Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Way back in Spring 2008, I wrote a column for The Daily Toreador about reviving classic video game franchises for the modern era. I discussed the problem some franchises were having with the transition from 2D gameplay to 3D, as well as then-upcoming games like “Bionic Commando.”
I asked readers to tell me what classic series’ they wanted revisited. I got responses like “Donkey Kong Country” and “NBA Jam,” and I offered some suggestions of my own, such as “Kid Icarus” and a new 2D “Sonic” title.
A mere two years later all of the above franchises are going back to their roots, and it doesn’t stop there. Multiplayer classic “Goldeneye 007” is getting a pseudo-remake for the “Wii,” “Kirby” is coming back to consoles, and 8-bit graphics are now considered “hip.” Companies left and right are jumping onto the retro bandwagon. And speaking of bandwagons, who downloaded the new “Oregon Trail” game on their iPhone? I know I did.
It all sounds great, and seems as if our wishes are finally being granted by the gods of gaming. But now the question arises: Are we getting more than we bargained for?
This classic comeback is extending to more than the great games you and I played growing up. You might have cheered when they remade “Tecmo Bowl” as a downloadable title, but what was your reaction when Atari announced a new “Haunted House” game?
Yeah, “Haunted House.” I don’t blame you if you don’t remember it. It was an old Atari 2600 game released in 1981 where you explored a dark and allegedly haunted house. You knew it was dark because you could see your character’s eyeballs and little else.
Though I didn’t play the game when it came out (1981 was seven years before my prime, or birth.), I’ve played “Haunted House” as an adult, and it’s not bad for what it is. You can check it out on Microsoft’s “Game Room” via the Xbox 360 for a couple bucks if you’re interested. It’s a cool little game, and a remake might actually be fun.
So here’s the problem: As we gamers are spending more and more money on titles that toy with our nostalgia, more developers are going to see this fad as nothing more than an opportunity to gain some quick cash. When that’s the case, the quality of the revivals will go way down, and we’ll be forced to see our childhood memories stomped on like Mario on a Goomba.
Don’t get me wrong. I still really want some of these games, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of the titles we’ve received so far. But maybe that just means I’m part of the problem. If Capcom knows I’m going to buy another 2D “Mega Man” game the second it’s released, why shouldn’t they release it?
Maybe it’s a good thing that developers are still trying to find good ways to modernize their franchises as well. The upcoming “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” has the potential to finally be a good 3D game bearing the “Castlevania” name. As much as I crave new 2D castle crawling adventures, it’s good to see new technology taken advantage of.
But we can’t strive enough for originality, either. What would happen if we played every new “Zelda” title, but ignored “Portal”? Or “Mass Effect”? Would we have missed out on “Halo” if we had all said, “That’s OK, I’m waiting for a new “Perfect Dark'”?
I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of this retro revival. I’m excited to see what developers will do with my beloved franchises, but I’m really worried that we’re going to get too much of a good thing. Or too much of a bad thing, whichever the case may be.