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What is 'Retro' to you?


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I think the best thing about retro games is discovering new(old) stuff that you never realised existed, and for me that's most often arcade games, that I can now suddenly emulate and learn to play and appreciate without the limits of pocket money, location, or even just intimidation.

So many of them are absolutely brilliant, but you'd never notice if you only chucked a couple of credits at them.

 

Thinking of a cut off for retro seems pretty impossible to me. So many new games these days seems to be exactly the same as stuff from the PS2/Xbox generation to me... just a bit shinier. I guess I think of retro as more a gameplay style that isn't really being made anymore (in the mainstream at least) like the arcade experience of a simple idea drawn out to create a whole game (as opposed to modern long story driven stuff), or a visual style perhaps. So perhaps its somewhere between PS1 and 2, maybe after the dreamcast as others have said?

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I think there needs to be sub classification. 

 

So :

Vintage retro for Atari 2600, home computers etc.

Classic retro for SNES, master system, ps one etc.

Modern/Neo retro for PS2, Dreamcast, GameCube etc

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2 hours ago, partious said:

Uncharted might be an old game depending on the age of the person you ask and their gaming history, but the idea that it's necessary to call it "retro", as if it's somehow a fundamentally different affair than Uncharted 4, is laughable. 


This sums it up for me. If gaming experiences haven’t changed in the past 10-15 years it baffles me how they can be considered “retro” in the way that we use it to apply to games. I don’t think a retro game is “a 2022 game that has had ray tracing removed”. The current AAA titles have basically been identical for nearly 2 decades apart from minor graphical improvements.

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14 hours ago, Phantoon said:

Two generations back, so PS3, XBox 360 and Wii are retro to me now. I don't prescribe to this arbitrary "only stuff that was around when I was a kid counts" nonsense. Ten years takes you from NES to N64, by which time it was definitely retro.

 

9 hours ago, AlexM said:

360/PS3/Wii is Retro to me now, the line has to move at some point. To my son anything that requires optical discs is Retro (he’s never had to use one). 

 

Even though the Xbox 360 qualifies as retro due to its age, the main thing that stops me from thinking of it like that is the amount of continuity it has with the Xbox One and Series generations. You can still play many 360 games online via Xbox Live, your achievements carry over, you can still access leaderboards (though some are a lot less reliable than they once were), MS still sell games in their marketplace, and there's backward compatibility. (Admittedly they also still still original Xbox games digitally that likewise function through BC, but that generation's Xbox Live was shut down.)

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The Xbox/PS2/Gamecube era now feels a bit retro.

Controllers still had wires, games didn't tend to autosave and no one I knew actually had anything hooked up to the internet. 

For me, the 360/PS3 really ushered in the modern era of game and console design.

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2 hours ago, Rex Grossman said:


This sums it up for me. If gaming experiences haven’t changed in the past 10-15 years it baffles me how they can be considered “retro” in the way that we use it to apply to games. I don’t think a retro game is “a 2022 game that has had ray tracing removed”. The current AAA titles have basically been identical for nearly 2 decades apart from minor graphical improvements.

 

Agreed.

 

It's not an ideal example because it's made in a retro style rather than being made for real old hardware, but I'm going to take that fan-made Bloodborne demake as an example. It's adapting a PS4 game to resemble the style and technical limitations of a PS1 game:

 

 

 

Now imagine if its creator had chosen to make a version that resembled a PS2 game instead. What would that look like? Obviously it'd lack all the online functions and have many other technical compromises. But I'm willing to bet that the gap between the PS1 and PS2 versions would look a lot bigger than the gap between a PS2 version and the real PS4 game.

 

(Of course, PS4 BB is now nearly 7 years old, so well on its way to becoming retro itself...)

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1 hour ago, Nick R said:

 

 

Even though the Xbox 360 qualifies as retro due to its age, the main thing that stops me from thinking of it like that is the amount of continuity it has with the Xbox One and Series generations. You can still play many 360 games online via Xbox Live, your achievements carry over, you can still access leaderboards (though some are a lot less reliable than they once were), MS still sell games in their marketplace, and there's backward compatibility. (Admittedly they also still still original Xbox games digitally that likewise function through BC, but that generation's Xbox Live was shut down.)

