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What is the “right” approach to reviewing a retro game?


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Member · Posted
8 hours ago, Dr. Morbis said:

Man, I could not disagree more.  If I felt this way, I wouldn't even own a NES.  I play NES and 8/16 bit almost exclusively exactly because I feel they are the best games that certain genres have to offer in ALL of the categories you mentioned above, and yes that's even including the graphics; the NES has a certain aesthetic that really jives with me, and apparently a lot of others since so many games are coming out on Steam and Switch nowadays with exactly the same style...

I’m actually like yourself, in that I’ve always been more into 2D gaming than 3D, which was best served in the 90s era IMO. Hence my favorite consoles of all time are Megadrive and Snes

My original point in the above you quoted, was more the hypothesis that gamers of today who are delving into the games of yesterday, are doing so because of a specific need that an older game can cater for, rather than games that are served up in the current era. So if this was the case, it would make sense to read on reviews which compare the retro games of similar era, to know which next to try or buy. By this extension, I won’t really care for comments in the reviews such as “graphics are crap compared to today’s standards”, I’d rather know how it stands in comparison to the top titles in same platform/era. 

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Of course - this should clear things up... -CasualCart

I'm generally against having to apply handicaps to a product for its qualities to have any relevance. If you're telling me something is good "for 1986", I don't care. I'm not in 1986. What I need to k

Primarily, I would judge a game first and foremost against other games on the same system, and taking into account the technical limitations of that system. Part of the fun of playing old games is to

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3 hours ago, Sumez said:

That's quite a statement, and I'm not even sure what to say. But I guess maybe there are a few genres you just don't care about as much as the people who do play those games. 🙂 

I don’t think it’s an outrageous comment to say that most genres are better now than compared to early 90s games and prior years. In fact, can you think of which genres aren’t improved upon by today’s consoles, compared with 30+ year old games?

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26 minutes ago, GPX said:

 I don’t think it’s an outrageous comment to say that most genres are better now than compared to early 90s games and prior years. In fact, can you think of which genres aren’t improved upon by today’s consoles, compared with 30+ year old games?

If you like games like Doom or Ninja Gaiden, those genres changed over time, they didn’t just get better. FPSs are way more linear and set-piecey than the labyrinthine Wolfenstein, Doom. and Quake levels are. Platformers usually way longer and way easier than 90s platformers. To use the most overused example, Demon’s Souls really captures the shitty, confusing, figure-out-whatever-works-to-get-past-this-part feeling of older games and games today would much rather be streamlined and unfrustrating because that’s “good design”.

Every time some new retro platformer comes around, it’s always “It looks like your old games but we removed all that bad design so you’ll never get frustrated!” My dudes, I don’t play NES for the shitty graphics nostalgia. Give me that shitty gameplay to go with it. I can barely remember anything about the Bloodstained game that looked exactly like Castlevania III. I’ve played Shatterhand like twice in my life but I vividly remember the elevator boss because he’s a bitch and I had to keep replaying the level to get different weapons and experiment with different things.

I mean I like modern platformers too and there’s no reason they can’t be better than old games. The Messenger and Cuphead are cool and I gotta play that new cyber ninja game. I just tend to prefer the feel of a 45 minute stiff, hard, simple NES game to a 10 hour platform adventure game where i’m triple jumping, air dashing, and going to shops for upgrades.

 

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We're entering weird territory here.

Monke brain work better when it comes to review since It's the only way to be 100% honest and upfront.

Here are the six levels of Monke Game Review.

  1. ★★★★★ - Best game. Play whole life, always fun.
  2. ★★★★☆ - Good game. Play frequently.
  3. ★★★☆☆ - Okay game. Play once.
  4. ★★☆☆☆ - Not Okay game. Play halfway.
  5. ★☆☆☆☆ - Not Good game. Play little.
  6. ☆☆☆☆☆ - Worst Game. No play.

I'll gladly compare Pong to Super Mario Bros. 3 to Overwatch to Fortnite to Cyberpunk 2077

★☆☆☆☆ Pong

★★★★★ Super Mario Bros. 3

★★★★☆ Overwatch

★★★☆☆ Fortnite

★☆☆☆☆ Cyberpunk 2077

...

