Monday, June 25, 2012

8-Bit Imagination: Platypus Nostalgia

Evidently there are a series of concept drawings created by Katsuya Terada for the first few Legend of Zelda games that have been floating around the internet (for how long before I discovered them I'm not sure).  I have to echo what I hear wherever these pictures turn up: this is the game as I imagined it when I was a kid.  There's something haunting and spacious about Katsuya Terada's images that captures all the feelings of mystery and adventure that came with playing a Zelda game.  The art that was actually released with the booklets for the games is far more "cartoony" and "safe."  Of course, the original games were made with children in mind and it makes sense that the marketing team would prefer brighter and more cartoon-like images.  What interests me, however, is that if these pictures were in fact used as concept art for the games why was there one set of visuals (a much more mature and visually arresting set) for the programers and a very different set for the consumers.  Perhaps it just comes down to a matter of different artists working for different departments that don't talk to each other.  Whatever the case may be, I'm sure there are enough people like me out there for it to be worth Nintendo's while to put out a Zelda game that brings Katsuya Terada's version of Hyrule to life.

...or would that ruin it?  The monster that is seen is never as scary as the monster that is unseen.  The book is always better in the movie.  There's something about the power of the imagination that always eludes our powers of creation in space and time.  Katsuya Terada's drawings are snapshots that provoke the imagination, not replace it.  The genius of the images seems to be as much in their starkness as in their detail: as much in what they don't show as what they show.  Would we be as impressed if we knew what was around the corner?  Would the monster be as monstrous if we could see it clearly?  Maybe the great thing about the early Zelda games was that the low level of technology required so much from the gamer's imagination.  They were mere sketches; you had to fill in the rest.  There was room for the imagination to run riot.  I don't know.  For old gamers, the question of nostalgia has to be raised: how much of this is just pining for an idealized and simpler time?

None of these questions are very profound, but as the first generation of gamers reaches maturity, it makes sense that we'd want to look back and reflect upon these unique pastimes.  Have we learned anything from them?  Are we any better off for having had them?  Is there anything here that has relevance for our lives today?  Can we make them better?  What should we pass on to younger gamers?  I guess that's the real point of this post; the real point of this series of posts.  Now that I'm old enough to reflect, what have I learned upon reflection? 

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