I think this is more a function of MS giving retro games proper respect rather than them not being retro. This functionality was a big part of those games and removing it would make them less than they were. I wish the other console manufacturers showed as much care. We're too used to the concept that "Welp, generation's over. We're not playing that again unless we keep the hardware"

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As a basic rule of thumb, I'd say two generations ago. So the PS360 generation. 

 

You can't easily buy them new, though I'd be interested to know if they're still manufactured and shipped to shops. There aren't any new games coming out for them, I think. They aren't part of the current conversation around games and gaming. 

 

That makes them retro, to my mind. 

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17 minutes ago, ScouserInExile said:

As a basic rule of thumb, I'd say two generations ago. So the PS360 generation. 

 

You can't easily buy them new, though I'd be interested to know if they're still manufactured and shipped to shops. There aren't any new games coming out for them, I think. They aren't part of the current conversation around games and gaming. 

 

That makes them retro, to my mind. 

 

But what really makes a PS3 or 360 game "retro" beyond their age? They are startlingly similar to what is coming out right now.

 

EDIT: Uncharted 3 came out on the PS3 more than 10 years ago, a console 2 generations old. No one will convinced me Uncharted 3 is actually a "retro" game because of the hardware it's on. I think basing this simply on the fact that these machines are not the generation (or the one before that) is much too simple.

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14 hours ago, Kevvy Metal said:

I feel the term “Retro” is antiquated and should be retired - so well - that’s all I can do is not use it. I much prefer the term “classic gaming”. 

 

Retro ain't what it used to be. :hat: 

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18 minutes ago, Rex Grossman said:

 

But what really makes a PS3 or 360 game "retro" beyond their age? They are startlingly similar to what is coming out right now.

 

So are we only talking graphics here? You can find games that aren't that different, in terms of gameplay, from SNES to today. Look at Final Fight and Streets of Rage 4. And there are a good few games that essentially just look better than their ps1 equivalents. 

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23 minutes ago, ScouserInExile said:

You can't easily buy them new, though I'd be interested to know if they're still manufactured and shipped to shops

 

I'm certain microsoft stopped making One S and One X's as recently as last year. The 360 and PS3 were both discontinued in 2016.

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4 minutes ago, ScouserInExile said:

So are we only talking graphics here? You can find games that aren't that different, in terms of gameplay, from SNES to today. Look at Final Fight and Streets of Rage 4. And there are a good few games that essentially just look better than their ps1 equivalents. 

 

No, I mean the actual games themselves. I'm not thinking too much about the graphics. I keep using Uncharted as an example because it follows a formula but when an Uncharted game arrives on the PS5 will it be a fundamentally different experience to the PS3 editions? I say no (much like the PS4 version is no different) and yet no one will consider Uncharted 5 to be a retro-style experience. It will be very current in part because the games on the PS3 and 360 are still very current (despite lacking a little in the graphics department compared with the newest generation).

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1 hour ago, Rex Grossman said:

It will be very current in part because the games on the PS3 and 360 are still very current (despite lacking a little in the graphics department compared with the newest generation).

Which strikes me as a failure of newer generations, rather than a boon for the PS3. Same old stuff, but pretty

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17 minutes ago, Phantoon said:

Which strikes me as a failure of newer generations, rather than a boon for the PS3. Same old stuff, but pretty

 

However you slice it we are getting mostly the same game experiences with each new generation. Which can't be said of say Spectrum to SNES or Amiga to PlayStation or Saturn to Dreamcast etc.

Real gaming progress stalled about 20 years ago. That's why there feels like a line in the sand from my perspective.

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10 hours ago, Pekoe said:

I think there needs to be sub classification. 

 

So :

Vintage retro for Atari 2600, home computers etc.

Classic retro for SNES, master system, ps one etc.

Modern/Neo retro for PS2, Dreamcast, GameCube etc

If you're going to use neoretro it should be paleoreteo and mezoretro. 

