Retrospection: Old Games, New ReviewsS

Often times when we play old games, we do so for one of two main reasons: either someone else has nostalgia for it, or you do. That is not implying that nostalgia is a bad thing, of course, but it definitely influences us and our peers in quite a few ways. For example, nostalgia is one of the many reasons why GOG.com, formerly called "Good Old Games", was created in the first place. There is a market for people who want to play "the classics"; games that they used to play when they were younger, games that won all kinds of awards, games that have a huge aura of nostalgia around them that simply aren't playable on today's modern computers without serious workarounds. This is why we have services like Virtual Console on the Wii Shop Channel and the Nintendo eShop, or why we constantly get HD remakes of older games, or even ports to cell phones of all things. Clearly, these old games don't want to go away any time soon, but are these games still worth playing today?

The problem I see with a lot of these older games is that people place all kinds of unrealistic expectations on them. Tell someone that, say, Final Fantasy VI or VII is one of the greatest JRPGs of all time after they've played tons of modern JRPGs, and they might be very disappointed when they play what feels like a game that was made almost 20 years ago, which just so happens to be the case here. Tell someone to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the highest-reviewed game in history, after he plays Wind Waker, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword, and he might not be able to see what makes it so special compared to the newer games that built upon the greatness of the original, and he might feel like it doesn't deserve that title.

What these games need isn't more people telling others how amazing they were "back in the day", but more people who are willing to judge these games by modern, unclouded standards. Telling someone that an older game is "one of the best games ever" without mentioning the awkward controls of the past age, the sub-par graphics compared to today, the glitches, and other quirks of the past many generations will only leave them disappointed and underwhelmed. How do you sell someone on an SNES-era game when they're so used to a modern one without explaining to them, honestly and truthfully, unclouded by nostalgia from a past chapter in the history of gaming, how good it is today? Who cares if a game got near-perfect scores fifteen years ago? What matters to the people buying these games, me included, isn't whether or not they're classics, but whether or not they hold up as classics.

Many reviews of these games are based on outdated standards of game design, praising games for things we take for granted today. To remedy that, I'm going to start a review series here on Talk Amongst Yourselves called "Retrospection" that I will try to update every week or so with classic games that many people will recognize. I will review these games from multiple angles, perspectives, and, most importantly, telling you, the readers, what works and what doesn't when compared with modern games of today so you know what to expect. Does a game that got by on its visual charm a decade ago still have gameplay to back it up when it looks like, well, a ten-year-old game? Does a game that contained "revolutionary design" still stack up to the more streamlined, evolved games of today? And if not, is it still worth a try, and why or why not? All of these questions, and more, will be answered in the coming weeks for various older games, including:

  • Baldur's Gate (series)
  • Castlevania (series)
  • Chrono Trigger (I plan on doing this one first)
  • Crash Bandicoot (series)
  • Deus Ex
  • Devil May Cry (series)
  • Final Fantasy (series, VI pictured)
  • Half-Life (and its expansions)
  • Half-Life 2
  • Mega Man (series, including X, Zero, Battle Network, etc.)
  • Metal Gear Solid (series)
  • Metroid (series)
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Civilization, Pirates!, etc.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog (series)
  • Spyro the Dragon (series)
  • Super Mario Bros. (series)
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
  • Valkyrie Profile (series)
  • Viewtiful Joe
  • Zone of the Enders (series)
  • ... And many more!

My criteria for being considered an "old game" is a game from two generations ago. Since the Wii U started the 8th generation of home consoles, that makes anything from the 6th generation (PS2, Xbox, GameCube) a "retro" game, especially considering that many of them are at least seven years old by now. What kinds of games would you want to be reviewed? Any classics that you think I should play or consider reviewing that I haven't listed here? Let me know as I try to plan my first review for this weekend!