Here's some extras

☆☆☆☆☆ Cheetahmen II

★★☆☆☆ Faceball

★★★★☆ River City Ransom

★★★★★ Banjo Kazooie

★★★★☆ Donkey Kong Country 2

☆☆☆☆☆ Superman 64

Edited by ThePhleo
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Editorials Team · Posted

Interesting debate so far.  Got me thinking about movies.

I watched Commando the other night.  Classic 80s action that I always enjoy.

What if that movie came out today?  Would it be celebrated as a retro genre homage?Or laughed out of the theaters for a guy firing assault rifles with one hand and never getting shot?

I don't know.  Both?

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2 hours ago, GPX said:

In fact, can you think of which genres aren’t improved upon by today’s consoles, compared with 30+ year old games?

For any genre that was actually popular 30 years ago, I'd say that yeah, most of the best titles in those are definitely somewhere around 30 years old. Be it shooters, platform games, run'n'guns, beat'em ups, point n glick adventure games, and probably a few others. Hell, there are a lot of genres that have barely had any good games at all over the past 10+ years.

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11 minutes ago, Reed Rothchild said:

Or laughed out of the theaters for a guy firing assault rifles with one hand and never getting shot?

If that were the case, I can think of quite a few blockbusters over the past few years that wouldn't have been anywhere near as succesful as they were. I think it's easy to underestimate how well crafted a lot of classic action movies actually are. It is difficult to make a good and coherent movie with a massive budget and huge production team, and still keep a solid theme going. And I think modern trainwrecks like Rise of Skywalker is a perfect example of that (or if you for whatever reason liked that movie, pick any other example you think fits)

Lots of production companies will just throw a lot of expensive assets onto the screen and hope some of it makes people more attracted to the movie, and the same also goes for a lot of modern videogame production

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3 hours ago, GPX said:

I don’t think it’s an outrageous comment to say that most genres are better now than compared to early 90s games and prior years. In fact, can you think of which genres aren’t improved upon by today’s consoles, compared with 30+ year old games?

Actually I'd say that's a little unreasonable. Let's take a look at racing games for a moment. On the ps2 we have my absolute favorite racer, burnout revenge. I enjoy it not because I can race and win but because I can crash get going again and go get revenge. It's a wonderful title. The burnout series would see one more release on the ps3/xbox360 (burnout paradise).

 

Moving on to the ps4 the closest thing that was hyped to be similar to burnout was I believe The Crew and it was a disappointment when viewed with that lense.

 

Does that mean I think all old games are better than new? No. I still love uncharted 4 and Assassin's Creed on the ps4 along with a bunch of switch titles.

 

My reason for bringing this up is even in viewing a genre across ages things change there are some unique titles with a mechanic you love that just isn't present in other titles. Like @DefaultGen pointed out, the genres evolve and change but that doesn't make older games any less fun or less good just a different game. My opinion at any rate.

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17 hours ago, Dr. Morbis said:

Man, I could not disagree more.  If I felt this way, I wouldn't even own a NES.  I play NES and 8/16 bit almost exclusively exactly because I feel they are the best games that certain genres have to offer in ALL of the categories you mentioned above, and yes that's even including the graphics; the NES has a certain aesthetic that really jives with me, and apparently a lot of others since so many games are coming out on Steam and Switch nowadays with exactly the same style...

Count me on this too, and taking ThePhelo's post with stars are a hard example why this in fact makes far more sense than that nonsense post of old games about decades old games being worse than counterparts/homages now.  It's patently garbage to make that blanket statement.  I'd argue that the NES, GB/GBC and SNES have plenty to account for that can take down a lot of modern games as being inferior some various respects like that star list pointed out vaguely.

Age doesn't give a free pass to call a game worse or better, it can be 2 years or 20 years old, it doesn't matter.  If it does to you, you got issues.

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On 1/31/2021 at 3:22 AM, DefaultGen said:

If you like games like Doom or Ninja Gaiden, those genres changed over time, they didn’t just get better. FPSs are way more linear and set-piecey than the labyrinthine Wolfenstein, Doom. and Quake levels are. Platformers usually way longer and way easier than 90s platformers. To use the most overused example, Demon’s Souls really captures the shitty, confusing, figure-out-whatever-works-to-get-past-this-part feeling of older games and games today would much rather be streamlined and unfrustrating because that’s “good design”.

