I was born in 1986. That means that I grew up during the 90’s and passed my puberty in early 00’s. During that time, a lot of great games released on the 16-bit and I got a good taste on what was going on on 8-bit era in retrospective. Yeah. A lot of great games. Or were they?
Nostalgia is a key word to both retro game lovers and haters. To the lovers, nostalgia is a given plus o all games of the 90’s 80’s or even 70’s games that make them feel comfortable playing them. To some extend, I agree with that. While playing Mega Drive or Super Nintendo, I get that comfort from the 2D pixelation they create that really draws me to them.
The haters though, including my Editor in Chief, argue that the games aren’t themselves great anymore, since technology and gameplay mechanics have evomved through the ages, that makes a good game in terms of game design has been researched deeply, allowing the creators to provide experiences that are designed from beginning to the end to be enjoyable and addictive.
To the last one, I have some objections, even though some of it isn’t entirely a lie. Let’s start with the parts I agree.
There were times that we had to rely on the cover of the game in order to buy it. There were very few magazines about games, and they were expensive to get. So it was better off to gamble than being informed what game to get. There was also the “word of mouth” where other kids provided insights about the games they bought. Both of them were risky. Gambling was, obviously, resulting in mediocre games with awesome covers. The word of mouth, if it wasn’t for a big franchise (e.g. Megaman, Castlevania, Mario, Sonic) had a lot to do with justifying the purchase of a mediocre game. Yes, a lot of kids felt the urge to justify their shitty purchases by convincing other kids to buy the same games.
So, after throwing away our carol or gathered pocket money, we were left with a game we wouldn’t entirely like. If it was playable, it was the best game ever. If not, we would regret.
That mediocrity with maturity somehow became greatness. I mean, I liked the GameBoy Killer Instict just because I had to study for the semester really hard. Now that I replay it, I love it but not because of its greatness but because I spent an entire summer stuck with it, forcifully convincing myself that I like it.
But not all games were Game Boy Killer Instict. And that’s the part I strongly disagree with the Retro Haters.
I remember my surprise when I popped in Super Metroid. I wasn’t a fan of Metroid on the NES like my older brother. So, even if I knew roughly the story, I wasn’t interested at all. It was my brother’s turn to choose a game, so I just endured his decision.
And it was fucking good.
Even today, Super Metroid is blessed with some merits that today’s games have either completely ignored or suppressed in a criminally bad way.
First of all, Super Metroid was telling a story within its gameplay. The longest cutscene – the ending- wasn’t that long and it was a direct result of the gameplay. Other than that, story and gameplay were one inseparable thing. The same goes with Sonic saga. Sonic 3 & Knuckles was an epic story told through small cutscenes but the game would tell the story itself.
So, that’s one thing missed on todays games. You can make your own conversation through choices, but the actual gameplay is completely isolated to the story. There are a few exceptions such as Half Life 2, but the crushing majority of the titles today, are prone to give a Holywood movie experience than an atmospheric game.
Another thing that’s forgotten is the gameplay and level structure.
As Egoraptor stated in his “Sequelitis” series, there were times where the games were respectful about the players’ ability to think and estimate patterns that are logical and probably vital for survival.
Megaman was a great example of how clever level design could teach the player and hone his skills for the rest of the game without the need of “hints” or annoying assistant characters to bombard him with details that are obvious.
The same goes to the majority of the good games of the past. They had less “Be carfeful blah blah blah” and made the gamer feel smart, self resourcible and felt more related to his own achievements.
For conclusion, I need to say that good games are good games. We enjoy playing them no matter the age. Just like movies and books. Pride and Prejudice isn’t a bad book just because it was written in old english language nor it was inferior because Jane Austen penned it initially with a feather pen.
The same goes with cinema, where some movies are still enjoyable even if the cameras were not HD, and the special effects were essentially stop motion dolls, ketchup for blood and plastic intestines. The same way, retro games aren’t inferior because of the limitations they had on the hardware side.
There are though many games that we love, just because we had to pass a shitty weekend with them, but that doesn’t apply to the most of them. So, thumbs up retro.