I know I said this wasn't going to turn into some kind of Gradius fan-blog, but apparently, it did?
I've been so fucking hung up on Gradius II in the past week, and I don't mean I've played through it like eighteen times, I mean it's taken about five days to complete just five levels.
A little background here - I love shmups. I've probably mentioned that before. They're both a guilty pleasure and a genuine intellectual interest of mine, and I will play (or at least try) just about any.
On the flipside, I suck at shmups. I've never been reflex Johnson, I have no sense of rhythm, I can't learn kinesthetically, and therefore, I'm really bad at replicating, repeating, and improving upon precise inputs. This has a lot of fun widespread implications, like that I can't play instruments or sports, but more importantly, it means I'm almost comically bad at precise action games. Fighting games are the worst (lame, as I also love fighting games), but shmups really hurt too. I'm not trying to paint this like a disability or something, I still have fun. Just suck, and always have to take it with a grain of salt when someone says "this game is hard at first, but after playing for a while it'sa no problemo!"
The complicating factor is that I'm pretty much obsessive compulsive. Maybe I never bothered to whine at a doctor, but how many people do you know who wash their feet every time they touch the floor? This mental defliction has a twofold application to shmups: first, I play every game (shmup or otherwise) on Normal difficulty the first time through, no matter what. I will never turn the difficulty down to Easy unless I have some kind of ulterior motive (like if I'm trying to get video of Easy mode... I'm not that crazy). Second is that I can't stand using continues/lives beyond the initial supply (i.e. "inserting credits"). I literally can't have fun if I'm using difficulty crutches - my brain won't allow me. But I also suck. So what you get is that I just don't finish a lot of shmups.
Man what was the point of this post. I wrote that title/opening a few weeks ago and now I honestly have no idea where I was going with it. Or if I was going anywhere. There has to have been some specific way I was going to tie it to Gradius II.
I think it's that I broke my rule about no continues because Gradius II is really hard but also has well-contained levels that don't really bow down to a full set of power-ups, so you may as well play each one as an individual game. Not to mention that my degrading quality of play over the course of a session would mean that after about an hour, I would be losing on Stage 1 about 75% of the time, and therefore was spending the lion's share of my playtime on... Stage 1. Which I knew I could beat. But because I broke my rule, I had to make a trade, which was that I would beat a level every time I sit down to play. If I'm gonna continue infinitely, then I need to force progress somehow, such that I don't sit down to the exact same level every time I play (again, boring). And I really wanted to beat the game. So I've gotten into these long sessions that drag on endlessly because my best few attempts come at the beginning and then my concentration fades and I start having a lot of stupid deaths, but I insist on continuing because the idea of stopping is too frustrating to even consider.
So then there was a pure memorization level, and my patience was really put to the test. And in the end, I gave up. And guess what? I haven't played Gradius II since. That's what happens when you break your promises. That's why you never get out of the tree.