Playing "classic games" without nostalgia

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Sombre

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Edited By Sombre

Hey gang,

Like many of you, I play a lot of games. Like...a lot.

However, in my almost 30 years of gaming, I've missed a lot. Growing up, I played almost exclusively JRPGs. I mean I played a LOT growing up, all different genres, but I missed some big games.

I didn't play Super Metroid till I was 22, and it came out when I was 5. There's still some absolute massive games that I've still never played. However, I tried to remedy that recently, with Nintendo's Seminal "Link to the Past"

Now, growing up, it was everywhere. Loads of people were playing it, talking about it in the playground, it was in the Nintendo mags- all over the shop (And all over the shops too!). However, I never played it. I guess I missed it? I got into Zelda with Link's Awakening, then kinda played them all up to Skyward Sword, where I almost entirely fell off. (I've had BOTW for 3 years but not made it past the tutorial, and I've tried twice!)

So, I figured I'd right a wrong. I had a SNES Classic, and it had LTTP on it, so why not give it an honest whack? Dan harps on about it, and I respected Dan when he was at Giant Bomb, so I thought It would be amazing.

I didn't really rate what I played...

Now, I know I'm going in almost THIRTY years late. Games have changed since then. Zelda has changed since then. They added a third dimension! But with all the hype I heard about LTTP, I went in thinking it would change my life.

What I actually got was 3/4 hours of really middling gameplay. It was also really hard! Finding hearts is really scarce, and hardly any enemies drop them. All the enemies do a full heart of damage too. Your sword doesn't have a cleave, it's like, if you don't hit them BANG ON, it doesn't register the attack. The items feel kinda jank. The dungeons are uninspired and the bosses difficulty spikes are weird. The game does not hold your hand AT ALL. It just kinda goes "Okay, your next objective is in...this region I guess. Go for it pal"

The music and aesthetic are A+, but that's not enough to keep me going. Maybe if it was a pure dungeon rush game, I'd like it more, but as is, I actually found it a massive letdown.

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you gone into a "Legendary game" and thought "Actually, this is kinda crap"?

I'd love to hear your thoughts

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Humanity

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I've had a weird clash like this recently but not EXACTLY with a classic game. Since Streets of Rage 4 is on Game Pass I gave it a shot but I've never played the originals. A lot of people are saying how extremely fun it is to play like Jason or Jeff Bakalar, and I don't know what it is but I haven't clashed with a game hard like this in a while. It feels like a very slow moving and clunky brawler where you almost can't escape getting hit once in a while, and it's pretty damn hard even on normal difficulty. I'm not only not finding the fun in it, but I honestly don't really understand it. This might come from the fact that I haven't played any of these in the past and I just don't get the mechanics but I could barely make it past the first world. Fundamentally I'm just confused by how the combat system works and the game doesn't really explain it except telling you what the buttons do which theoretically should be enough?

I mean it's not a classic but it's based on classics and this old format seems dated in a way I don't find enjoyable.

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NexivSelecaf

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Well, since I know what I like and I'm more resistant towards other people's opinions: I know my limits as to how far back I can go; which is the SNES era because I can play A Link to the Past just fine these days, same for F-Zero, older Marios, and generations 1 and 2 of Pokemon for that matter. And I also know that I can't enjoy older western RPGs like Baldur's Gate no matter what nostalgic qualities they have with other people. The look and feel of those games are too archaic for me. I prefer modern RPG mechanics. I can probably go as far back as Knights of the old Republic, but I still rather have a Star Wars RPG that's similar to The Witcher 3 in terms of gameplay mechanics.

So, based on what I'm seeing so far, maybe nostalgia, specifically personal nostalgia, is a nonissue . Maybe it's more about the discrepancy between someone's expectations being influenced by another person's reverence towards older games and what an older game actually is either with or without the context of the era. 'Cause I don't know. Maybe it's just as simple as just not liking A Link to the Past or old school beat 'em ups.

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cikame

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I never played LTTP but i did try and play A Link Between Worlds and really didn't like it, for pretty much all the reasons you stated for not liking LTTP, it's just... uneventful, repetitive, and weirdly hard in a way that's not rewarding.
I like to go back and play games that i missed, or finish games i didn't finish, i don't need nostalgia to adjust to old game design or limitations, it might just be that LTTP is a bad game :P (i'm joking).

