Suffering from a Nostalgia Deficiency

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?

Super Duck RPG, Where Nothing is Diagonal Anymore…Because That Made Platforming Aggravating

11 thoughts on “Suffering from a Nostalgia Deficiency”

  1. I missed out on SMRPG too, only having played it for the first time on Virtual Console. That said, I still came out thinking it was a good game, but not necessarily great. I think great games will still make a big impact even without nostalgia. I missed out on the SNES Final Fantasy games, but loved them when I played their GBA remakes. I also played Earthbound for the first time when it came out on Wii U Virtual Console and still enjoyed it a lot, even feeling nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because it’s a game meant to evoke nostalgia.

    Nostalgia can make any game seem better than it was. But if a game was truly great and held up today, it would still be good with or without nostalgia.

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    1. I completely agree. EarthBound didn’t need nostalgia to make it amazing. It was just that good, and I, too, already feel nostalgic over it, even though I finished it about a month or so ago.

      Super Mario RPG, like you said, was just a good game. For me, I think it needs nostalgia to make it a great game, and without it, I can’t say I have very strong feelings for it. Which is okay. Not all classics are classics to everyone.

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  2. When Super Mario RPG came out, I was only six, so I did not really play it until much later – after I had played the Paper Mario games. I like it and all, but to me the first two Paper Mario adventures are just far better.

    People who played Super Mario RPG before the Paper Mario games seem to think it is the best Mario RPG, though, so I think nostalgia does play a part here. Not only to the folks who prefer Super Mario RPG, but to us, who lean towards Paper Mario.

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    1. I prefer the original two Paper Mario games myself, as well. I just couldn’t get into Super Mario RPG, and so I ended up looking online what other people felt. What I found was similar to my experience. People who played the game recently didn’t find it to be nearly as good as Paper Mario, while people who had grown up with the game claimed Super Mario RPG to be far superior to Paper Mario. It must be nostalgia. That’s the only thing that explains it. (After all, what other reason could there be for someone to not like Paper Mario, ha ha!)

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  3. Wow, Duck, I think we had the exact same first impressions of this game! I too tried it out fir the first time not long ago, and I had the same complaints, especially about the game’s difficulty. I have to admit that I gave up and eventually played something else. But your discussion here makes me think that it’s definitely worth going back to. I’ll have to make a point of that at some…point.

    I think that nostalgia is a huge factor in gaming, and it can make or break one’s own experiences. For instance, with Metroid Prime, having not really played it during its heyday, I didn’t have any kindred feelings for it. And when I did get around to playing it, I didn’t always understand what about it people enjoyed so immensely. (Frankly, parts of it were really darn frustrating!) On the flip side, I have really strong feelings for Street Fighter II Turbo, but I don’t know that I recommend it to someone interested in playing fighting games. (It’s even difficult for me to play today!) There are better, modern iterations of the game that are easier to get into.

    Just because I harbor nostalgia for a particular game, it doesn’t mean that everyone else should or can love it in the same manner.

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    1. While Super Mario RPG ended up getting better with time, I’m not sure if I could ever play it again. It just didn’t click with me, and if I’m going to play a Mario RPG, I’d much rather Paper Mario. But yeah, I have games, too, that I really enjoy, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to others because I know it’s my nostalgia that’s partly responsible for my opinions.

      Metroid Prime was my very first Metroid game, so that’s probably partly why I enjoyed it so much, because, on the other hand, I agree, those games could indeed be really frustrating at times. Especially the second one. It was tough.

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  4. I really enjoy SMRPG but I’ve seen friends play it for the first turn and wonder what all the fuss is about. I think that with any old classic, we’ve iterated so many quality of life improvements that it’s hard to overlook terrible UI, controls, cameras etc. Games used to lack any kind of explanation, and relied on trial and error. That type of learning isn’t efficient nor fun for most people these days (myself included).

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    1. That’s quite true, after we’ve gotten used to all the improvements nowadays, sometimes it’s hard to enjoy certain older games. I know of people who can’t get into FF7 because of the graphics. As much as I recommend certain classic, retro games to people, if they didn’t play it back when it was first released, they might not be able to enjoy it partly because technology has changed so much since then. And I suppose I’m the same way. I’m willing to go back as far as the SNES, but I just can’t play the original Zelda and Metroid on the NES. I tried very hard to get into those, but I couldn’t. They were just too simple for my tastes.

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  5. I’m on sort of the opposite side of the nostalgia spectrum when it comes to Paper Mario vs. Super Mario RPG. I played Super Mario RPG first, and had it for a couple of years before Paper Mario came out. So, I grew up with both, but Mario RPG came first.

    I actually have a bit of trouble when it comes to deciding which of the two is better. On one hand, I really like the world, battle system, and bosses of Mario RPG. On the other hand, Paper Mario has more charm to it, has a more deliberate pace to its battles, and has a superior sense of adventure. Really, I should place both on the same level, but I still favor Mario RPG; it’s just got an edge I guess.

    However, I don’t think lack of nostalgic value can be a detriment to a game. I only got around to playing Chrono Trigger when I was in college, and it still blew my socks off. Good games will always be good, I think.

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    1. Yes indeed, nostalgia definitely is not the only deciding factor in how much we like a game. Like I mentioned earlier (I think I did, at least), EarthBound did not suffer despite the fact that I had not grown up playing it. I still loved it when I played it for the first time several months ago. Something about it really worked for me, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to form the same bond with Super Mario RPG. I think with certain games, they either have that certain…something that makes us attached to them, or they don’t. And whatever that something is, I have yet to figure it out.

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      1. You’re not the only one who can’t put their finger on what that “something” is. It’s kinda like what Cary was talking about in that article about when games “click” for you.

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