If you are reading this, chances are you are a fan of older video games and know that they have many merits. However, many of todays gamers who go and gobble up the newest, shiniest systems don’t get how good older games and the entire retro gaming scene are. Although I feel old admitting it, (and I’m only 24,) the modern gaming generation is missing the mark with several important areas that older games nailed. A lot of people lately have chosen to abandon keeping up with the new systems in favor of staying with what the past has perfected. During my time here at Retroware I have met many people who make strong arguments that the best of gaming is behind us and frankly, I agree with much of it. Here are five of the more legitimate ways Retro gaming trumps modern gaming.
5) Better fine-tuning
I know this was not always the case, there were plenty of crappy budget titles that barely functioned in the past, but I feel like back with the NES, SNES, up through the PS2 era even, games more often than not were polished to a higher quality before release. Smaller titles would of course have some tiny glitches and quirks, but it was a rare for a notable title from big name companies like Konami or Rare to have game stopping glitches upon release. Nowadays, with the internet and downloadable patches, it’s not uncommon for games to have huge problems upon release because, “eh, we can just patch it later.” The weird thing is, we actually put up with it. Reach a game changing screw-up in Stick of Truth? It’s ok. It’s Obsidian. It has bugs, but they’ll patch it in a few weeks. No. Just, no. I say if you pay $60.00 for a new game, it should be ready to play when I pop it in. Does this mean patches are bad? No. But they are often relied on in inappropriate and lazy ways.
A poor release
4) Console Durability
Console durability. You saw this one coming. Today’s systems are insanely fragile and finicky. This is something almost everybody has come to realize with infamous Red Ring Of Death pandemic. It’s infuriating, inconvenient, costly, and yet these failures have become so familiar that they are downplayed as an expected annoyance. My cousin got a brand new PS3 for Christmas a few years ago and he was ecstatic…until it died on him 3 months later. My Stepbrother went through four Xbox 360s in a little over two years. Meanwhile, my 25 year old NES boots up like a champ. My Gameboy works. My Sega Saturn once fell off the tall bookcase in my room while I was playing it, crashed to the floor, and the game kept playing without a hiccup. Don’t try this with your PS3. It’ll sense danger and self-destruct at the very thought.
3) The Social Element
I miss sitting in front of a TV with a group of friends discovering new secrets in a game world and fighting versus face to face. I miss exploring a map with a second set of eyes commenting or assisting. I miss having to be sly with choices because my opponent was sitting right next to me. I don’t really like playing fighters and shooters online. Online RPGs are easier for me to swallow as they are built around a different dynamic, but I still prefer to play off-line. I get why a lot of people do the online thing, and it still amazes me that I can get to know someone in Korea or New Zealand across a game, but it’s much less personal to me. There’s a palpable void. Not to mention, when playing online the anonymity and lack of significant consequence often leads to at least one player in the group high on a power trip with an obscene perspective and mouthpiece. That’s less likely when you can see the other players face. Empathy makes a social experience greater, not a headset.
I don’t mind download services like the Virtual Console or PSN. They are great alternative for those who want to save space and don’t care for buying a SNES or PS1 to replay a few old favorites. But the problem is that it’s hard to collect a series of games to keep and play over decades when they are download only. Games come and go from various stores online and a game saved to a 3DS SD card is far less secure than an actual game card. I realized just how true this was in December. I had just made a good dent in Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies, (which I was happy got released at all,) when I lost all my digital 3DS data. I got most of my software back, but not all of it, and no save info was recovered. Download only games do not suit serious collectors well. Unfortunately, this is a trend that isn’t going away. My copy of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies might vanish, but my physical copies of Earthbound, Cyrstalis, Cosmic Fantasy 2, and Panzer Dragoon are sticking with me. Good thing too, because some games, like Panzer Dragoon Saga, are never coming back.
It’s great to get niche games at all, but digital releases will always be shaky
The great thing about old systems like the NES, SNES, Genesis, PC-Engine, and even the CD add-ons is that their respective libraries remain as playable todays as they were twenty years ago and that’s not going to change anytime soon.. Older game systems like this are pretty basic in what they need to keep going throughout the years. Just the occasional clean up and they are pretty much good to go with hundreds of games to choose from. Sadly, this is not going to be the case with the recent systems. I first realized this with Phantasy Star Online. I remember the day Sega shut down the Dreamcast servers in 2003 after the system itself was discontinued. I used to play frequently with my friend Eric. We would both take turns, one fighting one typing with the keyboard and then… that was all gone. My friend assured me we could still play offline, but it’s just not the same. It was built around online play. I’ve been thinking of this lately because Nintendo is dropping all online support for the Wii and DS on March 20th, and a handful of great games are going to be pretty much useless. This is going to be much, much worse when the Xbox 360/XBone and PS3/PS4 die out. So many games depend on some type of online connection and there’s no way those services will be up forever. The future is uncertain my friends, but for now, it looks like the past will stay longer than the present.