When you grow older, hopefully what it means to live a good life is ingrained on you. Parents and relatives are telling you to go to college, get a good job, and move away. Then you get married, have kids, retire, and die in Florida. The parts they don’t tell you are those little gaps in between.
Unexpected trials come up and life isn’t what you expect. Sometimes it’s out of your control like the job market, other times your own destiny is chosen by your lack of drive or motivation. In my case it was a combination of the two. Choosing not to study as hard in college led me down the path of poor career opportunities. Luckily it all is working out for me currently but I discovered (with support from loved ones) that I am ultimately in charge of my own happiness. Going back home for Christmas, my life felt similar to the Sonic franchise.
Sonic started off as a promising franchise and helped the Sega Genesis compete with the Super Nintendo. Sonic 1 through Sonic & Knuckles were great platformers that will never be forgotten. Then the series went through that awkward teenager phase and you whether you like it or not and the series stumbles through life. You try something new like a new dimension or substance. You realize it’s not you and move on the path you were following. For some of us, we’re lucky we can choose where we go in life. Sonic, not so much.
The move the three dimensions was difficult for the Sonic franchise. Sonic Adventures’s gameplay had it’s up and downs. The Sonic portions played well, but Sonic’s pal’s bogged down the game and distracted from the series focus. Sonic no longer was about going fast but playing a game of hot and cold or even fishing. The creator’s realized that the industry was changing and tried to go back to the way things were. Sounds great in theory, but people change as they grow older and the group that stuck by Sonic in the early years are no long there. The series took a nose dive into mediocre to just plain awful. Plenty of let’s players, like Game Grumps, have taken shots at the series and for good reason. I find it difficult to even play a Sonic platforming game now. The controls are awkward and the level design keeps shoehorning in sections to stop you from going fast. There was only one current generation Sonic game that I enjoyed playing though. Of course that could be from a warped pair of nostalgia glasses.
Going back home to visit provides an interesting combination of nostalgia and memories flashes I haven’t experienced in years. I was home for Christmas for the last time before my parents sold my childhood home and moved down to Florida. They picked my fiancée and I up from the airport and as they drove us back home I noticed things weren’t quite right. The pool hall I used to frequent was torn down and replaced by a tobacco store. Another Starbucks was built 2 miles away from the only other one in town on an empty field. The building I used to take piano lessons at as a child turned into a community college. At least that one dedicated itself to learning. I had flashes of memories from high school, middle school, and elementary school all in that drive home. Overall there was an odd feeling of something familiar but not quite right.
Playing Sonic Generations was like driving home for the first time in years and experiencing a wave of nostalgia. For those that aren’t fully aware of its power, nostalgia is a strong force. It can take insignificant moments in your life and turn them into something bigger. Warping what actually happened and changes your memories into good or bad experiences, trivializing some and blowing others out of proportion. Sometimes it’s best to be leave things in the past and focus on the future. Though these moments shape us to what we are today and who we eventually become.
Sonic Generations took the best levels of previous sonic games and updated them to today’s graphics standards. Not only did that but they warped the level design to improve the bad sections and improve the good. Essentially changing the way you thought about the level. All of this manipulation was justified as the story revolved around two different parallel Sonic words intersecting. It was a genius way to make Sonic fresh again without releasing another compilation disc or trying out a new gameplay mechanic that just didn’t work. Nostalgia helped Sonic Team create a heck of a sonic game in its darkest hour. I haven’t enjoyed playing a Sonic game in a long time. This game was legitimately fun. I’m not sure what the newer Sonic games are missing, but nostalgia could be part on why I enjoyed this game so much.
As we took one walk around the yard before going to the airport, more memories washed over me. Summer parties we used to throw, building snowmen, feeding friendly squirrels, and other powerful and insignificant moments hit me. This would be the last time I’d see my childhood house. There will always be memories lingering inside that house, but I know I can’t be sad that it’s over. There will be plenty of houses in my future, all filled with new memories. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Sonic franchise isn’t dead, it’s going through what most of us do and try to figure out what they want to do with their life. It can be a struggle along the way, but one day we’ll find what we’re all looking for. So I encourage you. The next time you go back to your home town or a city you lived in, look around. I mean really look around. As time goes on, you’ll have to create new memories that you can look back on with nostalgia.
Have you ever experienced a time when your nostalgia glasses were taken off? I want to hear your stories. Please leave a comment below.
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