Like most brothers, mine has always been into video games. He recently came home with a new game called Sonic Generations–the most recent in a long line of Sonic the Hedgehog games. The game itself is of little interest, but the premise is fascinating. Essentially, the game involves levels and characters from every previous Sonic game, going all the way back to the very first game released in 1991.
It’s easy to call this nostalgia. Indeed, Iizuka, one of the producers of the game, stated that the levels will “feel familiar but will also feature new visual elements.” Perfectly reasonable. And playing the game certainly recalls feelings of playing past Sonic games: the sounds, the speed, the puzzles.
However, as you play the game, the characters themselves seem oddly aware of the game’s familiarity. After beating the first level–a level ripped straight out of the first Sonic game from 20 years ago–one of the characters says: “this sure feels familiar.” The same thing happens after the second level. It was cute the first time; cloying the second. By the third time I was annoyed as hell. Having Sonic constantly saying “hey, this sure is familiar” ruins the magic. After all, nostalgia is a feeling that arises at unexpected times–a feeling that takes you back to a particular time or place. I found myself nostalgic for the Sonic who couldn’t talk.
And that’s the irony: Sonic Generations produces feelings of nostalgia by virtue of being a horrible game and making me long for the golden age of video games.
Now that’s nostalgia.