This article was originally published on my Google Blogger website.
“Nostalgia trips,” as I like to call them, are periods of time when I have an unexpected, sudden passion for remembering and immersing myself in something I adored in years past. For example, Lego’s “Bionicle” toy line was something I was a part of from its inception to its conclusion. I still reminisce on all the books, toys, comics, and communities I was a part of for so long…I’ll never forget Bionicle.
Another more relevant and current example involves Spyro the Dragon, which was one of the first games I ever played, and I certainly remember it with fond memories. I’m even making a “Let’s Play” series right now on YouTube of The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning because I want to see how it compares to the original games by Insomniac Games (I plan to finish the subsequent Legend of Spyro games as well). Despite its questionable Metacritic score, I dove straight in out of whether or not the game itself would be fantastic, but simply because I love Spyro so much.
After suffering from “writer’s block” for a bit, the latter example inspired me recently with an idea: why not ramble on about the game franchises I have the most nostalgia for? I may be a fan of dozens upon dozens of games, but only a handful manage to elicit a special kind of feeling in me that simply makes me smile when I dwell on them. That’s what makes nostalgia a funny and strange thing, but I’m sure everyone would agree that it’s also absolutely wonderful to feel! So, the question still looms…what game franchises do I have in mind when it comes to nostalgia? Well, I’ve put ten of them in a semi-accurate list from least to most potent, but I’d say there’s room for error from anywhere between 1-2 places. Therefore, the order is supposed to be taken with a large grain of salt. Let’s begin.
10. Super Smash Bros.
This is a bit of an oddity to put on here due to the fact that I did not get into Super Smash Bros. until Brawl was announced. The Wii was the first Nintendo home console I owned (sad, I know), and I was determined to get my hands on this fighter. I followed all the news every day, made mock rosters of characters I wanted in Brawl, discussed many aspects of the game with communities, and even purchased Melee in preparation for its successor. So after a couple of agonizing delays, I rejoiced when I finally got Brawl, which was – hands down – my most anticipated game (probably of all time). I look back regretfully on the precious time wasted looking at and researching the game and how I could have been spending my time doing other things, but I don’t regret a minute of playing Brawl in the slightest. I would contest that it is on par with Melee and – for me at least – stands as one of my favorite games and fighters. The visuals are crisp and have an awesome, gritty style, the controls are flawless, the huge roster is balanced and impressive, and…come on. It’s a game where Nintendo’s most famous characters (including some guests) fight it out…is there a better crossover?
Now that the Wii U and 3DS Super Smash Bros. games have been announced, I look forward to hearing all about them until they come out next year. I’ve got a lot of exciting memories and moments from playing Melee and Brawl, but now that I’m off to college to study with a group of people that want to get into the video game industry, I bet we’ll all play the new ones together and form some hilarious and epic memories to look back on.
9. Assorted Mario Titles
What I mean by “assorted” is that there are several Mario games that I could list down here. What comes to mind first is Super Mario Galaxy (specifically the first one), which would easily be in my top 10 most favorite games. The beautiful worlds, flowing and snappy gameplay, grand musical score, and amount of content to explore is simply too much to take in…in the best kind of way, of course. Although I didn’t entirely complete the second game, I reached 100% as both Mario and Luigi in the first one. It just had so much replay value, and I was captivated by the striking creativity and imagination of Nintendo seeping through Super Mario Galaxy.
I’d like to mention the Mario and Luigi series as well, which is marked by the best storytelling out of all Mario games, a stunning visual style, and an incredible RPG system with some action elements. There’s also Mario Kart Wii and DS, which have near impeccable controls with just the right feel for driving, a multitude of visually scintillating and colorful tracks, and plenty of worthy side content to invest time into. The list goes on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Certain Mario games strike a chord with some players while others do not. For me, the ones I listed above put me in the former group, which is why I’m extremely excited for titles like Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and Mario Kart 8. Bring them on!
8. Call of Duty
Why? The reason why I’d choose Call of Duty is because when my dad used to play video games on an occasional basis, he normally delved into shooters like Medal of Honor and SOCOM. However, I remember one particular night where he called me to my room (where he was actually playing on my PS2 while I was doing something else!) and asked me if I could try to overcome a difficult campaign level in Call of Duty: Finest Hour. All I remember is being able to help him out and then taking the reigns for the rest of the night. From there, it’s strange because when he realized he could just watch me play in lieu of struggling on his own, he gradually fell out of buying and playing games for himself to the point where he now can’t efficiently operate analog sticks to simultaneously move forward and look around. I actually find it sad and even frustrating that he watches me play games now instead of challenging himself to enjoy the full experience, but he’s a busy man. But since he’s sat down and watched me play the campaign and multiplayer of almost every Call of Duty after Finest Hour, at least he still retains an interest in video games to talk about them with me, watch trailers, and so forth.
