Nostalgia: Is it Really THAT Powerful?

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Nostalgia…ahhhhh, what a powerful feeling.  I don’t know if you can really figure out where nostalgia comes from, or why it occurs, but it is an insanely powerful emotion.  Not everything that I really enjoyed when I was younger gives me nostalgia.  For instance, I played Final Fantasy Tactics and I think that might be one of the best strategy RPGs ever made.  I already posted before that I think Chrono Trigger is the best RPG ever made.  However, I don’t feel nostalgic when I think back on those games.  In all reality, I have only played through Chrono Trigger maybe 3-5 times total, and Tactis maybe twice.  Compare that to FFVII, which I have played through at least 35 times.  I started the game, and not actually finished it at least another 30 times.  I have wondered, why is this?  What makes something nostalgic?  It really has to be a perfect storm, but I hope to explain it here.

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.  I certainly agree with the happy part, because FFVII made me extremely happy when I first played it, and still does.  However, I feel like there is something about nostalgia that is just not able to be defined.  Did Chrono Trigger make me happy?  Hell yea it did.  Same with Tactics.  So why is it that I don’t sit around waiting for a Chrono Trigger remake, or buying t-shirts with Ramza on the front?  I guess the simplest answer is that I really don’t know.  I first played Chrono Trigger in 1995, in my best friend’s basement.  He had rented the game from West Coast Video, and I used to sleep over his house pretty often so I just stumbled across it.  I remember liking the game, and thinking that the part where the party needs to break out of jail was particularly awesome.  I have to admit though, I didn’t actually play through the game completely until maybe 2010.  I had tried a few times before, but something always stopped me from playing.  It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s, living with the same childhood best friend, that I decided to pop the game in for “nostalgia” purposes.  It was something I played together as kids, so I thought it might be fun to play as an adult and bond over it.  I made it through the game, and own it on the DS as well, but I would’t say I ever feel an itch to play it.  I know that might sound weird because I think it is truly an excellent game, but I don’t feel that same pull that I feel with FFVII.

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I picked up Final Fantasy Tactics right after I beat FFVII.  The experience of FFVII made me want to explore other games made by the same company, so when I flipped to the back of the instruction manual for FFVII they had a few games advertised, one of which was Tactics.  I expected it to be very similar to FFVII, so I went out and got it.  I remember loving the character design, the music, and I even enjoyed the battle system at first even thought it was like nothing I had ever played before.  I kept waiting to hit that FFVII open world map and run around, which obviously never happened.  At 15 years old, the story was too complex for me.  The translation for the game was particularly bad, so I doubt I would have understood it at 30 years old.  I did beat the game, and have played a few times since.  I owned it on the PSP as well, which really cleaned up a lot of the translation, and made the story easier to follow.  I get a little itch every now and again to play it, but I know how long the game is.  Random battles can take 10 minutes or so, and boss battles can take up to half an hour.  At 34 years old with a girlfriend, two dogs, a cat, a full time job, school, and a home to maintain, sitting down with a game that demands that much time is difficult, so I never scratch that itch.

So why do I feel this strong pull to FFVII?  For someone to feel nostalgia I believe it needs to be a perfect storm of events.  For me, FFVII was the first PlayStation game I ever played.  I got it as a Christmas present and spent all day playing it in my basement.  There was something about that first experience that really has stuck with me.  I remember those long nights playing the game, staying up until 3am because I wanted to find out what happened next in the story.  When FFXV came out, I tried to recreate those moments.  I had planned to stay up all night playing, and I was super excited for it.  Unfortunately, the story didn’t grab me like FFVII’s story did, and even though I wanted to stay up late, I found myself in bed by 11pm.  I don’t have those fond memories of other games.  When Shadow of Mordor came out, I pumped about 80 hours into the game.  I loved that game, but once I beat it, I never went back.  I think it is a fantastic game, but there is no desire to go back to that world.

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Bottom line is, when FFVII came into my life I was ready for that sort of experience.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say I was ready, but in some way I was lacking that sort of engrossing game experience.  I have been engrossed in stories since, but never in the same way.  I think you need to be at a very specific point in your life for something to have a dynamic impact on you.  It just so happens I was at that point in my life when I first picked up FFVII, and I did not even know it.

What games are you particularly nostalgic about, and why?  Let me know in the comments!

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