"RETRO" BASHING IS IN FULL SWING
With all this future speak going on around us, it truly is an amazing time when you see a flurry of revamped classics such as Pong, Space Invaders, Paperboy and Gauntlet on the latest consoles and PC. What does it all mean? It means that good gameplay remains at the core of a successful video game, and software publishers are rapidly realizing that. The contemporary video game press will try and make you believe it's all about nostalgia and nothing more, but we all know better. Sure, hype, name recognition and nostalgia do play a part, but how do you explain the millions of enthusiasts around the world who play emulators like MAME (arcade) and Nesticle (NES) like a religion? Listen, I admit to being a fan of the Go-Go's as a kid, but I certainly don't need to listen to "Beauty and The Beat" over and over to get my 80's nostalgia kick. If I do pop in the CD, it'll be because I like it and the music still gets me doing the running man (ok, that's more late 80's-ish, but you get the picture.)
The gaming media say that game companies are stooping to the lowest levels by relying on their past catalog of games to make money. Certainly, there have been times where publishers have tried to make a quick buck by capitalizing on past franchises with no regard to the quality of the game. And there have been cases, such as in Pac-Attack (a decent Tetris knock-off), where the game has little or nothing in common with the original. However, there have been an equal number of remakes which have been terrific. Tempest 2000, Pong and Pac-Man World were three of the best games, classic or otherwise. If we conservatively estimate that one out of every three modernized classic is fun to play, that ratio isn't much different than the overall ratio of good to crap games, right? For every Gran Turismo or Resident Evil on PlayStation, there's X-Files and Shadowman.
Finally, magazine and online sites continually mock people who waste their time playing the classics when modern games like Starcraft and Jet Force Gemini have amazing graphics and provide 80 hours of gameplay. Now, I enjoy games like Zelda and Madden NFL 2000 just like most modern game players do. But sometimes, I'd like to play a 10 minute quickie of a game that doesn't require me to invest an hour in reading a game manual or to clear a level before I can save the game. I bet there are many, many folks who wouldn't play videogames unless they're simple to learn yet addicting to play. As a result, classic games can potentially cater to both the mass-market (or 'casual') gamer and hard core player.
Bottom line is that there's room for updated classics on store shelves, and game journalists will be best served to accept that fact instead of constantly picking on them.
- Please send comments or questions to Keita Iida