Water Levels: Love'em or Hate'em?
Water levels in video games have always been a hot topic. A lot of gamers simply hate them. Others may feel they are the easier of the levels. And some may just find them outright annoying and pointless. The physics of the game are switched up. Swimming can be a joy or cumbersome. And there is always the fear of running out of breath. They are a challenge in themselves.
Here, I’ll give my opinion on water levels in video games. I will talk about water levels I know very well. Also, we will look at a few that live famously and others that live in infamy. Understand, the water levels I will list may differ from your own. But if you feel I’m forgetting some good ones or overly bad ones, tell me about them in the comment section. We will begin with infamous water levels.
Anger Inducing Water Levels
#3 Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Genesis/Mega Drive) - Chemical Plant Zone
For a lot of gamers, this one stirs up some old and ugly memories. This would be my first experience where water in a video game was used against me. It served as a punishment if you didn’t quite know how to go about the level. Back in the day, it was required to know the stage deeply for all the secrets and hidden areas or you wouldn’t last long at all.
We can’t forget attempting to jump from block to block where they would keep changing as the water was rising fast. There was no air bubbles around. You might get flattened by the blocks. There was a timer counting down from 5 to make it painfully obvious that you are running out of breath. But, after enough practice, this part shouldn’t be a problem.
#2 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) - Water Temple
In the Zelda games, dungeons are always fun with many puzzles, obstacles, and enemies hazardous to your health. The Water Temple was the first water dungeon in a 3D Zelda game. So, on top of learning how to swim and facing water foes on their terms, you had to traverse this maze of a water dungeon. Who was all hopelessly lost in this water dungeon for days? Weeks?
Luckily, you were given a blue tunic that allowed you to breathe underwater. You also had iron boots to allow you to walk on the bottom floor of a flooded chamber. But, toggling in the menu to remove them and equip them could become annoying. And this water dungeon had a surprise mini-boss known as Dark Link. Word of advice, this is why Strategy Guides exist.
#1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES/Famicom)
We all love the Ninja Turtles and Nintendo for that matter. This 2D sidescrolling platformer would test our love. The beginning of the game is promising. You get to play as all the ninja turtles and they all have their trademark weapons. You fight villians from the cartoon series. You had the turtle van. Its definitely a TMNT on the NES.
But early on, you will get to the Dam and a water stage. Suddenly the game took a steep difficulty jump. The controls didn’t seem bad until you are underwater. There is electrical seaweed, electrical beams and rotating death poles. Plus you have a time limit. What will you break first? The cartridge? The controller? Will the NES be hurled across the room? Or the tv turn through a window?
Fun Water Levels
#3 Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo/Super Famicom)
Back on the Super Nintendo, we got an amazing Donkey Kong sidescrolling 2d platformer. From beginning to end, this game is excellent. The controls were spot-on. The levels and final bosses were challenging. What more can you say about this one?
And on the water levels, they weren’t annoying or hazardous. With controls this smooth and music so soothing, they were a nice reprieve from the more hectic stages. But of course, later water levels in DKC would become more difficult. You only need to find Enguarde, the swordfish and play as tiny Diddy Kong.
#2 Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Mario’s venture into 3D was a grand one. On the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 was impressive for a 3D platformer. Jump into portraits, collect all the stars, and beat Bowser in each area of the castle. But, where was Yoshi? He was around if you took the time to explore, but you couldn’t ride him which is a bummer.
The game doesn’t waste anytime in giving you its first water level. Here, it was done so well. The controls on the Nintendo 64 controller worked. You had a air gauge to remind you when to surface to breathe fresh air. Water levels on Super Mario 64 are very challenging when you are deadset on collecting all the stars in a single level. Can you get 100 stars?
#1 Starfox 64 (Nintendo 64) - Planet Aquas
It is regarded as the definitive Starfox game, although, there hasn’t been many games made for the IP. From the music, the cinematic scenes, and the story behind Starfox 64 make for a hell of a game on the Nintendo 64 or the Nintendo 3DS. We can only hope for a revival on the Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U.
There is one dedicated water level in Starfox 64, the planet Aquas. Here, you pilot the Blue Marine. It is a submarine with an infinite supply of torpedoes. It is a very enjoyable water level. Lock onto targets with the torpedoes and blast them with lasers is a lot of fun. Not to mention, the boss, Bacoon is pretty easy. Also, Falco does not trust the Blue Marine.
Opinions, opinions, opinions
I was asked how I feel about water levels in video games by a good friend. I feel they are a nice reprieve from the more difficult stages in any game. Yes, I find them quite easy and just a write off for a stage. I don’t take them seriously. Even when I first played Sonic 2, Ocarina of Time or TMNT on the NES, I’m very patient and can easily traverse them.
Although, Ninja Turtles on the NES, I haven’t played a much of that game when I was young. I was really young at the time, about 3-4 years old. It was possibly borrowed or rented. But again, I know if I keept my cool, buckle myself in for an hour or two, it wouldn’t be that bad. The more you play the level, the easier it will get. This is true for a lot of games back then.
With Ocarina of Time, I didn’t find the Water Temple too difficult or frustrating. I have played it recently, so my memory is fresh. I would keep my cool, explore every inch of the dungeon, and slowly unlock different parts of the dungeon. For Dark Link, it helps to use the Megaton Hammer or the Goron Great Sword. I did have a Strategy Guide for the game with me, but back then, I didn’t like reading and didn’t use it much, save for the more cryptic stuff.
With Sonic 2, I never had trouble with Chemical Plant Zone. I played it so much, I’ve learned how to avoid the water, because once you fall in, you will die more times then not. I don’t like losing all my rings, slowing down, or losing time.
In modern games, I find they are used very little. They only seem to slow me down. Some games have better swimming controls then others. Overall, they are a write off. They don’t add anything to the games these days. Back then, it was a challenge in most cases. Now, they are more than useless, more accurately a waste of time.
It does speak to modern games vs. retro games. Modern games, the only challenge and competition is found online when playing head-to-head against other gamers. Within the single-player modes, they are relatively easier in order to experience the whole game and learn of the canon. In retro, it was all about who died least, who knew all the secrets, and who could beat the game. Some go even more extreme with who can beat it faster with no deaths.
But that is a discussion for another day.