New retro games is a booming enterprise. Slapping on HD filters, (sometimes) adding network play and other small additions and reselling games you’ve already made money on is a no-brainer. It’s also much easier for today’s consumer to pay $5, $10, $15 for a digital copy of the old games we used to (and still do) love than it is to maintain a museum of past-generation consoles and games. Needless to say, I love this trend for a couple of reasons. At the most basic level, I simply love older games. I grew up playing the Apple II, eventually upgraded to the Commodore 64 which more than satisfied my gaming needs into the console era of gaming when I moved on to the NES and I have been a fanatic and collector of gaming consoles ever since. As fanatical a collector as I am, I was and am still limited by financial constraints and thus missed out on many classic gems. This trend is providing me the opportunity to experience some of these classics that I missed in my youth. Also, as a father I feel it is my duty to ensure that my son’s video gaming experiences are well rounded and reenforced with milestone games of the past that paved the way for the games he loves today so that he appreciates where video games have been, enjoys where they are and anticipates where they are going.
The rise in indie game development has boosted the retro game scene by allowing smaller teams with low budgets to either port classic games that were previously developed by individuals on classic platforms like Apple, Commodore, etc. or develop new games that carry on the spirit of retro games. The first time I played Karateka on the Commodore 64, my mind was blown. I had never seen such fluid animation, character sprites that resembled accurate human proportions, cinematic story telling of that quality. It gave me a glimpse of what to expect in the future of gaming. Karateka was the precursor to Prince of Persia (both games were developed by Jordan Mechner) and its style and animation is undoubtedly an influence on games like Out of This World and Flashback. I am extremely excited that Karateka is being remade for Xbox 360, PSN and WiiU this fall.
As great as retro games are and as much as I want to love all the remakes of games I remember from my childhood, there have been some misses. I am a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade games. So much so that I have purchased the original TMNT JAMMA arcade board and am building a custom cabinet for the game. Konami beat ‘em up arcade games were always a blast to play in the arcades and on home consoles which is why I was so disappointed in Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled. It’s hard to say what exactly made this fall short in my mind, but to put it simply it just didn’t feel like the same game. Double Dragon is another arcade game I remember fondly from my youth and the “HD” Remake released on XBLA was very disappointing. The HD filter made the game look worse in my opinion and the game suffered from terrible slow downs at certain points.
But for each of these setbacks, there are, in my opinion, at least twice as many success stories. Although the re-release of the X-Men Arcade Game employs a similarly simple HD filter to enhance the graphics, it’s simply a better arcade experience than Double Dragon or TMNT: Re-Shelled. Bionic Commando: Re-Armed was one of the first true HD remakes in which the game was completely remade with an HD gaming engine and it is a gem. Then there are new games that are homages to retro games like Mega Man 9 and 10. Shadow Complex was a completely new gaming experience but it carried on the spirit of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with great success. Other classic games are being re-released with current content like WWF WrestleFest – a classic arcade game recently released on XBLA/PSN with current WWF stars instead of the classic line up while allowing the classic wrestlers to become available through downloadable content packages. Ingenious.
This week we will see the release of a couple new retro game re-releases: Nights: Into Dreams… and Sonic Adventure 2. Although I did at one point own Nights and Christmas Nights, I always thought the game was overrated. I never really got that in to the game. I will admit I loved Sonic Adventure and tried Sonic Adventure 2 but didn’t think it was different enough from the original to warrant my time at that point – there were so many other great games and consoles coming out during that time that I didn’t give it much of a chance. Now I have the option on multiple platforms to reevalute my past indiscretions. Enjoy these times, retro gaming enthusiasts; the video gaming industry is maturing and those who have been enjoying the ride since the early days are being catered to like never before.