TheJewphin Rants About… Nostalgia

Dexter’s Laboratory was not great.

I see that got your attention. But don’t get up and walk out just yet. I want to ask you something first. Have you watched it recently? In the past 5 years? Past 10 years? When was the last time you actually saw an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory?

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Dexter’s Laboratory as a kid. I watched it all the time and I still have fond memories of Mandark, Dexter, and “Omlette du fromage.” So in preparation for this rant, I went back and re-watched some old episodes – not the “omlette du fromage” episode, obviously. That episode was an artistic masterpiece, the likes of which would make Rembrandt’s corpse regrow tear ducts just so he could cry in his grave. No, I chose episodes at random.

And they’re not great. Each one is a ten minute setup for a single joke that is sometimes funny and sometimes not. It’s not extremely funny and it’s not extremely interesting. Yet I can’t stop thinking of that show fondly.

Nostalgia is the main reason things like Dexter’s laboratory can be called great. We look back on the shows, games, comic books, etc. that we used to like and we remember all of the good with very little of the bad. But if Spaceballs was made today with the same script, acting, and effects, would it still be hilarious? Would Contra still be an amazing game if it was released now instead of in 1987?

The biggest problem with nostalgia is not that we sometimes think mediocre media is great because we enjoyed it in out youth. The biggest problem with nostalgia is the way it is being used against us by movie and game companies in a way that doesn’t push either medium forward but instead allows them to bank on your fond feelings for Final Fantasy 7.

Wow, you have an X-Strike? You must be exactly like Chrono Trigger. I can’t wait to take Frog back to the Prehistoric Ages to fight some dinosaurs.

Everyone’s favorite whipping boy for the nostalgia thing is usually Nintendo. But Nintendo actually don’t bank on your nostalgia as much as everyone else thinks. If a new Mario game is released every two years, then they are not hoping you are going to buy this next game because you like Super Mario Bros. 2. Instead, they’re hoping that you’re not sick of Mario yet and still love the last thing you played with him three months ago.

No, the biggest offenders are the remakes of old games and the creation of games “in the style” of popular old games. There is no doubt that I Am Setsuna is trying to sell you by leaning on your old love of Chrono Trigger. Or that the FF7 reboot is anything but a grab for old Final Fantasy audiences.

And generally, I am fine with a video game company learning from past successes and generating games that have the same enjoyable aspects as previous titles. My problem is that I Am Setsuna could be complete garbage and they will probably still make their money back because it is a game “in the style” of Chrono Trigger and everyone loved Chrono Trigger. And they will have learned nothing. And the world will be a little bleaker.

Or maybe I will be proven wrong and this one nostalgia grab will actually be as great as it is marketed to be. Who knows. I have been wrong before. Back in 1995 I thought I was mistaken and I actually wasn’t.

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