Monday, May 5, 2014

Nostalgia, does it blind you to the truth?

When someone asks you to recommend them a game, what do you tell them? Do you truly think about what the best possible game for them might be, or do you tell them about a game you liked? Well, most of us do the latter. We will tell them to check out a game we liked, which they may like, and possibly try to even talk them into buying it. But, is that game really as good as we say it is? Or could we just be blinded by nostalgia?

Although nostalgia is great, it can sometimes be hard to get past it. When we look back at some of our favorite games, we tend to remember all of the good times we had playing it. We might remember the day we bought it, how excited we were when we rushed home to play it, we will remember the moments which amazed us, and we will also remember any time we spent playing it with friends. As we play games, we make memories, and we keep these memories with us forever. Every time you look at that game, these memories will come back to the surface, and it will almost be as if you were taken back in time. It really is a great feeling, but at the same time, it is a feeling which can hinder you.

If you are a gamer who jumps from game to game like wildfire, then over time you will notice things changing for you. While you may find many games you love, sooner or later you'll start to fall into a rut. Games will begin to blend together, and before you know it you'll start to consider "new" games as "rip offs" of older ones. Your nostalgia for the games of old will take hold of you, and that in return will most likely damage your gaming experience. Rather than enjoying what you have now, you will long for the past. However, you may also come to realize that past isn't as great as you thought it was. When you finally do return to that past you so long for, what awaits you may not always be what you thought.

What a lot of people may not realize is, their favorite games aren't always as perfect as they remembered them. Games mechanics may be outdated in older titles, there may be major glitches or bugs, the gameplay may not be as solid as they thought it was, and games with "amazing stories" may actually be just a generic story they had just experienced for the first time. In reality, our memories can lie to us, and make us believe whatever we want to believe. It actually happens all the time, but some people just flat out refuse to acknowledge it. On the other hand, nostalgia itself can still blind us as well. Even if we see how bad a game might actually be, we may still love it just because of our memories. Still, does that mean you can recommend it to a friend over another game? Maybe not, but we still do it anyway.

Although a lot of game series out there may cause debates between their fans on which entry is "better," a great example of this is can be found within the fanbase of the "Tales of" series. The Tales of games are typically action rpgs with a battle system which barrows elements from that of a fighting game, and most of them share a lot of the same themes and elements. Each game typically has a character going on the run from the government, a war normally breaks out at some point, and the heroes almost always save the world at the end. These plot points and other gameplay elements are shared across the series, but fans will still debate which game truly is the better one, and their opinions may not always be based on which game is truly better, but on their nostalgia.

While it isn't always the case, a lot of Tales of fans may say that their first game in the series is the "best." When Tales of Symphonia came out on the GameCube, it was a hit in the west, and a large fanbase formed. Most of these fans love the game even today, and a lot of them may claim that it is still the better Tales of; however, on the other hand, PlayStation 2 players may disagree. With Tales of Symphonia's PS2 version remaining Japanese exclusive, many fans in the west either played Tales of the Abyss or Tales of Legendia. While gameplay wise Tales of the Abyss was technically "improved" over Symphonia, Legendia was what some might consider a major step back (considering it returned to the series' 2D style). Even so, players who jumped into Legendia first may still find it to be their favorite, despite being a "down grade," and those who jumped into Tales of the Abyss may find it hard to go back to Symphonia, or even play future titles like Tales of Vesperia on the 360 and PS3. When it comes down to it, it isn't always about which game is truly better. If you have good memories of playing a specific title in the series, you'll most likely always think of that title as king.

So, now I ask you to think back... Think about the games you feel nostalgic towards... Are they truly as great as you remember? If you were to play them right now after years avoiding them, will you still have the same experience? Will you still love them? As a reviewer, this is something I ask myself all the time. Before jumping into a game from my past, I always think to myself, "is this game going to be as great as I remember? Will my memories blind me? Or will I finally open my eyes to the truth?" You never really know until you hit that power button. Although, sometimes the truth hurts.

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