Today, dear readers, we will be taking a look at the effect nostalgia plays in our gaming, but from a different angle…. As you may or may not be aware, I have been trying to catch up with the old classics from the SNES, namely Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, EarthBound, and Super Mario RPG. Phew. The former two came into my possession in the form of PS1 games, while the other three were downloaded on the Virtual Console. While I believe I have discussed the first four already, one game remains, Super Mario RPG.
First off, if you’re interested in Super Mario RPG, it’s not yet available on the Wii U Virtual Console, but don’t despair. I realized that by going to the Wii menu on my Wii U, you could access the Wii Virtual Console and download it just the same. Feeling quite clever with myself, I began playing the last classic game of the era I had sorely wanted to try. I had always heard good things about this game, particularly the character Geno, and with the added knowledge that the Paper Mario series was the “spiritual successor” to Super Mario RPG, a series I already adored, I was really excited to try this game out. Plus, how can a mix of Nintendo and Squaresoft ever not be a good thing?
Despite my initial excitement, however, my early experiences with the game were not all that happy. I know this game is a classic and many people love it, but at first, I just wasn’t loving it that much myself. I agree that the graphics look quite nice for a SNES game, but aside from that, I started out not having a whole lot of fun. Some of my negative opinions of the game were my own fault. I felt Mario moved much too slowly until I discovered his ability to run by holding a button. I also found myself snarling at the game’s inexplicably high difficulty level. People said this game was easy, but as I died repeatedly in the Forest Maze, I wondered if perhaps it was harder than I had heard or I was just really cruddy at it. I then recalled my characters’ ability to equip “armor” (a simple shirt and pants raises your stats far more than I expected), which really helped me to stop dying over and over again. Other issues I had were personal preference, as I was not particularly fond of the instances when Mario would change into other characters in order to explain what was going on. I just, you see…Mario, I never knew you could shapeshift. That’s…all I’m saying.
During my first few hours of the game, I was rather bored. Enemies that should have been simple took a long time for me to beat back when I was still sporting low stats, and as a result, some areas felt monotonous because of all the long battles I had to endure. Fortunately, once my characters grew more powerful and I began to progress through the battles at a greater speed, the game gradually began to grow on me, even if some of the platforming is terribly difficult considering the angle at which everything is situated. That never got better, if the sheer number of tries it took me to climb up to Nimbus Land are anything to go by. Other than that, I started to have a lot of fun with the game, and I began to look forward to each hour I spent with it rather than dreading it. Once I lightened up a bit, I had to admit that the game certainly had its funny moments, some clever puzzles, and some really satisfying boss battles, once I formed my dream team of Mario, Peach, and Bowser and realized how effective my slow, but steady battle plan was (basically, I attack with regular attacks, have Peach heal, and I typically finish the boss off once they run out of FP…it’s slow, but this even allowed me to defeat the secret boss, Culex). All in all, it’s a charming game and further proof that it’s never a good idea to give up too early on a game before you’ve given it a proper chance.
Nevertheless, even though I had a good time with the game, I can’t say it really clicked with me either. I see why it’s a classic. It is a good game, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that people remember it fondly to this day. Even the battle system was something quite special at the time (a legacy carried on, in fact, by Paper Mario), due to the ability to make your attacks stronger or take less damage if you press a button with the correct timing. It just seems that, for me, its successor, Paper Mario, just really ended up being more my fit. Is it simply because Paper Mario just better suits my own personal gaming preferences? When I think hard on this, I might just have to say no. Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG are very similar. Probably the only major thing that really separates these games from each other is the paper aesthetic of Paper Mario, aside from other differences that merely stem from different technology. I think the real difference here is nostalgia, plain and simple.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it can greatly influence how we feel about our games. We all know this. This is nothing new. But I have begun to wonder, in a similar manner, can a lack of nostalgia cause our gameplay experience to suffer just as the presence of nostalgia can elevate it? I didn’t grow up with Super Mario RPG like a lot of other people did, so I don’t have the same feelings about it that the original fans do. On the other hand, I did grow up with Paper Mario and have been playing the series for far longer. I have a history with these games, and often times, what feels like the “original” (whether or not it really is) remains closer to one’s heart than anything else that comes after. Nostalgia is certainly not the only factor at play when we enjoy a game, but maybe it is here.
What do you guys think? Can a lack of nostalgia affect our experience with a game just as much as the presence of nostalgia?
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