Thursday, May 2, 2019

Editorial: Playing Favorites

For those who have played and reviewed hundreds of videogames such as this author, one would expect them to pick favorites out of all of them, and include them in “top five” or “top ten” lists. This reviewer could definitely compile a list of favorites based on the highest scores he has given to various games, and while many across the world could very well formulate their own lists, there arises the temptation to hold all other games they play to the standard of their favorites. This editorial will explore the psychology of “playing favorites” when it comes to games and other media.

Nostalgia can play a significant role in one’s determination of “favorite” installments of various media, from books to movies to videogames. This writer has been a lifelong gamer since he first discovered computer games in his early childhood during the late 1980s, well before the advent of player’s guides and Internet frequently-asked questions lists plus walkthroughs of videogames. He first discovered visual aids for games thanks to a decade-long subscription to the late Nintendo Power, and, being chronologically immature at the time, believed that using said graphical assistance was how developers intended their games to be played.

The original Dragon Quest, then known as Dragon Warrior in North America, on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), was this reviewer’s first console roleplaying game, and he’ll admit that he has a special place in his heart for it. While it’s certainly not a gold standard of the genre or videogames in general, this writer would eventually come to learn that it did many things right in its gaming category, such as having adjustable text speed (a feature that many later titles, such as Xenogears on the Sony PlayStation, would shockingly lack) and a slap-on-the-wrist penalty for death in combat.

This author wouldn’t play the NES’s Dragon Quest sequels until a few console generations later, and missed many prominent titles on the system such as the original Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and its sequel. The sixth game in the former franchise (retitled Final Fantasy III for North Americans due to most of its predecessors remaining in Japan and foreign players generally being ignorant) was his first exposure to the series, and another game he would somewhat hold close to his heart, becoming something of an expert on it due to Nintendo Power walkthroughs.

A Link to the Past was this writer’s first experience with the Zelda series, again holding the game dearly in his mind and becoming such a professional in playing it that he could when replaying it generations later beat it in around six hours. However, the much-mooted Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 just didn’t have the same impact, even driving me to frustration and a lack of motivation to finish it until years later. I’ll admit that I am biased as a freelance game journalist, to the point where I didn’t find the much-adored Breath of the Wild to be all that great despite its universally-positive reception.

These senses of nostalgia can definitely blur anyone’s opinion on various media in general, with this reviewer acknowledging his rose-tinted glasses when it comes to various games, although he tries his best not to judge all games against his favorites. Even so, this retrospective disposition can plague even “professional” reviews of any medium. It’s virtually impossible, in a non-videogame example, to read a review critical of the Star Wars prequel films and the fourth Indiana Jones movie without encountering comparison to their precursors and pious proclamation that “the originals were better,” regardless of their own major and minor flaws.

The only game this writer has given a perfect 10/10 score on his review wiki is Muramasa Rebirth on the PlayStation Vita, although he certainly doesn’t judge all action-oriented RPGs against it, given his belief that most games are unique and incomparable to others. However, when it comes to past and present installments of long-running franchises such as Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, which can sometimes be of inconsistent quality, analogies to their series brethren can certainly aid those interested in said titles. However, reviewers simply shouldn’t deduct points for certain entries of said series not doing things absolutely like their favorites.

Regardless, it’s certainly not a bad thing to play favorites when it comes to certain entries of franchises, although one shouldn’t blur the line between opinion and fact regarding the quality of said series entries in any medium. Even so, fans and critics definitely shouldn’t pretend absolutely nothing is wrong with their favorites, as tends to be the case when commenting on the aforementioned movie franchises, and should keep in mind what judgement on said media would be like if their preferred entries didn’t exist, as this reviewer tries. As Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Therefore, judge not, lest your favorites be judged.

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