Editorial: Seeing Beyond the Nostalgia Goggles

What-ho, Lusi-sprites.

I found myself reading the blog of a friend who shall remain nameless. In a recent entry he wrote, among other things, that when he recently tried to play Final Fantasy VI the experience was somewhat lacking in the “awesome” department. At first I was shocked and mildly ill. Final Fantasy VI, one of the defining games of my life, not as good as he remembered? The game that brought us Kefka “son of a submariner” Crazyclown? The epic story in which the villain wins, and screws up the world? Then I calmed down, drank a few pints of the good stuff, and recalled … yeah. That game. The game that makes you jump through so many hoops to re-recruit your party. The game with the horrible Amano character art, and equally awful character development. While I will still consider Final Fantasy VI to be a good game, one of the best of its time, I will admit that it is not actually as wonderful as my memory might want me to believe.

I have never been shy when it comes to admitting that I tend to prefer older games to newer games. There is something warm and fuzzy about seeing blue battle menus, having a locked camera angle, and all of the other outdated quirks from games gone by. However I must admit that when I find myself craving a certain game, when I actually do begin a playthrough, my enjoyment typically wanes after a few hours, and I soon find myself bored. A quick hit of nostalgia and I am good again. Now there are some games that are just legendary, and exceptionally made. But for every Earthbound, Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy IX I love to play over and over again, there are games like Final Fantasy VI, Star Ocean and Grandia which are good, and have their shining superstar qualities, but overall just do not do it for me time and again. It takes a special game to merit 20+ hours of my life to replay, just as not every book is worth re-reading, or movie worth re-screening.

So, lovelies, how do you feel? Are there any games that you can replay year after year? Are there any classics that you just cannot handle in anything other than small doses? For me the aforementioned Earthbound, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IX can always be played through in full without boredom. Xenogears and Final Fantasy VII can also be safely added to the list. Recent experience has also taught me that alas, Final Fantasy V and VI do not belong on the list, nor do any of the Dragon Quest games.

7 comments

  1. Yeah, I’m similar. I can play through FFIX expecting to be underwhelmed, but love it. But when I play FFVII, the game that got me into the series, I can’t get past the draw distance, blocky graphics, localization, and lack of analog controls. I still enjoy it and its many strong points, but it’s the nostalgia that lets me play more than 5 hours.

    Other than that, I don’t really play old games anymore. I’d rather play a new Pokémon game because the interface is far more streamlined. I’m more curious to try the DS Final Fantasy throwback than to try out IV for the first time.

  2. One thing I do to relive and relieve nostalgic moments for games is listening to the soundtrack. Often, games which have been burnt into memory (especially Nintendo classics and most Squaresoft on any platform from 1990 through 2000) can be daydreamed about quite satisfyingly with a little help from their music. And this is something you can do in the car, at work, wherever necessary. Also, talking about them, drawing the characters, or whatever suits your talent(s) can be just as rewarding as playing that actual game: the same can go for other mediums of interest and intelligence (books, movies, etc.). The point is that because somewhere the initial overwhelming awe that these works of art instill can wear off, it takes something else than what you originally used it for – entertainment – to truly appreciate it again.

  3. I have the complete opposite problem to Ethan regarding FFVII, I still like the presentation well enough, but some of the boneheaded design decisions. For instance I recall making many disgruntled FB updates during the sequence where the game forces you to babysit Aeris throughout the Temple of the Ancients, and I don’t know what they were thinking when they tell you to go find the Key of the Ancients, but only give you the most cryptic of instructions to do so.

    Then of course there’s the forced party change-ups in general. I’ve never liked this style, but at least in games like FFIX everyone has their own equipment with their own learnable skills. With VII every time your party changes you have to swap over the Materia you were carrying, often times to people with a different number of Materia sockets. The process drives me crazy.

    FFVII is one of my all time favourite games, but it is so due to story, atmosphere and expansive world design. It is certainly not one of my favourite games due to frustration free game design.

  4. Localization issues aside, FFVI had the best story of them all.

    I like my games new, fresh and exciting. I rarely do old playthroughs because I’ve got so much new stuff to enjoy.

  5. @SN: Much of the old stuff is shite, too. We just have the benefit of already knowing what’s worth playing at this point

    @Lane/Ethos: I’m kind of the same way, but it’s more I rarely replay old games. If I’ve been told an old game’s good and I haven’t played it before, I’ll go back and give it a shot. For example, I just played Grandia for first time back at the beginning of summer and really enjoyed it (although I though the ending dragged on a bit).

    @Ginia: I’m wondering if maybe, in some of these cases, it’s not so much that the game’s old, it’s just that you’re played it before. Personally, I’ve always found it really difficult to sit through a movie or TV show I’ve seen before (at least one that isn’t a comedy), even if I really enjoyed it the first time, you know? A lot of the mystery of a plot gets lost in the second playthrough when you know exactly (or at least in general) what’ll happen.

  6. Earthbound I’ve tried playing several times in recent years, but can’t get into it at all. I owned virtually every decent SNES RPG except it. (The HUEGLIEKXBOX box it came in was retarded and put me off buying it.) Trying it since and wanting to get into it I really couldn’t.

    Chrono Trigger I’ve tried to replay, but never got to 600AD. A few times it was spamming Gato to get silver points for a Lode Sword (or whatever) from Melchoir, but I ended up dropping it like it was hot.

    Final Fantasy IX I played again this year with the site playthrough (a few months behind) and I liked the set pieces and had fun with it overall, but meh. It’s probably the best of the PSX FF games, but that’s coming from a jaded 28 year old who can’t stand FF8 due to it failing at everything a RPG is supposed to do and FF7 having a number of problems. The story was convoluted, the mini-games sucked (as most do), and I have no patience for shit like chocobo breeding.

    Final Fantasy VI I’ve played through since the SNES era a few times. It’s still fun I had no problem finishing it. When I’ve tried to play FF4 (hardtype), I couldn’t get through it. The story is ridiculous and characters really aren’t that interesting. It’s also really slow.

    Star Ocean…meaning the fan translated original? Or the PSX one? Or the PS2 one? I tried the SNES one and got about half way through it. It was OK. The PSX one I got to the citadel at the very end, got my ass raped by the final bosses, and gave up on it 7 or 8 years ago. The PS2 one made me want to rape and murder puppies. Seriously. EVERY CHARACTER IS FUCKING OBNOXIOUS. That girl is annoying. The circus people are annoying. I didn’t even get to kill anything to take out my frustrations and I couldn’t stand the shit anymore. Screw that game.

    Grandia…the PSX one? I played two or three hours of it and it was OK, but nothing special. The graphics haven’t aged well, the story wasn’t interesting, the dungeon(s) was confusing, and the battle system was boring. Wandering around having to talk to everyone to find out what the fuck I’m supposed to do is something I expect in an 8bit RPG, not a 32bit one. Screw “scavenger hunts”, too.

    I think mostly if the grinding isn’t too boring and the game moves along without needing a guide to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing I can enjoy it and/or replay it without issue. But when there’s some “do boring shit to get this awesome thing!!!” five minutes in or its just retarded, like FF8, I can’t get into it.

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