Wednesday, March 13, 2013

By Today's Standards

As the next part in my Everything I Own Challenge I decided to pick up the first The Legend of Zelda game, since the Super Mario Land games put me in a classic mood and I haven't ever gotten beyond the first few screens of this game. Let me just say, this game is pretty awful. It's not even the good kind of awful where everything is downright bad, nope. The Legend of Zelda is the terrible kind of awful where it could have been really good if only one of the negative aspects had simply been smoothed out.

More about that when I get to the review, though (I still have to complete the last four dungeons and the Second Quest before this game is finished). This post is less about the game, and more about something I kept seeing over and over while searching for people who shared my demonic opinion of the game. Every forum I visited, every conversation I read, there were more people bawling about how it's not fair to compare a game from the 80's to anything even remotely modern or to hold it to the same standards you hold other games. The technology simply wasn't good enough yet to make those games, so it isn't fair. It isn't! It isn't!

Give me a break. I've been called a many supposedly scornful things, and "Nostalgia Fag" is one of the most frequent. But even I, in all of my nostalgic fagginess, understand that this argument is a load of bull. There is literally no reason why you can't compare modern games and classic games on the same standard scale, especially when the core for that scale is personal entertainment. There are plenty of old games that stand up beautifully still, and there are plenty of new games that blow. The reverse of that is true, as well, and it isn't because the technology was oh-so-limited for those old games. I just got through praising the hell out of both Super Mario Land titles, and while I didn't outright say "These games are miles better than New! Super Mario Bros. Wii", they are. That game sucks.

Well, the first The Legend of Zelda is awful, too. And it definitely isn't because of technological limitations. It's because of poor design decisions.

Let's look at other mediums for a second. Do we say that novels written decades ago cannot stand on the same scale as novels written today? Well I hope not, because that's simply ludicrous. Do we say that about music? No. Do we say that about movies? Well... yeah, but we really shouldn't. The era and limitations of that era should not impact your opinion of the final product. The only two questions you should ask yourself about a piece of media are: "Did you like it?" and "How come?"

That's all there is to it. I don't care if the game was revolutionary for its time, because three years later it was an outdone train wreck. I can definitely respect what it did for its franchise, for its company, and for its industry without holding it up as the masterpiece that it isn't. And that's the thing. A lot of people want to conflate the legacy of the work with the quality of the work. Well, that's simply wrong. When I ask somebody whether a game is good or not, I don't want to hear the words "Not by today's standards" or "It was good for its time." That doesn't matter to me, and that doesn't matter to the work. I want to hear "Yes" or "No".

History determines the worth of all things. If your thing can only be described as "good" within the context of a brief period of years as opposed to the whole of everything you have ever experienced, it isn't worth the praise you want to give it.

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