Like many grizzled geeks born with a controller in their right hand, I’m a retro gamer. I love pulling out my old systems, blowing the dust off them, and flopping the cartridges around in the air until the little rattle inside of them stops. In other words, my favorite part of reliving nostalgia is actually playing the games on the systems I played them on when I was a wee little lad. This makes for some tedious tinkering spent to bring the systems up to speed for the modern age just so I can play a little Rocket Knight Adventures. But let me tell you, and most hardcore gamers will agree with me on this, but once you get it up and running, it’s all worth it in the end, as the blast from the past you get by tapping those loose by abuse buttons all over again makes you feel young again. The decades start to recede back on you like your newly declined hairline.
But all that’s about to change. I’m not saying people can’t do this anymore—I mean, I still do it anyway. But with the Virtual Console and Microsoft’s LIVE Marketplace, where I can pick up an increasing number of moldy oldies at the drop of a debit card, the challenge of reaching into my closet to pull out a vintage first model Sega Genesis game seems more like a hassle than a rewarding experience. I mean, why waste time searching for Altered Beast in my closet when I could just buy it online for a few bucks? Buying games online saves me time, calories, and needless, bent over butt crack shots in the end, so logically, it really is the best bet in town.
But while it is convenient, is it really such a good thing? A big part of the reason why people love retro gaming so much in the first place is because we as human beings get old. Fast. So fast, in fact, that some of the greatest things we loved “not so long ago” actually happened a whole decade ago, and we don’t even realize the time shaped rug getting pulled right from underneath our feet. So, when we can simply buy these old, nostalgic games off the internet, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose a little of why we seek out these old games in the first place —To relive our childhoods? And while I know I’m about to make myself sound like one of those old, drooling codgers proclaiming how I used to walk twelve miles in the snow (barefoot) just to get to school in the morning, I think it was actually better off for us old time gamers to not have retro games so easily at our disposal. It kind of cheapens the experience and modernizes something that really shouldn’t be modernized. I mean, it’s called retro gaming for a reason now, isn’t it?
Still, don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great way to get the youngin’s playing games they never knew existed since they were born in the mid to late 90s. Games like Smash Bros. Brawl, what with its roster pretty much a guidebook to all of Nintendo’s greatest moments, makes the Virtual Console a necessity for all those who never even heard of Kid Icarus until he made his outlandish appearance in SBB. Likewise for any other game that is just too awesome to pass up that many young people don’t even have a clue about. As a teacher of six graders, my students often come to me telling me how the new Naruto game is the sickest game on the planet right now. Well, being an old time gamer with the bendable thumbs to prove it, I of course told them that they don’t have a clue of how awesome ninja games really used to be back in the day. “Try Ninja Gaiden 3 for the NES, instead, or better yet, try Shinobi 2 for the Genesis,” I’d tell them, only to receive puzzled stares and giggles that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to awesome games.
In the past, I would just have to live with the idea that these kids would never experience what real, hardcore gaming is all about. But the other day, one of my students actually told me how they actually found the original Super Castlevania IV online on the Virtual Console (This is after I had a whole lesson on Count Dracula and started rambling on about the Belmont family lineage), and that he thought it was totally radical, but also kind of gimmicky—he actually used that word, gimmicky—which just goes to show that though we might have loved these games as children, they wouldn’t necessarily go over well with kids weaned on Halo and Dragonball Z.
But still, the appreciation is still there and I love that retro gaming is available to people searching for it. I mean, if music wasn’t put to CD, I never probably would have become a fan of such acts as The Beatles, YES, and Donavan, right? Technology of course makes old things new again, but as I mentioned earlier, is that really what we want?
I mean, I actually like how technology at the time rendered the Friday the 13th game for the NES a complete piece of garbage. Remember how when you finally met Jason, he would corner you in a room and pretty much move in a fox trot and jab you in the face until you died? If technology had been what it is now, Jason would no doubt be following you into the forest like a man possessed, chucking knifes at you, brandishing whirring chainsaws that explode in surround sound. But I actually like how cheesy the game was back then, it gives you something to laugh and talk about with other nostalgic gamers who were raised on that trash and can recall Link in the Legend of Zelda cartoon. He’s all serious and tough now, but in the 1980’s, it wouldn’t be rare for the cartoon version of him saying something like, “Well, excuuuuuuse me, Princess,” to kids of the nation not knowing what Link would look like if put into a three dimensional plane. Games were left to interpretation back in the day, as those sprites really didn’t look like anything at all.
But now I’m just going off on a tangent. Truth be told, the history of a game and its system should really be preserved by the gamer and should warrant that if you do in fact decide to purchase games off the internet to play on your modern day systems, you should be forewarned. That warm and fuzzy feeling you get from playing these golden oldies may be marginalized substantially when getting it in this newly inviting format.
Because Devil’s Crush just ain’t the same if you’re not playing it on a then moribund Turbo Grfx 16. Take that to heart, retro gamers, take that to heart, indeed.