I don’t care what anyone says…the majority of this game franchise’s releases have been earned financially and critically by what it has accomplished. The controls and formula are near perfect (to a fault due to franchise fatigue), the graphics have been able to stand strong with the same engine since Call of Duty 4, and the multiplayer is exemplary. Although it wouldn’t kill for Activision to start messing around with it to experiment and try new/eccentric ideas, Call of Duty has definitely been a fairly consistent thrill ride. Adrenaline-pumping missions from Call of Duty 4, the excitement of waiting for Modern Warfare 2’s bombastic campaign and multilayer, and Zombies with friends in World at War…yep. Good times indeed.
7. Lego Racers / Lego Star Wars
This category mostly consists of the Lego video games as a whole, but I’d like to point out Racers and Star Wars. The former series may not be mechanically or visually astounding as racing games, but for some reason, I’ve never laughed as much while playing a game as I did with Lego Racers 2. The first game solidified my love for the power-ups, custom car building, and comical humor, but the second game took these pros and significantly improved them. There’s an open world that can be freely explored to complete all sorts of objectives and collect hidden items, and constructing cars is a bit more advanced by additional features and different types of cars (trucks, hover cars, etc.). As for the chaotic hilarity that ensued while playing this game, I think it normally occurred when I ran around jumping off cliffs and chasing my friends around the island thanks to co-op. Ah, the silly things we do in games.
There’s not much to say about Star Wars. When the first and second games came out, I just simply adored everything about them. The simple action-adventure gameplay is easy to jump into and lots of fun, collecting studs can unlock a host of characters and funny modifications that change in-game mechanics and visuals, the humorous take on the Star Wars stories through Lego “lenses” results in quite a few laughs, and searching for minikits becomes an addictive and rewarding challenge for me. Although I haven’t played much of the other Lego games that have come out over the years, I’ve recently gotten into Lego Lord of the Rings to relive those good, old days by playing with my sister. Seeing all the changes that have been made over the years is a nostalgic and new experience at the same time, and I love every moment.
6. NASCAR / Burnout
Although my love for the racing genre has waned over time, I still revere some older games classified in it that were an absolute blast to play. When it comes to NASCAR, one of my favorite games under this franchise (which sadly produced no sequels) is NASCAR RUMBLE. Although I enjoyed the numbered games like NASCAR 2005 and 2006, this game was unlike all the others. Absolutely crazy, impossible, and diversified tracks ranging from a city in the night from the countryside can be found; there are outlandish power-ups (similar to what Mario Kart has) that include a shield a player could be granted that sends other opponents flying when they touch him/her, a blizzard that can freeze a car solid, and a horrifying tornado that wipes everyone out of someone’s way; wild music fitting each track plays in the background, and there’s also a commentator that constantly critiques the activities that go on in races with tongue-in-cheek humor. And lastly, dozens upon dozens of cars (and upgraded, better versions of default cars) can be unlocked by completing certain challenges. Come on, who wouldn’t want to be ludicrous and pilot an RV among some of the world’s best racers? Ha, man. What a crazy game.
Burnout is a franchise that evolved to god-like status with Burnout 3: Takedown. It’s easily the best one and my favorite racing game for many a good reasons. One: the controls are fluid and responsive, and mechanics such as being able to drift and boost forward feel so satisfying and immersive. Two: the tracks are excellently designed and present challenging (but fair) obstacles such as innocent AI citizens and sudden changes in the environment. Three: diverse challenges can be accomplished for trophies and unlockable cars by crashing other racers in specific ways or into certain places, completing a race quickly or without using something, and more. Four: the campaign racing tours are pumped with thrilling excitement and tension, especially when playing on harder difficulties. Five: Crash Mode! The objective of it is self-explanatory: take an extremely expensive car, strategically ram it into heavy traffic, watch the devastation unfold while metal detritus flies everywhere, and hope that a gold medal will be earned for taking out a massive load of cars. I could keep going, but it’ll suffice to say that this game is not only my favorite racing game, but very likely in my top 10 favorite games too. I just wish that a developer would bring back this kind of Burnout to the next generation of consoles (unlike the open world racing of Paradise). I know I’d be one of the first to pick it up!
