Somewhere along the course of our gaming lives we settle upon our preferred genre or type of games – usually through years of experimentation and trial and error.
An endless line of sequels can take their toll on a series though, as developers begin to struggle with the finite balance between introducing enough new concepts without alienating the original fans – how far would you follow your favourite gaming series?
Saying goodbye to an old friend
I’ve talked about my history with the Sonic series before. I was raised with Sega games and continue to take a decent albeit passive interest in the latest Sonic games. Sonic Generations provided an interesting challenge to the old-school Sega acolyte in me – as I had all but given up on the series if I am perfectly honest, I did not expect Generations to amount to much, I certainly did not expect it to be the first new Sonic game I have enjoyed immensely in nearly 10 years. This was in part due its carefully crafted experience, appealing to the Sonic fan of all with illustrious recreations of classic Sonic levels, but also with breathtaking orchestral renditions of retro Sonic tunes.
What is telling however is that as enjoyable as Sonic Generations is, I feel it is the perfect moment for me to outgrow Sonic, to enjoy the company of the series one final time and bow out on a high. While Sonic Generations is obviously enjoyable, it is a momentary sidestep – and perhaps not completely indicative of the direction Sonic (and friends) will take now. That said it is a journey I no longer feel I have to be a part of, I finally appreciate that I am no longer the target audience for Sonic’s Adventures. Most of the pleasure of its gameplay and experience come from looking back and not forward, and nostalgia will only coast a series so far – no matter how gracefully done.
I am however eternally grateful to Sega for giving me one last chance to put my affinity with the Sonic series in order before they turn to the next page in his story.
A step back and a step forward
If Sonic was the game of my childhood, then series such as Final Fantasy were the gaming backbone of my adolescence. Final Fantasy 7 was a defining moment in my gaming life – proving that video games was something that was going to serve me long term. Later on in the franchise – by about entry 10, I started to doubt that Final Fantasy was still for me. This was confirmed to me by the production of Final Fantasy 13, it was no longer about the games “becoming worse” or moving in a slightly different direction, and more about the genre as a whole no longer tapping into my ever burgeoning tastes.
I had over a great many years of play decided upon the genres and gameplay elements that I preferred, falling out of love with Final Fantasy was less about that game serving my interests and more about another set of games – namely Western, and other action RPGs (such as Demon’s Souls) becoming my preferred way to play.
I don’t think we ever fall out of fancy with a particular franchise, there’s a decent correlation between our age, the growing audience of the series and our interests diverging elsewhere. Another more frequent complaint about a gaming series is that is no longer attempts to revolutionise in the same way it once did. Zelda is a great example of this (and I am often guilty of the same complaints!). The Zelda games that I have enjoyed and in turn have challenged me the most (Wind Waker and Majora’s Mask) have arguably also taken the most risks with their creative design.
A new disciple
Ten years was a long period to wait for my Sonic conclusion. While I end one affiliation with a series, I am happy to admit that there are many more new franchises who have sprouted into the space that Sonic once occupied. Funnily enough I find myself more willing to experiment with games as I get older, retrying series that I once avoided, or dabbling with new things. This it how I fell into the Monster Hunter series. The “difficult” persona of the game had previously put me off in the past, but when I was bereaved a couple of years back I found myself wanting a really engaging challenge to fill up my mind and take it away from the present. I did not expect to still be playing the game nearly three years later – happily for completely different reasons. It served its immediate purpose and quickly created another one.
My gamble had started a new fascination, this is my favourite way into a new series.