Every time some new retro platformer comes around, it’s always “It looks like your old games but we removed all that bad design so you’ll never get frustrated!” My dudes, I don’t play NES for the shitty graphics nostalgia. Give me that shitty gameplay to go with it. I can barely remember anything about the Bloodstained game that looked exactly like Castlevania III. I’ve played Shatterhand like twice in my life but I vividly remember the elevator boss because he’s a bitch and I had to keep replaying the level to get different weapons and experiment with different things.

I mean I like modern platformers too and there’s no reason they can’t be better than old games. The Messenger and Cuphead are cool and I gotta play that new cyber ninja game. I just tend to prefer the feel of a 45 minute stiff, hard, simple NES game to a 10 hour platform adventure game where i’m triple jumping, air dashing, and going to shops for upgrades.

 

I think there are 2 separate issues here which perhaps are blurred into the one. What you are talking about is that certain retro games (eg. NES) cater for your current gaming tastes/needs. Whether it’d be the simplicity, charm or length of a typical gaming session, it hits the right note for you (and me also). 

The other issue is the question “has gaming evolved and the individual aspects of a game design for most genres improved over time?” If you take any genre and ask has there been improvements in the visuals, sounds, playability, replayability, then I think you’d find the answer to the question is a high probable “yes”. The key word here is “most” genres are improved upon.

Bringing back to my original point which I think is being misunderstood, I was speculating on the majority of the audience who are currently favoring retro gaming and turning to older platforms. My hypothesis is something like “although genres are generally improved in the current era, retro game lovers prefer the old style games due to various reasons”. And if this were the case, a review should be focusing more relative to the platform or era of the game in question.

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5 hours ago, GPX said:

The other issue is the question “has gaming evolved and the individual aspects of a game design for most genres improved over time?” If you take any genre and ask has there been improvements in the visuals, sounds, playability, replayability, then I think you’d find the answer to the question is a high probable “yes”. The key word here is “most” genres are improved upon.

This is an issue of both personal preference and semantics going on here.  You use the word "improve" and "improvements;" I would say your above statement is only inherently true if you replace those with more correct terminology: "change" and "changes."  Just because something is superceded by something else chronologically, that doesn't automatically mean that the latter item is an "improvement."  Whether intentionally or unintentionally, you are promulgating a personal opinion as fact.  Here's your exact paragraph above, corrected to actually be factual by changing only three words:

The other issue is the question “has gaming evolved and the individual aspects of a game design for most genres changed over time?” If you take any genre and ask has there been changes in the visuals, sounds, playability, replayability, then I think you’d find the answer to the question is a high probable “yes”. The key word here is “most” genres are changed.

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Member · Posted

I guess all the stuff I've been saying in this topic so far and elsewhere boils down to this...I appreciate a "fair fight" so to speak and I don't think it's fair to put a retro game up against what happened 5-10 years or more into its future.  I mean who knows for example what gaming (and everything else going on in the world for that matter) will be like in 2025 or 2030 for example?  As Fresh Prince said in that first episode, I can't think that far ahead and I'm not sure if I wanna...I'll be 45 and 50 in those years after all 😞 

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On 1/30/2021 at 9:50 AM, Sumez said:

If that were the case, I can think of quite a few blockbusters over the past few years that wouldn't have been anywhere near as succesful as they were. I think it's easy to underestimate how well crafted a lot of classic action movies actually are. It is difficult to make a good and coherent movie with a massive budget and huge production team, and still keep a solid theme going. And I think modern trainwrecks like Rise of Skywalker is a perfect example of that (or if you for whatever reason liked that movie, pick any other example you think fits)

Lots of production companies will just throw a lot of expensive assets onto the screen and hope some of it makes people more attracted to the movie, and the same also goes for a lot of modern videogame production

Perfectly said, Rise of Skywalker basically epitomizes everything that is not only wrong with movies, but with modern "video games" as well.   They hope you will be distracted by the pretty pictures and things happening so quickly that you won't stop and think about how stupid and terrible the entire thing is.

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5 hours ago, peg said:

Perfectly said, Rise of Skywalker basically epitomizes everything that is not only wrong with movies, but with modern "video games" as well.   They hope you will be distracted by the pretty pictures and things happening so quickly that you won't stop and think about how stupid and terrible the entire thing is.

Eh kind of sounds about right.  Sometimes it does work, because even the thin plot carries the action, but more often than not it's a one hit wonder and who cares after that...and yeah I'll include the MSU stuff over the last what 15 years now?  I can't really go back and watch those Avenger movies and the filler around/before it.  Guardians trying hard at being 80s centric somehow stands out as re-watchable at least.  But in general, like with games, it seems when they had to work a bit harder to get a result, and put more work into it, like with 80s and 90s movies, they stand up better.  They stand up so much better you can throw a kid on them from this period and they'll get into it easier than some other bs if they're not just sucked in mindlessly by the eye candy explosion.

