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I know I am extremely late to the party, but I played Animal Crossing: Wild World on my friend's DS for a few hours the other day and decided I wanted to get into the series. As a current Wii owner, I checked out my favorite review sites to see if the Wii game, Animal Crossing: City Folk, got as much praise I remembered it getting a few years ago. To my surprise though, I found that the game was pretty much universally panned. I was confused — why would I remember praise when it clearly did not exist for this game? I dug a little deeper into the sites' archives and found the praise I had remembered, however it was for the Gamecube game, not the Wii game. Now ignoring the sad fact that I'm clearly getting senile and mixing things up that happened years apart, I re-read reviews for both system's versions and noticed an interesting trend — although the content for both games were similar (which probably contributed to my confusion), the Gamecube version was loved while the Wii version despised. As someone who wants to get into these games and owns a backwards-compatible Wii that plays both Wii games and Gamecube games, which version should I get? Enough time has passed so price isn't an issue and no extra hardware is required for either experience. It's confusing then, in reviews, when games are essentially "rereleased" under a new name for a different system. Sometimes they are praised for the subtle new things they do and other times, like this, crucified because of "wasted potential." Which game is the definitive version of Animal Crossing?
While reviews can never truly be completely objective, I feel that as the industry matures they at least need to take into account that what they are writing will be read many times far into the future. I know it must be hard for reviewers to abstain from writing simply for their contemporaries and the millions of people that will click on their review during the game's launch week, but the magic of the Internet ensures that reviews will last forever and therefore should try to stand the test of time. I feel like it needs to be an all or nothing comparison if the previous game in the series is even referenced by the reviewer in order to better future-proof reviews. Include links to old reviews, directly take quotes from them and discuss whether or not the developers improved upon the problems with the last game, and most importantly directly say which game provides a better experience. Otherwise, review the game as a completely unique entity independent of the other game. Obviously having the same reviewer look at both games will help with consistency and it should be up to him or her as to which method, or even both, to employ. Imagine a world where every Madden comes with two reviews — one showing the differences between this year's and last's and another reviewing it for people who have never played Madden but are curious to try it. Each review can even come with its own score!
As the gaming industry tries to carve out its unique place in modern entertainment, I feel it needs to utilize all the tools at its disposal to catalog its short but rich history. Game developers constantly build on ideas from older games. Reviews are the method by which games are judged. Therefore the industry needs to develop a standardized way to use reviews to acknowledge the games that came before. This standardization will ensure that our favorite industry can healthily grow and take care of the needs of both longtime gaming stalwarts as well as newbies to the gaming crowd.