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GuardianBob87

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#4 GuardianBob87  Online

I've had this exact experience a few years ago with some retro game "legends" that I had missed out on. They're often lacking in many quality of life features that seem obvious today, contain a lot of obtuse or misleading directions, can feel grindy and stretched out by arcade's legacy, etc, etc...

The medium was much newer. There's less standardized understanding of UX or pacing and no developer really had today's experience at either making or playing games to hone their design reflexes. "Classics" are great relative to their competition at the time and usually innovate in some way. I totally agree with the sentiment that a lot of them are actually kind of crap once you've played modern titles in their franchises or genre. Just temper your expectations and be prepared to drop them and move on. It's like 80s B movies, a few diamonds in the rough.

But I have to admit that with all the recent MiSTer talk and a freshly cleared backlog, I'm tempted to make a jump back into some retro games... For me, it's first about nostalgia and second about historical curiosity. I would only get the cores for the consoles I had or wanted as a kid but then try every game.

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Efesell

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I think Streets of Rage 4 is pretty close to this for me in a roundabout way. I don't have any track with that series at all and what its doing just misses me entirely. Feels slow and plodding just kind of a drag to play.

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Shindig

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Most of Nintendo is coming at me late. Growing up, I was on the micros (Amiga, CPC, Vic-20) and then finally got into consoles at 15. As a result, my first Mario was Sunshine. My first Metroid was Prime. My first Zelda is Ocarina / Wind Waker.

Compilations are my way in but, as a man in his thirties, they take on a much more historical context. Even then, it's mostly as a content tourist.

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ArbitraryWater

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I feel like going into an older game and expecting the same level of uniformity (homogeneity, one might say) and accessibility as most modern stuff is a great way to set oneself up for disappointment. I think that there are plenty of older “classics” that still have a lot to offer if you can deal with dated visuals or archaic nonsense, but if everyone’s level of tolerance is different and some games are probably not worth it. That all said, I’m going to reject the assertion that modern games are inherently better and design is a straight upward curve, even if I don’t really hold Link to the Past all that highly among my personal ranking of Zeldas.

Of course, I’m the lunatic who started blogging 11 years about about revisiting older games without any previous context, and now I’m the lunatic currently streaming myself playing questionable old CRPGs so I’m probably not the best barometer for what a “normal” person’s tolerance of any given old game could be.

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Humanity

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@arbitrarywater: I think game design being an upward curve of quality is just an objective fact. Even the worst games of today are still OK games in some fashion - the bottom line has drastically shifted upwards. I would be extremely curious to hear the argument against this.

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liquiddragon

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I play older games I haven't played pretty often and while I'm not sure if many ppl would consider them "classics," the ones that disappointed me most in recent memory were FEAR, Shadow Complex, and No More Heroes.

With FEAR, I just didn't see the much touted AI and the horror elements only really amounted to creepy girl showing up here and there. Shadow Complex had zero personality and it just wasn't as tight as I remember ppl claimed it was. No More Heroes had such a meaningless open world and its style and narrative felt so hollow and vapid compared to the masterpiece that was Killer7.

I played games like Mario 3, SMW, LttP, FF4 and FF6 around the same time or even more recently and I was pretty satisfied with all those games and thought they lived up to their reputation for the most part.

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mikachops

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That's Mario World for me. I cannot get past the first island or whatever. I find the camera feels off and the controls not as tight as 3, which I can play any day of the year and enjoy.

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ArbitraryWater

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#11  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@humanity said:

@arbitrarywater: I think game design being an upward curve of quality is just an objective fact. Even the worst games of today are still OK games in some fashion - the bottom line has drastically shifted upwards. I would be extremely curious to hear the argument against this.

I think my biggest argument against that idea (aside from whatever quibbles I might have with modern, focus-tested AAA game design, which is a different, though related, discussion) is that I can name more than a few smaller or more niche subsets of games that were more or less streamlined into non-existence by the demands of the market. Shooters are pretty good these days, and they're probably better on average than they were a decade ago but can you say the same for the Rainbow Six-style squad shooter? I played SWAT 4 for the first a couple of years ago and it was kind of amazing, but outside of a promising-ish spiritual successor, it's not exactly like there are exactly many new games that even remotely resemble it.

