Editorial: Games Once Loved

Does this hold any emotional value today that isn't tied to nostalgia?
The notorious Final Fantasy VII Aerith death scene.

It is a good day to all dear Lusireaders, because I have been pondering about something relevant. Our current playthrough of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has brought to bear some interesting discussion of games from a different era. With FFX, a game that has its fans but certainly gathered its share of criticism, I am faced with a game that represents a very different time in a quickly changing medium. Last time I talked about how replaying old games, despite any guilt had therein from not spending that time with new games, can hold great value. But what about the games that do not age well? What about the games I may have found at one point to be on the cutting edge of the industry but today seem nearly embarrassing to revisit? FFX has been lambasted time and again for its more infamous scenes but I do recall a time when I was still too taken by the presence of voice acting at all to feel overly repelled by any poor examples of it. And yet of course while some games sour over time I find some games only grow in appreciation. As well I once posited that certain times in my life may be more conducive to enjoying games, and that perhaps this time period exists similarly in other gamer’s lives. So why do some games age so poorly?

For the games that I have endeared myself to over time I mentioned that they hailed from a time in my life when I knew and paid attention to less of the games and the gaming industry, as well as a time when I simply had more free time to devote to games. But more importantly than any naivete or experience of discovery was the limited nature of my gaming library. Once again I seem to come back to another two editorials I released here, at whatever risk of seeming unoriginal or self serving, wherein I discuss the power of limitations on game development. When fewer choices are available, more time can be given to the ones that exist. Even those choices that are of a lesser quality will be given due when money is a factor and time hardly is. In the days of jobless summer vacations and small allowances my game libraries would sit in the modest low double digits for years if not the the entirety of the console’s lifespan. The notion of replaying all the games I owned for a system was not only feasible, but it was something I regularly practiced. I would sit and enjoy, more times than I can be certain of, such hosts of mediocrity as Luigi’s Mansion or, to go even further back, the SNES port of Final Fight. Final Fight, a game where you walk right and punch people with the same two combos for two hours. I believe I finished that game about ten times or more. Today I could not see myself getting though half of that game or having the interest even to buy Luigi’s Mansion.

Right or wrong, tell me why. Because I haven't played this game. Shh, it's a secret prompt!
Final Fantasy IX has been highlighted by many as a tough game to replay today.

However, the fact remains that I did spend a lot of time with those games and I had enough fun with them to replay them many times over. When looking back at the games of yesteryear, it is also important to note that games have come a good way technically and mechanically. Gameplay standards have been refined, certain options once uncommon or nonexistent (camera inversion) are now typical. And it is these refinements that can present the greatest barrier to entry to older titles. But no matter how many good memories a game may have generated or how critically unchallenged that game may have gone inside of a limited gamer’s library, some things just cannot be forgiven when stepping back into those old game worlds. The biggest offender of old games is their speed, it is their greatest disparity to newer games (aside from graphical fidelity) and the number one reason I fail to enjoy games I once played very often. Slow text crawl speed, a slow battle system, slow to start opening or tutorial sequences, slow menu systems, slow load times, whatever it is in a game that may be “slow” by comparison will just chip away at my patience and hamper my enjoyment. Of course, with nothing else to compare, games like FFX had no issues in their day, but today they certainly do. I hear FFIX is an even bigger offender, but I have not had the pleasure.

And while it may seem that a game’s presentation might hold me at bay I find that to be one of the least important factors at play. Some games, particularly those of the early N64 and PS1 days, have indeed kept me from replaying or coming into them late purely because of how ugly they are by today’s standards. But those are rare cases, more often hampered by poorly designed controls in a newly-realized polygonal design front than by jagged models or poor draw distances. Personally I find old polygonal games charming in the way 2D sprite graphics are having their retro-revival heyday right now, but that certainly is another topic for another time. In all, if an older game is going to be received poorly by me, even among those games that I once played and enjoyed, it will usually not be for its graphical fidelity. Whether it can be said that my tastes have matured or that I have been spoiled or grown impatient or that I am simply too busy these days, it is unquestionable and sometimes unfortunate that the experiences I had with some games once is not the experience I can have twice or even that those experiences can be diametrically opposed and alienating. And if all I had were old games to play this might appear tragic, but something presents itself as a rescue from that fate as well as a much greater tragedy: all of those new games that have gone unfinished.

How have you fared against your old games? Have you found some that you once spent time with but cannot do so again? Aside from ones that would simply take too long to play through again, what titles did you truly enjoy before that you may have come to loath today? None? Well, why? Tell me why in the comments!

5 comments

  1. Although I regard FF7 highly, it’s a little irritating to play for me these days, because the materia system, while versatile, levels up way too slow for my current expectations. Not to say that I loathe playing the game, it’s still a treat, but since I am no longer in jr. high and must work for a living, I simply don’t want to spend a lot of time grinding out a particular experience system. So now I kind of coast through those types of older games, not wanting to take the time to exploit the abilities one would acquire by embracing the tedium that people with less responsibilities have more time for.

  2. I’m playing through FFIX now, and while the battle load time is obnoxious, nothing else is detracting from my enjoyment. I think it was more of a pain when it came out, when 16-bit cartridge games with no load times still had lingering influence over expectations.

  3. A game that I used to enjoy when it came out but not now? It is kinda hard to answer since I don’t have those games . You never disappoint with your articles Mel!

  4. It’s not the load time for FFIX battles that is the problem, but rather the length of time the battles take. There are so many animations, all of which play out with lengthy pauses between them, that the whole thing is unedurably slow.

  5. FFIX’s battle speed does not personally bother me, but I wouldn’t argue in favour of it.

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