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18 hours ago, Rex Grossman said:

However you slice it we are getting mostly the same game experiences with each new generation. Which can't be said of say Spectrum to SNES or Amiga to PlayStation or Saturn to Dreamcast etc.

Real gaming progress stalled about 20 years ago. That's why there feels like a line in the sand from my perspective.

I'd be interested in your explanation of how games changed from Spectrum to SNES in a way that they don't now (ignoring graphics, as you have done so with your Uncharted example.) How different were Spectrum platformers versus SNES games, mechanically, which significantly changed the experience? 

 

Other than the jump to 3D, what did the PlayStation do so vastly different to the Amiga?

 

For what it's worth, I think retro is a state of mind - I think that's the only way it makes sense and keeps it relevant to each individual. By way of a crude example, to somebody <25, the Spectrum isn't 'retro' - it's just old - but to a lot on here, of course its retro! The reverse is true for somebody >40 when talking about the PS2 (as this thread has demonstrated) - it's just old, but to those young 'uns that grew up with it, it has much more emotional attachment and pull. 

 

I think trying to say "It's just the same games now but shinier" is as true now as it ever was for the a

majority of releases across generations other than the seismic jump to 3D. 

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1 minute ago, Gabe said:

I'd be interested in your explanation of how games changed from Spectrum to SNES in a way that they don't now (ignoring graphics, as you have done so with your Uncharted example.) How different were Spectrum platformers versus SNES games, mechanically, which significantly changed the experience? 

 

Other than the jump to 3D, what did the PlayStation do so vastly different to the Amiga?

 

For what it's worth, I think retro is a state of mind - I think that's the only way it makes sense and keeps it relevant to each individual. By way of a crude example, to somebody <25, the Spectrum isn't 'retro' - it's just old - but to a lot on here, of course its retro! The reverse is true for somebody >40 when talking about the PS2 (as this thread has demonstrated) - it's just old, but to those young 'uns that grew up with it, it has much more emotional attachment and pull. 

 

I think trying to say "It's just the same games now but shinier" is as true now as it ever was for the a

majority of releases across generations other than the seismic jump to 3D. 

 

I think anyone who plays for example a platformer on the Spectrum then plays something like Mario World on the SNES will find a level of precision (in part due to far more advanced controllers) and imaginative game design that simply didn't exist on the 8-bit micros. It's not simply that they look better, they became more immersive experiences. Now, like you say, it's in the eye of the beholder. Some may feel that Manic Miner and Mario World are very similar but that Uncharter 3 and Uncharted 4 are worlds apart but from my perspective this isn't the case. Maybe that's age, maybe it isn't. But Mario and Manic Miner feel fundamentally different. Mario World simply couldn't exist on the Spectrum but Uncharted 4 or 5 could exist on the PS3, it would just have a minor graphics downgrade.

 

As for Amiga to PlayStation it is very much down to the shift to polygons, yes. Game experiences changed dramatically with that leap.

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49 minutes ago, Rex Grossman said:

 

I think anyone who plays for example a platformer on the Spectrum then plays something like Mario World on the SNES will find a level of precision (in part due to far more advanced controllers) and imaginative game design that simply didn't exist on the 8-bit micros. It's not simply that they look better, they became more immersive experiences. Now, like you say, it's in the eye of the beholder. Some may feel that Manic Miner and Mario World are very similar but that Uncharter 3 and Uncharted 4 are worlds apart but from my perspective this isn't the case. Maybe that's age, maybe it isn't. But Mario and Manic Miner feel fundamentally different. Mario World simply couldn't exist on the Spectrum but Uncharted 4 or 5 could exist on the PS3, it would just have a minor graphics downgrade.

 

As for Amiga to PlayStation it is very much down to the shift to polygons, yes. Game experiences changed dramatically with that leap.

 

I appreciate your reply, even though I don't entirely agree. I feel that some of that is just refinement rather than whole new experiences (better controls, for example, to me is improvement, unless talking about the move from digital to analogue.)

 

Likewise, how much of imaginative game design is purely down to the change in technology versus design skills becoming more professional and mature?

