Ah, MediEvil — a timeless PlayStation classic that captures the humor, charm, and horror all together in one. Recently a re-release came to the PlayStation 4 in October, and was compared to the impressively complicated Dark Souls by Gillen McAllister in the PlayStation blog, McAllister said:
“Realization dawns once you’re past the tutorial-like crypt and its surrounding graveyard. For one, MediEvil’s levels are compact labyrinths packed with secrets and shortcuts. Secondly, the game is tough. This is no brainless hack and slash romp: single enemies can do considerable damage, while mobs can quickly send the unwary back to the grave.
Combine that with some seriously challenging level design, such as a taxing climb up to Hilltop Mausoleum dodging mammoth boulders (or blocking them with a shield) and elaborate oversized boss fights and you can’t help but be reminded of Dark Souls. Though Dark Souls was never this irreverent.”
It turns out that this may be entirely true, the game is made to feel more challenging because of the designers hoped to recreate the feelings that we had when we first played MediEvil all those years ago. Writing for Gamasutra, Alex Gold one of the designers that worked on the 2019 version of MediEvil spoke about the Pumpkin King boss, originally they chucked the boss in with just improved graphics, but that had some issues:
Once implemented, we were also able to identify the following design issues from the original encounter:
– Problem 1 – Boss is easy to spam: We discovered that the boss’s health could be whittled down by spamming the attack button, without regard for his behavior. For the amount of build-up leading into this fight, there wasn’t much of a challenge in the pay-off (this was the fan consensus as well).
– Problem 2 – Too much empty space: During this battle, the player can navigate freely across a giant open area, but very little of that area is utilized in the fight.
– Problem 3 – No sense of escalation: The Pumpkin King’s behavior remains largely the same throughout the battle, regardless of the player’s progress.
We decided to build this battle out further to give fans the experience that they remembered, and not the experience as it really was.
To combat that first issue, the designers implemented a cycle of breach defenses, attack, breach defenses, attack. So ensure this cycle would happen, they made it mandatory to destroy the Pumpkin King’s tentacle defenses; in the original PlayStation 1 version of MediEvil, you could sit back, and spam ranged projectiles at it. They also increased the range of the King’s spit attack.
Gold goes onto explain other aspects that the designers changed in MediEvil 2019. The blog makes for an exciting read. Some of the changes are pretty much based just on psychology; to increase the intensity of the fight, so it feels like there is a constant oncoming threat that is much bigger than it is. It begs the question, what other changes were made to increase difficulty and intensity?
There have been a few remasters lately, such as Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, and even more recent games like Vanquish and Bayonetta. It will be interesting to see how game designers change these up to bring them up to date; fans noticed that Crash Bandicoot had some changed up jump mechanics, and expected a fix. But this turned out to be a design choice.