I hate Adventures of Dino Riki.
That’s an overused word that’s really lost its meaning these days, but when I try to articulate the emotion that stirs within me from even hearing the name, it’s the only one that seems to fit. Not “loathe”. Not “abhor”. Just hate. It’s a word that sounds good when you’re squeezing an intangible ball of air inside your fist as you shake it in frustration, which is a common occurrence if you’ve ever played Dino Riki.
It feels weird saying this after proclaiming myself the “Castlevania No Continues” guy, but Dino Riki is my gaming White Whale. Even after beating arguably much harder games like Super Meat Boy or I Wanna Be the Guy, Dino Riki always found a way to beat me, whether it be due to some childhood mental block or the stupid fly enemies that can kill you just by looking in your general direction or the completely insane overhead jumping or the terrible way you lose powerups on every hit or… sorry, I blacked out for a minute there.
It’s only recently that I’ve stopped to examine how differently I consume those older games than I did in the past. Part of it has to do with the ways game design has evolved, even when examining the mistakes of bad games. Modern titles make those mistakes differently or often even discover new ones. Something like Dino Riki couldn’t be made today because people wouldn’t have the patience for it. I don’t mean that in a “damn kids these days” sense, either. Games now, for the most part, are made with more of a respect for our time.
When booting up an NES in 1990, you attribute value with those difficult repeated experiences because of their scarcity as expensive pieces of physical media and because your sense of quality assessment isn’t nearly what it would grow to be. Booting up an emulator in 2016, you spend the first 20 to 30 seconds waiting for a hook and moving on if it doesn’t immediately catch you because something else is always available. It’s a scarily similar to how we consume and discover music now in contrast to the days when every track on a CD was listened to, often leading us to that deeper cut that eventually became our favorite. While I can certainly think of a cases where this sort of binge-playing has hurt my ability to appreciate lesser known gems of the NES library, Dino Riki isn’t one of them. If the NES library were the Guns n’ Roses catalog, Castlevania would be “Nightrain”, Super Mario Bros 3 would be “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and The Adventures of Dino Riki would be “My World”. It’s just a poorly designed slog that defines what our generation has deemed “Nintendo Hard”.
And I hate it.