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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Are Neo-Retro Game Releases a Fad? 266

With modern console technology making it easy to develop and distribute small games, more and more companies are taking advantage of gamers' nostalgia to re-release decades-old hits, and to create entirely new titles in older styles. Gamasutra takes a look at what the retro game fad has become, and where it can go from here. What old games or series do you think would translate well onto today's consoles? "Many gamers who bought Mega Man 9 did so because of the game's inherent nostalgia, or because they never had a chance to enjoy the older games on the Nintendo Entertainment System when they were younger. Mega Man 9 is very much a product of its context. Its gameplay is fantastic, but it too is a product of the time period in which it reigned supreme. It suggests the question: can neo-retro games stand the test of time? Will games that mimic or lampoon the 8-bit era remain relevant and interesting to the masses long after its original audience has disappeared?"
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Are Neo-Retro Game Releases a Fad?

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  • Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cowclops ( 630818 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:55AM (#25685417)
    Well they won't keep making recreations of NES era games when nobody remembers NES anymore. They'll make recreations of newer games that people still remember playing as a kid.
  • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:06AM (#25685467)
    You know what? This whining that there hasn't been a decent new game in years is getting seriously old. There have been TONS of good new games in the past, say, 5 years. I don't know if gamers like you are jaded, stuck-up, or what, but you are so wrong about this mythical "quality of games has gone down the tubes" bullshit.
  • Neo-retro? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:11AM (#25685493)

    I'm not sure of the definition of 'neo-retro.' If this means creating 8-bit games just for the sake of nostalgia, then they'll probably die out. But games that build on and improve old styles of gameplay (here I'm thinking of the Castlevania series for the DS) will, I hope, always have a place in the video game universe.

    Here's hoping for Super Paper Metroid.

  • Hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:24AM (#25685547) Journal
    One phenomenon that I think we'll see a lot of(aside from simple "Hey, we paid to develop this game in the early 90's, slap an NES emulator on the sucker and any sales are pure profit!" cash ins) is the obsolescence/nostalgia response curve.

    New stuff is love or hate: Either it is new, improved, shiny, and exciting, or shoddy crap that ruins the original.
    Current stuff is ok: You can see the flaws and have some ideas about what could use fixing; but it is familiar and mostly comfortable.
    Old stuff blows: It is largely the same as current stuff; but the flaws that used to be merely niggling are horrific now that you've been using stuff that fixed them for a few years(I got into shooters pre-mouselook; but I'll be damned if I could go back).
    Quite old stuff is awesome: It is so far from memories of practicality that its defects are part of the charm, and most of the worst elements(remember all the NES games that aren't timeless classics?) have either been forgotten about or are now old friends.

    The above is quite vague, I admit; but it fits my experience of how the desirability of things like tech toys and video games change over time. Cutting edge PCs are cool, and fun to read about/drool over occasionally. My current rig is adequate; but unexciting. The couple before that suck, exactly the same feel as the current one; but slower, louder, and more expensive. My old-school Compaq portable rules, even though it is only really good for doing stupid basic tricks, I don't actually have to get any use out of it, so its limitations are quaint and endearing rather than annoying. Games are similar in many respects.

    Now, this is just a general outline. Some things are genuine classics, most things sucked from day one. I think, though, that it fairly well explains the current pattern in retro gaming. 8-bit is big because it has a lot of nostalgia for many of us, and because it is qualitatively different than current games.

    A little while back, I gave GoldenEye a try again. It was horrific. I don't know how I ever enjoyed it. The experience was qualitatively equivalent to a modern 3D shooter; but with gaping holes where all the stuff we've improved between now and then should have been. Same thing happened with Dune II. A true classic of the RTS genre; but all I could think about was how Dune II's interface was missing all the refinements that it had picked up by the time Red Alert was released. It's like picking up an old Pentium machine, it's exactly the same deal as whatever beige box is under your desk now, none of the exoticism of an old C-64 or apple or amiga, but it's a zillion times slower, you can't get RAM for it, and you had completely forgotten that it predated ATAPI CDROMS.
  • Re:Nope. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:27AM (#25685567)

    Well they won't keep making recreations of NES era games when nobody remembers NES anymore. They'll make recreations of newer games that people still remember playing as a kid.

    I'm not sure I agree with you. My 5 year old really enjoys Atari 2600 games as well as Pac-man and other old arcade games. There's something to be said about the simplicity of many of the older games. She also loves playing Spore, so it's not like she can only handle simple games.

  • Re:Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <{jmorris} {at} {}> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:28AM (#25685571)

    > There's nothing special about the NES era, as the article insinuates.

