What Makes a Game Memorable?
Nostalgia is a strange thing. Sometimes I swear things remain important to me because of a specific event or a feeling attached more than the game itself. Slow paced tactical experiences of Civilizations and Disgaea, faster paced platformers like Tiny Toons and Shovel Knight, to epic length RPGs like Lunar Silver Star Story / Eternal Blue and Nier make up so many hours of my life but all had lessons to impart. If you fail over and over again, maybe it’s time for break or a different game!
It’s a funny thing though that the hobby that my father introduced me to would be the same one that he would eventually tell me that I spent too much time on. End of the day though? He still bought me games up until I was about twenty because he knew that that’s what made me happy. Why only up to twenty? Because by that point I had a job and it was now my own problem.
I’ve been gaming for a long time now. I recently leveled up over the summer to the grand Three Zero making it a good twenty-five or six some odd years that I’ve been playing. I’ll never forget the weird grey box that my father brought home in order to play Super Mario Brothers because that probably changed my contributions to the space time continuum right there. Instead of starting me off with the famous plumber however, Dad also brought the Ninja Turtles home with how much I loved the cartoon and there Ladies and Gentlemen was my start to an amazing next twenty-five years.
For the Record however I can still beat that water level with ease and it’s still that good of a game!
Since then? I’ve been all over the gaming map. From the early days of the Nintendo into its later days and the dawn of the SNES, Puzzles and Platformers were the core of my world. It wasn’t until moving literally across the country (British Columbia over to Quebec (Canada)) that I was introduced to my second love in life, Role Playing Games and Final Fantasy IV.
Right she may read this… third love. Breanna is first, then it’s an interchangeable affair between Platformers and RPGs.
The idea of a game type that was designed to take your time, be random in its encounters, and simply not be straightforward was weird. But the level of attachment that could be created, the freedom of exploration and character development was something not really seen in a Platformer designed to test skill more than anything else. Mega Man had an intro and a conclusion but the gameplay was the tale in between. Giving the in between substance? I didn’t know what to do and loved every minute of it!
Having started with Nintendo, the progression was natural enough. NES -> SNES -> N64 with four players? FOUR PLAYERS? Mario Kart with three other poor suckers to eat my dirt as I raced across the finish line victorious yet again!? MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I’ll throw in a side note and say I suck at the battle mode. That’s my Brother’s domain as he loves to remind me especially as I lose to him for the umpteenth time at Smash Brothers. It was these tiny or large leaps in technology that changed how we did or saw things. Being able to play more than two people made all of the difference in the world for someone who loves local coop as much as I do. GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, some of these have seen plenty of versions while others are fondly remembered for the good times that they brought. GoldenEye did not age well as I played only a few weeks ago. Fourteen kills and came out first even if I haven’t played it in ten years, but it was awful. How did we play four players on a nineteen inch screen? I have trouble sharing half of my 103” projector screen with Brie when we play a Warriors game and she out kill counts me. Wish I knew how she did it.
That’s the big thing isn’t it? Larger, flatter, prettier screens have been created in order to better see the levels of detail that have only ever increased over the years. I remembered GoldenEye being pretty and oh boy was it ever awful on a forty inch LCD. This would be why sometimes things are remembered more fondly than the experience that they can give now. Much much older games that used 2D sprites in order to do what they set out to do like the Ninja Turtles can still hold up today because they were designed in simple detail. They may not look the best on a 50~100+” screen, but they aren’t as bad as early N64 and PS1 games. Oh the PS1… so many life lessons.
So here’s a big thing… obviously I’ve mentioned him a few times already, but once again my Dad comes into the picture. Before Nintendo’s Game Cube, a friend of mine passed me his PS1 to play Final Fantasy VII. After falling in love with this system, and renting Breath of Fire 3, I had to give it back. So I did what any early teenager would do. I asked for one! Being told that I had more than enough consoles already with the SNES having been a present from my grandmother after she let us play with it and the N64 being a joint parent / grandparent venture, I did the only thing that I could do. Side Jobs. I wanted a PS1.
Here’s where the bulk of my nostalgia lies. Breath of Fire 3, Lunar Silver Star Story, Lunar 2 Eternal Blue, Tales of Destiny, Tales of Eternia (Destiny 2 for North America), Resident Evil 2, Mega Man Legends and X4, and Suikoden 2. Yeah that’s a lot in one breath, but that’s what the PS1 means to me and I haven’t even touched the Wild Arms or Star Ocean series yet. The bulk of what was just mentioned still play just as amazingly as they ever have and are still fun to reload and re-fall in love with them all over again. The stories, the characters, the art styles, the battle systems, each have something special that actually have survived the staples of time. Thankfully most of these didn’t have Active Time Battles (ATBs)!