 

I think this is a far more interesting avenue of discussion of "What is retro" than simply saying "Anything before date x" though 👍

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12 minutes ago, Gabe said:

 

I appreciate your reply, even though I don't entirely agree. I feel that some of that is just refinement rather than whole new experiences (better controls, for example, to me is improvement, unless talking about the move from digital to analogue.)

 

Likewise, how much of imaginative game design is purely down to the change in technology versus design skills becoming more professional and mature?

 

I think this is a far more interesting avenue of discussion of "What is retro" than simply saying "Anything before date x" though 👍

 

Even if it is refinement, are we still getting any of that refinement beyond visual fidelity?

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Just to hammer home the point that "X number of years old" doesn't make sense in deciding what is a "retro" experience I present the following evidence.

 

1984

revs.gif.2a6c982ceebb8f179c7ef7b23f23d4f8.gif

 

1992

WorldChampionshipRacingScreenshotSNES.jpg.33aa709e8a5b7816554054c41d0c70ac.jpg

 

2001

9091-7-f1-2001.thumb.jpg.ea13d8f497e661eca4ddb9462b1ae47c.jpg

 

2011

F1-2020-4-1.jpg.82d42898124a5cacf80461bb49c0b98c.jpg

 

2021

1788882-625404_20110922_008.thumb.jpg.f90fd9db13691497c59686a65e8436b8.jpg

 

 

There is 15 years between the 1st game pictured and the 3rd game pictured. They are dramatically different experiences. There are 20 years between the 3rd and 5th games but they are remarkably similar to play.

 

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57 minutes ago, Gabe said:

 

I appreciate your reply, even though I don't entirely agree. I feel that some of that is just refinement rather than whole new experiences (better controls, for example, to me is improvement, unless talking about the move from digital to analogue.)

 

Likewise, how much of imaginative game design is purely down to the change in technology versus design skills becoming more professional and mature?

 

I think this is a far more interesting avenue of discussion of "What is retro" than simply saying "Anything before date x" though 👍

Well, you picked two examples from the same genre, so of course they will have things in common. But the Spectrum couldn't have done the 16 bit physics, which is the entire feel of the game. Or as many enemies, or the level lengths. The Reznor fights aren't happening, nor are the boss fights with Mode 7. Spectrum Sonic the Hedgehog would be even funnier.

 

How about we try something else, genres that weren't on the 8 bit micros? Super Mario Kart would be completely impossible to do on the C64, or any of its compatriots. Or Star Fox. That's whole genres that were impossible to do before technology allowed them.

 

Then the N64 and Playstation come along. Mario 64 is impossible the generation before. F-Zero X. Soul Reaver. I'm sure you could demake them, but loss of the Z-axis changes them irreparably. They aren't the same game any more.

 

PS2 brought similar improvements to the generation before that the SNES / Mega Drive did, take the basic things that could be done in 3D and improve on the scope of it hugely. Something like God of War 2 is impossible before then. Character action games weren't feasible before this point. Grand Theft Auto 3 is impossible the generation before (as Driver showed)

 

360 onwards it's more the amount of stuff the consoles could throw around. Dead Rising looked ridiculous in screenshots, but it genuinely could have that many enemies on screen. 

 

I'm not feeling this argument that "stuff in the same genre hasn't changed much recently so time doesn't make sense as a metric" thing. As I said, it's the new genres, or the new stuff possible in existing genres that shows the leap. Screenshots don't show improvements in physics and frame rates. Or the size of the track, or number of opposing cars and improvements in AI. Anyway, I'd agree that the generations have got more samey, but that's because most of the improvements made to consoles are to pander to increasingly large TVs. I'd love to see what a PS5 locked to 480p could do.

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33 minutes ago, Rex Grossman said:

Just to hammer home the point that "X number of years old" doesn't make sense in deciding what is a "retro" experience I present the following evidence.

