A RetroHate Holiday Retrospective
I do a lot of complaining and criticizing of retro games on this column (sometimes half-jokingly, sometimes dead seriously) but in this season of merriment and thanksgiving I thought I’d take a break and talk about some of the things I actually love about retro games. So without further ado, it’s time for some RetroGreat!
Retro video games are an odd breed of historical, interactive art that not only has a large, dedicated fan-base but is often actively recreated in modern works either for nostalgic value or simply because certain aspects are still relevant or even superior to their modern counterparts. While gameplay elements like Lives have been all but dropped from modern games, things like High Scores have become more relevant than ever due to the increased interconnectivity and online functionality of our consoles. (I still don’t go for high-scores but that’s just me)
One thing I’ve always liked about retro games is their “pick up & play” nature. When I play a retro game, I don’t have to worry about signing into three different online accounts, making sure I have an internet connection and that the game has the latest bug-fixing patch installed. I just pop the game in, press start and play. (Although disc-based retro games often involve ludicrously lengthy load times unfortunately) Of course back in the day, this pick-up-&-play aspect was somewhat hampered by inconsistent or nonexistent save-game features. Fortunately, with the advent of emulators and virtual console services, save-states are almost ubiquitous making retro games even easier to pick-up-&-play than ever before. I can boot up Sonic 2 (a game that originally had no save function whatsoever) on my Android phone, play a level or two and come back to it knowing I’ll be able to pick up where I left off.
Another one of my favorite things about retro games is the music. Retro video game consoles have/had incredibly limited sound capabilities which meant making music or sound effects sound like, well, anything was extremely challenging. Of course necessity is the mother of invention and limitations give birth to creativity. Such was the case for many early console games on the NES, SNES, Genesis etc. The sheer volume and variety of sounds and tunes that developers were able to create using digital bleeps and bloops (along with “static” bursts) is simply stunning. The fact that many of these early, primitive sounds are so catchy and remain memorable and recognized today is either a testament to their creativity or the power of childhood nostalgia. Possibly both, but I know when I’ve played certain beloved retro games that I missed out on growing up, the music is just as catchy and engaging (sometimes more so) as the fully orchestrated, generically “epic” music found in today’s games. (Unless it’s the Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle on the NES. That music has been rumored to be in use at top secret, CIA interrogation facilities)
Of course, childhood nostalgia will always play a huge part in my love for retro games; Fond memories from a more innocent and simpler time have colored my perception of many old games. I still enjoy playing very obviously terrible games like Karate Champ (NES) or Sonic Adventure DX (GC) simply because the memories I have playing those games when I was younger allows me to overlook their flaws. (and believe you me, games like Sonic Adventure & Karate Champ are deeply flawed) But even flawed or poorly aged retro games can be enjoyable either as a curiosity or testament to just how far video games have evolved. Of course some bad retro games can be enjoyable in the same way that b-movies can be: unintentionally and hilariously terrible.
So there you have it; just some ramblings from a guy who both loves and hates retro games. With school finals and holiday business, I didn’t have time to pick a specific topic for RetroHate so I thought this would be a great time to go over why I still love retro games (and it gave me an excuse to fill this post with awesome gaming Christmas images); it is the season of cheer after all. So with that, I leave you until next year when I will hopefully have even more retro games and topics to hate on. So remember, “Love what you hate and hate what you love.” (I have no idea what that even means)
Happy Frellin Christmas and Merry Funkin Holidays!!