One of the best things about the current generation of consoles has been its reintroduction of classic gaming via the online marketplace. Old games, repackaged with controls compatible with the Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii controller, letting you play these old titles without disc or cartridge damage issues. No lag during some of the busier parts of the game and perhaps even improved save functions.
And it's fantastic, because there's something simply magical about retro gaming. Not only are there some mind blowing games from the past few decades that are well worth revisiting, but it takes us back to our youth as well. As jaded gamers in our teens, 20s, 30s, we've played a lot. Back then, this whole video-game thing was relatively fresh. You might have played a few, but it was rare that you finished them and you certainly didn't have the disposable income, or accessible indie developer base that you have now to regularly consume games like your favourite cereal.
Back then, gaming was exciting, but so much more than that. It was engaging and really affirming when you achieved something. You might have been really involved in the story, or believed characters were speaking directly to you – not because gaming was inherently better, but because you were at an impressionable young age, and retro gaming takes you back to that. It lets you experience a little bit of that child hood joy and remind yourself who you were.
However, as great as modern remakes or re-releases are, I still think it’s better with the original hardware.
Anyone that's held an original Xbox controller and watched as their hands seemingly turn into midget versions of themselves, or tried to find any real comfortable way to hold a Genesis controller, or rubbed your thumb or palm raw on an N64 analogue stick knows, there are certain things about the original controllers that stick with you and part of me feels like you don't get the same experience without dealing with these “problems.”
If the above headaches don't convince you, then how about the fact that on the Genesis, with Micro Machines Turbo Tournament 64 (or Micro Machines 2), you can have up to eight players, in a 2v2v2v2 race by sharing four controllers. You could do this on the N64's Micro Machines Turbo 64 too.
Show me where you can do this in modern gaming. If you've not done it yet, go out and buy a Genesis and that game and gather up seven friends for a great night of gaming. Ok! there are only three tracks to experience, but you'll be more than happy to play them over and over.
I also get the feeling, when I'm using the original controllers, that I'm playing the game how it was supposed to be played. I know there are those that like using cheat codes and breaking a game in certain ways and I get that, but I really enjoy battling the developers to see if I can beat a game – and using much more sensitive and accurate modern controllers just doesn't feel right sometimes.
Controllers aside though, some of the issues of classic machines that are ironed out with modern consoles can actually be quite amusing. People who play with retro cartridge machines will understand when I say that, there's almost nothing as satisfying as when a game isn't working, to find that blowing on the contacts fixes everything. I mean how easy is that? It brings a smile to my face every time I do it and anyone in the room who understands will laugh and roll their eyes in a “oh the 90s,” kind of way.
It should also be said, that there are still loads of games from the old school era that simply haven't been re-released. You'll find the big classics from companies that are still going, but many of those that knocked out our favourites back then simply aren't around anymore. Sometimes the rights get bought and the right thing is done, but not always.
Where's the Comix Zone remake. The fact that no one has re-released or redone that game is a travesty. Echo the Dolphin anyone? Where's Duck Hunt 2013?
It's probably also worth mentioning that all that old hardware isn't getting any cheaper. While you can still get hold of an N64 with a controller or two for $40, it won't stay that way forever. The rarer retro games go for thousands of dollars. So there's a financial incentive to getting the original gear too. Just don't be one of those scrooges that sticks it in the box of posterity's sake. These are games consoles, designed for playing. Use them.
Ultimately, while I'm sure there will always be those that enjoy the accessibility and ease of play that can be found with XBLA or PSN or WiiWare re-releases of some of history's most classic games, I'm always going to vote for the original hardware. It has all the quirks like I remember them: the controllers aren't as good, the sound might not be as crisp, there are no tweaks to gameplay, the cartridges only work after you've blown spittle filled air over them; and its perfect.
It's just how I remember it and not only do I still enjoy these games today on hardware that's 20+ years old (a rarity with contemporary technology), but I get to lock in to the young me and realise that as naïve as I was back then, I was pretty good at some of these games. Better than I am now. How does that work?
How about you guys? I know this isn't a black and white issue, but surely I'm not the only real retro gamer out there. A lot of you are PC gamers I know, but do you have a favourite old console you break out now and again?