Retro games and retro gaming seems to be the big now, with the SNES Classic just being released, Sony releasing remastered PS2 games for the PS4, and Microsoft making certain games backwards compatible. This should be a huge boon for all the retro gamers out there, like our very own Retro Reviews Editor Jerry Dobracki. He certainly is thrilled about all these games hitting the mainstream once again. Chris Penwell on the other hand wants the past to stay in the past. Who is right, who is wrong? Who wins the retro debate? Or do we all win because there are so many amazing titles to choose from? Let;s see if Jerry and Chris can come to a final answer: is retro gaming better than current gaming?
Chris: I see you want me to start first, old-timer. I see how it is. This is the best time to be a gamer. 2017 has been a stellar year for gaming. You have the huge but rich worlds of Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to explore, the deep and complex story of Persona 5—which has the visuals and nuanced narrative that would’ve never been done back in the archaic and socially repressive days in which Night Trap was seen as an extremely violent game—the blockbuster-style adventures like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and the indie games like Cuphead that look back at past mechanics and aesthetics and revamp them into visual marvels. Rather than waiting a month or two for a landmark game to be released, there’s one releasing every week or so. I’ll throw a fact out at you to see how much people care about retro gaming now: between September 26, 2016, and February 12, 2017, with 930,000 Xbox One users sampled, only 1.5% of player usage on the Xbox One was attributed to the backwards compatibility feature, Ars Technica reported. According to the website, that’s only 23.9 minutes per person sampled. Do people really go back to play retro games, or do they just play it, realize it’s archaic, and then move on?
Jerry: Old-timer? Haha, I’ll outlive you all! You bring up rich open worlds—well, I do believe that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past perfected it before the Switch was even an idea. And yes, Horizon Zero Dawn is a gorgeous game, I will concede to that, but where is the humor anymore? Cuphead is one of the recent, if not most recent, games to have a different type of humor to it. Back in the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era, games were hilarious. Now every game takes itself too seriously and you’d think you’re playing a video game that just came back from a funeral. Where’s the humor that was in Dr. Muto, Destroy All Humans, and Spy Fiction? It’s gone, it has been replaced with the constant stream of seven open world games a week released alongside 15 generic “man-shooters.” Right now there is too much on the shelf, and it’s difficult to play all the games—15 or 20 years ago, you had time to enjoy the game you just bought, not rush through it because its sequel loomed right around the corner. I find it hard to believe that some gamers find Xbox 360 games archaic from your “study.” Most of these games are less than five years old and were blockbusters unto themselves, unless you think games like Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty: Black Ops are archaic. I also want to point out the insane popularity of the NES Classic and SNES Classic. I’ll concede that some are being purchased to scalp, but the rest are being purchased by fans who want to enjoy older SNES and NES games that they can no longer get their hands on. Plus, if there wasn’t money in retro games, then why do we have so many anthologies out there, Rare Replay and Disney Afternoon Collection to name a few. Did your precious little “study” mention those games, or was it just hand-picking data?
Chris: Nostalgia is a tricky thing, my friend. It twists your mind and makes you remember old games fondly. However, when you play those games now, they fail to stand up. Look at the PS1 Tomb Raider games, for example. They’re incredibly clunky: Lara controls like a tank, and the graphics are all blocky; however, the 2013 remake succeeded in bringing a beautiful world to explore, interesting new leveling mechanics, and outstanding combat and puzzles. Plus, isn’t an open world game the natural progression of AAA video games? Isn’t it a good thing that we can explore these worlds, get more in-depth dialogue, and naturally get narrative bits and pieces from the things we find around the map? I think so. Plus, these games last longer. You get more value from your $60 than retro games that have only lasted a few hours of play time or are restricted to linear levels that lack replayability. And when there’s a gap that needs to be filled, indies do an excellent job, as they’re the new AA studios: look at the excellent quality of Cuphead, Hellblade, and A Hat In Time. And I know what you’re going to bring up next: DLC and loot crates. Let’s get this out of the way. The great thing about games now is that they have a longer lifespan. They continuously get new updates, new content to play (sometimes it’s completely free like Overwatch), and games can now be fixed if there are any issues, especially with balance updates for fighting games. Loot boxes support the larger games we get, and in the end, it counterbalances out. I also find that loot boxes, if used correctly, can add to a game; it keeps me hooked on Overwatch. Overall, I say that modern games give you more value than not. 2017 is the best time to be a gamer.
Jerry: Games can be fixed, that pretty much sums up gaming in 2017. The developer thinks that it’s perfectly okay to publish a broken game, take my hard-earned $60, and then patch it a week or possibly a month later. Take a look at Assassin’s Creed: Unity, that was a broken game that was rushed to the shelves and left a bad taste in many gamers’ mouths. Back in the day, if you shipped out a broken game, you were most likely not going to develop another game again because you would be put out of business—there were ACTUAL consequences back then. Lootboxes are a joke, except the way Overwatch does their goods and extras, but there should be no reason for them in Shadow of War and the countless other games that are being released that just want to empty our wallet and not give you a quality product. You scoff at how expensive retro gaming is now, but have you been on the PlayStation Store? If you REALLY want to enjoy some older original PlayStation games, you can get them dirt cheap on your PS Vita or PlayStation 3. Only collectors are willing to fork out big money for original discs, and I would love to know where you found the original Tomb Raider for $60. I hope you didn’t buy it.
As you can see, no one really won this argument. We’re just two gamers, one stuck in the past and one stuck in the present. We can argue until our faces turn blue, but it won’t change the fact that I love my older games and Chris loves the stuff being released now. It’s great that this hobby has so many great games to enjoy and so many crappy ones to pan. Whatever you enjoy playing, enjoy it and don’t let anyone tell you different.