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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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  • Real neo-retro games (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @12:56AM (#25685419) Homepage Journal

    Making old-fashioned new games is nothing new.

    In the '60s Star Trek gave us 3-D Chess.

    In the '70s gave us Sudoku, similar to Magic Squares number puzzles.

    The 21st century is giving us modern versions of Monopoly, which uses pre-real-estate-market-crash valuations.

    Me? I like Pong.

  • not really (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:21AM (#25685537)
    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. Even today it at least ties some modern games when it comes to size of the world and the fight system. Other older games completely beat their modern counterparts in gameplay. Starcraft's online play still beats modern games and that's why it's still sold in stores today. The only usual downfall for older games is AI but that doesn't always affect every game.
  • The X-Wing series (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:42AM (#25685633)

    It was a fun simulator. I'd love a copy that would run on one of my current machines.

  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earthbound kid ( 859282 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:59AM (#25685683) Homepage

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

    Not so. The NES was the first game console with a significant library of non-sucky titles. I tried playing my old Atari 2600 a few years ago and gave up, because it's all crap except for maybe a couple of games (Adventure, Outlaw, ... I can't think of a third title, and I had dozens and dozens of games). On the other hand, there are a ton of great NES game. Tetris had an NES version, and it's still gold. (OK, so the NES version was crap compared to the Game Boy version. But still...) Super Mario Bros. 3 is the best game of all time. MegaMan is still popular as are a number of different platformers from back then. BattleToads and Ninja Turtles were popular beat 'em ups. Bomberman introduced a formula that's still around. The RPGs from the NES were generally crappy, but they laid the groundwork for future games and are decent as the basis for a remake. Most of the game ideas that we like now were previewed in a basically decent form on the NES.

    That said, the SNES is still a better console overall because it had the good play mechanics of the NES and combined it with non-ugly graphics. Zelda 3, for example, is great and will never go out of style. The RPGs of the SNES don't need to be remade to be playable.

  • by bitrex ( 859228 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @02:40AM (#25685813)

    Personally I can't say I miss some of the NES RPGs. A few years back I dusted off my NES console from a closet and fired up Dragon Warrior. Somehow my saved games were still intact from 1989, but first I started a new quest. After 20 minutes I was pretty well bored. These games were the ultimate grindfests; killing slime after slime to get enough gold to upgrade my bamboo stick to a sharpened bamboo stick or whatever comes next without even the social interaction or plot that makes WoW or modern RPGs interesting respectively. Sometimes nostalgia is well placed, in this case old is definitely not better.

    I remember that some of the later titles in the Dragon Warrior series were more interesting. I did get a kick out of loading up one of my nearly 2 decade old games, saved right near the end, and killing the Dragonlord once more for good measure.

  • Re:Nah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @03:25AM (#25685939)
    Total Annihilation was the best RTS ever for gameplay. Quake still has the best deathmatch environment.

    I still play Alpha Centauri, Birth of the Federation, and Ancient Domains of Mystery a couple months a year. Every year. And they can still trap me at 3 am with the obsessive "just one... more... turn..." mindset.

    I really miss the Microprose classics like Airborne Ranger and F-19 Stealth fighter. Not to mention Star Control 2 and Stars!
  • Er. wait a mo... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fallen Andy ( 795676 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @04:00AM (#25686041)
    Dead wrong. Some of us (and I'm 50 this year) are discovering most of those old console games for the first time!! (Disclaimer: I've been playing games back to c.a. '77 - the original "adven" on a PDP-11 in a research lab). The nice thing is that many of them can be played as casual games so I'll go off and play a little Dragon Warrior IV (NES), Summon Night (GBA) etc. My friend's son in the shop two doors down is probably playing Mario 64 (N64) right now...


  • by Waccoon ( 1186667 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @04:44AM (#25686157)

    I think it's backlash against 3D gameplay. I'm not talking about 3D graphics, but rather 3D gameplay and interacting with things in a 3D world.

    In 2D, you can do a lot of really cool things because you don't have to think about depth, like how far you have to jump to get to a platform. In 2D, it's obvious. You also don't have to worry about camera angles, which have gotten better in the last 10 years due to improved AI, but they still pretty much suck. I hate backing against a wall in a 3rd-person platform game and seeing the camera go berserk.

    I also believe that 2D games, especially platformers, give you more freedom to goof around. If a game has a good "feel", you can go all kinds of cool chain-reaction moves which are pretty much impossible in 3D games. 3D games have usually been more procedural due to the interface complexity. I can jump off a platform, smush rows of goombas, and punch a brick to get a coin in one shot. With a typical 3D platformer, you pretty much do one thing at a time -- walk up to something, jump, move again, pick something up, shoot, walk, talk, then walk some more. That's my theory as to why the Wii's 3D controller is wasted on waggle games. Thinking in 3D is actually very difficult.

