Retro Living

It’s been, what… three months since the last post? That may seem like a long time to those of you who bothered to follow the blog, but it’s really flown by for me. Every time the bug to update bit me, I’d be busy with something else or just didn’t feel like anyone would really care what I had to say. So I didn’t post and just kind of faded into the background for awhile. I’m not sure I’m ready to emerge really. I’ve been keeping up with Qt3 and NeoGAF sporadically and find that I’m just not much interested in a lot of the games people seem excited for this Holiday season.

That was pretty much summed up in the latest issue of Game Informer when it arrived. The preview section looked like the same game for fifteen consecutive pages–each page browner than the last one with pretty much zero deviation. It’s completely depressing to me.

I’ve pretty much made a complete break from that current world of videogames save those that fit my current rekindled love for fighting, shooters, beat ’em ups and side-scrolling action games. Yes, all of my gaming lately has been the traditional console and arcade kind. I’m in love again with the simpler action of arcade-style baseball, the straightforward power-up collection and avoidance of scrolling shooters and the special moves and one on one immediacy of fighting games.

I’m enjoying gaming a million times more than I was before this retro wave washed over me. I’d sit down at the computer or in front of the PS3/360 and find myself plumbing the downloadables for simpler games that didn’t require me to wade through hours of recorded dialogue and heavy handed storytelling. I wanted to push start to play, not play a tutorial for three hours before the real game started. Basically, I turned on Ikaruga one night and woke up to what I loved about console games in the first place, the immediacy of instant action, fast reflexes, and unparalleled hand-eye coordination needed to be a champ.

This revelation has come at a monetary price, but one I’m happy to pay. I re-purchased (for the third and final time) a Neo Geo AES home console via eBay. The transaction wasn’t as smooth as I’d like, but I’m in love with that machine again. It reconfirmed just how important those games are to my formative gaming obsession, and how timeless their gameplay and even graphics are in the face of the brown out that’s consuming nearly all of gaming (certainly all of western game design). So far I’ve got eight titles in my library and plan to add plenty more. World Heroes, World Heroes 2 Jet, Samurai Shodown, Baseball Stars 2, Magician Lord, Fatal Fury Special, Art of Fighting, and Super Baseball 2020 are the titles. It’s a fighting heavy lineup, but that’s part of what makes the Geo the machine it is. Shooters are on the purchase list next, but I’ve already gotten more than my money’s worth from those. The controllers are still fantastic to hold and as precise as ever. Best of all, these games are in vibrant color!

My retro raid didn’t stop there though. I’ve been adding other eBay finds of the Genesis, Sega CD and Sega Saturn variety. Mostly I’m filling holes in my collections there, with things like Thunder Force III, Formula One: Beyond the Limit and Fighters Megamix. Some of this stuff would be easily accessed through Nintendo’s Virtual Console, but I’m also finding myself drawn to the old controllers these games were played on. The simplicity of a solid gamepad or joystick and three to six buttons controlling all the action is so much more welcome than the analog sticks, and eight or more button action of modern games.

It’s not that I can’t play those games. I’m probably more adept at current titles than 85% of the gamers playing them. I just don’t care to learn how to control something so I can play it once for six to ten hours and then never play the game again. I want to be challenged by the game, not its controls. I want to play, not watch.

That’s not to say there are no games on the horizon that interest me. Street Fighter IV is high up there. I cannot wait to play it. King of Fighters XII is also way up there with its high resolution re-imagining of the series. There are a few things coming to PlayStation Network and to Xbox Live’s Marketplace that I’m sure to buy. Even among the brown wars, a couple titles stand out a little. Still, it’s the retro stuff that makes me most excited. Mega Man 9, in full 8-bit glory? Bring it on.

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3 Responses to Retro Living

  1. nick says:

    I appreciate your critiques of modern game design, and find myself agreeing wholehartedly. My recent playthrough of Castlevania:Bloodlines brought into sharp relief the what an overweight collectathon snoozefest the Nintendo DS Castlevania series has become. The speed, pacing and above all action of the Genesis incarnation is far superior.

    Have fun with the NEO*GEO, and may I recommend Sengoku 3 as one of the top beat-em-ups around.

  2. Dave Long says:

    I intend to get Sengoku 3 eventually. It’s one of the pricier titles available for the home system. I’ve been considering a switch to MVS (and will detail that in a post sometime soon) from the home AES system becuase it’s just way cheaper to buy the arcade carts.

    As for the Castlevania comparison, that’s a great one. I do like some of the things the DS titles add, but there is way too much fiddling in menus and the speed at which you encounter enemies is way lower and way less exciting. I played through Castlevania IV on SNES last year and it was a revelation going back to that game. You spend so little time just walking from encounter to encounter that you’re always engaged.

    So many games today lack that immediacy.

  3. Michael "txa1265" J. Anderson says:

    Hey Dave – I couldn’t agree more. After doing 200 or so reviews in 2007 I was just *done*, but I realized what I was done with was playing the same adventure / RTS / action-RPG / whatever ad nauseum.

    I still do some new stuff and have kept up a quarterly pace on handheld RPG articles for RPGWatch, but more and more I’ve been doing ‘Retrospectives’ for RPGWatch and GamerDad … looking at the great old games I am loving getting to play again.

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