Grappling hooks are one of the coolest things you can have in a video game. A grappling hook can bump a game up from a 6/10 to a 9/10.
Grappling hooks open up so many possibilities for puzzle design, for combat, for traversal, the list goes on. The original Uncharted trilogy’s main criticism was how static and boring the climbing could get. Uncharted 4 adds a grappling hook and the climbing gets 10 times better. Nathan Drake can also swing during gunfights and perform aerial takedowns post swing, and the hook is used in some of the games puzzles. The grappling hook works because it adds new dynamics to preexisting systems and make them feel fresh again.
Just Cause is a series that owes much of its popularity to its grappling hook mechanic. The hook in combination with Rico’s parachute and wingsuit create an extremely engaging traversal system not seen in other open world games. Sure, Rico can drive and fly, but why do any of that when you can grapple into the air and glide across the map at high speeds? Just Cause’s combat is also significantly more fun than other third person shooters because the grappling hook can also be used to tether and pull objects together. Sometimes, pulling an explosive barrel toward an enemy vehicle is more effective (and way more fun) than using an RPG.
Okay this one is sort of cheating, but Spider-Man 2 does involve a lot of swinging. It’s kind of Spidey’s thing, and Spider-Man 2 handles it really well. This game’s traversal ridiculously fun. The physics based web swinging feels just right, and although you may bump into buildings and land on the road every now and then when you’re starting out, soon enough you’ll be swinging through New York like a pro. Grappling and swinging are fun, but Spider-Man 2 takes this to another level by making swinging the primary game mechanic, and it perfects it to such a degree that people still hail it as the best Spider-Man game to this day.
Grappling hooks improve any game they’re in. I just wish more games would realize that. Oh well, at least Bethesda seems to be picking up on it.
I never paid much attention to the Mega Man series. By the late 2000’s when I had fully committed to the whole gaming thing, Mega Man just wasn’t as big of a deal as it was in its heyday. Mega Man 9 and 10 happened, but I rarely, if ever, downloaded games onto my PS3, so I missed those due to their exclusively digital release. I knew about Mega Man, I had just never played any of the games. At least, not until my senior year of high school.
Senior year stressed me out. My GPA was much, much lower than I would’ve liked, college rejections kept coming in as fast as I could send out applications, and worst of all, I was falling out of love with my favorite hobby: video games. I still played the new releases like Uncharted 4 and Overwatch, but the medium was growing stale to me. The excitement I felt when I first played Sly Cooper or Metal Gear Solid just wasn’t there anymore. That is, until one night, when I probably should’ve been writing an essay or something, I checked the eShop on my 3DS, and there it was, featured prominently in the new releases section: Mega Man X.
Having heard great things, I picked it up and was absolutely blown away. The level design, the tight controls, the music, oh man the music (please the soundtrack this a listen, not a single track is bad), everything came together to form this masterpiece of game design that had been hiding from me all these years. I finished it in one sitting. As the credits rolled, a thought came to me. There were years and years of games I had missed out on because they were before my time. Chrono Trigger, Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VII, even newer releases I had missed because they weren’t huge, mainstream releases, like Persona. There was an entire world of good video games that had just been hiding in plain sight from me this entire time.
I’m currently attending college, and I love video games more than ever. I replay Mega Man X every now and then, and it puts a smile on my face every single time. Even though Mega Man X doesn’t have the sweeping orchestral scores or ridiculously high polygon counts of modern games, it’s still a phenomenal experience. All of its parts play off of each other to create an incredibly focused and rewarding experience. I thought I was going to quit video games soon after graduation. I thought I had finally grown out of them, just like my parents said I would. All it took was a trip to a simpler time to remind me why video games are so cool. Mega Man X made me fall in love with the medium all over again, and for that, it will always hold a very special place in my heart.