'd had a few too many pints to play Shiren effectively. I thought immediately of OG2, the other game in my DS, and this ridiculous boss fight. With its mindless, boring, tedious strategy, it was the perfect entertainment for my inebriated state. I elected-- a bit optimistically-- to finish it then and there. I didn't get all that far, but I remember, as I got off the subway, being a little amazed at how much progress I'd made towards killing the bosses. An hour of nothing-else-to-do-in-the-world will do this.
I spent the next day housesitting at my brother's new apartment, waiting for the cable company. After I'd exhausted my available resources-- watching all of GTA4's TV shows and the beautiful mess Karas in its entirety-- and the cable company got later and later on their appointment, I turned to the DS. I could have played Shiren, but Mission 15 was really bothering me. I elected, this time, to really finish it then and there. I turned off the TV, sat down and got to it. It took me three hours. The cable guy still didn't show up.
When you beat the last of the three bosses. (and it has to be this guy last, or you get nothing for your troubles), he speaks directly to the player in that weird literally translated anime character language:
"...Geez. All 3 of us are beaten. We shouldn't have toyed with them too much. Huh? What? You want me to make a smarter remark? Fine. Since you did have the spirit and the stubbornness, I'll say you guys are "awesome!" How's that, huh? Not enough? Damn it... Then, I'll give you this, too!"
He then gives you a pile of wildly overpowered items and weapons that otherwise won't appear until the very end of the game, and disappears. It's still not worth it.