I made a disparaging remark about Mega Man 4 in my most recent post. This was, of course, a bad idea, because it led to a partial derailment which involved several MM4 fans standing and angrily shaking their text-based fists at me. Someone suggested I pick on Mega Man 5 instead, which would be a sensible choice but for the fact that I’ve already done that — last year, in a paean to Mega Man 9. Turns out that particular chapter of the series has even more staunch defenders than its predecessor, and most of the discussions about that article around the web ended up degenerating into silly arguments about why the whole piece was invalidated by my criticism of MM5. Who would have imagined?
Left: MM4, purportedly the best game ever; right: MM5, also purportedly the best game ever.
I suppose I could take the time to enumerate in detail my dislikes of each one — how MM4 ruined the need for subweapons (the series’ central mechanic!) by adding the charge shot, how MM5 felt uninspired and by-the-numbers — but what’s the point? They’re not terrible games by any means, just lackluster entries in a great series… at least, in my opinion. But other people clearly feel differently. Maybe they have fond childhood memories of MM4 or 5 from having been introduced to the series or the NES or gaming in general with those entries. Maybe they have sentimental attachments to events or people that they associate with the games. Or maybe they simply see something in either (or both) that eludes me. Whatever the case, I’m way past the point of telling people their tastes are wrong.
The single greatest thing about the Internet is the way that it offers an outlet for people to explore and share their interests with the like-minded. I’m endlessly jealous of kids who are growing up in a world where the Internet is simply a fact of life; I’d have killed for a place to discuss the music and games I loved when I was in school. I had a couple of schoolmates whose taste in music occasionally overlapped mine, and a few friends who enjoyed some of the same games as me, sure, but I always felt like my interests were a bit aberrant. It certainly didn’t help that my favorite bands tended to be old and British and generally too esoteric to find with ease at the record stores in Lubbock, so it was always a struggle to find more of their work. On one hand, the extra effort I had to invest in tracking down albums I wanted to own and the trial-and-error nature of purchasing music by bands I’d heard recommended but never actually heard helped cement my tastes and gave me a far more personal connection to that music than I suspect most people experience. On the other hand, it would have been nice to have been able to download a sample of, say, a particularly tepid Camel album before sinking $25 into an import copy only to discover it was terrible. It would have been nice, too, if I could have actually discussed the songs and albums and bands I was into with other fans rather than spend my high school years forcing my tastes on everyone around me in a desperate bid to make a connection and have someone to discuss things with. There’s something to be said for that intensive, focused search for the new and the sense of exploration and revelation it engenders, and in fact I suspect that’s the root of my growing interest in import games and slightly-outside-the-mainstream systems: I cherish the feeling of discovery I have when I come across something new and wonderful that had slipped beneath the radar.
While the intensity of a private crusade is appealing, though, I definitely prefer the sense of accessibility and community that the Internet fosters. Back in the mid-’90s, I used the Internet a bit as an information resource; then I came across the old RPGamer.com forums — possibly back when it was called the Unofficial Squaresoft Homepage, I don’t remember exactly — and discovered a group of people who shared my budding interest in console RPGs. More importantly, they were friendly about it (unlike the people who shared my tastes in music, who were a bunch of pompous twits). After years of eking what little conversation I could about my specific obsessions with partially-disinterested friends, the forums were a revelation. And they started me on the path that, ultimately, led to the establishment of this site.
“GameSpite” might actually be the most ironic name on the whole freaking web, because far from being spiteful our site here has gradually turned into a place where people can come to have (usually) civil discussions about the things they enjoy, whether or not those interests fit into the mainstream. I worry I’m becoming mellow and boring in my old age, because it’s much more interesting to me these days to earnestly explore why a game (or film or album or book) does or doesn’t work than it is to antagonize people for liking something I don’t — or even more stupidly, for liking something I do. The Final Fantasy VII review I wrote three years ago just embarrasses me now, to be honest, because while I think it contains some incisive and insightful commentary on the game’s failings, most of that is obscured in a morass of distracting, childish name-calling. So, yeah, sorry about that, everyone. I’m a jerk sometimes. But maybe I’m outgrowing it, slowly. And that’s a good thing.
There’s something sort of comforting knowing that regardless of how obscure (or awful) your tastes are, someone out there has equally esoteric (or terrible) tastes. I was amused a few weeks ago while browsing HG101’s forums when I stumbled across a thread about how the legendarily wretched “racing” game Big Rigs has a devoted fanbase that relentlessly rails against anyone who criticizes the game. I can’t tell whether or not these Big Rigs fans are being ironic, but in any case it’s an amazing spectacle: a group of people who have banded together to defend their common love (“love”?) of what is widely regarded as one of the worst commercially-released videogames ever created. Before the Internet, they would have been isolated and alone, wondering if their affection for something that’s only a game in the loosest sense of the word was some sort of sickness; now they can at least take comfort in knowing that their disease is a tiny epidemic.
Every game is someone’s favorite. No matter how terrible or unheard-of a game is, someone loves it. And while that’s not going to keep me from excoriating something I detest, I’ve become ever more mindful of the fact that there really is no accounting for taste and that people can like something wretched without necessarily being wretches. It’s the kinder, gentler side of the Internet, I suppose.
Well, I guess I’m done navel-gazing now, but I think the original point was supposed to be: I think Mega Man 4 and 5 are pretty lame and don’t have any remorse about saying so. But we can still be pals even if you disagree. Now, if you like Rockman & Forte for WonderSwan, on the other hand….