How Retro Can You Go: A Discussion of Spooniness

There are some gamers who openly admit that they have no desire to play older games because they prefer the more advanced, better looking games of today.  There are others who say that gameplay is the only thing that matters, so if a game is good, no matter how old it is, they will play it.  I am usually in the latter category, but over the past year, I have realized that I, too, have a limit for how far back into the past I can go and still enjoy gaming.  I think every gamer has this limit.  Mine is the SNES, with a few exceptions.

You see, I once believed that I could play any game, despite its age, and enjoy it as long as it was a good game.  I had plenty of SNES games I loved, and one day, I thought I’d travel just a little farther back in time and download a few Virtual Console games for the NES.  These games were the original Legend of Zelda and Metroid games.  Being classic games that marked the beginning of two amazing franchises, surely I couldn’t go wrong.  Right?

Wrong.

I love both of these respective franchises, but as I began the original Zelda, I recall losing interest very quickly.  I know the game is old, but I didn’t enjoy the bland scenery, and some of my dismay also came from having to trek for so long through this scenery searching for any hint of what I was supposed to do.  The game just gives you no directions whatsoever.  You just start playing and…you’re probably supposed to look for dungeons, and I finally found one, and I defeated a dragon, and…then I gave up because I didn’t want to hunt for dungeons anymore.  My time with Metroid was even more short-lived.  The graphics were too simple for me, and even though I don’t recall having a lot of trouble with the game, I just…started randomly exploring, I never found a save point (are there any…?), I died a few times, had to start over, then gave up.  I can play The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid for the SNES, but when it comes to venturing further back in time, I just can’t do it.

As I mentioned before, I can pretty much play as far back as the SNES, though there are certainly exceptions to this rule.  I found that I also have a limit as far as Final Fantasy games are concerned.  I’ve been slowly working my way back through the Final Fantasy series, and the last two games I owned that needed playing were FF4 and 5.  (I don’t own anything before that, and frankly, I’m a bit confused about the numbering of the older Final Fantasy games.)  I recently beat FF4, and as of writing this, I have been playing FF5 for about a week now.  Both are SNES games, but for some reason, I couldn’t get into FF4, even though I’m having a lot of fun with FF5.  And it’s not the game itself because a little bit of research online told me that FF4 was a very popular game.  People loved it.  So why didn’t I?

While I didn’t hate playing FF4 or anything, I didn’t have tons of fun with it, either.  I think the problem is that, like the original Zelda and Metroid games, it’s just a bit too old and too simple for me to get into, and as a result, I just never really connected with any of them.  But, in case you’re not familiar with this game, why don’t I provide a quick overview, and you can decide for yourself if you want to give it a try.  Final Fantasy 4 is about Cecil, a dark knight who served a kingdom that was forcibly stealing the crystals (they’re very important, but I forgot why) from other kingdoms to use for their own evil purposes.  Cecil leaves his kingdom and goes on a quest not only to put a stop to this, but to redeem himself from his own wrongdoings.

Another aspect worth mentioning is that this game doesn’t let you choose your party members like later games in the series, but I thought it was rather interesting having an ever-changing party to work with as new people joined Cecil on his quest and old comrades left.  Some characters leave and return to your group later on, while your time with others is very short-lived.  For example, Edward.  (Remember the infamous line, “you spoony bard”?  Well, that’s him.  Can’t say he was spoonier than anyone else, though….)  This, well, rather spoony guy was in your party for a pretty short time, and once he’s gone, he never rejoins you.  Yes, he wasn’t a very good character and everyone pretty much says he is useless, but his temporary inclusion in your group just felt kind of pointless to me.  I, for one, have never met someone spoony before, and I would have liked to get to know him better.  The spoony aspect of his personality, anyway.  …Okay, I’ll stop now.

The game has some interesting plot twists, and there are some unexpected locations…or, to be more precise, some unexpected worlds that you visit which makes things more entertaining.  The battle system is pretty simple, and every character has their own role.  Sometimes you have multiple characters with similar abilities, but on the most part, everyone has their own move set and their own uses.  By the end of the game, you have a ninja, a summoner, and a white mage, for example, among others.  Of course, as I discussed in another post, I still failed to make proper use of my characters because I am generally not very good at venturing beyond the basics of RPGs.  Nevertheless, I still did pretty well, and in addition to obtaining optional summons like Leviathan, Asura, Odin, and Bahamut, I also defeated every optional boss in the final location of the game, including the dreaded Wyvern.  So maybe I’m not as cruddy as I thought.

Final Fantasy 4 is a good game.  I just didn’t get very attached to the main characters.  Honestly, I didn’t care that much about Cecil, even if his desire to redeem himself is an honorable one.  I also didn’t find myself particularly enthralled by the game’s story and our heroes’ efforts to prevent the crystals from being stolen by the game’s villains.  It was probably a great story at the time, but I guess nowadays, I’ve played RPGs with more complex, exciting stories that this one didn’t really interest me.  I think, for me, this game is just a bit too old.  That doesn’t make it bad.  The original Zelda game is certainly not bad.  They’ve just aged a bit too much, and they don’t appeal to me.  Ah, well.

What is your limit?  How far back can you venture into the gaming past before you lose interest?  Also, who here is spoony or knows someone who is spoony?  Please let me know in the comments!

A Spoony Duck

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Ryan says:

    I tried with my Legend of Zelda series. Lord knows I tried. I tried to play Link to the Past and just couldn’t keep going primarily because of what you said about the first Zelda game. Same old scenery and not a fucking clue. However, I can still play games like Mario Brothers, balloon fight, joust, urban brawl, road fighter but I guess those are different types of games.