    You are right there was nothing special about the NES, but there was something special about that time period, across both console, early 8bit PCs and the arcade scene. That was the period when everything was new, the genres were being defined and every month or two some development house was putting out something that was actually new and different.

    For example, a lot of good fantasy has been written after J.R.R. Tolkien blew open the genre, but each generation keeps going back to his work. Same thing is games. Donkey Kong might not have been the very first 'platform' game but Mario's enduring legacy traces back to it and because it and the Mario sequels forever left such a stamp on the genre designers still, even unconsiously, follow in Nintendo's footsteps when doing anything that resembles a 'platformer.'

    > In the future, gamers will be nostalgic for the games they grew up on.

    And will pine away for them in vain. Emulation saved the old 8bit world from oblivion because DRM, even when used, wasn't a serious obstacle. There still hasn't been a proper crack for any of the current generation consoles. Hopefully the proven nostalgia market in this generation will induce teh publishers to do a port to the platforms of 20 years from now, but since the effort will be non-trivial and the die hard fans won't be able to do it themselves.....

  • Re:Nah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:33AM (#25685601) Homepage Journal

    It's true. Recent games aren't games so much as simulations. Simulations can be fun at times but they don't have the same game play value as a real game. It's the difference between running around in a field with a paintball gun or playing Scrabble. Both are entertainment but only the later is really a game under that meaning of the word.

    Most current games aren't designed for gamers - they are designed for people who want to spend a huge amount of time involved in complex simulations. Most of us don't have time or energy for such complex simulations and have satisfying enough lives that we don't need pretend ones so this sort of game doesn't appeal to us. It's just not the same sort of beast that classic video games were.

    ie. I have a real wife, a real child, real friends, and a real job so I don't need or want to waste 16 hours a day playing Sims or WoW but I'd still sit down and play a classic platform scroller for 30 minutes every now and then.

  • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman@gm a i l . com> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:46AM (#25685641) Homepage Journal

    Recent games aren't games so much as simulations. Simulations can be fun at times but they don't have the same game play value as a real game.

    Bingo. Games used to be fun because of their interesting mechanics, not their realism. We used to have such wonderfully varied genres ranging from platformers, side-scrolling shooters, space combat, point and click adventures, "arcade" games (e.g. QBert/Donkey Kong/Galaga), action-puzzle games, shmups, etc. Once gaming went down a path of realism, the lines between games started to blur more and more. Some of the genres that were once popular got lost in the transition to greater realism. Pretty soon the only genres left were First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters/Platformers, and Racing.

    Some of the newer games are trying to differentiate themselves with interesting mechanics (e.g. Using a cyber-arm to swing around, gymnastics, portals, vertical climbing and gravity effects), which does occasionally make the games more compelling. But at the end of the day a GAME does not need realism any more than Clue or Monopoly need the realism of a hexagonal wargame. It just needs to be fun. That's an aspect of video games that modern gaming is having to rediscover.

  • Wonder no more! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) < minus city> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:07AM (#25685711) Homepage

    And people wonder why Hollywood keeps retreading the same old stuff...

  • Wii Ware selection is still sparse and uncompelling

    Are you serious?

    - Defend Your Castle
    - Toki Tori
    - World of Goo
    - Mega Man 9
    - Alien Crush Returns
    - Lost Winds
    - Bomberman Blast
    - Tetris Party
    - Art Style: Orbient
    - Dr. Mario RX
    - Star Soldier R
    - Strong Bad
    - Wild West Guns
    - Gyrostarr

    While a few of the items do not appeal to me personally, I included them because they appeal to a majority of other gamers I've spoken with. However, the super-majority of the list are games I have downloaded and enjoyed. (WiiWare is going to send me to the poor house at this rate! :-P) The games I didn't like on that list are merely a difference in gaming preferences.

    So there is certainly more than enough to choose from. If you can't find a bunch of great games on WiiWare, you either are too picky or have already played them all because you've got WAY too much time and money. ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:27AM (#25685783)


  • Re:Nah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman@gm a i l . com> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:32AM (#25685795) Homepage Journal

    Wing Commander, Duke Nukem I & II, BioForge, Command and Conquer, Star Trek TNG: A Final Unity, Secret of Monkey Island, System Shock, Sim City, The Incredible Machine, Where in the [World|Time|Space] is Carmen Sandiego?, California Raisins, Space Quest, Prince of Persia, King's Quest, Myst, Doom, X-Com, Under a Killing Moon

    Just to name a few. :-P

    I miss Gaming Goodness(TM) and all the pointy sticks that went with it. *sigh*

  • Re:Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gma i l .com> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:38AM (#25685805) Journal

