Let me define a mini-game for you at the outset. It's when some sort of mechanic or goal in a video game is introduced as a new challenge for a short time which may or may not be instrumental to continuing the progression of the game and has little to do with the majority of the way the game is normally played. You're running around mowing down murder mutants in a first person shooter, then suddenly you have to win a dance contest by mashing buttons to a rhythm. That sort of thing.
There's nothing wrong with mini-games. If Square Enix offered an updated version of the Mount Condor levels from Final Fantasy VII for iOS I probably wouldn't play anything else. That said, sometimes games drop the ball on these little diversions. And sometimes they don't so much drop is as inspire a player to go after the ball with a filet knife until it's a pile of rubbery shreds still warm from the rage of the frustrated.
These are those ball murderers.
10. Breath of Fire III (The Black Ship Boost Counter): In order to get the Black Ship's guidance system working you have to activate the boost counter. This involves having Momo stay at the bridge, you walking through a maze to where the boost counter is and checking the number on it. When you leave the room to go back to the bridge a beeping starts, and you have to keep track of it by counting up from the last number you read, as you go through the maze, and talk to Momo exactly when the count reaches 100. The only way I have ever been able to do this properly is by having another person come in to help me keep track of the beeps while I navigated the maze.
9. Doctor Who: Eternity Clock (Perception Filters): Really this applies to any puzzle in a game that involves rotating different portions of a picture to create a whole, but the ones on the hard setting on Eternity Clock really take the cake. You have to align the picture by rotating concentric circles, but each circle also affects other circles. You basically have to solve these things with a pen and paper. If I wanted to do that I'd play Dungeons and Dragons.
8. God of War II (Necklace of Hera): The God of War series has a somewhat ridiculous amount of pushing around blocks in it for a franchise based on rampaging murder, but I understand that you need a little non-violent stimulation to curb your boiling blood. Getting the Necklace of Hera in God of War II is one of those puzzles. You have to fit a variety of Tetris-like stone pieces perfectly together.
To make this work, some of them have to be pushed onto a circular platform and rotated. It's not too difficult, but just like moving your furniture around you shove some pieces over here and some over there to make room. If any bit of a stone piece collides with another piece in the platform while you're rotating, it knock that pieces just enough out of the z-axis to render the puzzle almost impossible to solve without resetting.
7. Lost Odyssey (Funeral): Lirum is one of Lost Odyssey's sweetest characters, and when she dies it's pretty heartbreaking. We've all seen this sort of thing in games before, but I never recall a game making you help out with the damn funeral arrangements. Moments after she dies they order you to fetch flowers and torches, then you have to perform ceremonial torch duties at the funeral itself. It's not that the mini-game is hard, it's just seems really inopportune and out of place.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Sledding): To obtain a Piece of Heart you have to beat a Yeti snowboarding down a sheer mountain. This is the second snowboarding race of the game, but the first is laughably easy in comparison. The Heart Piece race requires you to make zero mistakes and take a very dangerous shortcut that will through you off the mountain to your death at least a dozen times. It's white-knuckle stuff that you will never, ever use again in the course of the game, and it's been the recipient of more than a few controller tosses.
5. Persona 4 (Fishing): I talked a little bit back about untranslatable cultural idioms between Japan and America, and fishing mini-games is one of those things. The Japanese seem to be willing to drop them into a completely unrelated type of game at the drop of a hat. Of all the ones out there, Persona 4's seems to be the hardest. It requires a split-second timing to set the hook, and an incredible amount of button mashing on top of it.
4. Okami (Blockhead Grande): The Blockheads are recurring demons in Okami that look like walls. Two of them have to be defeated to progress, but the third is optional. The only way to kill them is to hit weakpoints in a certain, randomly-determined, order. On Blockhead Grande, there are eight of the damn things, and strategies range from having a friend remember half of them for you to actually marking on your screen while the game is paused with a sharpie to keep track of which spots in what order.
3. Super Mario RPG (Yoshi Racing): I admit this one is personal. The Yoshi Racing segments are pretty much completely ancillary to the rest of the game, but what Mario fan misses a Yoshi appearance? Yoshi's Island is being ruled by a bully you have to race, but instead of a course you have to march in rhythm to a song.
I actually spent almost $30 in the '90s on the phone to game counselors trying to get someone to explain the how the hell the rhythm worked. It doesn't follow the song at all and just mimicking the "one-two, one-two" instructions from the tutorial doesn't seem to work either. As an adult I've beat it, but I still have no idea how.
2. BioShock 2 (Hacking): Hacking security systems in the BioShock series is as essential as it is annoying. The first game used a pipe game, but the second one used a color matching game that was shown to be impossible to win if you were colorblind. Even though BioShock is one of my favorite games, I had to experience the sequel in playthroughs on YouTube simply because it never occurred to the makers that ten percent of all makes would be unable to use their already obnoxious mini-game.
1. Final Fantasy X (All of Them): Final Fantasy is full of mini-games. Some of them are awesome, some of them are mediocre, and some of them are so bad I'm convinced they were put in play to punish us. I'm looking at you Tetra Master from IX.
Then came Final Fantasy X, and apparently Satan was hired to construct their diversions because almost every single one is an exercise in deliberate malice against a player. Blitzball is an unplayable mess that takes forever and is proof that the last good sports game Square is responsible for was Rad Racer. Still, if you want to take Wakka to his highest level and get his ultimate weapon you'd better get good at it.
Then there's butterfly catching, which in addition to being very hard is about the dumbest premise for a mini-game ever in the series. Even that pales next to the Lightning Dodger needed to get Lulu's ultimate weapon. It takes almost an hour of completely uninterrupted play to manage, requires perfect timing, and a single mistake takes you back to the beginning. You have to dodge a ridiculous 200 bolts to get the Venus Sigil, and it makes the jump rope game from IX look easy in comparison. Seriously, how can someone who hates video games so much be put in charge of making them?
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