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The Marvel movies definitely fit the same category of movie making, they're an orgy of literally hundreds (or thousands?) of individual creative inputs that all come together to form a movie.

Whether you like them or not though, I think they are also a good example of how that approach actually can work, and result in at least a few decent movies that are perfectly enjoyable provided someone on the production team knows how to tie it all together. And the reason why movie studios keep doing this thing in the first place. There are also plenty of examples of video games made with this mindset which manage to be perfectly enjoyable if only for a plethora of perfectly superficial qualities (the recent Spider-Man game comes to mind, but a lot of people also seem to think the GTA series is fun).
It won't ever be comparable to a simpler movie with a solid theme and an engaging story, but they are doing their own thing, and it's almost unfair to compare the two.

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Old vs. new, now that's a battle. I would say it's not about age but design.

Bigger does not equal better - good sound does not equal memorable composition - quality of life does not equal necessity - better graphics do not equal striking style - more buttons do not equal better gameplay - and so it goes on. This is easier to see, if you have seen gaming change and have played through that change.

"Right" way to review doesn't really exist but if you want to be objective about it, you should consider all of the game's elements with appropriate weighting. Gameplay, content, difficulty, graphics, sound, composition, writing and so forth. Even then comparing games is asymmetrical and different genres should have more weight in appropriate elements. Also not all games have every element included but good games often have all of their elements done well and they can even be better than the sum of those elements through some kind of synergy and cohesion - and that's what design is all about.

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I just want to say about the "hasn't aged well" thing, I think of that similarly to how your food preferences often evolve as you get older. Kind of like how so many of us loved stuff like chicken nuggets and pizza rolls, and now perhaps can still enjoy them but understand they're, well, not exactly fine dining.

When we were kids in the 80s and 90s it was easy to be wowed by stuff, taken by the hype, etc. As you get older you realize a lot of the games released were kind of crappy and were only impressive because we didn't have many reference points. Frankly, when you look at the libraries of most consoles, only a small or moderate percentage of most of them have much gaming value today.

While I do take into account how a game has "aged" or whether it was "impressive for its time" I don't really think of those as qualifiers, more just historical descriptions. For example, games that got the most out of a limited sound chip, used heavy parallax scrolling, etc. 

On a bit of a tangent, I can't tell you how many 8- and 16-bit games I've picked up, played for 2 or 3 minutes, and gotten stuck. I've gotta wonder if I'm an idiot, or if as kids we just had a lot more perseverance and less of a sense of opportunity cost/not having time to waste. It's neat to me how many serious thoughts pulling these old games out can spark.

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12 minutes ago, 85Collector said:

I just want to say about the "hasn't aged well" thing, I think of that similarly to how your food preferences often evolve as you get older. Kind of like how so many of us loved stuff like chicken nuggets and pizza rolls, and now perhaps can still enjoy them but understand they're, well, not exactly fine dining.

When we were kids in the 80s and 90s it was easy to be wowed by stuff, taken by the hype, etc. As you get older you realize a lot of the games released were kind of crappy and were only impressive because we didn't have many reference points. Frankly, when you look at the libraries of most consoles, only a small or moderate percentage of most of them have much gaming value today.

While I do take into account how a game has "aged" or whether it was "impressive for its time" I don't really think of those as qualifiers, more just historical descriptions. For example, games that got the most out of a limited sound chip, used heavy parallax scrolling, etc. 

On a bit of a tangent, I can't tell you how many 8- and 16-bit games I've picked up, played for 2 or 3 minutes, and gotten stuck. I've gotta wonder if I'm an idiot, or if as kids we just had a lot more perseverance and less of a sense of opportunity cost/not having time to waste. It's neat to me how many serious thoughts pulling these old games out can spark.

I'll give you credit for the "opportunity cost" point. Then again, I'm not sure when I decide to consider that in my "do I continue playing or not" decisions.

For example, I mentioned it elsewhere (possibly in this thread I forgot) but I recently beat scooby doo mystery mayhem on the gamecube. Let me tell you, that game is pretty garbage. There were definitely individual things I liked but the game design and controls felt like hot ass. Not to mention the often confusing level layout.

