The emotional attachment we have with video games are a funny subject. Once you’ve experienced a game, it’s rare that you can reproduce the same level of enjoyment as that first time.
I pledged a fraternity in college, and the way the brothers there described the pledging process was simple, yet the phrasing has stuck with me till this day: “It’s the best time you’ll never want to have again.” This works perfectly for so many things – and video games are one of them. Let’s take a look at some games I loved, but never dare try to play again.
The recently re-released title is what prompted me writing this article in the first place. I experienced Xenoblade Chronicles via the 3D installment, on the Nintendo 3DS, my favorite console of all time. Xenoblade Chronicles was the longest RPG I have ever played, hands down. Sure I played Skyrim for hundreds of hours like everyone else (not like it’s an RPG, but still), but 80+ hours for a main story and you have an insane amount of content packed into one tiny game cartridge. But it’s not even the gameplay length that keeps me far, far away from ever revisiting this title.
The first time you play Xenoblade, running through the Gaia Plains, smashing countless enemies and grinding away, is an almost religious experience. The type of experience you need to be at the right place in your life to truly embrace. The time I played it was that time – and that time won’t ever be in my life again, and that’s totally okay. The main issue isn’t the length, although it certainly doesn’t help, but in my mind I achieved Xenoblade Perfection. I know that I can’t possibly enjoy a secondary playthrough, regardless of a big screen or enhanced graphics. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that the time sink would be worth it.
I can remember fondly when, following a 7 month break from the title, I went back and finished the last 20 hours. 20 hours is typically my maximum amount of time spent playing literally any title, particularly JRPGs, so 20 hours just to finish something up is out of the question in 99% of cases, but in this particular case it was really something special. If you’ve never played Xenoblade Chronicles, the last dozen or so hours are essentially a non-stop boss rush, each one marginally more difficult than the preceding one, with their own complex moveset. No joke – there are 9 bosses, with one repeated, and several of which have several forms to get through. It’s absolutely ridiculous but you press on, because the game and the battle system especially is so deep and complex and perfect, and by this point you’ve spent countless hours mastering it. All of your hours of play and plot twists come to a head, and though you’ll sweat profusely through each battle, eventually you emerge from the other side triumphant. It’s so exciting and you get that incredible sense that you truly mastered the game.
As a matter of fact, I had to finally learn how to play as Melia, because I had neglected her the entire game, and her AI absolutely sucks. However, once I learned how to use her magic (as she is the closest to a Mage you have in XC), I was completely unstoppable. That also added to the feeling of victory, having to learn from scratch how to use a pretty vital character.
Originally I was going to talk about the hardest boss I found personally, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Really, you only get to experience that kind of victory one time. The vast, deep world of Xenoblade Chronicles epitomizes just that.
Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow/Let’s Go Pikachu/Let’s Go Eevee
Let’s get real for a minute here – the Kanto region of Pokemon, home to the aforementioned titles, has been done so many times at this point. There are only so many ways to tell this simplistic of a story without relying on nostalgia to get you through it.
I mean, I grew up playing these titles, at least the Red/Blue/Yellow games. Nostalgia can get me through just about anything – this whole blog came to be for myself to be able to re-read and feel cozy and fuzzy isnide. I played through each of these titles at different points of my life since I was in middle school and the PokeCraze started in the late 90, to adulthood, and into my 30s. They hold an incredibly special place in my heart, but at this time, I’m done with the whole region. I’ve spent a combined 200+ hours in it, in varying levels of graphical fidelity, and I refuse to play any more for fear of Kanto losing it’s luster, and Pokemon falling out of my good graces forever. To be honest, it mostly has already, and nostalgia is the only thing that keeps me returning to the series every couple of years.
I originally played Red/Blue during the 90s, Yellow in the 2000s, again in the 2010s, and then Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee in the late 2010s. I’ve played several other generations since then, but Kanto has been put to rest for me.
You may be wondering what my favorite was! Well, while I loved the fact that random encounters were removed from Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, personally I enjoyed Red the most. I was in the midst of middle school at the time (5th grade specifically), during the Poke-Craze, and there was simply nothing like trading with friends at school, or at the lake club in our town, or at the pool club on the other side of town. Everyone had a Gameboy and was trading ‘mon, and there will simply never be another time like that. Who would have guessed my favorite was based on the most nostalgia-triggering memories!?
The early Fallout series games are, in my opinion, properly played when you are at a point in life where your mind is a blank canvas, ready to have something important imprinted upon it. You know the feeling when you start a new game, and it completely takes over your brain? You lay in bed thinking about it, you wake up earlier than usual just to play it more, perhaps you start to even act like one of the characters in the game, taking on their personality entirely? This happens a lot with television shows for me as well (Breaking Bad, and more recently Chernobyl, if you’re wondering), but when it happens with a game… man. You best airplane mode your phone and take a few days off work.
Speaking of work, I would never have been able to work if I had a job at the time – I was 13 years old when I found a double-pack of Fallout 1 + 2 in the bargain bin of Target, of all places, and I picked it up having no idea what it was, but I knew that something awesome was inside those jewel cases.
I played Fallout 1 for a little bit, but it all felt a little off to me, and as a matter of fact still, to this day, Fallout 1 doesn’t sit nearly as close to my heart as the second installment. Something about 2 felt far more refined yet still brutal and raw, and up until that point in my life I had never seen anything like that, aside from.. I don’t know, Quake or Duke Nukem? But of course, I had played primarily first-person shooters, and this turn-based grid system was brand new to me.
It took me a while to play through Fallout 2, and if there was any way to measure how much of the game I had discovered, I just had to have hit 100%. I knew every NPC and went through every speech check and conversation and side quest that game had to offer. I squeezed every ouncec of enjoyment out of Fallout 2 and as the years went on, I have done countless playthroughs of the later series installments, particularly New Vegas, but on subsequent attempts of Fallout 2, I always ended up stopping for some reason. Sometimes it’s difficult to re-capture the experiences of youth.
But then you realize, can we ever?
Thanks for gettin’ all cozy and listening to me talk about some of my favorite experiences that I will never have again. Somehow, despite the fact I can never have those same experiences again, talking about them is the closest I can get. Try it some time! I’m sure you have your Xenoblades, Pokemon Reds, and your Fallout 2s just like I do.