So, I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick recently. I purchased an old Gameboy Advance SP with a copy of Pokémon Fire Red and journeyed through Kanto just as I did as a whippersnapper. With Squirtle by my side I bossed the elite four and captured all the legendaries. Signed, sealed, delivered.
The experience was brought on by playing the newer Pokémon Sword and being disappointed with not only the dire selection of Pokémon available in the base game, but the storytelling and the lifelessness of the 3D monsters on the screen of the decently powerful Nintendo Switch.
I always found the 2D games so expressive with their fantastic sprite artwork.
Take Blastoise for example:
How did we go from all that expression in Pokémon Crystal – cannons pointed, snarling and ready for battle to, look at me, I’m standing.
I’ve never understood why everyone just assumes that 3D animation has more worth than 2D animation. Nothing beats the hand drawn storytelling of a Studio Ghibli masterpiece a-la Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbour Totoro, or Disney Classics like The Jungle Book and Treasure Planet.
One of these is full of creativity, colour and expression. Everything that animation stands for. The other is the cash grab remake of The Lion King. Looking at it closely, I think it would make a great advert for Compare the Meerkat.
It makes the game feel so boring, especially when you compare it to the dynamic worlds of Mario Odyssey and the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the same system. It makes Game Freak look so lazy and devoid of ideas for the franchise.
Hell, the main gimmick was making the Pokémon ‘bigger’.
After my Kantonian adventure drew to a close in the Sevii Islands, my mind began to wander about other old video games that had been banished to the depths of my childhood memory.
I had been enjoying the early Pokémon games with a few staff members at work and collectively discussed that Yu-Gi-Oh was the next in the line of franchises we’d all played.
I recalled a gem called Yu-Gi-Oh: Forbidden Memories on the Playstation 1 that I had played to death as a child. Played the same levels over and over again at least as I didn’t really understand save mechanics, and the furthest I had gotten was to Yami Bakura – anime bad guy and owner of the Millennium Ring. For those unaware, that’s probably just before the middle of the game.
Frustrated at my lack of PS1 ownership and unwilling to part with the money to begrudgingly purchase one, my quest led me to the sprawling pages of google search.
Did you know that PS1 games are backwards compatible on PS3s? All of them. The console even has a feature where you can create memory cards inside the system itself. I know people probably found this out years ago, but wow. Made my day. The first generation of PS3s could also play PS2 games, but they cut that function out to reduce costs (boo).
A quick order from CeX later, and Forbidden Memories was mine again.
It was just as difficult as I could remember, and just as addicting.
Also, the soundtrack on this game absolutely bops. Especially the ‘Free Duel’ music, which is a blessing because the grind required to complete this bloody game is actually insane. I have defeated the Meadow Mage over 60 times, have I received the Meteor B. Dragon card you literally NEED to beat the game? I have not. But I can turn the stage into a field multiple times during the game, so that’s great.
The game is everything I can remember and more. The duels are intense and require the right tactics to defeat each duellist, the game is difficult but beatable (up until the late game) and the story is actually great – telling the story of how the Egyptian Spirit Yami came to be trapped in the Millennium Puzzle in the first place.
I had put a fair few hours into the game and came back to my nemesis, my arch-rival, Yami Bakura. I tried about 10 times between rounds of grinding, and still his Millennium Shield was victorious with its staggering 3000 points of defence. I was down and out, dominated by this man and his demonic stare.
It was then that my girlfriend asked for a turn. I scoffed, presented her with the remote and a wry smile. She defeated him on the first try. I had waited 16 years for this moment, but for me, this was no victory.
The worst part of it all, I defeated Pegasus first time. I went back into free duel with renewed belief and lost to Bakura, again.
I returned to Ancient Egypt on my save file and defeated all the mages that assisted in my demise in the first place. But, what awaits me is an onslaught of battles with no save point. I have beaten the Labyrinth Mage, but following that only the game over screen.
I’ll need to do some more grinding before I resume my adventure, but It’s been such a good time revisiting a game that I had loved so much as a child. Anyway, it got me thinking… While common pastimes (such as travel and seeing friends) have become so difficult, we can delve into our childhoods and reclaim the things we lost growing up.
I don’t think I’ll ever sell this game, in fact it’s one that I’d love to share with my future children because it gave me so many good memories at that age.
My only wish is that I could stab the moon with my stone guardian and defeat Heishin that way, but I don’t think the TV show actually follows the same rules as the card game.
Maybe I’ll play one of the more recent Yu-Gi-Oh titles, but it seems like they’re going down the same overcomplicated route that Pokémon is.
In an age where loot boxes, pay to win titles and EA are trying their hardest to ruin the video game industry – at least we’ve still got the classics, and that, nobody can take away from us.