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When I finished DmC: Devil May Cry a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was dive into a “Son of Sparda” difficulty run, which introduces vastly harder enemy configurations and a reworked damage model. I put on a brave face for the first mission, but before long, I was up against Butchers as well as Ghost and Blood Rages that broke me and any chance of conquering a greater challenge.
I don’t think I’ve ever completed a “Hard” playthrough of any 3D brawler now that I think about it. I’ve started quite a few — even came close to finishing the original Devil May Cry — but I never had the resolve or the wits to rise above Normal in anything from Maximo to Bayonetta.
Despite reading that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was beyond brutal from the likes of Kotaku and my Twitter feed, I thought I handled its bombastic brand of butchery with aplomb. Sure, I only attained a C ranking for my Normal playthrough, but developer Platinum Games seemed to be quite punitive with its grading scheme. I could only see one C grade on my entire report card (displayed upon completing the campaign), but all of those As and Bs weren’t enough to earn me more than a pass overall. Regardless of the mediocre ranking, I felt that post-Bladewolf, I was rarely troubled by the Winds of Destruction or even the monstrous new iteration of Metal Gear that awaited me in the final stage.
Revengeance’s difficulty plateaus after the duel with the carbon canine on the default setting, which occurs roughly halfway through the second level, or after about an hour of play. There are some small spikes in the challenge, but if you can tough out that first real obstacle, then I have faith that you’re up to the task of completing the game on Normal.
I found that the pace changed slightly when I upped the scale for a New Game-Plus playthrough. The plateau still hits really early (even sooner, in fact), but so long as you as you parry often and make the most of both Blade and Ripper modes to reap as many spines as possible, you’ll survive. Those sword upgrades and an expanded move list help a great deal as well, but you’ll need to endure some pain to access the fruits of your lower difficulty labors.
Basically, New Game-Plus doesn’t start until you finish the prologue. “No sweat,” you reply, but can your confidence withstand a stronger, more durable Metal Gear Ray? I used the majority of 14 continues in the first stage of that boss fight. The plasma cannon attack is just shy of an instant-kill for Raiden without the extra cyborg upgrades, so be sure to avoid Ray’s wide, deadly … erm … ray. I learned that the surest way to survive the first two parts of the fight is to slice incoming missiles for repair units. It’s tough-going, but YouTube, as always, offers a wealth of strategies and insights if you need them. (For example, you can parry the immense machine’s stomp attacks!)
The difficulty flatlines once Raiden gets ahold of his new body. The first Bladewolf can be worn down in seconds, and the encounter with Mistral was a breeze (though I should note that it’s just as visually arresting the second time around). I didn’t find a need for repair paste for a couple of hours, something I’d have found hard to believe when first coming to grips with Revengeance’s fast-paced combat system.
Monsoon marked the first bump in the road of my Hard run. One of the few boss fights that requires parries from beginning to end, he whittled down my stock of healing items before I cut him into a hundred tiny slivers. He still couldn’t take my life, though — nor could the doppelgangers, nor could Sundowner. Sam was just as delicate if not more so on Normal. All but the final stage was cause for any real concern. Sure, there were some instances where I had to swallow my pride. The minigun turrets couldn’t survive the defense of World Mashall’s lobby, I ninja-ran to my death while traversing the rooftops of Denver, the cargo-elevator fight knocked me around a bit, and I generally lost a lot more life than I should have when dealing with Mastiffs … at any time.
Metal Gear Excelsus and Senator Armstrong were the only other real challenges. Much like the first time I dueled with the screen-hogging mech, the seemingly-open nature of this particular battle caught me unaware and claimed my life a few times. There’s a sense of intimacy that accompanies battling the Winds of Destruction that is absent here. Even though Raiden is still confined to a relatively small area, the vastly greater dimensions of this opponent again proved both disorienting and daunting. It was by luck that I managed to avoid some of Excelsus’s more devastating attacks by performing a Zandatsu on one of the Gekkos that are thrown into the field about halfway through the fight. With blade energy and vitality restored, I managed to sneak through to the final showdown with one precious serving of repair paste.
The battle — that is to say the actual fighting against Armstrong — was surprisingly easy. The dodge attack was more effective here than in any other scenario, dealing relatively large amounts of damage and conveniently sidestepping pretty much anything in the muscle-bound politician’s offensive repertoire. It did, however, take a few attempts to cut through the various parts of Metal Gear Excelsus that were hurled toward me. Using both analog sticks to line up the required angle without prematurely slicing was no small feat as I’d long grown accustomed to mashing Square and Triangle in Blade mode without much care for accuracy. A few precise cuts later, though, and Revengeance came to a spectacularly violent close once again.
What did I get from my victory? Not a great deal other than some pride and a few trophies that could otherwise have been earned on any other difficulty. I attained the same overall ranking, the same titles, and a new skin.
I may not have received many tangible rewards from this endeavor, but I did muster enough confidence to venture into Very Hard — with two Bladewolves and a Gekko before you even reach the first checkpoint, with no upgrades and no dodge attack. No thanks, Platinum. No thanks.
How do you like your brawlers? Do you prefer the default difficulty setting, or do you thirst for a true challenge?