I won’t be alone in being a millennial who has trouble confronting my past self. Unlike past generations we don’t have the luxury of burning our diaries in the dead of night, because so much of it is pasted online for the world to see. So it’s interesting occasionally to go back to the very beginning, and to experience the cultural artefacts that influenced me before the internet extended its corrupting tentacles.
Emulation is a wonderful thing, and having the entire library of a console at your fingertips is a temptation it’s hard to ignore. It was in this spirit I fired up Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom, which I remembered as an epic adventure with stunning graphics and deep, multi-genre gameplay, as I wouldn’t have put it when I was nine.
Oh dear. Well, it’s certainly epic in the sense of being huge, although it’s less an elegant 12-course dégustation than the equivalent of devouring a barrel of gruel. The creature models aren’t bad for 2002, it’s true, though they really lose something cycling through the same eight attack animations and five background locations.
Looking at these games through an adult eye, you start to probe questions that didn’t arise at an age when you unquestioningly accepted the reality put before you. Why has a series famed for its card-battling mechanics decided that it suddenly needs to become Pokémon? Why are all the maps completely square, culminating in a featureless black void? Why are all the stars painted onto an obvious sphere around the level rather than using a proper skybox?
We know the mundane answers, of course — time and budget constraints on the developers, plus this being nobody’s idea of a magnum opus. But it’s a curiously reassuring sign that my tastes have matured over the years, even if it doesn’t speak well of the kind of content which received the Nintendo Seal of Quality.
What’s more disappointing than the actively bad are the merely mediocre. Wario World is ostensibly a member of the same platformer family as the Wario Land games, except the inevitable result of farming it out to a third party developer is a short, loveless game reliant on badly dated early-2000s visuals and a sense of humour that keeps the grossing out but misses the personality. It’s not one of Nintendo’s finer moments, given that until that point Wario’s record was pretty flawless. The less said about Wario: Master of Disguise, the better.
But for all the disappointment, I’ve found something genuinely cathartic about laughing at every failure and missed opportunity. I hope someone goes through my creative works with the same critical eye one day — but that would require everything I make not to be perfect, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon. If you have fond memories of something from your childhood you haven’t revisited in a while, why not go and burn some bridges? It’s better than spending your lockdown staring at the walls.