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Monday, January 24, 2005

The elusive key to longevity, Part 1

From a post on Gamecritics under my alias, MoriartyL:
When I first played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I was convinced that it was a classic which would be playable for a very long time. That conviction has deteriorated rapidly with each successive playthrough. I find that each time I play, I enjoy it less than I did the time before, and now it seems the only enjoyment I can get from the game is watching other people play and imagining what kind of experience they must be going through. The other day, I tried starting the game again, got up to Windfall Island, and turned it off because of boredom, because it felt so old. I still like the characters, the art style, and to some degree the story, and the game is just dripping with personality. The first time I played, I was blown away. But for some reason, all that I liked about the game has disappeared.

In sharp contrast stands Metroid Prime. The first time I played it, I considered it a very good game, but nothing spectacular. This is because I had yet to internalize the revelation that it was for me- that the point (in this particular case) was not the gameplay, but the environment. The second time, I was already used to the interface, and I knew what to expect from the gameplay, so I was blown away by the beauty of Tallon IV. But my appreciation of the game didn't end there, as I find that each time I come back I seem to enjoy it even more than the time before. Counterintuitively, my familiarity with the game world enrichens the experience of exploration rather than trivializing it.

I wondered if the problem with The Wind Waker was an inherent flaw in Zelda games in general, so I started up Ocarina of Time. I didn't even need to get into the first dungeon to realize that it was infinitely more playable than the newer game. Immediately I was reminded subconsciously of why I loved the game so much to begin with. My familiarity with the game (having already played it countless times) does not enhance the experience ala MP, but I don't think it seriously detracts from it either. In trying to explain to myself the clear distinction I have between the two Zelda games, the best I can do is that OoT is more subtle. But I'm sure that's not it, and besides, that's a pretty vague assessment. So I turn the problem over to you, in the hopes that you will be able to make sense of what I cannot. Why does Metroid Prime get better with age, and why does The Wind Waker get worse, while Ocarina of Time seems to stand still?



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