It's the type of game not popular enough to warrant the investment from a big publisher, but a little too expensive (to do right) for a lot of independent developers. Kickstarter seemed like it was going to be the thing to allow these sorts of games, but the public, high profile failures from that initial boom have made it way less relevant going forward than it was 5-6 years ago. Even the CRPG renaissance, which I've championed (Divinity Original Sin 2 is easily just as good as anything from the 90s) hasn't been without flops, and probably isn't going to go on the way it has after Microsoft scooped up Obsidian and InXile.

I'm not going to argue that games as a whole aren't better than they were in the 90s or whatever, because the sheer amount of money in the AAA space and the volume of smaller independent games means there's more good stuff out there than there was back then. (in any case, the LJNs of 2020 now have their playground in the form of Steam's New Releases page) My point is that certain types of games don't benefit from the upward curvature of "progress" if they aren't already riding the wave, and so a lot of the weird shit I like has its torch carried by the classics.

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ewzzy

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I ran into the exact same issue with LttP when I played it for the first time this winter. I can see everything that made it so brilliant when it came out but there were I found myself stuck. For instance I made it all the way to the end of the Trinexx boss only to find out I needed a rod that wasn't in the dungeon. I got it sorted but it wasn't the perfect experience I expected from a legendary game.

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FancySoapsMan

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I generally have a pretty good tolerance for older games. For instance, I played Shenmue for the first time last year after having been interested in it for ages and I thought it was great.

The most notable exception I can think of is Beyond Good and Evil. Tried playing that for the first time last year as well and i thought it was trash.

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Bonbonetti

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Most of the classic PC games I've returned to have played really well for me, like Sanitarium and Eye of the Beholder.

There are some that I thought were quite bad though, after returning to them, like the Star Wars Dark Forces series, which I think is really bad with a keyboard. Older FPS games in general are not pleasant at all to return to, for me.

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Pooch516

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This just happened with me with Secret of Mana. I got the trilogy pack on Switch and started up Secret after hearing about it for years as being a little janky but still a classic.

The whole time playing it, it just felt like a really not great Link to the Past clone. Your weapons miss with no explanation or tell as to why. There's no invincible window after you get hit, so enemies will lock you in a corner and whittle down your health. The music/world/story all seems fine, but not really anything to write home about. Granted, I'm only a few hours in (I just got the third party member) but the actual gameplay was so frustrating I got tired of playing really quickly.

So after all that I decided to boot up Link to the Past, and it's great! I first played it on the GBA when I was a teenager, but it really holds up in my opinion. Compared to Secret of Mana it just feels so much more polished.

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development

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Played FF7 when I was like 17 and by that point the game was already super dated. Stopped near the end because I just thought it was so boring and felt absolutely nothing for the story or characters.

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Seinfeld is unfunny

I played The Legend of Zelda, the original, relatively recently and thought it was great. But it's also the only Zelda game I've ever actually liked.

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Humanity

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@arbitrarywater: Ahh if your main argument is that modern game development plays it too safe and we don't get nearly as many quirky titles anymore then I completely agree! I can't envision a Katamari Damacy getting made as readily today as back in the PS2 era where experimentation was more of a thing. Heck even games like Dead Space eventually got canned because despite being really good they weren't selling like gangbusters - but I think thats more of a publisher argument and a whole 'nother story. In terms of a purely technical baseline though it is an ever increasing upwards curve. I understand your argument and I do sympathize as obviously I'm in the same boat. While an Aassassins Creed Odyssey is a huge game that looks very well and plays just as good, it does seem mechanically stale and very safe. During one of Abby's streams of Red Dead Revolver there was a person arguing that Read Dead Redemption was a safe and boring move for Rockstar instead of what they deemed the much more radical and adventurous gameplay of Revolver. At the time I thought this was a crazy person because obviously Redemption was at the time a very challenging and risky title with a huge open world that let you partake in any number of activities. That move was far from safe. Upon further reflection I think that persons argument was exactly what were discussing here, that Revolver was just a lot more weird and quirky and a sandbox open world due to it's open ended nature cannot have that same level of oddity forced on the player as a closely guided linear experience.

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Shindig

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Risks are being taken, just not by the top of the tree. We still got Papers Please, Her Story, Donut County, etc.

