This last year has seen a lot in the way of end of life consoles and features. The Wii U is dead (finally), though frankly it was stillborn to begin with. PS3 will no longer support PS Now.
But this year also saw the release of the NES Classic console and a bevy of retro games (specifically on the E-Shop). And in the last couple of years, the “retro” 8 and 16 bit games have become increasingly popular.
But, how does this all stand up?
Don’t get me wrong – I grew up on the NES/SNES. Games like Contra, Zelda and of course, the titular Mario Bros games. And I do still love them. In fact, I recently got myself an SNES. But with the sophistication of current games – is simple nostalgia enough to keep us engaged?
I think of games like Mega Man. An absolute classic. I don’t think anyone could dispute that Mega Man 2 is easily one of the best games of the generations. That being said – how does it stack up next to say, Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3?
Obviously the older stuff isn’t as technically proficient. And, things like the controls are considerably more simplistic. But are those the deciding factors? Is there a way to say “X is better than Y”? Is that the question we should even be asking?
All I can say, from personal experience, is a lot of those games just don’t hold up like I (and I’ll say we and speak for some of you) would like them to.
I think of picking up the NES Classic, but then I look at those games and think: Do I really want to spend 80$ to play Bubble Bobble? Or, is the real fun of Bubble Bobble, in my mind – I mean, the memory of playing it side by side with my friends (and in my case, my grand mother) as a kid?
And I know, for whatever reason, nostalgia is a huge part of this generation (age group). So I, by default, should be in love with all of the retro stuff coming out. And part of me is. But it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s purpose.
I think I’m more interested in where we are, and where we will be potentially over the course of the next few years. The potential in the gaming industry right now seems virtually limitless. VR, despite it being an early incarnation, has some very interesting possibilities. Games, in general, have gotten more complex in terms of actual gameplay, graphics, stories, etc. Even games that I thought there was no hope for the series – like Resident Evil – have surprised me and put out some super high quality games. Which is especially amazing, given the proclivity towards the retro, since Resident Evil 1 was easily one of my favourite PS1 games. In that sense, this nostalgic indulgence is definitely a positive for the future of the industry.
Ok, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that indie developers are reaching back to our roots and showing us where we came from – and are doing some things to make them new and innovative. I also think it’s great that consoles like NES Classic exist for those who never had the opportunity to play through Zelda when it came out.
But this focus (read: cashing in) on the nostalgia of our generation isn’t something I can really get on board with. As far as my consumer dollar goes – I will be laying it down for the new and truly innovative. That is to say, there is nothing wrong with working on something new with a nostalgic twist to it. Every new Zelda has been as good or better than the last – with a few exceptions.
What do you think? Are we better off looking to the past for inspiration and fun, or keep our eyes on the horizon and wait to see what breakthroughs are sure to develop – some in the near future. Let me know in the comments.
– The Ego