Monday, March 20, 2017

Nostalgia in all the wrong places

I can appreciate the classics, of course. They're called such for a reason - they make us as gamers want to go back and replay them from time to time. I'm no different in that regard - I'm currently going back through Link's Awakening - a game I came glitch-crushingly close to beating when I was younger and now that I want to finish.

You know the old saying about "too much of a good thing", though. And retreading classic gameplay mechanics is fine and dandy in newer games. There are a number of genres and gameplay styles that have died out of popularity, kept alive by only a tiny handful of indie titles - and I'd love it if these games made a return.

When it comes to the stories though, I'm of a different mind. It's one thing to ape certain basic plot structures - it's another when the exact same plot points and characters come back again...and again...and again. And lately, I've seen too much of this brand of "nostalgia" appeal for me to ignore it. So, let's look at a few examples of new or upcoming games, shall we?

Since I know I absolutely want to have Nintendo hate, we can start with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the newest title in that series While the gameplay represents a new direction, the story is another Link-Zelda-Ganon dance. (If you were spoiled by this, you've probably never touched a Nintendo controller in your life, so it shouldn't matter.) While I get why Zelda has to be there, would it kill certain people to have a different villain, or even a different hero?

Similarly, I'm not looking forward to the Castlevania retread Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. While I have found some Castlevania games enjoyable, I really don't want to be stuck playing as a clone of Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia. Can you come up with a fresh new protagonist instead of "dark-clad girl with a magic tattoo on her back"? Please?

And then we come to System Shock 3. I adore the second game - you can read my prior post on it. But when I learned that they planned to have all the major characters from both the first and second games appear (keep in mind there are forty-something years between the first two) in round three, my response was less than pleased. SHODAN is the only character that really matters - do we have to revisit the casts of the earlier games?

If video games can't tell new and fresh stories, why would I want to play them? I have to conclude that far too many people look for gameplay first, instead of treating both gameplay and story as part of a unified work - a major point of how I see video games. I long for the days of a truly original game in the vein of Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and System Shock 2.

I just don't see the "original" part happening any time soon.

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