I played several hours of Brawl last night with my friend and I have to admit, I had a lot of fun.
I think my technical criticisms still stand, and so do my personal ones. But the fanboy-fest is really, really enjoyable. I mean, even the music in Subspace Emissary is fantastic (I'm one of those people who can't get enough videogame music covers). So the source of my softening position on the game is my fondness for the subject matter, basically, and yesterday many of us theorized that's what it is for everyone.
That warm nostalgic affection rush for our cultural iconography, then, bumps up my positive feeling toward the game. Again, I just thank god I didn't have to review it, because I don't know what I'd have done. On the one hand, I've got black-and-white technical issues that would peel back my potential score a bit. On the other hand, I've got this thermal joy rush over characters that have been part of my life for more than a decade, since they were eight bits tall.
Answer me this: Is that a fondness for quality characters that deserves to be reflected in a review? Is it a trigger-finger response to the language of our culture? Or is it a personal bias, favoritism for a particular game or publisher?
If I had to review Smash Bros., in other words, would you as an audience rather I factor in my emotional response to Nintendo iconography, or should I discard it as personal? Does your answer depend on your own opinion of the iconography?
This is perhaps the most compelling reason yet not to score games. You'd probably want me just to tell you my opinion and provide whatever facts necessary (I have a bias in favor of the subject matter, I tend not to prefer the core gameplay) for you to place my opinion in context, right? I once argued that scores help readers weigh what a reviewer says, but I don't know.
As I said, I'm not reviewing Smash Bros, thank god, thank god. But I'm asking now, just in case someone assigns me to review Metal Gear Solid 4 on that fast-approaching day. I am, after all, intimately acquainted with the entire franchise and follow the director closely. But I am on record calling MGS3 "the perfect game" -- and confessing that's my subjective, personal, emotional opinion. I am on record confessing I'm "in love" with the protagonist (technically, I said Big Boss, but, y'know, almost the same).
I'll put it bluntly: Probably, I will be geeking out and shrieking in the first ten seconds of the intro cinema of MGS4. There is no unreleased title in the last two years for which I have been more excited. Would you say I am especially qualified to review the fourth game, or should I be disqualified?
Does the fact that market analysts, knowledgeable journalists and other industry folks have suggested that MGS4 might have a big, heavy hand in making or breaking the PlayStation 3 matter in your decision?
If I were to review MGS4, would you expect that I set aside my deep affection for the franchise and its characters? Do you think that's even possible, or am I doomed to be biased in favor of the game? Does a prior prejudice make me likely to be tougher or gentler on the game? If I gave it a good review, would you disregard it or weigh it less because you know me? If I gave it a bad review, would you be more liable to believe me knowing my predilection, or would you be more inclined to disagree with me because I had set a high emotional bar?
Here's a question -- would the way you received the review depend on what you wanted to hear and to believe?
Here's what I think; I'm not the only franchise loyalist. It wouldn't be considered such a crucial release if I were. Surely a review in the context of a fan with high expectations and strong preference is relevant to the audience, so long as they know that's what it is.
But I really am asking you guys, because I implied yesterday that Nintendo's last three most critical releases -- Twilight Princess, Galaxy and SSBB -- were reviewed more highly than they deserved because of reviewers' emotional loyalty (even subconscious) to the images, music and material. Even revising somewhat my opinion of SSBB, I believe this is true. What should I do when I'm the one who's the fangirl? Is it enough to just admit it first?