Critical Retrospect

Throughout my middle school years, I was known as a bit of a divisive person. My opinions were very binary and I often described things in short terms. This things sucks or that thing is sweet; it was very basic.

I still knew what I liked and what made things work, but I suppose I lacked the vocabulary to do justice to my critiques. As I grew older, I worked tirelessly to amend that, but I still don’t forget the analysis I gave to older games.

I never saw a real desire to go back and play those games. With the internet taking off and a vast array of gamers bringing hidden gems to light, there was hardly a need to look back and re-think my position on previously detested software.

Then recently, I saw ProJared’s video on Sonic Adventure 2. I’ve long held the opinion that the game was the final nail in the coffin for Sonic, but most gamers disagreed. When the title initially launched, I didn’t own a Dreamcast. My first foray into 3D Sonic was with the Gamecube release.

Y u no start sooner?!

While I was beyond excited to finally get to play this lost treasure, even at the young age of 15 I knew something was awry. I could never quite put my finger on what, but I didn’t hesitate to tell my friends that the game was garbage.

This led to my pals saying that I “hated everything.” Nearly every massively popular game that people were clamoring about I disliked. This misconception about what I found good just didn’t make sense to people around my age.

When you’re young, pretty much anything is exceptional. You look at the world with bright eyes and zero expectations. Everything you encounter is brand new and joyous. For me to rain on people’s parades must have been a total shock.

Seeing ProJared bash that game, though, I felt vindicated. With his more mature eye, he was able to explain exactly what I found so troublesome about Sonic’s 3D forays. Pacing issues, sloppy controls and meaningless character fluff were all mentioned.

When I read the name Sonic, I expect a Sonic game. I didn’t want to bother with Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik or Rouge. Shadow I was willing to accept as he stuck to a similar pattern with Sonic, but even he lacked a lot of imagination.

I smolder with generic rage.

The adventure games focused on being so much more than what fans expected that, in hindsight, they are pretty terrible games. Where as Mario made a successful jump to the third dimension by embracing the spirit of Mario’s character, Sonic failed to take notice of why fans enjoyed the Genesis classics.

Everything was now attitude, pure speed, flashy graphics, warped camera angles and exterior characters. The size of the cast in the first Sonic Adventure is insane. Why would I want to play as 4 other characters who are not Sonic?

As a more mature critic, even I will admit that certain areas of Sonic Adventure 2 aren’t that bad. There is a particular reason everyone remembers the intro to that game and it has nothing to do with it being 3D or novel. That level is exceptionally well made.

Then the rest of the levels try to through new ideas with mechanics that don’t change. Sonic is built for speed, whether his character relies on that or not. Sega didn’t think to give Sonic a speed other than balls to the wall fast.

Even the secondary characters blitz around the maps with reckless abandon. This makes otherwise simple arenas take upwards of half an hour to complete. Couple that with the random elements contained in the Knuckles/Rouge sections and you’ve got a recipe for nonsensical padding.

JUST ONE MORE!

I have no qualms with long games (I often enjoy them), but to needlessly extend the life of a Sonic game doesn’t make sense. If everything really loves the speed aspect of Sonic, why should his game take around 12 hours to finish?

This all started with the Dreamcast adventure games. I love that system, but holy cow did Sega lose their mind. In a last ditch effort to save the company’s console market, they took far too many risks with their beloved franchise. Sonic has never recovered.

I couldn’t voice all of that as a youngster. I don’t even think ProJared was capable back then. As we grow older, it becomes far easier to discern why we gravitate towards certain things. Trends become standard and expectations keep rising. You never want anything in your life to become a lifeless husk.

I just wish I could go back in time and use my knowledge to properly show my friends what I meant. I have that ability now, but being able to really explain my mind would have worked wonders for my depression in high school.

Then again, Sonic is still getting made and crappy movies still exist. Maybe people just won’t listen to someone who doesn’t share similar interests. There is always someone, but the masses eventually win.

Even if that realization is bleak, I mostly was concerned with how my mind has changed. It was fascinating to see ProJared come to the realization that Sonic Adventure 2 is a pretty awful game. It made me feel vindicated.

SUCKAS!

It was also quite a trip to think of how I missed so many obvious flaws. Things I take for granted now were lost on me in my youth. I suppose that is all just a darkly beautiful part of life.

Older and Older

“But time makes you bolder; Even children get older; And I’m getting older too.” – Fleetwood Mac

Birthdays are an event that I’ve never had a strong connection to. As a small child, I obviously loved getting new toys and goofing around, but somewhere in my teen years I began to question the practice of celebrating my day of birth.

Why was everything supposed to be dedicated to me? There are other people in the world who were born on the same day, yet I am supposed to throw that thought away and focus on myself? Even with my self-righteous teenage attitude, I felt that I shouldn’t draw attention to an event that wasn’t of my choosing.

I never asked for April 12th to be my birthday. I didn’t even have a say in when I would be born, let alone at all. This isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for life (ask me two years prior and I would say otherwise); I just don’t think a birthday is something one should take pride in.

Yeah; quiet, Jensen!

Everyone in the world has a birthday. Everyone in the world shares their birthday with someone else. For people to make such a commotion over what is a pretty common event just makes no sense to me.

As I grow older, I begin to see how different I’ve become. While I still do not care for any celebrations, I’m not so afraid of revealing when I was born. If someone wants to know for any conceivable reason, then why not tell them? I don’t have anything to hide.

Most importantly, this makes me think of how little gaming has changed for Nintendo. Their games are firmly rooted in tradition and formula. When was the last time we saw a 100% original Mario or Zelda title?

Even with the prospect of a new StarFox on the horizon, I’m wondering if it will end up being so similar to StarFox 64 that people won’t care. Nintendo doesn’t seem to mind. Even Metroid has gone into hibernation, despite being a big deal in the Gamecube era.

While Nintendo has finally branched out into some new IPs, both Codename S.T.E.A.M. and Splatoon are based on ideas that already exist. Nintendo isn’t so much breaking new ground as they are throwing their own flair into established formulas.

At least “artistically” it’s different.

I suppose that could be said of most “new” games, but I’m just curious if Nintendo will ever change. As time slithers by and we all grow into half-way functional adults, will Nintendo manage to provide a better flair and vest for future generations?

I don’t mean to say that Nintendo should only focus their marketing and development on former children. Newer kids are growing up with a lot of conveniences that I never had. The internet is a prevalent entity in the modern era and instantaneous access is almost the norm.

Nintendo doesn’t seem to embrace that. Putting games on the eShop day and date with their retail release is a start, but their lack of connectivity in certain titles (Mario 3D World) just makes me wonder how much longer their fire will burn.

For that matter, why are Sony and Microsoft practically indistinguishable from each other? While both of those companies have managed to change with the times, their game catalogs overlap in so many ways. Even exclusives for each platform are hard to differentiate.

They’ve changed in ways that appeal less to me as an adult. I see fat-cat executives making calculated decisions on how to extract the most profit from a potential idea. Nothing seems to be made with bold artistic vision anymore.

Now, this could mostly be cynicism from years of being depressed, but I just want a change. I want the industry I love and the hobby I can never put aside to do something different. Excite me with a concept that isn’t a gimmick. Thrill me with a totally unique gametype.

As we travel into the future, I just want gaming to travel with us. The past isn’t the only thing that matters. We need to make time for the future.