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bigsocrates

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@shindig: Those are extremely creative games, but not huge risks, mostly because they have almost zero budget compared to large games. They might be risky for the individual developer because they're putting a ton of personal time into them, but they aren't big financial risks by the standards of the gaming industry. They have budgets in the five figures for the most part (many times less than the catering budget for an Assassin's Creed title) and they reflect that with their presentation. That's not to say they aren't visually appealing games, because they are in their own way, and they're very creative, but they're of a different kind than the types of expensive 3D games that the big publishers make.

Big companies used to take pretty major risks fairly regularly. They might not do it with their biggest blockbuster titles, but one tier down they created lots of quirky and interesting titles that often didn't sell a lot but would occasionally break out into a critical or sales success.

One of the reasons the Dreamcast is so fondly remembered is that Sega took a bunch of really interesting risks on that machine. Jet Set Radio. Seaman. Rez. Space Channel 5. Those were all big games that had modern (at the time) graphics and presentation and were unlike anything else on the market (okay Rez is a lot like Panzer Dragoon, but with a totally different aesthetic.) Once in a great while you see games like that being made by the big publishers these days (Maybe the Nier series counts? You can make an argument for Splatoon, even though it's fundamentally a shooter.) It's much rarer though.

The truth is that budgets have gotten so big that basically every game is a risk these days. If a project doesn't come together or get any traction it can lose tens of millions of dollars easily. AAA game publishers can sell a few million copies and still lose money because of how expensive modern development is. But it means that there's a lot less creativity and variety in what's being put out by the big publishers. The days when a company like Namco would put out something truly insane like Breakdown are pretty much done (with a few notable exceptions sprinkled through the last decade.)

Games are just too expensive to make at that level these days. You get a lot of creativity in the indie space, but in terms of the truly weird and risky stuff that also has a pretty big budget behind it? It does happen, but you can count the number of titles like that on one hand most years.

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Whitestripes09

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#21  Edited By Whitestripes09

I've tried both the NES and SNES classic. I do think for the time that these games came out, they are exceptionally impressive with what they are able to present with just a few pixels. Yet, they lack that "magic" or whatever other buzzword you want to call nostalgia.

I spent my adolescence and probably even my toddler years playing Sony and Sega consoles. Those characters, the graphics, and soundtracks feel like they are etched into the fiber of my being; yet I've caught so much shit for never playing the real classics so-to-speak.

So fast-forward to relatively recent times, I had finally gotten some Nintendo games under my belt throughout my youth playing on the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance. They were incredibly fun, but not a huge influence I think in my life. I'm glad I experienced these in my youth though and critically, some are really damn good. So I thought, why shouldn't the NES and SNES be the same? Maybe I've been missing this incredible experience all my life.

So I'm playing through the library of games provided in these tiny Nintendo consoles and yet not a single one of them entices me. It's almost just as disappointing as getting cable TV for the first time and finding out that the thousand channels provided don't have a single thing you're interested in watching. LTTP? I get it... it's that super classic Zelda experience that everyone needs to experience and if you don't like, boy... you better prepare yourself. Because your family is going to get kidnapped and roasted alive if you don't agree with LTTP fans that it's the greatest Zelda game of all freaking time. It's like that with all those games when it comes to the fanbases for them, yet.... they're just ok? I'll admit some of the atmosphere created in them is mind blowing. The Super Metroid intro is incredible. The rest of the game? Pretty boring. It's just interesting that these games don't resonate with me at all despite the love they get.

On the flipside... I fucking love Sega Genesis and Saturn games. I've had incredibly early memories of these games that it's like re-visiting an old family home again each time I boot one up. Streets of Rage 4 just came out and it is a pretty conflicting game for me because I love it so much, yet it's so vehemently hated and misunderstood for the dated controls. What is someones most dreaded control scheme of a character is natural glove for me and it gave me pause to think where my objectivity went during all this nostalgia? I'm still not sure, but maybe this is just how people feel about their childhood games being remade again?

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Shindig

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@bigsocrates: Of all the consoles to demonstrate a good example of risk, you went with the Dreamcast. A console with a 3 year lifespan. And I disagree with indie titles not being necessarily huge risks. Some of them require crowdfunding to get off the ground, might be their first project and their future can kind of hang on it.

