Do You Retro?

By Mike on 10:26 pm

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Back in August, UK game site Pocket Gamer released a list of the ten best PSP games in 2007 (so far). Ranking 7th was the Sega Mega Drive Collection. This game is known as the Sega Genesis Collection in North America and features 27 games from the Sega Genesis console. Yep, it's retro gaming at its best though I'm still hoping for the whole Sonic library for the Genesis to wind up on on the PSP. Surprisingly, retro gaming is hot, and has been for the last couple of years. It all started with emulation on PC and Mac a few years ago. While technically illegal, emulation allowed gamers to replay their favourite titles on their computer rather than dragging dusty old games out of the closet. It also allows you to experiment with so called 'abandonware' titles, that is games that are no longer produced and supported by their manufacturer, essentially abandoned products. While it is technically illegal, the manufacturers usually don't care if the product is particularly old and obscure. You can find some gems online.

More recently, some game makers have figured that some of the more popular titles can be brought back to life, and it's proving to be big business. The Sega Genesis collection for the PSP and PS2 is just one example of how successful retro gaming can be. Previously, Sega released two Sonic collections for the three sixth generation consoles. Even earlier, as far back as 1998, an Atari 2600 collection appeared on Playstation 1, and Nintendo released a couple NES games for the Gameboy Color.

Today, all three major consoles offer retro games as downloadable ROM files through their respective online stores. Wii's virtual console is perhaps the best known and probably has the widest variety. The Wii offers games for the NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis. Even some lesser known consoles have appeared on the Wii such as Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16. The games aren't too expensive, about $12.50 CDN for N64 games, which are the priciest. They're purchased via Wii points, which are essentially the equivalent of prepaid phone cards for the Wii. N64 games cost 1000 points while NES games are 500. They are stored on local flash memory, which means load times will be faster than CD/DVD based collections. The biggest games are only around 64 megabytes tops (for N64 games, though games that big are uncommon), so the Wii's 512mb (400mb effective) flash storage can hold a lot. If you like retro, the Wii is your best bet since it will likely have the widest variety of familiar titles from the 80s and early 90s, including your favourite Nintendo classics.
Playstation 3 is a little more limited than the Wii in terms of games available, yet games for the widely popular PS1 are sold through the Playstation Store. The PS1 is over 10 years old now and can be considered on the retro borderline. PS1 games can be played on either a PS3 or PSP. They're purchased with real money, either from PC (for play on the PS3) or the PS3 (for play on the PSP, but PC connectivity is coming).
Like the Wii, the Xbox 360 has a robust array of retro games through Xbox Live Arcade. There's not a lot of classic console games yet, most games are from the Sega Genesis. However there are some interesting "classic style" arcade games and even a few retro PC games such as the original Doom. They're bought using points in the same way Wii Virtual Console games are and games are stored locally on the 360's HDD.

So why is retro gaming so popular all of a sudden? Well, I think it's because people are bored of contemporary titles which tend to be mostly shooters and car racing. These games can be fun but get boring quickly and have little replay value. Retro games on the other hand can be played for years on end without being boring. They offer simpler controls and are easier to get into. They have a much higher fun factor. The reason why retro gaming has become so successful is the same reason why the Wii is successful. They're fun titles that bring gaming back to the masses.

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