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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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A Link To The Past

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The beast called Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a terribly funny thing, a cruel, warped mistress that can build our memories to god-like expectations. For instance, I write this while listening to an old recording of my old band, and hearing my 18-year-old voice crack and passionately hit high notes that I had no business reaching for. But as I listen to it, I remember the feeling of being onstage, belting out words that came from my heart, the weight of a microphone in my hand and a feeling of being exactly where I belong.

Games run this same gamut with me. I'll hop over to Good Old Games or find some Top 100 NES/SNES games, browse through the list, and upon seeing my childhood favorites, my eyes grow distant and my heart wistful. It's like all of my friends have come together for a high-school reunion.

'Oh, Lords of the Realm II! Do you remember the good times we had sending those peasants to fill in the moat under a hail of arrows? And how you could send correspondence with the AI opponents, like sending fart jokes under the banner of a compliment? Sheesh, that was endless fun! How are you making out these days? Oh, Sierra went under? That's too bad, man. Your third game sucked? Aw, man, I am so sorry. Hey, I'd love to stay and chat, but I see Space Quest and King's Quest over there, and I wanted to catch up with them. Take it easy, Lords of the Realm II!'

'King's Quest and Space Quest! Holy crap, I figured you guys had died with the rest of the adventure games in the mid-90s! I see that you're staying alive through VGA remakes of your earlier stuff, KQ, but other than that, I haven't seen much of you. What's that? Telltale Games is remaking you? That's awesome, man! How about you, SQ? Oh, that's right, you never got past the sixth game. You deserved much better, especially after the fond memories of you getting me through the Ice Storm of 96.'

Silly reunion shtick aside, there's only one reason we replay old games, and it's not because they 'don't make em like they used to' or 'you gotta get back to your roots'. We don't even play them because we seriously think that all of their mechanics are better than most of the much-improved systems of today. The number one reason we play old games is simple: we're trying to recapture that feeling.

You know, the feeling of starting off on an adventure again. The feeling of becoming completely and utter enthralled in a universe of someone else's creation. That, for lack of a better word, joy. We dedicate online shrines to preserving these classics, somehow hoping to encase that rush for us to enjoy again and again.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to give you a terribly bitter pill:

You will never, ever feel that exact same way again.

You will never, ever recapture that glory.

You will never, ever recreate that experience.

Nostalgia has its place in the world, and that's seated directly in the past. Any attempt to dredge up those exact memories is only going to end in serious disappointment. At some point, we have to leave those memories behind and enjoy them as just that, memories.

By the way, in retrospect, that band I was in was absolutely terrible. But you know what? It was a blast at the time, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Just don't expect us to ever play your bar mitzvah any time soon.

Aaron Waite would like to point out that Chrono Trigger is completely exempt from this rule of nostalgia.

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