    Of course, style matters, too. 3D graphics often lacks the color and graphic power of good 2D. I like remakes of old games, but they cannot either be exact replicas of the old games, or use too much technology. Geometry Wars is a real favorite of mind, as it brings back the old arcade feel, but still offers a pretty fireworks show. Games like Mega Man 9 really turn me off. I have fond memories of 8-bit gaming, not 8-bit limitations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2008 @09:01AM (#25686893)

    But they're still making 2d platformers!

    New Super Mario Brothers [] for DS
    Gish [] for PC
    Mega Man 9 [] for Wii

    They aren't as common as they were, but there are still some cracking 2d platformers out there. While some are sequels from the big studios, titles like Gish (it's cheap and on Steam) show that indie developers can still produce innovative mechanics in one of the oldest genres.

  • Re:Neo-retro? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eli Gottlieb ( 917758 ) <`eligottlieb' `at' `'> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @01:34PM (#25688333) Homepage Journal

    How about...

    neo-retro (adj) -- Deliberately creating a game for an older style, thus cutting development costs and allowing developers to concentrate on fun and gameplay instead of media presentation while still allowing developers to take advantage of modern technologies.

    For example, "Braid" and rhythm games are neo-retro.

  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 08, 2008 @03:45PM (#25689119) Journal

    Actually I played the original Unreal for the first time last year. I know,what rock did I crawl out from under,etc. But at the time the Original Unreal hit I was in a serious FASA phase and blasting up Mechwarrior with a bunch of my buds. By the time I was playing anything else Unreal Tournament was out and I really didn't care for it. Too many guys running around like chickens with their heads cut off blasting every single thing in sight.

    So there is an old game with dated graphics that I should have hate by today's standards. But did I think it sucked? Hell no! Because you could tell that love and serious time went into those levels and above all it was FUN. I also picked up a game recently called Terrawars: NY Invasion. It is obviously made by non English speakers by how cheesy the dialog is. Pretty damned funny without meaning to be. Did I hate it? Nope,because it was GOOD cheese. The levels were fun and challenging,and you collected "biopacks" that let you spend them on whichever weapons you chose at any time. So if you were a run and gun Rambo type you could turn the .50 Cal into a mowing death machine,or if you liked to snipe you could crank up the sniper rifle high enough that even the most armor plated baddie ate instant death from a distance. Very fun,even though the graphics are about 2000 standards.

    The point is that game companies are so busy trying to outdo each other in the GPU stomping dept. that they forget it is supposed to be fun. So many of the new games coming out look more like tech demos for the newest engine than an actual game,and sadly many play like that too. DOOM 3 comes to mind,so damned predictable. Walk halfway into room,turn and shoot the monster hiding in the closet behind you. After you modded it because some idiot thought marines wouldn't have any way to mount a flashlight to their weapon. Lame,just really really lame. Me I'd rather play a game that has graphics behind the curve that is actually fun and imaginative than yet another tech demo of the latest explosions or ragdoll physics. Wouldn't you?

  • Re:Neo-retro? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cluke ( 30394 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @04:28PM (#25689385)

    Yeah, kind of like Dogme for films. From Wiki - "The goal of the Dogme collective is to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, postproduction modifications and other gimmicks"

    It would be an intriguing experiment to set down similar rules for video games.

  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Saturday November 08, 2008 @08:13PM (#25690813)

    My 10 year old sister obsesses over Zelda and insisted on getting every version available on the Virtual Console. She did this on her own, playing the original Legend of Zelda and also Super Mario Bros. Even though she's growing up in an era when 3D graphics are nothing special, the old games still appealed to her and will be part of her childhood memories. Now she's getting into Majora's Mask, and that came out almost a decade ago. It's new to her.

    I think these games, rather than being relics of the past, are really just contributions to established culture that stick around. We'll still have pick-up-and-play, 2D-styled games in the future. It'll be an artistic choice, and that's what makes these neo-retro games important. Mega Man 9's producer said as much--that it was an excuse to return to the old style of gaming using the nostalgia of the current generation.

    The surprise success of the Wii, of several of the XBLA games like Braid and Geometry Wars, and of games like Portal prove that gamers are aching for how gaming used to be, which was easier and quicker to get into without having to be a goddamn cinematic production with ridiculous graphics requirements and a time commitment.

    My mom played Galaga when it was in arcades, and my dad played NES racing games with me when I was growing up. I can't imagine either of them picking up a videogame today and playing it with my little sister. There's just too much nonsense involved with most today's games that only appeals to smaller, devoted markets. Think of how huge Mario used to be during his original series of games. Everyone identified with it and had fun with it, even people who usually never played games. Today, who cares about Halo 3 outside of Halo fans?

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.