When it comes to reviewing retro video games, a lot of the same things can and have been said over and over again. “The game is a masterpiece”, “It was ahead of its time”, “Will we ever see a game like this again?” I can go on and on but chances are that the most used line when bloggers, You Tubers, and podcasters (myself included) have said is, “I loved this game growing up.” Maybe not that exact phrase but you get the picture. Even though I grew up in a golden age of video games I wasn’t able to play all of the classics. I got a N64 to play Pokémon Stadium, not Mario 64 and I was constantly replaying Mega Man Legends when others were getting the Golden Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII. Now that I’m older and when I have income to spare I am able to get and play the classic games I missed out on, however this brings me to a conundrum. Do I dare review and pick apart a beloved retro game that people love, or just let it be and say nothing?
As vast amounts of people can attest, the internet can be a cesspool of negativity, despair, and vitriolic trolls who’s sole purpose in life is to bring you down or say that your opinion is trash. I’m lucky enough that the circle of people whom I interact with on Twitter and other social media platforms are civil and engage in healthy debate when our views on games differ. I am aware of how some gamers can be unbearably toxic and will stop at nothing to to make you feel a certain way, which brings me to why I thought of this. As you may know, I recently beat Super Mario 64 and got all 120 stars in the game. It took my a while and it was my first time playing it but I definitely have some criticisms about this beloved classic. It’s a great game but so many things drove me up a wall that made me put the game down and not touch it for months. I did eventually beat it and was elated that I did, but I mostly remember getting frustrated with certain parts and when I talked to friends who did play the game prior, I feel that they overhyped the game a bit. The next big retro title I plan to beat is Super Metroid for the SNES. To say I’m a little nervous that people have overhyped this game is a bit of an understatement. Nearly every You Tuber, game collector, and retro fan I know has this game in their Top 5 games of all time and I’ll be playing it for the first time in my life. What I’m scared of is that when I do beat this game, my reaction won’t be, “Everyone was right,” but, “Meh, it was OK.”
Of course looking at a retro game for the first time is one thing, looking back on a game you loved as a kid is something else entirely. It’s a completely different type of beast to tackle because the nostalgia is there. Nostalgia is one heck of a drug and can bring back great memories, but also distort them in a way where we remember things a certain way. I’ve said this before but our tastes change while we get older and so do our tastes in games. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing when we go back to games that we loved as a kid and find out there were things in that game that we don’t necessarily like anymore. Taking our favorite games and criticizing them isn’t a bad thing, I say it shows that we’ve grown and we know what we like and dislike. For example, I love Kingdom Hearts. I played the first game so many times as a kid but I will be the first one to tell you that it has some problems. The Gummi Ship segments, not being clear on where to go next, and selecting certain things from the battle menu are a pain, but I still love the game even with all it’s faults. I feel that it’s a sign of maturity when we can look at a game we love and nitpick it. I guarantee you if I were to sit down and play every game I loved as a kid, I could find at least one thing to criticize. Also our minds could change, a game I loved as a kid I may or may not like as much now, but those memories when I did love it are still there and they are still valid.
When I do play retro games for the first time, I try to put my mindset into the year it came out. I keep telling myself how it was back and not think about the newer stuff. When I play a game I loved growing up, I try to look at it in a new light and remember why I loved that game in the first place. Going back to Mario 64 I could see why kids in the 90’s loved that game so much and how revolutionary it was while playing a game like Kingdom Hearts the fond memories of my first play through come flooding in. However when the problems of the game rear their head then I will address them and deal with them, but I will play on as all video gamers do.