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bigsocrates

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@shindig: The Dreamcast WAS risky. And it failed (though not necessarily because of the games.) But even with its short lifespan it left a massive impact on gamers because of how many risky and interesting games came out on it. It was a hotbed of creativity and had all kinds of crazy stuff, including the $20 NFL 2K game and a bunch of weird online console games for the first time. There was risky stuff on the PS2 as well, but the PS2 has such a massive library that you can use it to make any argument. You certainly won't see any major developers like Treasure making a game like Stretch Panic in 2020. If you want to go back a gen you can look at DMA Design, which made weird stuff like Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest, then made Manhunt (which was a genuinely risky game) and since then has churned out nothing but big franchise entries. There are tons of other examples of this. Studios or publishers that did risky weird stuff when they didn't have to bet $50,000,000 on each game, and now maybe take one or two risks per generation.

I already acknowledged that for an individual developer an indie game may constitute a personal risk, but there's just not a lot of money at play, which severely limits what the game can be. Even for something like No Man's Sky, which was kind of risky, the development staff was super small and the initial launch showed it. A game like Space Station Silicon Valley had production values just short of the biggest games of the era, like Banjo Kazooie. It was risky but it was playing in the same space as the big boys. A game like No Man's Sky doesn't come close to looking or playing like a AAA release. As for something like Paper's Please, it could have been made in 1992. That doesn't mean it's a bad game (it's a great game) or that the developer didn't take a personal risk, but it's not a project that combines the production values of major game development with the weird auteur personal ideas the way some games used to. It's a different thing. There have always been individual coders and small teams putting a lot of blood sweat and tears into personal passion projects. Major studios used to also release very quirky and weird titles with production values and marketing behind them. The first thing still happens. The second happens incredibly rarely.

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Shindig

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Fair enough. I'll be honest, if I'm thinking of big risks taken by the big hitters, Doom 2016 comes to mind. I'm trying to think of other examples but, as you've said, it's thin on the ground. Hitman Series 1? Oh. Destiny. $500m to develop with a ten year plan of some sort.

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bigsocrates

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@shindig: I think Doom 2016, Hitman, and Destiny are all examples of more limited risks, though. Doom and Hitman were established franchises and they did do some risky stuff with those versions of the games, no doubt, but the fact that they had a franchise fan base makes it much less risky. Destiny was a big investment in a new IP but it was ultimately Bungie, the Halo guys, making first person shooters.

Compare that with something like Jet Set Radio, which was made by the Sega Rally 2 guys and was like nothing we'd ever seen before. It had the best cell shaded graphics up to that point but it was this totally new type of game that drew on some inspirations like Tony Hawk or whatever, but was much more out there than something like Doom 2016, which is ultimately a first person shooter with a bunch of cool new mechanics but still fits squarely in that genre (and even uses all the old tropes of Doom from the enemies to the arsenal.)

Or Seaman.

"What's this new game, Seaman?"

"Oh. You talk to a fish every day. Over time you kind of develop a relationship with it."

"Oh, so it's like a cute friend who lives in your Dreamcast?"

"No. It starts as a parasite that kills another fish and it grows into a hideous abomination who treats you like garbage. You need to buy a peripheral to be able to play it."

Obviously not every game was like Seaman, which was absolutely insane even for the time, but did you know that Leonard Nimoy was the narrator for that game? That's a time we'll probably never see again. A game premise that insane but with enough money behind it that it was technologically cutting edge (good graphics for the time plus voice recognition), had a peripheral packed in with it, and could afford to get freaking Spock to narrate.

Mainstream gaming used to be so much crazier than it is today. For good and bad.

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TheWildCard

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@sombre: LTTP is kind of particular in that it's gameplay conventions were copied so thoroughly by many following games that if you've played most the entries afterward yeah there's anything there you haven't seen before, beyond the fact combat encounters are more dangerous than later games (which I like).

I don't really play a lot of retro games, and when I do I'm more surprised if something grabs me then not regardless of reputation. Like I certainly have nostalgia for the 8- and 16-bit eras, but there's not that many games I would want to go to play more than a snippet of. I certainly don't expect younger folks to be impacted so far outside of their original contexts. Most the the canon "greats" are their because formative experiences for people.

Anyway, for a personal example of being underwhelmed after the hype, I came to Mass Effect 1 seven or eight years after the fact, which was apparently too long cause that game was a 7/10 at best.

