Nostalgia is an interesting thing; we all love to reflect on the past and what was great about it. Mine was a time before DLC and gigs of patches, a time when games were action based with good stories and the PlayStation era moving things into 3D with its blocky animations (I still laugh at Cloud’s hands in FF VII). We look back with fondness at the times of old and how they were better than what we have now. I only mention this since the Crash Bandicoot Remaster came out recently and I eventually got my hands on the PS4 version of the Kingdom Hearts Remaster. Now finally I get to play these awesome old games in graphics that doesn’t look like it was done with paper cut-outs! But then when playing them, I thought to myself over and over again, “wait, I don’t remember this bit”.
Now in the old games’ defence – in the case of Crash at least – some parts are the fault of the new game. With this particular remaster, the size and shape of the hitboxes have changed somewhat so you can slide off ledges, which for a precision platformer was a boneheaded decision of epic proportions. But still when playing the game, I started remembering “oh yeah, I forgot how annoying this was”. The simple fact that you’re running into the screen meant that the terrain had a habit of obscuring pits, so it wasn’t reaction time that got you through but rather trial and error. Then there are some levels are simply obnoxiously difficult that you just wanted to throw the controller at the screen. The irritating fact that you CANNOT 100% a level until you have first got an item from a later level so you HAVE to backtrack to deal with OCD tendencies is also another black mark against it. It got me thinking “did I really like this game?”.
Then we have Kingdom Hearts. I fucking love this series and have played basically every game (even Re:Coded and 358/2 on the Nintendo DS, with their really shit gameplay but 358/2 at least having was VERY good story; so bittersweet) so I was really excited to play the original again and not on a rubbish emulato… I mean a very old barely working original console. It was so much fun fighting Tidus and Wakka on Destiny Island then exploring Traverse Town again. But then I started remembering “oh yeah this world was annoying, and oh yeah so was this world as well”. The level design had a habit of putting you on narrow platforms that you could all too easily fall off from only to have you encounter airborne enemies right at that point meaning Sora had to jump up to attack. So of course you would fall off the ledge and have to climb back up.
And not just the narrow platforms. There were the underwater level that just took forever because suddenly you can’t dodge anymore; the Monstro level that was a sodding maze (thankfully a LOT less bad in the remaster, but still a pain due to the sodding platforms and airborne enemies); and then the enemies that just constantly move away from you so you end up chasing them around like a Benny Hill sketch.
Despite my gripes it’s still a great game, but the level design is just shit in comparison to today. I realise it was a product of the era and for the time this was amazing! The fact that levels with verticality and you had big areas to run around and fight in, felt amazing but it so noticeable how far games have now progressed since then.
However it seems you don’t remember those bits. Instead you remember the joy you experienced when you finished a tricky Crash level, the tears shed at the end of the first Kingdom Hearts game at how beautifully bittersweet the ending was (for me anyway), the wonderful fights in Beast’s castle and taking on Sephiroth in the Colosseum. All the good bits outweigh the bad memories, but the bad bits are still there.
It made me think of the new Zelda and how some prefer (including one of our very own) Wind Waker to The Breath of the Wild. Now I really liked Wind Waker. I loved sailing the sea but I had a think about that game and thought “the sea was really empty wasn’t it?”. Hell, it was a game with a section so annoying they shortened it in the remaster (and gave you a faster sail to get around the ocean quicker). If you wanted to change direction you had to bring out your stick and wave it, always had to keep your dish food up to explore each square, even if it was just an island with a bunch of dots on it. It was still a great game (even if it was obviously cut short of content) but I think nostalgia and the classic rose tinted glasses have made us forget about the annoying bits and we just remember how Link had a bit of character this time.
It’s a problem we all have, it was better before, the good bits are remembered and the bad repressed. And it’s not just in video games but in everything; TV shows (we all forget, or at least try to forget, about the med school series of Scrubs), films and the world in general (some claim it was not much better twenty years ago even if we didn’t have Wi-Fi for a start). But it is still good to look back and expand on the good and fix the bad, use it as a starting point. Just don’t wallow in it like some are with the rise of Kickstarter-ing remakes of old games. Some of the stuff in the past stayed there for a reason, like impossible-to-dodge-unless-you-memorised-the-wholel-level pits.
Despite this entire article however, the first COD: Modern Warfare game was still better than any of the newer ones though.