When I think of “old games” or “classics” that I want to play I ALWAYS think of the 8 and 16 bit eras. When I started playing Bayonetta on my Switch I realized that it was the first non-current generation console game I’d ever played that wasn’t on the SNES or earlier.
Bayonetta came out on PS3 but it already looks and plays old compared to current AAA titles - it’s extremely linear, it plays as much like a fighting game as an action/rpg, it’s broken down into separate levels, it’s not open world, etc. I had never played a game like it before and found it PAINFULLY DIFFICULT and almost stopped playing in frustration. After reading some info on it and watching a video I learned that the combos are meant to be done slowly and purposefully and dodging was as important as attacks. Now I love the fighting! It’s smooth, fun, challenging but not unfair, and the game design is something brand new to me. It feels like a game from another time, but it’s still great largely BECAUSE of those older design choices.
I’ve often felt, incorrectly, that the last couple generations of games are just filler between “classic” 8 and 16 bit games and whatever the current gen is. I felt little desire to replay them and zero desire to play games I never had. I knew this was just an opinion but it was one rooted in nostalgia that is chemically linked in my brain to my childhood. Even FF7, one of my favorite games ever, felt a lot less playable than, say, FF6 or even FF1 simply because in my mind the graphics weren’t charmingly retro, they were clunky.
You can’t replace nostalgia from childhood - it’s something we all have. The smell of our parent’s cooking, our first scary movie (Critters gave me nightmares for years), our first video game (Super Mario Bros., duh!), the first book series we really got into (I distinctly remember reading Hardy Boys books lying down on my grandmothers carpet like it was yesterday), etc. My personal nostalgia doesn’t determine a game being a classic and it shouldn’t limit what old games I play.
Playing Bayonetta, a nine year old game, has ignited my interest in playing games I’ve missed out on since being a kid. Each console generation is controlled by its technology and the popular genres and styles of its time. I don’t have nostalgia for the recent generations but what I do now have is a desire to experience more variations of games. What if we viewed past games less as old technology and more as different art styles? Bayonetta has helped shift my perspective to the latter and because of that I feel much more inclined to play a larger and more diverse array of games. Having this perspective also fits into the idea that video games are art - that they’re a serious medium that reflects humanity and its changing culture over time. If video games are “just games” then I think that contributes to the trap of always wanting to play the newest and best technology, rather than appreciate the games for how creative or thought provoking they are. I fell into this trap and now I’m really glad I’m out of it.
If you haven’t played Bayonetta you can check it out on Switch as either a digital download on the eshop or as a free digital download accompanying a new purchase of Bayonetta 2. It’s an incredibly bizarre, outlandish and over the top hack ‘n’ slash combo game with a campy as hell plot and a slick protagonist who pulls off wildly unrealistic and hilarious fighting moves. Bayonetta 3 is currently in development and I look forward to seeing how the game design has changed from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3.