Gaming Thoughts: Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a very powerful force. It can completely distort the past unlike any other thing in the world. Recently, “Duke Nukem Forever” saw the light at the end of the release tunnel and gamers were thrilled. The thing is, we all wanted it for the sake of nostalgia.

While I’m not going to detail my utter disdain for that dreadful title, I would like to go over how frustrated my past with Duke 3D got me over the new game. As awkward as this may sound, I actually played Duke 3D back when it launched in 1997.

At the time, I was 9 years old. My parents were very trusting of my understanding of video games and how they differentiated from real life, so they let me embark on any kind of violent/adult/debauched type of games. Being 9, I never noticed the blood or nudity or cursing, I just liked the game.

A few years back I got to replay Duke 3D on Xbox Live Arcade and I was surprised at how ahead of its time the game was. While there certainly were aspect that hasn’t aged well (I’m looking at you water level), the game really created a sense of atmosphere that most modern games can’t even compare to. Even the voice acting was still ridiculously hilarious, regardless of how much wit it lacked.

What else made the game so great were the graphics. While ID was busy trying to take first-person gaming into full 3D with “Quake,” 3D Realms stuck with what worked and made the best damn version of “Doom” that was ever made. Yeah, Duke essentially ripped off the grand-daddy of shooters, but it had a sense of cartoony style and flair that Call of Duty wishes it had.

When I installed Forever on my PC, I expected at least something from the original. The only thing I got was the fucking water level and that caused me to break my phone in rage. I don’t understand what the mentality was over the 14 year development cycle, but I think it’s pretty sad that we got a game that’s about 7 steps backwards from what Duke 3D did.


This is literally the only achievement Forever accomplishes.

My biggest beef, though, has to be the loss of character and art style. Like I described to my best friend/brother, Jim, “The monsters look extremely realistic. It’s like when you’re a kid and you always wondered what it would be like to actually be the character. Then when you finally see how flimsy and stupid it is, you just want the original.”

The worst offender for the character is his psychopathic sense of humor. I understand that during my life time, I’ve made some awful jokes. I’m not trying to debate here that I’m a high and mighty, morally upstanding person (hell, I get drunk on a fairly regular basis), but why would you write rape and abortion jokes into your script? Why does one line in the game consist of the word fuck, shit and bullshit 3 times each?

On the flip side, though, I’ve also been playing through the re-released Ocarina of Time on 3DS and my memories are still intact. In fact, the game is actually a bit better than I remember it some 13 years ago. Nintendo held their title to such a high standard that they even improved lacking aspects.

The wonderful, colorful, vibrant world is left alone, but polygon counts are boosted and the frame rate is smoothed out to create such a different experience that it’s almost worth owning both versions. My only complaint in more recent years was the damn iron boots in the Water Temple and Nintendo fixed it.

Playing through, all I could say to Jim were things like, “Oh shit, it’s time for Jabu-Jabu,” or, “God, these chickens look ridiculous in 3D,” and my personal favorite, “Oh snap! Din’s Fire! Shit just got real!” I got misty eyed when I heard the overworld theme again and I kept reliving memories of my youth when I got to specific moments in the game.

While I wouldn’t say that Ocarina is worth the purchase of a 3DS, if you do own the system, you owe it to yourself to relive this classic. It’s similar to how Duke 3D still outshines a lot of modern shooters; Ocarina is such a feature filled world that it puts a lot of open-world games to shame.


The horse even controls better than Red Dead Redemption! Fuck yeah, Epona!

It’s astounding how the force of nostalgia can create positive and negative emotions all within the same week. Duke fails my childhood while Link escalates it back into my conscious. This brings up a bigger idea, though; Did Gearbox sell us nostalgia for a simple dollar?

I used to hold Gearbox to a high standard. While they weren’t flawless and even their greatest game had a few issues, I always trusted their games to be fun, deep experiences. Duke does a huge disservice to the developers and really hurts their image in my eyes.

And yet Nintendo, who can consistently piss me off with their lack of online support and their asinine ideas for modern consoles, still manages to impress some 23 years into my life. When their titles get as much care and respect placed into their development as gamers hold in their hearts, then there really isn’t anything that they can’t accomplish.

While I wish I didn’t have these past experiences hindering my present being, nostalgia really isn’t all that bad. It just goes to show that developers really need to love what they are doing. If you simply finish something because gamers have been waiting more than half their lives, then you’re setting yourself up for a big failure.

As for the future, I believe nostalgia will still obscure my views. “Sonic Generations” is coming out and it’s poising to finally bring together both generations of Sonic fans. I’ve always preferred the classic style of Sonic, but if Sega can finally and lovingly create a 3D Sonic, maybe I’ll only have positive things to say.

It’s hard to tell with nostalgia, but I do know that it’s not going away anytime soon.

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