That all being said, I still beat the game. I could even see my self replaying it. So while I'd give it a horrible review, I definitely had fun and yes me being a scooby doo fanatic likely has something to do with the fun I had but beyond that I still feel like I enjoyed the game.

Could I have been doing something more productive or profitable with my time? Yeah. Did I really care? Nah, I was off the clock and just wanted to play and enjoy something. Before I lose sight of my point, I suppose what I'm saying is if you need to consider "opportunity cost" when you're playing a game, you probably need to stop playing it and do something else instead.

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14 hours ago, sp1nz said:

Old vs. new, now that's a battle. I would say it's not about age but design.

Bigger does not equal better - good sound does not equal memorable composition - quality of life does not equal necessity - better graphics do not equal striking style

You know what fits, and this is this own sites taste?  The weekly poll for movies that battle out for the best.  What's the top one?  A black and white action adventure movie, North By Northwest.  The daddy of the action/adventure stuff we've seen since whether it's Bond, Indy, etc.

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9 hours ago, Tanooki said:

You know what fits, and this is this own sites taste?  The weekly poll for movies that battle out for the best.  What's the top one?  A black and white action adventure movie, North By Northwest.  The daddy of the action/adventure stuff we've seen since whether it's Bond, Indy, etc.

That's a good example. I would say that in any medium the very beginning comes from discovery and is rarely "the best work", then more people latch onto the medium and create with passion and early limitations enhance the need for solid design, and lastly the medium reaches the mainstream audience + creating itself becomes easier for everyman + the limitations become less about tools = overabundance of content and competition resulting in many great creations being lost in the overwhelming amount of throughput and many celebrated creations being successful due to marketing money or lazy risk-free mainstreaming for lowest common denominator. This is also where reviewing becomes important because "right" way of reviewing is about informing the consumer (this does not exclude funny and entertaining reviews but they have to have meaningful takes to matter). Everything does become harder when so much can be attributed to taste but you can try to find the special reviewer that ticks your boxes or you can aggregate the results when there are enough reviewers doing their best in trying to be objective and also have breadth of experience with the medium.

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Interesting discussion. I'd say one thing that annoys me is when reviewers focus on quantitative aspects of the game -- things that can be measured -- and assume there's a relationship between those things and how enjoyable the game is, which is really all that matters to me.

(That's using a definition of "enjoyment" that includes "the rewards of mastering a tough challenge": a game doesn't have to be fun at every moment to be rewarding.)

Sure, things like a steady framerate usually correlate with more enjoyment. But there are lots of other things that can be measured, like the amount of content in a game, or the resolution and color count of its graphics, that don't necessarily have any bearing on enjoyment. That line of thought can get absurd: do we fault an Italian mosaic for being "low-resolution", or a painting for not being photorealistic?

The idea that more realism automatically = good is totally unproven for every parameter (graphics, sound, physics, etc.). Sure, I respond in a positive way to stunningly beautiful nature scenes in a downhill skiing game, but it (realism) still has to be handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than treated as an absolute metric. What's good is whatever makes the game more enjoyable and serves its goals well -- and better tech specs only constitute progress to the extent that they enable new experiences.

I think reviewers -- in every field, not just games -- like to talk about quantitative stuff because it lets them pretend to be "objective", and gets them out of the much harder task of describing the subjective experience of playing a game and what makes it enjoyable or not.

Someone else noted that one of the key questions when you review anything is: did this media item do what it set out to do? The best place to attempt objectivity lies in answering that question -- and that's a totally distinct question from "Do I like it?" If you're not a person who enjoys the kind of thing a game is trying to do, maybe you're not the right person to review it: someone who hates sports and sports games probably has little ability to appraise a sports game in a fair and reasonable way.

At the same time, it's absolutely true that everything has a context. First of all, the relationship between spending money and the value represented by a game was a big deal to us as kids, but it goes out the window once you've left the game's retail era. On top of that, the experience of playing a game at the same time as other people is non-trivial: some of these games were meant to be played by bored kids with tons of time on their hands who would share tips at school, and slowly find things out.

If a middle-aged, solitary, impatient gamer doesn't have that social context, and is instead trying to play the game during a window of 45 minutes while the kids are asleep or whatever, it won't be the same experience. Everything in life -- certainly any media item -- is enriched by knowing other people who are experiencing the same thing you are. We're social beings, wired to seek shared experiences and common ground.

