This week we've got an interesting question for you. Imagine that you could remove all memories of playing a specific game, so that you could replay it again for the very first time.
If you could do that, what game would be top of your list to replay again?
While you ponder on your answer, here's what gaming memories the USgamer team would like to remove from their brains, so they could re-experience playing those games afresh.
I always appreciate when a game catches me by surprise, and Castlevania's incredible PlayStation outing blew my mind so hard I'm still reeling 18 years later. I would love to be able to rediscover it anew rather than simply enjoying yet another replay...
Granted, a big part of what made Symphony so memorable had to do with the context of the times. By 1997, 2D games had officially become uncool. No one wanted to play dated dinosaur games like this; the world had moved along to 3D. Even though 3D on PS1 and Nintendo 64 consisted of clumsy, inelegant boxes rubbing up against one another in slow motion, that had been deemed by the tastemakers and indeed the entire market as a whole as the future of games. And yet, here was Castlevania, contentedly dealing in sprites and two-dimensional planes… and it was incredible.
Symphony's impact came from the expansive depth of its action — Dracula's castle was a massive, sprawling environment, packed with secrets, monsters, bosses, and weapons. The underlying action-RPG components of Symphony further enhanced the experience, creating a tremendous sense of progression as you roamed the haunted halls. The sheer scope of the game mechanics created remarkable variability, too, thanks to all the random item drops of weapons and items that offered legitimately unique features. And then there was that whole second castle...
Equally important to the Symphony experience was the fact that it looked so good and moved so fluidly. While PS1's games generally wobbled along at a chunky 12-20 frames per second, shuddering and distorting as they went, Alucard and his foes maneuvered with silky-smooth grace. Konami's designers made use of all manner of visual trickery to create a stunning world, from jointed enemies to wild transparencies to funky yet subtle 3D effects. And the music… ah, the music.
Of course, some of Symphony's impact happened on a more personal level, too. It was, by design, the first game I ever imported from Japan. Much of the game's enigmatic nature came from the fact that I didn't read enough Japanese at that point to really get by, so I ended up guessing at much of what I was doing. That didn't hurt the experience, though; it simply made me remember the NES days, when games (like Castlevania II) didn't bother to explain themselves and left it to the player to work things out. My mastery of the game was hard-fought, something I could be rightly proud of.
Actually, after writing all of this, I've changed my mind. I could never recreate my magnificent first experience with Symphony of the Night — it was all too specific to who I was, where I was, and where games appeared to be going at the time. Whoops!
For this question, I'm steering away from those games I developed an attachment towards as a much younger Bob. They're special for giving me certain memories attached to a particular time, so I'm not sure if I'd go as crazy over, say, EarthBound if I didn't play it as a twelve-year-old in the middle of an endless summer.
So I'd like to use this hypothetical memory wipe for a more practical reason: replaying a game that's way too long to justify going through again—at least for a guy who's currently responsible for playing all the games. And that's why I'm going with Fallout: New Vegas. It hit me at a time when I had a big, gaping hole in my life that could easily be filled by such a massive RPG: I'd just moved to California to work in the glamorous video games industry, and my PC stood as one of the few entertainment options jammed into a carload of stuff. So, in a strange new world with no friends to speak of, I dove deep into New Vegas, and basically explored as much of it as humanly possible. As someone dealing with some of more stressful things that can happen in a person's life, returning to the harsh wasteland day after day was oddly comforting.
Since then, I've felt the itch to get back into Fallout: New Vegas, but I'm already deeply embarrassed about all the quality RPGs I've started but never finished. But if I technically never played the game, I'd jump at the chance to absorb its wealth of content all over again. And who knows: Maybe if I played it at a more stable time in my life, I'd enjoy it even more?
In the end, I think trying to chase that first experience with a game really aiming to recapture a specific time in our lives. I think if I had the chance, I would just wipe the memory, I'd wipe the world. Like Jaz, my ultimate choice would be World of Warcraft.
If I could take everyone back to 2007 and the release of World of Warcraft's Burning Crusade expansion, I would in a heartbeat. That was the beginning of my raiding career, a time when offline and online friends would get together night after night to tackle dungeons and raids. I was one of my guilds two tanks and being there at the forefront of every new encounter is still at the forefront of my memories.
On my Blood Elf Pally, I ran Hellfire Ramparts, Arcatraz, Escape from Durnholde Keep, and Shadow Labyrinth to acquire the gear needed for stronger raids. I remember the nights spent on Karazhan, working my way up to Prince or the occasionally stalemate the Horde and Alliance would have at portal to the dungeon. I remember being up until 6am slamming my head against Zul'Aman. Taking on Magtheridon or Gruul's Lair. I collected most of the Jewelcrafting patterns and ran a lucrative auction house game on my server.
I carried on in World of Warcraft until Cataclysm came and revamped everything. Not because Cataclysm ruined anything, but because I no longer had the time to devote to the game like I once did. I've never really played the game in the same way since, but if I could, I'd briefly return to that time when I was a hardcore raider. It was painful, but it was fun.
The first game that springs to mind is World of Warcraft. I'd love to be able to rediscover Blizzard's seminal MMO for the very first time - again.
However, it just wouldn't be the same experience were I to start over again today. Most games don't change once they've been released, but World of Warcraft has evolved massively since its launch back in November of 2004. Then, the game was far more social - and guilds were really important. I remember us having websites with forums where guild members could arrange events and chat to one another when they weren't in the game, and we had a really strong, dedicated team of people that worked together to beat dungeons and raids.
Now a lot of that has gone away in the wake of it being so easy to arrange pick-up groups for raids and dungeons, and the guild that I joined and was part of for years has pretty much completely broken up. My point being - many of my most memorable World of Warcraft experiences have as much to do with the social aspect of the game, and making online friends as they were about actually playing the game. I'm just not sure I'd feel quite the same way about beating, say, the Lich King, with a pick-up group as I did with the group of friends who worked for weeks and weeks together to finally best that epic raid. There was an immense feeling of group satisfaction when we did, and we talked about it for days afterwards. It was an event that united us all, and really made us feel like a team.
Ultimately, what I'm really doing here is chasing the dragon of a particular time and place. For this to really work as I'd want it, it'd take more than just removing the memories of playing the game - it would also require me going back to 2004 again so I could properly recapture the experience of playing Vanilla WoW, making friends and playing through the game again, expansion by expansion - going through its ups and downs and putting many thousands of hours into the game like I did the first time around. And the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure I really want to do that again. Yeah, I'd love to be able to recapture the experience of playing World of Warcraft, but then I've already done it - and the memories I have are really precious to me.
So… yeah. Actually, scratch what I said in the first sentence of this piece. Since World of Warcraft is my all-time favorite game, and I've had such an incredible experience with it, I'd like to keep my memories of it and NOT erase them! The first time around was plenty good enough for me, thanks!