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Colonel_Pockets

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I sort of had the same thing with the Resident Evil 1 Remake. I started it, but sort of hit a wall. The controls just aren't very fun. The atmosphere is great and I've had a lot of scares, but I don't really want to play it anymore.

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Nodima

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#28  Edited By Nodima  Online

@bigsocrates said:

@shindig: It was a hotbed of creativity and had all kinds of crazy stuff, including the $20 NFL 2K game and a bunch of weird online console games for the first time.

ESPN NFL 2K5 was the $20 2K game, released in 2004 for PS2 and XBox. The Dreamcast was long dead by then, of course. That era of the franchise was still a huge part of what was cool about Sega's legacy as a publisher, though. They didn't just charge you only $20 for a licensed, yearly, iterative football game, they included an MTV Cribs-inspired minigame where you would receive phone calls from David Arquette, Carmen Electra and Snoop Dogg challenging you to beat them at ESPN NFL 2K5. They convinced ESPN to put their name on a game they had no creative control over for the first and only time (to be fair, this was also when ESPN was actively prodding the NFL with stuff like the Playmakers series as well...what a time to be alive the early 2000s was). They actually used the PS2 HDD with no real incentive to do so.

Sometimes I wonder what the soul of Visual Concepts would look like in 2020 if they were still a subsidiary of Sega rather than Take Two.

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Shindig

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@bigsocrates I'm going to ruin Seaman for you. Tamagotchis have been around since 1996. Seaman is a Tamagotchi with a much bigger budget. I'm underselling it a bit but virtual pets (which Seaman definitely is) were right in fashion.

And Doom 2016 was a huge risk. In development hell since 2007, the money that would've been sunk into it must be staggering. It's a risk to persist with it for a decade. Add FF VII remake to that list. And Square's odd practice of splitting games into episodes (FF VII Remake, Hitman). Final Fantasy XV began development in 2006.

I do feel that, the longer this industry rolls on, the harder it is to break new ground. That plays into nostalgia a lot.

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thesquarepear

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Some of this complaining sounds just like the nostalgia people have for movies and music:

- "All movies are about superheroes these days."

- "Noone plays any real instruments anymore."

Then the same people ironically go on to complain how Steam/Netflix/Spotify is full of trash media. It's OK to be burnt out on games and I've tried it too but at least admit it.

The world and media distribution changes but I'm finding things are easier to discover than ever with streaming and subscriptions. I still like to own media but digging through stuff I don't like to get to some good shit is cheaper than ever for me so the only thing stopping me is my patience and curiosity. Plus there is all the classic media I still haven't gotten into that keeps growing each day (JRPG and fighting games are almost complete blind spot). I know these "risky" games are gonna get shot down as well but Outer Worlds, Star Wars: Fallen Order and of course Death Stranding for better or worse were pretty big risks IMO and that was just last year.

Back on topic I kind of felt that way with Fallout 1 and GTA 3 but I can totally see them as technical stepping stones to their excellent successors. OTOH when games like X-COM: UFO Defense or KOTOR 1+2 really clicked after getting used to the clunky UI I found them to have some the most addicting gameplay loops.

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Clowcell

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I have found I need to have a ton of patience and a willingness to meet retro games on their terms in order to have fun. I feel like a lot of those old games aren't necessarily poorly designed but just designed with different priorities/mindsets. If I can figure out the designers' intentions, I can actually have a lot of fun.

That said I've never been able to enjoy LttP. I grew up on the Capcom zeldas and it's hard to go backwards when the formula is identical but without the qol improvements. I hate how link's movement feels and the sword feels so short and clunky.

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Shindig

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I'm having a much better time of Super Mario Sunshine with save states than I ever did on my Gamecube. Part of that is down to my third party pad being very drifty but there's definite moments where Mario's momentum and physics combine to make some peculiar deaths.

It might not feel legit but at least I can appreciate the good and experience the bad without being completely turned off. One of the things Sunshine does more than Odyssey is really demand more skill from the player. Doing side jumps, triple jumps, spin jumps, etc weren't really compulsory to see credits on the Switch. On the one hand, Odyssey is full of things to find but a lot of feel simpler. It takes away Sunshine's frustration but those Fludd-less levels really force you to utilise Mario's moveset a lot more.