Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top 50 Video Game Moments: Number 36

Today's moment comes from the criminally underrated game Frequency. If you h aven't played the game, you're missing out. I know I say that all the time, but seriously, this one was great.

Frequency had one of the best difficulty curves I've ever seen in a video game. The opening songs were tutorials, but the developers were good enough at setting things up to where they served equally well as tutorials for all three difficulty levels. Beginner was, appropriately, a relative breeze to get through, but playing through the songs again on medium difficulty opened up all new challenges. It seems self-explanatory to say that, but so many games fail at this, so it's worth noting when a game does it right.

Anyway, Frequency made blatant use of easy mode mockery. You could not get to the bonus song of each stage (and thus move on to the next level simply by passing all the songs in a given stage, you had to prove you had mastered it by earning enough points. More importantly, you could not complete the game on beginner or medium difficulties. The final five (spoiler alert, actually seven) songs could only be played on expert mode, and difficult songs they were. Each putting up a fight. To get to the "final" song itself was an accomplishment.

Then you had "Freq Out".

Freq Out was the "boss" song of the final stage. From the instant you heard that skittering beat, the menacing bassline, and those horror-styled synth lines, you knew you were in for a fight, and it did not disappoint. This song sounded like a boss fight. I must have failed the second drum line (the one you really need to complete at the beginning of the song to have any chance of beating it) at least two dozen times before I could even progress to the rest of the song. I'm sure I failed it somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 times thereafter. Then about 80% of the way through the song, the impossible happens - the game lets you coast to victory. After punishing you throughout the entire game, not letting you let up for even a moment (remember, you had to hit every note to capture a segment), the game lets you sit back, listen to the music you had a hand in creating, and enjoy your well-deserved victory.

This is your victory. At this point, it certainly feels "well-earned".

I'm pretty certain that if I tried again today, having not played in a few years, it would kick my ass again. This song ranks as one of the most cathartic "bosses" I've beaten. Sure there was Lugecrash (which I oddly enough beat on my first try) and The End of Your World (the true final song, which I did not beat my first, twentieth, or eightieth tries) after, but Freq Out was the true fight - a great cap to a great game.

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