    Nostalgia may be part of it,but I also think there is something deeper. When there were serious limits to the hardware the develops HAD to come up with new and interesting things to be noticd. Even the early PC FPS,which at the time would have been "state of the art" seemed to go that extra distance. Like the sheer fun of blasting to the NiN soundtrack in Quake, or the first time I played SoF and actually shot the gun out of the bad guys hand(is there even a game you can do that trick with now?) or of course the big boys- System Shock 2 and Deus Ex. Deus Ex allowed you to play it YOUR way while actually giving you more than go and kill X number of bad guys,and what can you say about SS2,it was just so damned good.

    But now,because of the incredible cost to keep up with the Jone's graphics wise,there just doesn't seem to be nearly as many risk takers out there. Instead we get to fight WW2 for the bazillionth time. More and more we just get sequel after sequel after sequel. Yet I still keep finding myself going back to Quake,SoF,Freelancer(best damned mods I've ever played) Deus Ex,etc. Why? Because they were FUN then,and you know what? They still are. Maybe the whole retro thing will hit more and more genres as the little guys see that they can find a market with them. Because I don't care if a game looks like 8-bit Mario,or the first DOOM, or the mitten hands of the Win9X shooter era. All I care about is the FUN,and if it has something different to it,like those games I mentioned,so much the better.

    Because I don't know about you guys,but I'm really getting sick of fighting WW2. Of course with some of the nasty DRM that the PC games companies are pushing you'll spend more time fighting it than Japs or Nazis,but fighting DRM isn't my idea of fun either.

  • Re:not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:44AM (#25685823) Homepage

    I for one re-played (in an emulator) Phntasy Star 3 because yeah it has ancient graphics and music but the gameplay kicked so much ass in its time, other games couldn't even come close.

    Opinions, opinions... even back in the day, I thought Phantasy Star 2 and 3 were awful. The original Phantasy Star was a great game that pushed the SMS to its limits; those two sequels had some good writing, but despite the better hardware, they looked worse, sounded worse, and played worse. Luckily, Phantasy Star IV redeemed the series and ended it on a very high note.

  • by MasaMuneCyrus ( 779918 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @03:13AM (#25685907)

    Some games just aren't as good or are totally different games in 3D. Sonic, Mario, Metroid, Secret of Mana, etc... Seriously, who wouldn't want to play a good Super Mario World 3? And let's not forget the atrocities that happened when Capcom brought Mega Man into 3D (X7, X8)...

  • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @04:05AM (#25686073)

    look at the sheer number of games released in the 80's and 90's, and you'll find that a lot of the ground breaking stuff was released pretty sporatically. Games NEEDED realism, or atleast, better graphics. Comparing the boss fights from Mega Man 1-6 to MegaMan 7 and 8? Or From 1-6 to X, Z, and ZX? Bigger screen real estate, better sprites, and 3D graphics *did* something for gaming. Portal wouldn't be Portal if it was a 2D platformer, Mirror's Edge would be no fun if it was top down. Metal Gear would be no fun if it started with:

    "You are on Shadow Moses Island, you are being lifted up to the surface by a cargo elevator. You see several guards and you are armed with a SOCOM Mk.23 pistol."

    > Use gun on man"

    there is unique flavor with 2D gaming, and while it's gone, it's not gone forever. Braid, LBP, and any number of platformers, fighters, shooters or puzzle games that have come out in the last 12 years since the original PlayStation was launched really prove that. I mean, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix is slated for this month! Street Fighter 4! King of Fighters 12, Raiden 4, Mushihime-sama, and god knows how many other "old school" style games are being released with with modern twists. SSF2THDR is getting a 1080p make over, KOFXII is 1080p and so is SF4(which is also 3D rendered on a 2D plane with 2D game mechanics), etc.

  • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FingerSoup ( 928761 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @05:51AM (#25686335)
    The biggest thing about the whole realism thing, is that people WANTED more realism than the 8-bit eras. There's a reason adventure games don't get made much any more, and it's because of the lack of realism. Realism is the reason why FPS have replaced the adventure game...

    What is an adventure game? A maze, or freeform level, where you collect objects, and use them to progress further, and advance the storyline... What's a modern FPS? The exact same thing, but in a first person view.

    The problem that FPS are facing now is the same that adventure games dealt with... Puzzles and themes are overdone and repetitive, stories are too thin, or too far-fetched, and interfaces are too cumbersome to do everything that you want/need to do in order to play your game.

