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.

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Apparently the Dreamcast Sucks…

I hate video game reviews. I truly do. With this week’s release of Jet Set Radio HD, I’m just reminded of how deep my hatred for what game reviewing has become. How can a website rightfully justify giving a classic a 4.5 when they previously rated it a 9?

Now, I understand that tastes change and people move away from the things they used to love, but how does a quintessential Dreamcast title suddenly become something broken and unpolished? For that matter, was the Dreamcast ever worth owning? All I’ve been seeing from the re-releases of its “classics” are reviews that top off at 6 out of 10.

It just boggles my mind to try and figure out how a game becomes so awful over the course of a decade. I haven’t played a single title from my youth in recent years that hasn’t held up to some degree. Sometimes awkward dialog or story progression rear their ugly heads, but level design and controls have always been a constant for me.

If I disliked the way the camera moved or the way combos were executed back in the day, I clearly remember all of that and expect it in the future. Hell, sometimes games I disliked back in the day are actually better with age, so what gives with “Jet Set Radio?”

I’m also getting really tired of reviewers claiming that titles are antiquated or feel old and that is their reason for being bad. Well, why do new games like “Castle Crashers” and “Scott Pilgrim” come out and get high marks for being old-school and retro? The contradiction doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t praise one thing for the same reason you hate another!

For that matter, old games don’t suddenly become bad over the years. I understand that the philosophy behind developing anything should be to improve on the predecessors, but I still enjoy “Super Mario World” and “Street Fighter II,” despite the fact that their sequels may have improved in certain regards.

Not that film or music can even really compare to video games, but you don’t see Roger Ebert going back and claiming “Hotel Rwanda” actually sucks. When he states that his opinion of a movie is positive, he always sticks to it. Just because things have changed in cinema or methods or production doesn’t mean that Rwanda is no longer worth it.

Sorry, I can’t control this properly anymore!

If I go and ask my friend if she still likes the older Dave Matthews albums, she’s not going to say no! I don’t dislike old Tool albums or Daft Punk, either, despite their styles changing and evolving over the years. When something is good, it is good!

My only real understanding of this situation comes with my old passion for Slipknot. I used to love their direct and dirty style of metal, but as I grew older and broadened my range of music, I drifted away from them. I no longer listen to them and I don’t really have the desire to.

I still recognize their greatness, though. Nothing is wrong with the band and their music will always be a shining example of power/hard metal done right. Hell, their live album is fucking insanely good!
In fact, I went and re-beat “Super Mario Land” last night just for fun. That game is still good. I have lots of nostalgia for it (it was my second Gameboy game ever), but the title is a quick, quirky, fun little game and is well worth playing through. Hell, it’s even better now because of how similar newer Mario games are becoming.

Maybe I just hold video games closer to my heart? I really can’t make up an excuse or claim my passion is stronger, though. That’s very selfish. I’m just finding it hard to understand how “Jet Set Radio” is now considered a waste of time when it was once proclaimed to be a revelation.

I suppose my friend Corey sums it up the best, though.