5. Crash Bandicoot
Being one of the kings of platforming, the first game in the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy was the first game I ever played (which actually belonged to my dad), and it has surprisingly aged well over the years. Naughty Dog sure knew what they were doing back then with their cartoony and eccentric characters, stories, and settings up until they finished with Jak and Daxter. It’s why I love Crash Bandicoot; it has that weird charm like the majority of Mario games. Both of them are colorful, crazy, and unadulterated franchises, and they manage to bring joyful smiles to my face in the midst of the deluge of serious, dark games that have become more proliferate as the years go by. I wish Naughty Dog would re-obtain the rights to their beloved marsupial and bring back platforming goodness to a new generation. Although this is extremely unlikely, I suppose I can dream of reliving an old, favorite game series of mine someday.
4. Star Wars: Battlefront
I couldn’t tell you how many hours I invested into Star Wars: Battlefront 2. It was the perfect realization of Star Wars combat for me at the time it was released and I could barely put it down. Being able to play as varying classes of clone troopers, droids, rebels, and storm troopers on iconic locations in the Star Wars universe was simply a dream come true. And not only that, but being able to take flight in spaceships and destroy the opposing team by taking down their defenses and raiding their ship? How about vehicles, dozens of on-screen AI, and gigantic maps? Man, these things were beyond awesome! However, one would think this would grow tiresome and repetitive rather quickly, but this was never the case for me. For some reason, Battlefront 2 continued to deliver with its team deathmatch and capture the flag-esque modes. This game was done so right, and that’s why it was as excellent as it was. The same goes for the campaign, which was an extremely interesting look into the story of the clone troopers and how they transitioned to the Empire. Ha, I stress again how amazing it is how much time I put into this game. I must have played the Conquest mode (where a player conquers planets across the universe one battle at a time whilst upgrading fleets and armies from victories) for the four factions easily more than six times each! It’s no wonder – especially after describing this – why I screamed like a schoolgirl when I found out DICE is creating the next Battlefront. I’m stocked to see what they will do with it because I know their expertise with shooters and respect for the original games will carry over into the quality and care of one of my most anticipated games. Bring it on DICE! Man, isn’t it wonderful to see something like this resurrected? The seemingly impossible has been brought to fruition here.
Funny thing is that my sister got Pokémon Crystal for one of her birthdays around the time I was 12. She obviously didn’t play it, so I “borrowed” it from her and found myself eventually falling in love with it. I had heard about the Pokémon anime and gathered that the games were similarly uninteresting, but I was dead wrong. I had never truly played an RPG before Crystal, so learning how turn-based battles functioned, memorizing what was effective against what, choosing specific Pokémon that I liked, and leveling up smartly were all beginning experiences for me. I enjoyed the way Crystal simplified this kind of system, even though it’s actually quite complicated and difficult to understand under the surface (EV Training anyone?). Therefore, I decided to get LeafGreen…then Emerald, and I’m sure you can assume it took off from there. Diamond was the game I invested the most time in; I clocked in around 300 hours, which is probably the most time I’ve spent on any game (and ever will). I also bought SoulSilver when it came out, but I fell out of Pokémon for almost two years after that. However, about two months ago, I had a nostalgia trip and decided to check out Black 2 to see how Pokémon had evolved (no pun intended). The moving animations, slightly improved graphics, and new battles shook things up a bit; I’m glad I decided to check these things out over my summer break. However, these small adjustments can’t compare to what X and Y are striving for on the 3DS. Full 3D graphics are acting as a combo breaker by jumping from the traditional, pixilated graphics. The story and character development might take a deeper approach (finally) since a group of companions will be present often; there’s no such thing as being the “I travel alone” trainer in X and Y, and that’s nice to see since Pokémon is an inherently social-like experience. There are also new, exciting battle modes, a new type has been announced (Fairy), and – as always – a myriad of new Pokémon will be ready to battle and capture in the region of Kalos: a France-like land and culture filled to the brim with vibrant environments. There’s a little mode too where a player can pet, feed, and play with their Pokémon to increase their affection toward the player, but I’m not entirely sold on it yet…seems a bit strange. However, I think I’ll warm up to it once I test it out for myself. And lastly, “mega evolutions” were recently announced, which is something that can drastically or minimally alter the stats, abilities, or type of a Pokémon only in and during battle!
It’s the perfect time to be a Pokémon fan because the franchise is receiving long-awaited, fresh, and needed changes. I’m excited to see how it all turns out! And despite all the changes, I’ll still be going on another fantastical adventure that only the charm of Pokémon can offer.
2. Kingdom Hearts
I remember picking up Kingdom Hearts 1 at Best Buy about nine years ago, and I actually don’t recall why I did (it greatly confuses me to this day), but I know I had heard about it from somewhere and was interested in it. I had never played Final Fantasy and was indifferent to anything Disney, so I don’t why the combination caught my eye. Anyway, what blew me away about the game once I finished it was the bafflingly convoluted and “surprise at every corner” story, insanely deep and appealing characters, challenging action-RPG gameplay, and uncontested, spine-chilling, and utterly magnificent soundtrack. This was also the PS2 Greatest Hits version that I purchased, so I was relieved to find out that the second game had already come out. Now, I may have played a lot of the first game, but I clocked in at least 100-150 hours into Kingdom Hearts 2. I grinded like there was no tomorrow to extirpate Sephiroth, obtained all of the keyblades, and tried to find as much as I could in all the worlds. At this point, Kingdom Hearts became something…well, magical, as a whole. The simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking story that revolves around the soul, feelings, the dichotomy between good/light and evil/darkness, and friendship is quite touching. The characters further accentuate these themes by their deep (even philosophical) outpourings from the heart and intense debates (mostly between heroes and villains), which make them all the more memorable and easy to emotionally attach to throughout the stories. The music…my goodness, the music is some of the best that video games have to offer, and it always causes me to stop in my tracks due to the musical genius of Yoko Shimomura. It’s always mainly been about these things for me when it comes to my love for the franchise, which is why I’ve enjoyed seeing and playing spin-offs every 2 years or so. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve been anxiously waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3 for seven years. But thankfully, that changed with E3 when I saw the trailer for it. My body froze with shock as soon as I saw the Disney logo pop up on the screen, and I’ll tell you, the stupidest grin remained on my face during the entirety of the video. It was almost surreal to see it finally come into being, and with me just finishing Dream Drop Distance, I’m more than ready to experience the last of the trilogy on a console once more. It’s long overdue.
1. Spyro the Dragon
You might have seen this coming either from the introduction of this article or if you happen to know a bit about me! Over Kingdom Hearts, Crash Bandicoot, and Pokémon, why on earth do I have such exorbitant nostalgia for this little dragon? For starters, “Ripto’s Rage!” was also one of the first, true games I had ever played. I eventually got the first game and then the third as soon as possible. As a kid playing the original trilogy, there was almost nothing more fun for me to do. I playfully frolicked around as Spyro in the diverse, beautiful, and captivating landscapes; I explored and discovered side quests that ranged from timed battles to sports like skating and hockey; I laughed and smiled at the extreme personalities of characters and the rampant, cute humor; I felt like a true dragon when ramming enemies with my mighty horns, incinerating anything with blazing fire, and gliding across chasms and off of hills (this being reinforced with a responsive camera and controls); and most importantly, I believe Spyro inspired me at a subconscious level during my childhood. Being small and inconspicuous, you’d think this dragon wouldn’t have much to offer in the way of help or let alone saving the world. Yet, as Spyro evolved as a character, his charming sarcasm, optimistic outlook, and friendly nature never faltered in the midst of overwhelming odds and negative situations. Perhaps this is too deep, but as a kid, he was an example to me that anyone can change the course of history. This is possible not due to what someone happens to be through genetic predisposition, but whom someone can choose to be through their actions and decisions toward others and the situations they encounter through life. It’s a classic life lesson I learned from a video game, which rings true throughout real history and its many exemplary figures and leaders. Ha, it’s also just another reason why video games are so beneficial at not only improving reflexes and coordination, but also for instilling and building character.
All these reasons are why I look longingly to the past of my most beloved video game franchise and become sad when I see what has become of it today. The Legend of Spyro games (which I will play through over the coming months) are certainly not bad. In fact, I bet each one is good (and only that) and will be worth my time. However, from what I’ve gathered, they lack a significant amount of the freedom in gameplay and lighthearted nature of the stories that make the original games so grand. And don’t get me started on Skylanders, which isn’t even about Spyro at this point. Isn’t he just a side character? Dang, how sad…
Insomniac Games will probably never touch Spyro again. I might never see a resurrection of the games I know and love for a new generation. Sure, nothing’s impossible, but even if this wouldn’t happen, I’d be all for a passionate developer that has much respect and reverence for Spyro to bring him back to his platforming prime. Hey, Activision, if not Insomniac Games, put a suitable developer on doing a separate series of Spyro games targeted at thousands upon thousands of fans like me. Or how about an HD collection of the Spyro the Dragon trilogy? I’ll wait patiently for that purple buddy of mine to come back in a form I recognize, and when he truly does, I will rejoice over a game like never before.
Man, that was a walk down memory line. I feel like I could talk about these games forever. Now, it’s time for the most important questions of all. What games are you nostalgic for from long ago? What game franchises (or just a specific game) make you smile in response to pleasant memories? Would you like to see a successor/reboot/remake come about from this franchise, or would it be best to leave it in the past to avoid an unfortunate tarnish on the franchise with a bad game? Let me know in the comments below because this is a conversation I would love to participate in with everyone. Thanks for stopping by!