    So, FPS and adventure games are similar. they both started out with simple controls. Adventure games were Text based games like the infocom games, FPS were really 2 dimensional with Wolfenstein. More realism was needed to keep interest, and people NEVER STOPPED with pushing realism. Adventure games got graphics with "Mystery House", and then Animation with "King's Quest". FPS got Depth with Doom, and 3D with Quake. Plots for both were simple, and linear. People wanted more Drama. Adventure games got more and more story driven, or more and more rediculous with puzzles. FPS did something very similar - More map complexity, and more movement/jumping/physics puzzles. All the while, the focus on making games "Prettier" than the last, was always a driving force, which eventually overtook as the measure of Quality for which the industry stood upon, instead of gameplay. Doom3 Engine versus Source/HL2 was one useless fight, just like Sierra's SCI1+ interpreters versus LucasArts SCUMM interfaces. Simplification was a key point at several points... LucasArts brought point 'n' Click, just as "Quake 3" did away with ladders, secondary attacks, and other extraneous controls such as leaning, etc... We now sit in a market which is flooded with FPS, just as the market used to be flooded with Adventure games... And everybody is looking for the next "Big Thing" to replace the FPS....

    Then comes this game, where you can pretend to be a rock star, and all you have to do is mash 3 - 5 buttons, and flick a switch back and forth. Game play is fun and simple to understand. It doesn't require 100 buttons, and has no plot to worry about. "Guitar Hero" makes a bunch of people realize that fun games are more than just pretty graphics, are more than walking around and shooting things, and are more than just puzzles that don't really make sense... And OF COURSE people are going to realize that in all the hype of "who's prettier?" and "Who looks more real?", somewhere we lost the concept of fun and entertainment as the standards of a good game.

    Now, we have a resurgence of old games, neo-retro games, and unique new games which really could have been made 15 years ago, had corporations not had their heads up their Wazoos, trying to cash in on previous Intellectual properties, and jumping on bandwagons to create the prettiest FPS to win the FPS war. There's still the old school, such as the Crysis team who pumps out a gorgeous looking game that's as forgettable as most FPS' on the market. The indy-game developer is still at work trying to get their innovations to market, and finally, there's the new crew trying to resurrect the old and market as new, because it really is new to a whole generation. Net result? An new generation and appreciation for old gaming, which will likely last a short period of time before someone tries to out-tech and out-spec the rest.

    Already, we are starting the same progression with Guitar Hero vs Rock Band... Who has the more realistic guitar? Hey, lets add drums, and make them more complex... I'm waiting for the day where you need a webcam and you get scored for how close you dressed up like the band you're playing. Imagine - Dressing up like RHCP in their sock-donning glory of the late 80's early 90's... Good ol' Family fun!
  • Re:Nah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by m50d ( 797211 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @07:18AM (#25686589) Homepage Journal
    It's true. Recent games aren't games so much as simulations.

    Bollocks. Stop focusing on what's getting the headlines, which has been the latest photo-realistic FPS for at least ten years; look through the aisles at the store rather than the big stand, and you'll find all the variety there used to be is still alive and well. Yes, the quirkier "gamier" games get less exposure than the "realistic" ones, but guess what? They don't sell as well.

  • Re:Nah (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @08:51AM (#25686857)

    Some of the genres that were once popular got lost in the transition to greater realism. Pretty soon the only genres left were First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters/Platformers, and Racing.

    Just because you don't see the games doesn't mean they don't exist any more... you need to look beyond the top three games of the quarter.

  • Re:Nah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WDot ( 1286728 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:36AM (#25687025)
    Really? When I think of "simulations" I think of flight sims, racing sims, mech sims, or any type of game that's designed for hardcore enthusiasts that want to make an experience as real as possible--the kind that would make their PC desk look and act like an airplane cockpit just to make the simulation better. Or at the very least, the kind that refuse to play driving games without a racing wheel.

    Your average game is very much a game, as lots of compromises are made in realism to make the gameplay more manageable. Sure the models have super high res textures and a million polygons or whatever, but if all you have to do to pick up a gun is walk over it, what kind of simulation is that?
  • Re:Nah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:38PM (#25687971)

    Portal wouldn't be Portal if it was a 2D platformer

    This whole thread has been a nonstop parade of misinformation, but I have to stop it here. There is a Portal 2D [] version, and the levels created there have even been translated back into Portal map packs, and picked up as part of Portal: Still Alive for the 360.

    And Metal Gear has changed a few times ("Uh oh, the truck have started to move!"), and I dare say people hated how Solid DIDN'T really use the 3rd dimension and retained a lot of the usual 2D gameplay.

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