Saved by the……….Frick.
Imagine for a moment you just got the seventh Chaos Emerald in Sonic 2 or just reached world seven of Super Mario Bros and your mom says it’s time to study or time for bed. What do you do?
If you said “leave the console running until morning” congratulations, your energy-wasting ways have caused the polar ice caps to melt another three inches. (If you also left the TV on, I hope you get mauled by an angry tree or a huddle of homeless penguins)
See, we humans like progress, we like that feeling of accomplishment, especially in our games. And when that accomplishment is taken away, particularly moments after achieving it, well, we get a little upset. Arcade games had to strike a profitable balance between intentionally screwing players so as to force them to drop more quarters to keep playing and making the game fun/addicting enough so players would want to keep playing. This unfortunately meant that few players would actually see the end of a game (if there was one) because arcades couldn’t feasibly save the progress of every player. Arcade games weren’t, understandably, about making continued progress through a game or story but more about achieving high scores and being better than your friends.
Home consoles, on the other hand, don’t have the “Coin Barrier” & since you play them at home, you don’t have to worry about getting forcibly removed from an arcade for playing too long. So when console games began focusing more on the story and level progression of the player, one question rang out among the gamer community: WHY THE FRELL DO I HAVE TO START OVER EVERY TIME I PLAY?!??
Yes folks, save games & passwords, the revolutionary feature that many retro games failed to implement. Let’s start with the obvious one: Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros actually had plot, level progression and an ending, but you couldn’t save your progress if your life depended on it. Sure, there were hidden warp zones that let you bypass a majority of the game if you felt like cheating yourself out of some great levels and challenge. Even when games like Kid Icarus, Metroid or MegaMan used a password system to “save” your progress, the checkpoints between each passworded point of progress were spread out like breadcumbs during a tornado. And the passwords themselves? Good Lord, they seriously were just a random string of characters the game spit out that somehow translated to where you were in the game. Then of course you had developers that thought they were oh, so clever and made the passwords instead consist of arbitrary shapes & symbols as if every gamer was some kind of budding artist.
Ok, but those are 8-bit games, surely later consoles were better at saving your progress? Well, kinda. Sure, a lot of games started implementing a save feature, but they were still pretty breadcrumbed. There were also some pretty notable exceptions like many of the Genesis Sonic games, Star Fox & Earthworm Jim to name a few. Heck even Star Fox 64 on the freakin N64 didn’t have any way of saving your progress & the N64 supported external memory cards! But no, no save game for you. If you want to beat Andross-Monkey-Head, you have to do it all in one shot. We’ll save your high-scores, but not your progress.
So I guess what I’m saying is that you should be wary when playing old games. They don’t always care that you just spent six straight hours making your way to Oil Ocean with all the Chaos Emerlads or that you just took down Team Wolf and have an important test in the morning and you haven’t studied yet. They won’t always be there when you come back to them. And it’s probably not a good idea to leave your console running overnight either. Particularly if you’re afraid of penguins.