Go ahead and post your thoughts on how well each implementation works if you want.
"Archon's computer opponent slowly adapts over time to help players defeat it Danielle Bunten designed both M.U.L.E. and Global Conquest to dynamically balance gameplay between players. Random events are adjusted so that the player in first place is never lucky and the last-place player is never unlucky
The first Crash Bandicoot game and its sequels make use of a "Dynamic Difficulty Adjustement" system, slowing down obstacles, giving extra hit points and adding continue points according to the player's number of deaths. According to the game's lead designer Jason Rubin, the goal was to "help weaker players without changing the game for the better players"."
Zanac EX (MSX, 1986) - Vertical Shoot 'Em Up - The enemy AI gets more aggressive/difficult depending on a few factors: Weapon power (weapons 2 and 3 increase enemy aggression more), how many enemies you kill and how much you fire, how long you stay alive, if you fail to destroy a base within the time limit. Using weapon 6 and smart bombs decreases aggression
Homeworld, which is from 1999, so not that retro. It scales the size of the enemy fleet for each scenario with that of your own fleet. However, the balancing is off and its best to scrap your entire fleet at the end of every scenario, lest the game punishes you fro being successful.
From the same year as Homeworld, Unreal Tournament had a "Auto Adjust Skill" option for Bot difficulty. I remember feeling really good about playing a long 2 vs 2 match (myself and friend against two bots) with auto-adjust enabled, then winning and finding out the game had ranked them up to Godlike
The Mega Drive RPG Blue Almanac, later released as Star Odyssey in English, scales enemy stats based on your current level. This can really screw your game up in the beginning. 1991. I wouldn't be surprised if there were other obscure RPGs that did the same before.
Final Fantasy 8 does that too.
Not quite dynamic difficulty, but Alundra gives you a very powerful weapon if you die a lot.
magic89 that's not dynamic difficulty, you just gain an extra credit on page 3, and another on page 5. Double Dragon 3 NES does that too, but only once.
No, what Gradius does is just harshly punishing failure, to the point of it being hard to recover beyond a certain point in the game. The original TwinBee was even more unforgiving as you had to shoot bells out of clouds, and then shoot them a precise number of times while dealing with enemies. Which made extra lives arguably nearly useless. They got a little better as Detana TwinBee at least gives you a shield and triple shot after dying, and Pop 'n TwinBee gives you a life meter in place of extra lives.
I read a walkthrough page for Snatcher, not too long ago. It mentions in the beginning that if you do really well, or even perfectly, at the target shooting practice the shooting sequences get a lot tougher. Wish I had known that earlier. I thought the shooting parts got really crazy towards the end.
It does that for sure, but it's also at its easiest when fully powered up.
That's basically the core design for 95% of classic shooters, where it's all about getting power-ups and keeping them. Meanwhile, die and lose said power-ups, and parts that were easy with them suddenly become super hard. In a lot of those older shmups, you even move super slowly until you grab speed-up power-ups, so you're just completely useless without them.
You see a bit of that in some platformers and action side-scrollers, but not anywhere close to the same degree.