Editorial: Nostalgia, Changing Game Preferences
Okay, I need some help on this one, because at the present time, I can only use myself as an example. That kind of anecdotal "evidence" has always bugged me and I'd like to see if fellow veteran gamers have experienced something similar.
By now, most of our avid readers know my favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy Tactics. I won't go into any real depth explaining why - we all have our personal reasons in regards to our favorite games - but let's just say it was one of those titles that nailed me at the start and never let go. To this day, I get the urge to play through it at least a couple times a year, and although the urge is also there for games like Final Fantasy VII, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which I just finished again over the holidays), Alundra, and Super Mario Bros., it's never quite as sharp as it is with FFT. Now, I've always held firm to the entrenched belief that I would love FFT until the day I die; I will always get that unparalleled level of enjoyment out of it. And while I still haven't lost that love for the game, I'm starting to wonder if my belief is crucially flawed...
See, I just recently reviewed Eternal Poison, which is a traditional strat/RPG for the PS2. I'm well aware I got to it late, but after the insanity of October and November, it was ridiculously difficult to catch up (and I'm still behind on some things). Anyway, the game certainly has its fair share of issues, and I stand by everything I said in that review. However, today, I was driving down the road and started to wonder if I would've really loved that game ten years ago. It's basically the same thing as FFT, only with a little more in the way of off-the-field depth. Granted, FFT beats the crap out of it overall - superior story and characters, a better base gameplay system, better pacing, more freedom, etc, etc, etc. - but I always loved the grid-based strat/RPGs back then. I just adored the time-consuming micromanagement part of it, and I really liked planning out my attack well ahead of time. I keep wondering if something like Eternal Poison had come out back then...wouldn't I have enjoyed it immensely?
For instance, I have very fond memories of Vandal Hearts II, which I still maintain has one of the best scripts in video game history (no, seriously). It wasn't a masterpiece, though, and I still distinctly recall loving every last second of my 60-hour adventure. That being the case, I'm thinking I should pop it back in today to see if I get the same feeling... Thing is, I just got really bored of Eternal Poison, and ten years ago, I'm not sure I would've gotten bored at all. One can chalk up the difference to any number of factors, including age, the obvious advances in the game industry, the fact that I've greatly expanded my gaming tastes since the PS1 days, and that kind of thing. But I'm wondering if I'm clinging to a preference that is slowly but surely disappearing; although I believe I still get endless entertainment out of older games I previously listed, I'm beginning to consider a frightening change of heart. In another five years, will I still love FFT so much? Or will I just be lying to myself?
Some people find it hard to believe that I can list the three last-gen GTAs as some of my favorite games ever, and then say my favorite game ever is FFT. But genres have never really bothered me; if the game is great, I want to play it, regardless of the genre. There are a few exceptions (I'll never play a flight sim or a skateboarding game, for example), but for the most part, if I see a game scoring 9s, I wanna try it. In the PS1 days, all I wanted to do was play RPGs, so review scores didn't matter so much. This may account for something, but also remember that I hated FFT wannabes like Kartia and Tactics Ogre, so it's not like I just automatically liked every strat/RPG back then. And Eternal Poison wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. But I just can't help thinking...considering my love for the Vandal Hearts games, unless they were significantly better than reviews said they were, why shouldn't I have liked Eternal Poison? I guess it worries me a little, in truth.
1/9/2009 Ben Dutka