Last Tuesday, for my birthday, I whipped out my NES and played a beloved game from my childhood, Crystalis. At first I was pretty scared to pop it in, because what if I didn’t feel the same way about it anymore? What if the gameplay or story was too simplistic for my current gaming tastes? What if I don’t enjoy it, and those memories are ruined?
As a little girl, I slept in the same bed as my Grandmother, and would sneak out of it every midnight to go into the extra bedroom that housed my NES. Then, until I had to start getting ready for elementary school, I’d play Crystalis on very low volume so I wouldn’t wake anybody up. I did that for weeks until I eventually beat it. When I played Crystalis last week, it was as if those 20+ years inbetween never happened. I remembered where everything was, I remembered the names of characters and cities, and I even remembered what to do. The only thing that I found different was how short the game felt, but I’m a lot older now, my gaming skills have gotten better over time, and since I knew where everything was, I was able to move through the game faster than when I was a child. Some games are timeless like Contra, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Toe Jam & Earl, Super Mario series, and many more, but what about the titles that fail to stand the test of time?
Sure, gaming graphics have changed, but we all know that no matter how visually gorgeous something is, everything else about it can be complete shit. The same goes for the opposite too. Take Final Fantasy VII for example: its graphics at the time were below what the PlayStation console was able to handle, but to this day it’s constantly lauded as the best in the entire franchise. While I strongly disagree with that opinion, it’s a solid case of how, regardless of graphics, gamers can still find a game completely enjoyable well into the future. Gameplay and controls have changed too, but so have the controllers. Is this really a plus? With the original NES controller, you had a d-pad, start/select buttons, and the A/B buttons to perform actions. Nowadays, gamers have to factor in a d-pad, two analog joysticks, left and right triggers, left and right bumper buttons, start/select buttons, four action buttons, and sometimes there is even a home button. Compare the controls for Super Mario on NES, or even SNES, to what is required for Super Mario Galaxy, and it’s insane. Sometimes keeping it simple really pays off.
The music has changed drastically. In our youthful days, MIDI tracks were all the rage, but now we are given some really amazing soundtracks, and also the option of listening to our own music when gaming (Sidenote: Back in the day, I would sometimes pop in a cassette or listen to the radio when playing a game, so it’s nice to see how that has evolved. A prominent memory I have is playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at a neighbors house and hearing Evil Empire by Rage Against the Machine for the very first time). Gamers who owned a Sega Genesis should remember the funky soundtrack from Toe Jam & Earl, and NES owners can probably sing every single Super Mario track ever made. Right now I have the theme song to Legend of Zelda in my head, and that will forever be a classic tune.
What hasn’t changed much are the stories. We are still playing adventure games, still playing shooters, and still escaping into elaborate worlds where we are constantly saving the day. Granted, some stories are better than others, but it’s pretty much the same. As children we assumed the roles of Mario, and were tasked with rescuing the Princess from the evil Bowser. For some reason, and 20+ years later, Princess Peach keeps neglecting to hire herself a bodyguard, and Bowser still hasn’t learned his lesson. We have seen some big twists like how Samus Aran was really a female, Aeris getting killed by Sephiroth, and finding out that in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you were actually Revan. Obviously there are so many more moments that could be listed, but those are the main ones that popped into my head right now.
With Crystalis, I really lucked out because it’s a game that I will always love, and will always find enjoyable. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all games. So readers, I ask you this: are your fond gaming memories only because of your childhood nostalgia, or were we just given some really amazing games back then?
Check out some classic NES and Genesis games for old times sake. How many do you remember?: