The Warped Expectations Surrounding Video Game Classics

Screenshot: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc

It’s easy to pass over a great game. Not everybody has the time, money or means to play every critically acclaimed title, and as the years go by, games considered to be “the best” can fall by the wayside.

By the time I was old enough to afford my own consoles, I was stuck in a somewhat stagnant Nintendo rut. It wasn’t until a few years after university that I finally picked up a used PlayStation 3 and a few choice titles.

Thanks to the PlayStation Network I was able to try out classics such as Spyro and Crash Bandicoot long after their late ‘90s heyday. It was thrilling to think that I would get the chance to experience the games so many players had come to love over the past two decades.

Unfortunately, these classic games never seemed to quite live up to the hype I had built up within my own mind.

Even classic Nintendo titles such as Super Metroid and EarthBound, which I had skipped over in my youth, were a bit disappointing for me when I finally got around to playing them as an adult.

Despite the legions of fans showering them in praise year after year, I just couldn’t find much enjoyment in my various attempts to complete them. They’re both fantastic games. Just not games suited to my (questionable?) tastes.

Screenshot: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc

Last month I picked up the Shadow of the Colossus remake for the PlayStation 4. The original game, for those who don’t know, was released on PlayStation 2 in 2005 to rave reviews (it came to Australia a few months later in 2006).

Shadow of the Colossus was not a game that I was unaware of; in fact I had heavily considered purchasing the game when it received a high definition remaster on the PlayStation 3.

I had heard players go on and on about the game’s beautiful environments and simple gameplay for years, but I was worried that the image of Shadow of the Colossus I had in my head would lead to yet another let down.

Games that have a reputation for being the best of a genre, the best of a console, or the best of all time carry an unsettling amount of optimistic expectation. You want to love them before you even play them, because so many others do.

Any issues that you find within a critically acclaimed classic seem to cut deeper than those found in new titles. You wonder why no one warned you. These imperfections can shatter the illusion that you were going to finally find this flawless, unmatchable experience that others told you so much about.

I dove into Shadow of the Colossus 13 years late and managed to complete the campaign on normal difficulty in just over five hours. It was challenging and rewarding, but not without its flaws.

Some wacky physics and forced camera angles had seen me squashed underfoot and bludgeoned to death on quite a few occasions, but overall I had enjoyed my journey. I could appreciate the game for what it was and truly understand what made it so appealing.

Illustration: Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc

As I jumped back into the game this week to try out some of the time attack boss battles, it dawned on me that the colossi were a fitting representation of classic video games. They were the personification of the unique gameplay, length, quality and expectations that make up every critically acclaimed game.

Let’s look at a positive example.

Take a gander at Gaius, the sword-wielding giant seen on the left in the illustration above. In my mind he represents Katamari Damacy, the bizarre puzzle game where players are tasked with rolling up everything in their path. My experience with Gaius and Katamari was one of fascination, frustration and gained confidence.

Illustration: Namco Bandai

I started my battle with Gaius in awe of his monumental majesty, but soon found that I couldn’t translate his movements into anything viable.

After a few aggravating deaths I realised that I needed to get him to shatter his sword on a hard surface before I could ascend any higher on a mangy limbs.

Once I had solved this bit of the situation, I made quick work of the big boy and was on my way.

Despite a terrible start, it turned into one of my favourite colossi clashes, one I have visited in the boss attack mode multiple times this week.

When I first downloaded Katamari as a digital PS2 title, I was perplexed as to how I had overlooked this colourful and zany cult classic for over a decade. From the moment I heard the upbeat soundtrack and saw the vibrant level design I was hooked.

My enthusiasm was soon squashed by the games dual-stick control scheme, which caused me to run into walls and skid past necessary items strewn about the ground.

Over time, I got the hang of the controls and started rolling up everything in sight. Katamari Damacy became one of my favourite games.

Colossi and gaming classics can both be daunting. They can be stressful and time consuming for some, but encouraging and rewarding for others. Even if a player has a good idea about what they’re getting into, no battle with a colossi or playthrough of classic game goes as planned the first time around.

When it comes to playing critically acclaimed games years late, it’s only fair to expect some imperfections. But that fact shouldn’t deter players from attempting to take on a classic challenge and expand their gaming tastes.

Just be happy you don’t have to ride a horse around an enchanted peninsula to find a copy of Super Metroid.


Comments

    LOL, I bought the PS3 remaster of Shadow of the Colossus and ICO. I should play them one of these days...

      I did run through it in the PS2 days but my PS3 copy is still sealed, I've picked up the SotC PS4 remaster the last time it was on sale on PSN as well.

      Last edited 05/07/18 1:22 pm

    Getting to classic games late is never going to be as good as being completely wowed by them at release. I've never hugely gotten into any SNES or earlier console games except for maybe Sonic which I used to play at a cousin's house.

    Still have a lot of love for many of the N64 classics. I doubt I could even handle Goldeneye's control scheme these days. Blast Corps is still as fun as ever.

    yeah i find a lot of "timeless classic" really aren't all that timeless and i can't really click with a lot of them. i dont get along with a lot of older games. even games i used to cherish are hard to go back to. it's all a lot of rose tinted goggles to be honest.

    Crash bandicoot is a great example of this. that first game... it's kinda not that great and putting a new coat of paint on it kinda just makes the issues even more glaring because if it looks like a new game you expect it to play like a new game (even though you already know it wont) and you just get left feeling a little empty.

    I think it has something to do with being young and in most instances not being exposed to a large library of games.

    Personal anecdotal incoming:
    As a kid all the way through to adulthood I'd have maybe a maximum of three games bought each year. Aside from the occasional Video Ezy/Blockbuster hire over the weekend I'd have to replay my own games and therefore formed happy memories with these titles, even though some may consider them not-so-good, I'm looking at you War of the Monsters.

    So while I understand people playing, for example the SotC rema(ster)ke and coming away with confused sense of 'this is good?' - for me the game unlocks the memories/nostalgia of days gone by.....

    Everything in their time and place. Not a fan of going back to play the remastered classics as they are always missing that little something that has evolved along the way like anytime saves, story, gun play, control schemes etc.

    Yeh some classics are just that and you needed to play them around their time or they won’t resonate nearly as much. Thinking of SNES games I grew up with, games like Mega Man X and Chrono Trigger have aged well enough to still be loved and played regularly whilst others haven’t aged nearly as well. Although, in my opinion, Super Metroid has aged very well and is still an excellent game by today’s standards.

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