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My Current Problem With Retro Gaming


cyd charisse
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I've enjoyed video gaming from the Spectrum onwards. The last two or three years have seen my interest in the current video gaming scene waver significantly, and when I have picked up a game recently, more often than not, it has been a 16bit port for the GBA or a sequel to a game from previous generations. I prefer the old style of gaming. Or so I thought.

Since obtaining a chipped Xbox I have had access to more retro games than I've ever had, not being a fan of emulation on PC. To get the chance to replay some of the games from my youth, alongside some of the game I never got to play first time around, should be bliss, but it's been more a of a disappointing realisation that there are very few that I enjoy playing today. Even the SNES classics that made-up my personal Golden Era. One of the last games I bothered completing was the GBA version of Donkey Kong Country. But having loaded up Donkey Kong Country 2 on the Xbox, I didn't get past the second level before switching off - and certainly not because I couldn't do it.

With portable retro gaming on the GBA being my biggest enjoyment of late, it's a shame the DS and PSP could potentially render that obsolete. Retro games look better to me on a GBA screen than they do on a large widescreen TV. So is it just the idea of having thousands of games (sans packaging etc.) on an Xbox hard drive at my disposal that ruins my enjoyment of retro gaming? Or might it be that, having played Outrun 2 a lot since getting it, the original just isn't worth playing?

I enjoy reading about retro gaming, and if I felt I had the kind of money that allowed it, I'd enjoy collecting old titles, too, but I'm not sure I'm ever going to get the kind of enjoyment out of playing a game in front of a TV screen of an evening that I did yesteryear. Which is a bummer with the thousands of ROMs that I would have died for years ago, when reading about them all in magazines, while making the youthful mistake of spending my money on a number of the poor releases of the time and missing out first time around.

Is being a retro gamer fundamentally about enjoying playing old games, or collecting them to store safely in your loft/cupboards, or just enjoying reminiscing?

But more importantly, deep down, does emulation remove the whole essence of what is retro gaming?

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It's about playing games.

Games which are old.

It takes a while to remove the rose tinted spectacles with regard to your old favourites, but once you do, you'll find that many old games (including ones you never played at the time) are still enjoyable in their own right.

Personally, I try to avoid collecting - you can find yourself doing it, where you buy or download games just because you have fond memories or just because you can, even if you never actually play them. Collecting isn't about getting kicks from the games themselves, just about trading on that nostalgia which will more often than not be dispelled as soon as you actually play the game in question.

I don't see how emulation (if accurate) could remove "the whole essence of what is retro gaming", i.e. "the playing of old games", unless the control method used with the emulator significantly changes the experience of playing the games in question. e.g. trying to play Street Fighter II Turbo on a keyboard.

Emulation makes playing old games more convenient.

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I hold the opinion that a game's quality does not magically change over time, and experiencing games through emulation does not take away from the experience. I've written dozens of C64 reviews for KB and have always used WinVICE to play them. If I was really bothered, I could get the PRG files and convert them to audio files using WAVPRG, before burning them to CD and taping them onto cassette. However, I once appraised a game that I had played through emulation and then acquired the real thing in tape form and played it on a real Commie, and the game was no better or worse in terms of quality. The only thing emulation really affects is the way in which you play a game you've never played before and fail to look at it with the eyes of someone who had it at the time of release, because that kind of person knows how it compares to other games around at that time. I have always said that I write for newcomers to the world of retrogaming, people who will purchase or download a whole box (or archive) of games and play them however they like...and it's unlikely that people download and play games in chronological order...Good gameplay is timeless, just like bad gameplay and average gameplay. Oh, and DKC2 is ace, I've been on and off it on the Xbox and I love it (apart from the frustrating later levels.)

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Once the initial shock of what's available is over you start to settle into playing the titles that you enjoy. For me it's all about getting a nice recommendation from someone and trying it out, there is still the delight of the new, even in "retro gaming".

On the button. Trouble is, getting so many recommendations, where the hell do you start :rolleyes:

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Retro gaming is not always about nostalgia I think a lot of the time people believe thats the main reason people play old games.

Mostly I will play games i've never played before and in many cases never heard of before.

For me it's more a case of enjoying the style of game that retro provides than nostalgia.

The collecting side to retro gaming is almost an entirely seperate issue, some people enjoy collecting whether they actually sit down and play the games or not, and its a lot better thing to collect than say Danbury Mint Plates or 100 issues of Build the Cutty Sark.

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