Editorial: Looking at Nostalgia

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Distilled Perfection

I was trying to think of a suitable sendoff for my final post here, and I have decided to take a look at one of the driving forces behind my gaming tastes: nostalgia. There are some games, particularly Nintendo 64 and PlayStation-era games, that I have a great deal of personal childhood nostalgia for; Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time, and the first two generations of Pokemon games are games that I have played several times over the years and never seem to stop loving. There are also classic games like Chrono Trigger and the classic Mega Man games that I did not play when I was younger, but I still love for various reasons.

But why is it that I find myself so frequently drawn to older games? There is simply something I find charming about classic games. The design philosophies of 16 and 32-bit games resonates with me on a level that newer games often do not, especially when it comes to RPGs. The relatively simple turn-based JRPG will probably always be one of my favorite game types; I never seem to go long without playing one. I doubt I will ever lose my affection for older JRPGs.

Games today have much greater technological capability than games used to, and while this is certainly a good thing, it is not without flaws. Classic games had a level of care put into them that many games today do not; when working under the limited size and graphical output of an NES cart, a developer would face a more challenging limitations than someone designing a big-budget PlayStation 3 title. I am certainly glad that developers have much less restrictive technological limitations than they used to, but I am also a bit sad that games have lost that stylistic touch they used to have.

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Condensed Perfection

Graphically, I feel that the 16-bit era has aged better than perhaps any other era of gaming; the SNES sprites still look just as good as they always have, while something like Final Fantasy VIII looks horrendous by modern standards. I also rarely find a modern game soundtrack to be particularly memorable. Just because a game can have an orchestrated soundtrack does not mean it necessarily needs one – FFVI sounded just fine on SNES hardware, after all.

I realize that this all makes me sound far more crotchety than any twenty-one year-old has any right to be. I should like to make it clear, however, that by no means do I think gaming today is bad, or even really any worse than it has always been. What I am instead saying is that I prefer the style of older game design, especially JRPG design, over modern gaming. I certainly have nothing against modern games, and in fact as I have mentioned before some of my favorite games have been released in the past five years or so. My love of older games is just something that I hope to never lose.

As far as newer games done in a nostalgic style are concerned, I have somewhat mixed feelings. I would like to see games do things that are new and exciting, like the Portal games. My one big issue with nostalgia-inspired games is that they rarely do anything new, and they are rarely as good as the games they are inspired by. For all that I loved Breath of Death VII, it was certainly no Dragon Warrior IV. While I do like the idea of new games done in a style inspired by old games, I would much rather see something that is not only new and innovative, but also well-implemented; I am not simply advocating novelty for the sake of novelty either.

I realize, readers, that this post has been a bit unfocused, but I wanted to share some thoughts on nostalgia and on my feelings on classic and modern gaming. Sadly, I must now take my leave from Lusipurr.com, due to time constraints and other personal issues. It has been a pleasure getting to know the site’s current and former staff and readers, and I bid you all a fond farewell, friends.

Now what is Lusipurr.com going to do with all of these crates of bamboo?
Daniel ‘Deimosion’ Flink

[Editor’s note: despite claims to the contrary, no bears were harmed during Deimosion’s employment at Lusipurr.com. -Lusi]

7 comments

  1. Can someone explain this trend of people criticising 32-bit era FF graphics, while claiming that their 16-bit era predecessors have not aged a day?
    Yes, the 3d characters and the battle environments suffer from very low polygon counts, but is everyone completely blind to how wonderfully detailed the pre-rendered backgrounds are? In games where one of the most important aspects is world-building, don’t you want a world that actually looks unique?

    Personally, I think it’s a shame that the era of pre-rendered backgrounds didn’t last long enough to make an impact, coming at the same time people were dipping into 3d environments, and clearly 3d was going to win due to the room for technological improvement.

  2. @Chromatos: For my part, I think the problem with 32-bit era graphics arises when they try to be as realistic as possible. This is why the FFVII battle environments and characters look fine, but FFVIII is terrible.

    The problem I’m referring to is the Realism Problem, though–and it has very little to do with the same issues that the author of the post is raising. He puts the blame on the hardware level available during different eras. Whereas I (and I think most of the rest of the staff, if not all of them) would say that the problem comes with deliberately trying to be as realistic as possible with the hardware (we’re not talking Super Mario Bros. here).

    When that happens, any advancement in technology immediately dates the preceding works. This is why CG that is even a few years old is generally pretty unpleasant to watch, even though at the time it was impressive. Humans notice changes in realism very easily. With a deliberately unreal style (i.e. Final Fantasy IX or Mario Bros., for example), games age much less quickly.

  3. Yeah, what Lusipurr said. I think it also has to do with the fact that that was the first generation of our current graphical style. SNES is the best that 2D graphics got on a system that was only capable of 2D graphics (faking 3D aside). The PS3 is a full two generations stronger than the PSX in the same vein. It’s much easier to compare those two systems than it is to compare PS3 to SNES.

    Although honestly, I think Lusipurr’s point is the most prominent. It’s exactly why I feel like FFVII and IX have aged graphically much better than FFVIII.

  4. Yeah, it’s pretty much like Ethan and Lusi have said…

    Style counts for a lot when you’re working with limited graphical hardware, which is why the deliberately deformed characters of Final Fantasy VII have allowed that game to age so well in terms of its visuals, while the supposedly realistic characters of FFVIII look strange and ‘horrendous’ by comparison, as Deimosion is quick to point out.

  5. Actually, I would go so far as to say that Final Fantasy VII’s character models have aged far better than the designs used in some comparatively modern titles like Nier, Lost Odyssey, or, hell, even Alan Wake…

  6. Oh, and it goes without saying that VII’s character models have aged better than the low-poly variants of FFX’s main characters characters, and virtually all of the games NPCs.

    That was fixed to a degree in FFX-2, but unimportant NPCs still suffered from some ridiculous looking low polygon character models.

    FFXII was really the first Final Fantasy which uniformly benefited from realistic character proportions – but then that’s because much of the character’s facial detail is in the slightly painterly texture work.

  7. @SN: Every time someone mentions X-2, I think, ‘Hmm, I should play that again.’

    But THEN I think ‘what can I do for you’ and I am CURED of my temporary insanity.

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