I think every reviewer has to ask themselves hard questions about whether they've "aged out" of certain forms of entertainment -- not through any fault of their own, or by doing something wrong along the way, but simply because it feels different to spend 20+ hours grinding in an RPG when you're 10, or 20, or 40, or 50. Something that was special when you were a teenager can start to feel like a Skinner box, or even remind you of mortality, when you're much older.

I find longer games usually wear out their welcome, so I tend to prefer my games to be short and difficult. When people complain a lot about games being too short, I wonder whether they're looking for games to be more of an escape, whereas I'm looking more for the rewarding feeling of mastering an interesting challenge.

But then again, the depressed kid sitting in the middle of nowhere deserves to have something to distract him while his parents fight for the umpteenth time, you know? So I think every game has a kind of potential purpose embedded in it -- or ideally, more than one -- something it can enable people to do, or something it can mean to them. It takes a really open-minded reviewer, someone who can step outside themselves and their tastes and biases, to try to see what a game could mean to someone totally unlike themselves.

That's one thing that's great about Super Mario Bros.: it can be a walk in the park, a demanding speedrun, an old friend, a mysterious world full of surprises and secrets for a newcomer, a 5-minute game or a 60-minute game. It's not just well-remembered because it was popular or because it was "first" in some way, but also because it struck a brilliant balance between accessibility and depth.

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On 2/1/2021 at 1:55 PM, Dr. Morbis said:

This is an issue of both personal preference and semantics going on here.  You use the word "improve" and "improvements;" I would say your above statement is only inherently true if you replace those with more correct terminology: "change" and "changes."  Just because something is superceded by something else chronologically, that doesn't automatically mean that the latter item is an "improvement."  Whether intentionally or unintentionally, you are promulgating a personal opinion as fact.  Here's your exact paragraph above, corrected to actually be factual by changing only three words:

The other issue is the question “has gaming evolved and the individual aspects of a game design for most genres changed over time?” If you take any genre and ask has there been changes in the visuals, sounds, playability, replayability, then I think you’d find the answer to the question is a high probable “yes”. The key word here is “most” genres are changed.

I took a break from this thread because it was getting text-heavy and also needing some time to ponder further. 

I think by and large, we’re both lovers of retro but thinking in subtle tangents. Yes I agree genres have “changed”, but I still stand by my statement that they also mostly have “improved” over time. This by no means is me saying that the games in present day are all better than the ones in the 80s or 90s. You can have your absolute retro classics which strike the perfect balance of fun, playability and replayability. Then if you put them through the hands of a modern programmer, they could easily add more pixels, add better sounds, make better hit detection, adjust a few environments, add some more levels, create a more fun/challenging boss etc.

If any old game can be improved hugely or everslightly, then I would say a genre is improved. Not saying specific games can never be absolute classics. At the end of the day, this is really what we gamers mostly want to know - was this game a classic back then and is it still a classic now? I think we all mostly can understand that retro hardware have their limitations, so judging the game by graphics or sounds by today’s standards isn’t much of a point. Perhaps a game should simply be rated by “how much does this game make it hard for you to put down your controller?”

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4 hours ago, GPX said:

Perhaps a game should simply be rated by “how much does this game make it hard for you to put down your controller?”

Interesting timing for your reply - and the sentence quoted above is the most important aspect - as I have been reading the NES reviews from a dude who recently started upon the quest of reviewing every NES game by the name of Sean Malstrom.  His reviews are here: https://seanmalstrom.wordpress.com/2020/12/22/nes-reviews-table-of-contents/ , but the part that is interesting and relevant to this thread is what he writes on his "About the Reviews" page.  Two key quotes:

"I am unhappy with NES reviews because they force games into ‘slots’ (higher or lower) due to things that do not matter (nostalgia, bandwagon, art, novelty, etc.). This is not how we PLAY games. We do not go, “I’ve got to play this game right now because of this design mechanic!” We don’t play designs, art, or novelties. We play games."

"The left side of our brains is overrating some games, underrating others, and trying to be ‘smart’ and ‘best’. I believe the best way to ‘find the fun’ is the returning trips we take to a game. We can’t explain it. We only submit. “It’s addictive!” Games you return to are games that clearly are fun."

He makes a lot of other good points too, so definitely worth a read...

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Editorials Team · Posted

I was writing up Ultima: The False Prophet for SNES last night, and thought about this thread.