 

1984

revs.gif.2a6c982ceebb8f179c7ef7b23f23d4f8.gif

 

1992

WorldChampionshipRacingScreenshotSNES.jpg.33aa709e8a5b7816554054c41d0c70ac.jpg

 

2001

9091-7-f1-2001.thumb.jpg.ea13d8f497e661eca4ddb9462b1ae47c.jpg

 

2011

F1-2020-4-1.jpg.82d42898124a5cacf80461bb49c0b98c.jpg

 

2021

1788882-625404_20110922_008.thumb.jpg.f90fd9db13691497c59686a65e8436b8.jpg

 

 

There is 15 years between the 1st game pictured and the 3rd game pictured. They are dramatically different experiences. There are 20 years between the 3rd and 5th games but they are remarkably similar to play.

 

There are certain genres where any change is going to be limited - how much more can be done to change how an F1 game plays? But to throw @Phantoon's point into the mix,  presumably the physics, weather and AI are appreciably better between 2011 and 2021? Like for FIFA, football isn't going to change, but the same iterative improvements will be in there.

 

26 minutes ago, Phantoon said:

Well, you picked two examples from the same genre, so of course they will have things in common. But the Spectrum couldn't have done the 16 bit physics, which is the entire feel of the game. Or as many enemies, or the level lengths. The Reznor fights aren't happening, nor are the boss fights with Mode 7. Spectrum Sonic the Hedgehog would be even funnier.

 

How about we try something else, genres that weren't on the 8 bit micros? Super Mario Kart would be completely impossible to do on the C64, or any of its compatriots. Or Star Fox. That's whole genres that were impossible to do before technology allowed them.

 

Then the N64 and Playstation come along. Mario 64 is impossible the generation before. F-Zero X. Soul Reaver. I'm sure you could demake them, but loss of the Z-axis changes them irreparably. They aren't the same game any more.

 

PS2 brought similar improvements to the generation before that the SNES / Mega Drive did, take the basic things that could be done in 3D and improve on the scope of it hugely. Something like God of War 2 is impossible before then. Character action games weren't feasible before this point. Grand Theft Auto 3 is impossible the generation before (as Driver showed)

 

360 onwards it's more the amount of stuff the consoles could throw around. Dead Rising looked ridiculous in screenshots, but it genuinely could have that many enemies on screen. 

 

I'm not feeling this argument that "stuff in the same genre hasn't changed much recently so time doesn't make sense as a metric" thing. As I said, it's the new genres, or the new stuff possible in existing genres that shows the leap. Screenshots don't show improvements in physics and frame rates. Or the size of the track, or number of opposing cars and improvements in AI. Anyway, I'd agree that the generations have got more samey, but that's because most of the improvements made to consoles are to pander to increasingly large TVs. I'd love to see what a PS5 locked to 480p could do.

Well technically @Rex Grossmanpicked SMW and said it couldn't happen on the Spectrum, but scrolling platformers did exist on the C64, so perhaps it could with more design skill and time? (And the C64 was the same gen as the Spectrum so it counts :P)

 

I'm not being contrary - I don't really care either way what people consider "retro" (to be honest I find it a rather meaningless distinction), but I'm curious here, what makes Mario Kart impossible on earlier machines? Into the screen racers were a thing for years, so I assume you mean because of the Mode 7 stuff - but that's reducing the argument back to how things 'feel' rather than an objective measure, no? (I haven't played Mario Kart so I don't know what makes it so different from, say Lotus Challenge on the Amiga, which had 16 or 24 car races I think?)

 

Also, take The Medium, released last year on the Series machines. It was said that was impossible on previous machines due to the CPU. Likewise proper Ray tracing in games (I know Amigas had loads of demos of it.) By your metric above, does that not mean anything before these things are now retro? These things aren't just graphical flourish, they just weren't possible on the tech, after all.

 

I know that is a bit of a silly argument, though I think there is some merit buried within it, somewhere but I'm on mobile and this post is already too long to keep up with :D

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I have to say that I'm enjoying thi discussion for a change, normally this question (which is posed often) leads to a pretty tired and boring thread, but I like this deeper look at it. 

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11 minutes ago, Fry Crayola said:

 

They're not easy to find in any condition.

 

Then you aren't looking hard enough.

 

I can't go anywhere and find Shinobi X or Golden Axe the Duel that don't look like the dog's pre chewed the cases for my convenience.

 

s-l1600.jpg

 

Only £110 

 

This is retro.

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