Out of Control: No need for a throwback Thursday for many of our childhood titles

March 26, 2015

Nineties kids and nostalgia go hand-in-hand like cats and the internet.

Much like the patrons of these videos, the current makeup of the gaming market is young. So many published enthusiasts today grew up playing the same titles. People go absolutely bonkers over Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with good reason. These titles were innovative, some say revolutionary.

They’re also tinted with the memories of an era where most of the gamers of today were discovering their passion, for better or for worse.

I’ll try and give you an example.

I recently ordered a USB Super Nintendo controller off of Amazon, hoping to make the game emulation applications on my computer a little more realistic. There’s something about playing with a controller that just feels right (console peasant status cemented).

The download queue on my Mac read like a ’90s kid’s dream. A Link to the Past, Shadowrun, Super Mario World, and more poured into my hard drive like the sweet nectar of the gods. One title to rule them all captured my attention. The crown jewel of the ’90s RPG genre. The game touted as one of the undisputed best of all time.

My body was ready… for Chrono Trigger.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the game had aged well. Some RPGs from the ’80s and ’90s are downright painful to play, but the art and narrative style of it seemed like something straight out of the 2000s, something I would have played growing up (late bloomer here). A lot of people point to the fact that Chrono Trigger was so far ahead of its time as part of the reason it’s so beloved, and I’d have to agree.

The characters were interesting, the plot was anything but linear, and the story was compelling. I’ll admit, it was hard to put down, but I wasn’t blown away like the majority of its audience/fanbase.

Now, some will argue that’s because I’m playing it out of context—that if I’d been there in 1995 when the game was initially released, SNES controller in hand, I would have been awestruck. There might be some validity to this claim, yet I still can’t help but wonder if maybe the critics of today are blowing its revolutionary characteristics out of proportion.

They talk about the depth of certain characters that inhabit the games story, but Final Fantasy was already on its sixth installment by the time Chrono Trigger was released.

No one does character development quite like FF. They talk about the story concept and mechanics, but time travel always leaves a few paradoxes lying around that no deus ex machina can quite iron out. Final Fantasy was great but, in my opinion, might not be worth the hysteria some associate with its name.

I can say the same for a few of the other titles from bygone eras. But I won’t for the moment. Chrono Trigger spoke to people who were playing it back in the ’90s, and it was a great game, so I can’t fault either the art or the audience for that. However, it might not be worth deifying in a way similar to that of modern critics, especially when it can get in the way of objectively evaluating a game based on its merit.

Remember your first kiss, or your first love? Remember how sweet it was? For the majority of us (myself way included) that can be attributed to the simple fact that  we just didn’t know any better.

Your first video game loves work the exact same way. I won’t ever forget the countless hours I spent working my way through Golden Sun’s vast world, or blowing my brother away in Star Wars: Battlefront, but I certainly realize the rose-colored spectacles I don when talking about my experiences.

The games were good, but I’d rather admit my own bias and be able to discuss them as they truly are.

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