    There was a game for PS1 called In Cold Blood, which when i played it was absolutely epic. Got through the whole game without a walkthrough. I tried playing it recently, I can’t. Good story, game play is crap and the graphics are so bad. They really should remake that game.

    Awesome to read your work again.:-)

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      It’s hard to say which retro games will click with us and which ones won’t. I don’t know why Final Fantasy 4 bored me, while EarthBound became one of my favorite RPGs ever. I certainly didn’t grow up with either of them, and they’re both from the same console, so that made no difference. And I don’t know how much I would have liked A Link to the Past had I not grown up with it. I had previously watched my parents play it, so I started out largely knowing what to do. If I hadn’t seen everything before, though, I might have lost interest almost as quickly as I did with the original.

      It’s strange when we really like a game, and then when we return to it later, it’s not nearly the same as we remembered. That’s kind of what happened with Donkey Kong 64. I don’t think I can ever bring myself to touch that game ever again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really fascinated by this question of how games age, and why they age well/poorly for some people and not for others.

    For me, I enjoy quite a few NES games to this day but Metroid certainly isn’t one of them. Besides the fact that the environments are incredibly repetitive and there’s no in-game map, the lack of a save system is infuriating. It wouldn’t be so bad if after you died the game restarted you with full health, but it doesn’t. It basically forces you to enter a password any time you die, because that way you start with full health and keep your upgrades. It’s crap, and it’s the reason I vastly prefer Kid Icarus over the original Metroid.

    I’ve not ever played the original Legend of Zelda, but I did enjoy Zelda 2 quite a bit. (It’s a very different kind of game to the original.) I suspect that for most people the NES games that hold up best are action games: your Megamans, Castlevanias, Ninja Gaidens, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, etc.

    I don’t play too many SNES games these days but I agree that its games are more accessible today than those on the NES. As you say, the RPGs are especially good and don’t feel dated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Ah, I was wondering if there were any save points in the original Metroid. I never liked the games that made you enter passwords in order to “save” your progress. I’ve had very few games like this, but when I do, I often enter the exact password the game gave me, and I’m told my password’s wrong, so I’ve lost all my progress. Croc 2 for the Game Boy Color was horrible in this respect. I’d usually save ten times whenever I wanted to stop playing so I’d have a bunch of passwords, then when I’d return to the game later, I’d enter each one in turn until one of the passwords actually worked.

      I should try Zelda 2. Maybe I’d like it more. I do need to try the Megaman games, as well. I’ve been meaning to for quite some time now, but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a great question. I think it’s also whatever era you grew up in – going back before that is difficult.

    So I’m with you on the 16-bit era – I still enjoy games from the SNES, the Atari ST, etc. We had a Game Boy and an 8-bit Atari as well, so I can play those as well.

    But going back in time to games before your era can be tricky. I struggled with the original Metroid too. But I completed and really enjoyed the original Zelda – even with the inability to move diagonally!

    It’s such a subjective thing – the perception of games aging well (or not).

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      I definitely agree, I think how far back in time we can go has a lot to do with where we started as gamers. If I had started with the Nintendo 64, I honestly couldn’t say whether or not I would be able to enjoy the SNES games as much as I do. I think in part, we get used to a certain level of technology and find it acceptable, but once we venture beyond that to less advanced games, it’s hard to enjoy them. Someone who grew up with the N64 would probably have a hard time playing 2D games when they are used to 3D ones.

      I should try returning to the original Zelda game someday. Between that one and the original Metroid, I could see myself having an easier time sticking with Zelda. Metroid was just too frustrating.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s another great point – kids that grew up completely in the era of 3D graphics having a hard time going back to 2D games.

        The first Zelda I had was Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy, and I had played those games on friends’ NES and SNES consoles. Ocarina of Time was the first 3D one of course, and that and Majora’s Mask are games I return to time and time again. Undisputed classics.

        Yet I’ve read comments over the years from the next generation of Nintendo gamers – their first Zelda game was Twilight Princess, and for them *that* is the greatest Zelda game, and they struggle going back the way.

        It’s a generational thing again, because I felt Twilight Princess was empty and padded out and overall just a poor retelling of Ocarina of Time!

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      2. duckofindeed says:

        I wonder how it is for people growing up during the current generation of consoles, since the change in graphics is a lot less drastic. If someone grows up with the PS4, would they be able to go back to the PS3 with ease because the graphics are pretty similar, or would they still have trouble venturing before the console they are used to? To think, we might one day have a whole bunch of gamers that couldn’t imagine playing the classic games we all love on the SNES and N64. It’s an unsettling thought to think that amazing games like Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie could almost be forgotten…. Perish the thought!

        I originally watched my parents play A Link to the Past, but the first Zelda game I played was Majora’s Mask. Those two, plus Ocarina of Time, comprised the first three Zelda games I ever played, and I find them to be some of the best of the series. I did enjoy Twilight Princess, but I definitely don’t see it being on par with the classics on the N64. As you said, it was empty. It just felt as if Twilight Princess lacked a soul.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ryan says:

    I was thinking about it again and there is one that I can still play on the SNES and thats Chrono Trigger. I thoroughly enjoyed it because of the alternate worlds and time travel. (i’m such a nerd for that kind of stuff). If I could get my hands on Chrono Chross again, i would play the hell out of that too.

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      I finally got around to playing Chrono Trigger myself a few years ago, and it was indeed pretty cool. I like games with time travel, too. I also got to play Chrono Cross, as well (a few years ago, I stocked up on a whole bunch of PS1 games and PS1 remakes of SNES games). It was pretty cheap on Amazon, if you have a console that can play PS1 games.

      Liked by 1 person

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