Yesterday I talked about the resolution of old games and touched on emulation. Today I’m going to have a bash at explaining why I generally don’t bother with old games.
Catch-22 is still brilliant, 1984 is still miserable, and old games can still be good. I don’t want this post to be taken as me slating anything older than my GCSEs, it’s more an explanation for my own preferences.
We’re looking at 15 – 20 years ago and whilst some games hold up I dare you to tell me GoldenEye 007 is still good. Seriously, try the multiplayer. Back in the day it was great fun and we all had a blast. The problem is that it hasn’t changed whereas these days multiplayer is a finely tweaked experience played by millions evolving year on year.
Tomb Raider 2 was beloved by many and even I had a copy. I didn’t particularly like it at the time though. In fact it made me rather miserable that I couldn’t play it due to the game mechanics.
Tomb Raider (2013) on the other hand was a lot of fun. It was built around modern game conventions and provided an excellently creepy adventure.
Was it that I was too young back then? Perhaps. But surely I’d still get some enjoyment if I went back and gave them a go? Nope. Most titles feel clunky and badly designed compared to the tight experiences we’re given today. I’ve been spoilt by games built for an audience that wants to have fun.
Seems a daft way to put it, doesn’t it?
Bear in mind what existed prominently then and barely survives today:
(I’ll approach this from a tangent if that’s okay.)
When I was looking for schools to attend I visited Monmouth. Whilst there I saw a book that had guides for virtually all currently available N64 games. After taking the entrance exam as a reward I was given the book. I still have it, as it happens.
There was a game that received several pages of coverage in that book – War Gods. I’ve just tried it on an emulator. It’s awful. What I hadn’t realised is that it was ported to the N64 from an arcade cabinet.
Yep. Arcades were still relevant back then.
The impact of this on game design and game design culture should not be underestimated. These days gaming is less of an impulsive pursuit but back then games generally favoured simpler mechanics for a “pick up and play” setup. Of course they were also fairly awful at user-friendliness and as such were rather unwelcoming.
Without universal internet access there weren’t gamers and developers sharing ideas, comparing mechanics, and having a good moan.
As a result the games that leaned heavily into their arcade roots tended to work better than those that were in the awkward teenager phase of game design. I’m not much of a fan of the arcade style and so what I end up playing is clunky games that are trying things that we’re only really starting to get right several decades later.
With all that complaining I’d best plug something that I feel still holds up. It’s the game that I wanted to play enough to bother getting high res textures running on – Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64.
It’s an arcade-style on-rails shootery thing. Certain things are tracked but in the middle of a game there are no saves.
A run takes about an hour and depending on a number of factors the route changes. Pretty arcadey, really.
Much like how the best 2D platformers of the old days still hold up due to that genre’s lengthy history and considerable refinement arcade style games are generally still pretty good.
Last night I played through it again and today couldn’t stop myself from having another bash at it. It’s sometimes challenging but always fun. Being able to actually see things makes it a bit less squint-inducing too!
I’ve no intention of playing through GoldenEye 007 again though. I’d rather take a run at Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or the rather fun remake of GoldenEye for the Wii. Same concept, new style and mechanics.
Just don’t get me started on Super Mario 64. Ugh.