Well, I did it. It took me a long time, perhaps too long. But I love all the people who read this blog – all eleven of you – so I did it; I played through Spiritual Warfare a second time.
I tried to actually hack the game’s password system, but since just about anything involving numbers is not my forte I couldn’t get it exactly right. The best I could do was use a walkthrough to easily fill the gaps in my memory and speed through the game. It turns out that I didn’t miss out on all that much; just one or two extra Heart Containers and it turns out that you actually can talk to the kid with the basketball. He’s just…not that useful.
Anyway, to pick up where we left off months ago, the next place you go after “hotels” is the shipyard. It’s around here that I think the programmers really lost interest in what they were doing, if they had that much to begin with. Why not a mall, or a university campus? Lots of godless souls there! In the shipyards, you just have fairly slow-moving sailors and hellhounds and lots of overlapping docks in the most convoluted, dysfunctional shipyard in history. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a nice breather next to the Hell that was the Warehouse section, but still let’s just add “inconsistent challenge” to our list of issues with the game. Honestly so far the game’s two modes of challenge have been either “as easy and engaging as stripping wallpaper” or “trying to draw a line through a kids’ maze puzzle while driving a car at 60 miles per hour.” Well, okay, maybe not that bad, especially by old school Nintendo standards, but…well, we’ll see.
As for the hellhounds, like the other animals in this game they’re apparently soulless so you can’t “kill/save” them, which is a missed opportunity to bring up some daring theological questions. There is one area in the shipyards patrolled by a few hellhounds, and the only way to pass them is situate yourself in a nook as they go by. After that there’s a tunnel and more enemies. Every instinct you have as a gamer tells you that there is something worthwhile past all this, something like a new weapon or some other Power-Up, but…no. It’s just a train station, before you can even use the ticket to teleport around Dawkinsville. That’s a pretty big “Screw you” from the programmers.
In fact, only thing that matters in the shipyards is you have a chance to “buy” Samson’s Jawbone, which is the game’s rather weird substitute for Legend of Zelda’s boomerang. Unfortunately, unlike in Zelda, you can’t even use it to stun enemies, just pick up items that are out of reach. This is probably the only video game I’ve ever played, if not the only video game in history, where they give you a weapon associated with a one-man genocide in real-life legend and it turns out to be less deadly than a squirt gun with tepid water.
While the Jawbone does not help you undergo an old-fashioned biblical killing spree, it does let you pick up what’s probably the most blatant “borrowing” from The Legend of Zelda yet, which is really saying something.
Oh, and it was around this point the creepy Bible quiz guy said this…
Anyway, past the shipyards is the beach, where this time the deranged atheists out to kill a small boy include skateboarders who throw beer bottles and bodybuilders who move really fast and run around in a random pattern. Hilariously, they’re completely immune, and they’re the only enemies in the game your fruit weapons will actually bounce off from. So, yes, according to this game’s take on Christian theology forklift drivers and bodybuilders are irredeemable.
Like all of the game’s invulnerable enemies, the bodybuilders like to attack in narrow areas, but luckily you can just dodge all enemies by sailing your raft into the sea. Unfortunately, there are sharks swimming around, as per just about any video game that involves braving the ocean, and there is a risk of getting lost at sea.
Naturally I tried to see if there was a way to get a “bad ending” where NotLink dies of dehydration, but no such luck. Instead NotLink stumbled across an island that contained this…
Dammit, it figures I’d find the helpful bonuses in a game I have no investment in whatsoever. And, if the game’s whole currency system is just a metaphor for faith, what is the reasoning here? NotLink does something suicidally idiotic like get lost in the sea on a raft and thus he’s proven that he has maximum faith? And God just put a random angel out in the middle of shark-infested hellwaters just on the off chance someone would do just that?
Regardless, NotLink and I did need all the help we could get, because I was about to embark on one of the worst boss fights in Nintendo history.
Honestly, the boss fight is so surreal and complicated I’m not even sure how to begin to describe it. Like pretty much all the boss fights in the game so far, it’s a puzzle fight, because a traditional “dodge projectiles and fire back at the boss” fight wouldn’t be aggravating enough for this game’s standards. There are five rows. The bottom one remains vacant, the top one has the real boss who looks like a janitor armed with a broom or a mop, and the other three rows has mooks who run back and forth. There are ladders between the rows, but you have to blow up certain sections of the walls to reveal them. The mooks occasionally and at complete random push out – from where I don’t want to know – three barrels, but they quickly disappear. The only way to kill the mooks is to push them against the wall with one of their own barrels, but I simply could not figure out how to do this without getting hit.
See, the barrels only appear briefly. There seems to be a way you can push them while the mook is…shooting them? Whatever…but a least in my case most of the time I ended up just running right into the mook and taking damage. The only safe way was to open up the ladder to the next row and wait until a mook pushed a barrel down the ladder (keep in mind that not only when but if and where a mook creates the barrels is completely random). Only by falling down a ladder into the next row does a barrel actually stick around, rather than disappear. And even then, if you try to push the barrel on a mook and he decides to create a barrel, all the barrels cancel each other out, so you have to start all over. On top of all that, the pissed off janitor is rapid firing some balloons at you, which deal almost as much damage as some of the bullets you faced. Got all that?
You could appreciate the whole surrealness of the scenario. For one thing, how does any of this make sense from NotLink’s perspective in the game world?! Are the mooks really just pulling ghostly barrels out of their asses? But it’s so damn frustrating. After going through 30 save states and reading the walkthrough as closely as the Constitution, just trying to figure out how to kill the mooks, I just gave up and went after their boss. Of course, the only way to damage him is with the bombs, and when he’s hurt he just teleports to another row, but it’s still much simpler than the deranged chaos that’s the rest of the boss fight.
However, just this once the game decides to make the reward proportional to the challenge. You’re no longer playing with fruit, kid…
The game is pretty explicit about the fact that you have to use it only in “the stronghold,” but of course I had to test it out to see if it would work on the demonic bodybuilders of Dawkinsville Beach.
Of course, in another *cough* homage to Legend of Zelda, you can throw the sword. Thankfully, though, you don’t have to be at full health to do that and, even better, it explodes on impact.
Join us next time, when NotLink is ready to go all biblical on Dawkinsville!