Even I got a bit caught up in the hype for the Nintendo Switch. And yes, I finished Breath of the Wild. Finally. After three months. But, I am not a classic Nintendo fan boy. I was, and still am, a Sega fan boy. That is because I was an arcade kid.
I talk with Xbox later on in the magazine where programming on a Commodore 64 is mentioned and it threw me back in to my own past. I loved the arcades. Take me anywhere near a seaside town and I’ll be out, scouting for a Sega Rally unit or hoping there’ll be a classic cabinet somewhere like the wire-frame Star Wars or OutRun. My introduction to gaming was the arcade and it saddens me that a similar kind of entry isn’t available for children today.
Reviving classics fills me with equal delight and treipidation
Because this was back in the late 80s to early 90s, home computer gaming was incredibly different and, of course, utterly disappointing. I have nightmares of loading up Chase H.Q. on to my second hand ZX Spectrum via a tape, driving on that ghastly toxic yellow road and your black car responding only to the hardest of pressure on the < and > keys. But we enjoyed it because it was the late 80s and arcade conversions were the closest we would get to reliving the holiday memories. And frankly, there wasn’t that much else to enjoy.
When the Master System and Mega Drive came along (second hand, naturally), I was replete with the titles I’d grown up with in as close a parity to the now aging cabinets. Altered Beast, Wrestle War and Golden Axe were now in my hands and on my TV until 6pm when we had to stop for parents to watch the news.
It’s possibly for this reason that I started collecting Sega games (a habit I’ve recently rekindled to the detriment of my wallet), and the recent news from the Sega 2016 financial reports say that reviving old IPs is one of the company’s key business interests for the next few years. This has me utterly delighted.
But I’m also sceptical. In a recent online editorial I asked if this is the time for new IPs and I stand by that. A revival of titles in Sega’s back catalogue would mostly be nostalgic, and as long as its nostalgia is done well, I can be happy. Sonic Mania is a great example of a game that knows what it is and benefits massively from that. At every point I’ve been able to get my hands on it, it’s played well and felt like the Sonic games of old (thanks to Christian Whitehead’s Retro Engine), but not in a way that makes it stuck in the past.
Nostalgia is a tricky beast. Games like Mother Russia Bleeds and Bloody Zombies very much play on the love for side scrolling beat ‘em ups. Streets of Rage, possibly my favourite game in the genre, has never returned despite a few cancelled attempts. Both the PS2 update of Altered Beast and the Xbox 360 release Golden Axe: Beast Rider were largely forgettable too.
I’m sure I’m not alone in my love for Sega’s classics and we’re surely overdue a return of OutRun. But the idea of reviving classics for commercial gain fills me with equal delight and trepidation. Maybe its because I’ve seen it all before.
Remember Dungeon Keeper on iOS? Remember Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5? Gaming history is littered with games that either didn’t change enough to be relevant or just wildly missed any mark whatsoever. All of them are known IPs that had the potential to get big money.
This is my main worry as, despite this being a business, recent times have indicated that people will not tolerate anything that comes up short and for Sega to be so blunt in their target of 2020 for these games, means that doesn’t leave much time.
If games are planned thoroughly, true to the source material and developed well enough to be fun on a modern gaming system, then this will be excellent. Switch’s portable nature might well be a key factor in this as it’s tailor made for those shorter two player Sega arcade experiences.
It’s a hard one to call because while the future of gaming needs to be forward-thinking and creative, there’s certainly a place for classic games to shine in the current market. But can the reality match the fantasy in mine, and many others head? Hopefully. It is only three years, and after all – to be this good takes ages.