Top Gun for the NES
So I've been playing a lot of old Nintendo games in a fashion that is almost surely illegal (for someone), and I'd sort have forgotten how painfully difficult and arbitrary many of these games are. None more so than the original Top Gun. No, not even BurgerTime, a game where your life is ended by walking eggs and sausages.
The absurdity begins when the first mission screen appears to inform you that this mission is only training for the next mission. Okay, you think. Training, cool. I remember being trained at that fast food restaurant. I learned how to make fries and nobody died. But this is different. Planes shoot at you. Missiles turn your screen blood red. You run out of ammo. And you start to think, Are all these pilots I'm killing also in training? Does the last of us alive get to go on to Mission 2: Inform All the Trainees' Widows? This is not at all like how they did it at Hardy's.
(Although it is how the military trained Bourne).
But then you make it through and you've only died twice and everything seems fine. The screen flashes "Landing Sequence" and you think, Thank god. After all, they wouldn't make landing the plane harder than dodging a missile traveling faster than the speed of sound. In case you've never played the game, let me fill you in: they made landing the plane harder than dodging a missile traveling faster than the speed of sound. It's terrifying the first time you have to do it and then every time after. Or at least I assume. I've never had to do it twice. No one has. You do it once and then die. For most of us, Top Gun the video game is a Kafkaesque experience of dying during a mission that consists of training for a mission that does not exist.
Should you somehow make it out of the first mission--say, you had one guy left when you crashed your plane into the Persian Gulf 20 feet from your aircraft carrier because you didn't understand the direction Up! Up! Down!--you still won't get another chance to land the plane. No, you won't because you'll die before then, probably because you ran out of fuel after failing to execute the mid-air refueling sequence which is exactly like landing the plane only harder. It's as if video game designers watched Top Gun and thought, Yeah, the dogfights were cool but when those guys refuel--holy shit!
They don't make games like this anymore. You know why? Because to make games like this would mean having the protagonist take a break from shooting terrorists in order to walk into a restaurant, order a meal, and then eat the meal in such a manor that he always ended up stabbing himself to death with his fork.
Top Gun for the NES