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Published on July 29th, 2016 | by Andrewsarchis

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Nostalgia Goggles: Gaming Edition

We all have that game that we hold higher than any other. That one game that, the first time we played it, made us realize exactly what video games were and what they could do. A game that transcended previous notions of just playing Tetris to pass the time and made us realize that gaming was a full-fledged form of entertainment, just like books or film.

For me, that game was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I still remember Christmas morning, 1999. My brother got it as a gift and as soon as his turn was up, I grabbed the controller, started my own save, and was immediately hooked. Later that day, all I wanted to do was get home and play more. It consumed me for the rest of my second grade school year. To this day all I want is another game that grabs me, pulls me in, and bestows upon me the same sense of wonder and majesty that Ocarina of Time did that year. The experience I had with that game at that time was, to me, perfect.

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But the game itself is far from perfect and not everybody that’s played it had the same experience I did. A few weeks ago, one of my best friends and I wound up in the midst of a friendly disagreement about whether or not OoT was as good as it’s cracked up to be. A Playstation kid who didn’t really touch a Nintendo post-SNES, his opinion of OoT was much, much different than mine. He cited things that he felt were flaws and presented his opinion with all kinds of examples of shortcomings that I simply had never noticed about the game. Had I not recently watched the Game Grumps Let’s Play of OoT, I probably wouldn’t have believed those flaws were even present.

After defending my beloved Zelda title to my friend, I asked him what game from the same time period he felt was the best. His answer? Final Fantasy VII. Something about hearing that response almost immediately cleared things up for me.

I didn’t have a Playstation growing up and I completely missed out on experiencing FFVII as a kid the way a lot of my friends did. I’ve tried to play it as recently as two years ago and something just doesn’t click for me. Aged graphics aside, the characters don’t strike me as compelling, each screen/background seems cluttered and dreary, and I ultimately struggle to find anything that separates it from being just another JRPG, except for the fact that it was one of the first of its kind.

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From there, I started thinking about the fact that I’ve heard those same complaints about OoT; characters that aren’t compelling, a relatively cliche story, gameplay we’ve all seen before, and not much going for it other than the “Well, it was good back then” argument. When I sit down and think about it, I can’t refute any of those points. You meet a character briefly, they are made out to be important despite no real development, and then brought back as some kind of hugely important figure that you still don’t really have a reason to care about. The controls are clunky and camera angles are weird. There’s text in a dialogue box that straight up runs out of the box. If it weren’t for my experiences with that game as an imaginative child that cared about any character that I was told to care about and was content with any game that gave me a sword, I would almost certainly feel very different about OoT.

That’s the power of nostalgia. When we’re younger and more impressionable, we don’t have such high standards for the games we play. Things are simpler and we require less to get a kick out of something. In turn, we associate whatever feelings of enthrallment, obsession, and joy we had with the experience we had with that game, not necessarily the quality of the game itself. When I play OoT today, I think back on my first time playing it. I think about the characters, the emotions I felt the first time I heard Zelda’s Lullaby, and how ecstatic I was when Link drew the Master Sword and became an adult. That sense of nostalgia shields me from falling victim to any of the flaws in the game. Someone who hasn’t played it or didn’t grow up with it won’t have that same experience. That feeling of having your own unique experience with a game is just another aspect of playing video games that makes them so powerful.

What about you? Is there a game you look back on with nostalgia goggles and, even with its flaws, still see as a masterpiece? Is there a game you played as a young one that you know full-well is terrible, but can’t help but love because of your memories with it?


andrewsarchis

Andrew

Music. Beer. Video Games. Amateur beard-grower, full-time wolf wrestler.


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  • seanbutnotheard

    I think a huge part of what made me love OoT was the music. Somehow, the music (I’m specifically remembering the forest temple at the moment, man it was so creepy at the time) created an atmosphere that made the graphical ugliness infinitely less abrasive and more immersive. I think we often underestimate the influence that music and sound have on our gaming experience. Thanks to its sound design combined with the novelty of 3D games and not knowing how much better things would get, and also not to mention being obsessed with Zelda lore at the time, OoT came together in just the right way and really sucked me in at the time. I’m glad I played through it then, rather than playing it at a later and more cynical time, so that now I have my memory of how the game felt rather than everything that’s wrong with it.

  • Coppertank

    I still have a hard time getting into any of the Zelda games aside from a couple like LTTP and Oracle of Ages, considering I played them as I grew up. Long after the age of the N64 came and went, I borrowed one after having never played one and threw OoT in. It didn’t take long before I gave up on playing it. I can’t get over the control design of most N64 games. That alone is enough to deter me. That said, I’ve also tried particularly revisiting games that I was very fond of growing up. Some of them, like Syphon Filter, I find absolutely atrocious today.

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