The other reason that these are all memorable is the lessons that were learnt alongside them. By this point in time, the true lessons of life where if you wanted something you had to work for it came into play. More Side Jobs, lots of chores, actual jobs, and finally / hopefully Christmas or Birthday presents.
“Hey Dad can I ask you a favor?”
“Sure what’s up?”
“If you see Breath of Fire 3 at the Microplay can you pick it up for me? It should be around thirty or forty.”
“If I get the chance not a problem but that might only be next week.”
Two days later I came home from school to a brand new copy of Breath of Fire 3 on my desk with a bill for about seventy and a note saying “You owe me thirty bucks kiddo.”.
The game should have been no more than thirty-five or forty! Turns out new games, which was the only way to find this one apparently, weren’t quite as inexpensive and my forty-five was nowhere near the seventy. I owed money… I hated owing money… actually I still do which really sucks having a Mortgage on the house!
“Dad why did you get it?”
“Because you wanted it.” he answered
“But I didn’t have the amount needed for it.”
“No you didn’t. But I did, and sometimes in life some people will go out of their for someone they care about. Never forget that. I don’t care about the thirty, but chore though… *he laughs* those you’re going to get a lot of.”
So that was why… he wanted chores done I thought to myself. Having only about forty at the time I realized that not only does one really need money to buy their own video games before they start disappearing from the rental and used game shelves but they are also damned expensive which is where I started working odd jobs to afford my hobby before eventually finding an actual part time and then full time job while finishing up school later.
Now though? I wasn’t overly wrong about the affording of the hobby but I was wrong on the why he did it. Now I know how much he cared to have done that now knowing how the finances had been at that point in time. Two kids, one in high school getting ready for college and the other getting ready to go into high school, things to be replaced and bills to pay and here I was thinking that nothing was cheap without a job. Now having a house and all the awesome things that go with it, as much as I love playing games new and old, eBay my wallet curses you, I have a much better understanding of what I asked way back then.
So with the start of said lessons, I went on to owning a computer for a few years after the PS1 as my brother had gotten a PS2. Even with how good games like IceWind Dale and Planescape Torment were however, there was always a lack of the JRPGs which I missed more than any other type. The nostalgic but new feeling they could impart better than most others at the time was impressive. Buying my brother’s PS2 from him a ways later into its life cycle, I went right back into the consoles and spent a while acquiring everything that I had missed even into the launch of the PS3.
From that point, between the jobs and the long hours, I have consoles, I have a PC to game on, I’m covered on all bases to play the games that I want to play as long as they are localized for us. Now we just need backwards compatibility so that I can get nostalgic without needing four separate PlayStations plugged in. Technically I could get away with just the older Fat PS3 that is backwards compatible but it sounds less impressive!
With all of the lessons learned through the trials and tribulations of all of the characters over the years, the love and the friendships, the heartaches and the loss, there were also real world lessons that had to be taken into account. Like I said, Dad wondered why I spent so much time playing when he’s the one that technically got me into it, and the main reason was that Video Games are like a good book. They tell stories that we can’t live. I wish we had Dragons.
And finally (Yes I started a sentence with an and), even with all of the rougher times that my Old Man and I could have, games remind me of him and the lessons that I’ve learned. The biggest, and most important nostalgic feelings that I have are the times spent playing Mario Kart and Mario Golf with him in the living room. Games were never played in there. It was the basement or my room! Those two though, those two he could get behind. Having lost him about two years ago this coming February, playing games brings me a bit closer to feeling like he’s still around. Even if he had no idea what was going on, he would still down and enjoy some gameplay for no better reason than spending time with me. That, is probably the most nostalgic thing about games. The time spent with one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
So to not end on a very low note! Bring on the bigger screens! Bring on the better systems! Bring on the newer and stellar graphics! While I may be a retro nut and enjoy my older chair to game in as it’s still comfy and has my butt groove over the past decade, nothing beats seeing some of the impressive things that we’ve seen and yet to see in the coming years. Now to figure out how to LED backlight a projector screen like an LED TV…
Article by Pierre-Yves