How does one positively review a console port (of questionable repute), of one of the most acclaimed computer RPGs of all time, in 2021?

 

Well, for me, it's simple.  Because of the specific nature of my project, I try to only compare against other SNES games.  So it doesn't matter how much better the PC version is.  It doesn't matter how much "better" a modern game such as The Witcher III is.  It doesn't matter if the game was also ported to the Sega Genesis.

It also doesn't *really* matter how good the soundtrack is, or how muddled the graphics are.  And it definitely doesn't matter how much the cart costs.  Or what sort of historical impact the game had.  Or how good it was "back in the day."  No, what accounts for 90% of my overall impression, is how much fun I had.  Right now.  Playing through it back in 2020.

Granted, it takes a "special" sort of person to be able to enjoy these games when you have a wall of modern games staring you in the face while you play them.

Spoiler

Rough draft:

As you may recall, I covered both of the other two SNES Ultima games (<em>Black Gate</em> and <em>Runes of Virtue II</em> ) back in the #200s in my rankings.  Both games suffered from various problems - severe problems in BG’s case - most of which could be attributed to the move from PC to consoles.  But I was still able to enjoy both games quite a bit.  Probably much more than the average gamer would.  

 

Well, <em>The False Prophet</em> is no different.  This is a game that 90% of Super Nintendo players are gonna want to pass over.  There is absolutely nothing for them here.  For perfectly legitimate reasons.  I mean, who wants to play an epic computer RPG that has been ported (bastardized) to consoles?  Besides forcing you to use a controller as opposed to a mouse and keyboard, how can a little old cartridge ever hope to contain a sprawling, epic adventure?

 

Luckily for all of us, I’m the sort of personality that can force myself to play through anything if I’m stubborn enough. So with this project, I spent a lot of time playing a lot of games that most people in their right mind would avoid at all costs; especially all of the computer RPGs.  

 

And let me say just how pleasantly surprised I was with how much I enjoyed the three Ultima games.  I mean, I’m the kinda guy who can enjoy anything.  Have a favorite movie?  I probably dig it.  Have a favorite game?  I probably dig it.  Have a favorite book?  I probably haven’t read it.  But I’d probably dig it if I did.  And I legitimately had a great time with all three of the Ultima games, from beginning to end.

 

Not only that, but I really do think that <em>The False Prophet</em> is a very good Super Nintendo game.  Full stop.  No qualifications or rationalizations.

 

For one, this game is epic.  Truly one of the biggest on the platform.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a link to the image of the world map that I embedded back in the <em>Black Gate</em> review.  Forewarning: it’s so big that it will crash your browser if you try to look at it on a mobile device.  Even your desktop might momentarily chug.

 

And the amazing thing is, most of that map is full of stuff to do.  It’s not just dead empty terrain like you see in so many other ambitious games (<em>*cough* </em>Lord of the Rings<em> *cough*</em>).

 

TFP also retains a very strong computer RPG feel.  What do I mean by that?  Well, with the <em>Black Gate</em> port, the gameplay was very obviously a neutered version of the original self.  Everything about it, from the lack of a travelling party, to the way you collect and equip gear, complete quests, or travel around the world: it had all been “simplified.”  They had clearly tried to streamline the game for a console experience, and therefore had to remove most of the mechanics that give the games such great depth.

 

With TFP on the other hand, FCI clearly tried to leave as much intact as possible, because this thing plays much more like how I would expect an Ultima game on PC to play.  Turn-based party-on-party turn-based combat, with loads of strategy at play, dozens of quests to complete, hundreds of items to collect and manage, and that huge sprawling world to explore.  

 

Of course, being a computer RPG on a console comes with the expected problems.  For one, controls are… well, let’s just say they take some getting used to.  The graphics are also rather unimpressive, no doubt another victim of the porting process.

 

There’s also some rather annoying quests, that are a bit too nebulous for my tastes.  That usually comes with the territory with old RPGs, but it’s still something I feel like calling out.  The “gypsy” one in particular took me <em>hours</em> to figure out.  And I was pretty frustrated the entire time.

 

Still, with this game the good far outweighs the bad for me.  I had a great time playing through TFP, and had no doubt about ranking it higher than most of its peers.  Some people may scoff at such a lofty position, and I can also recognize that my rankings for most of the western RPGs are probably higher than what most people would expect to see.  Not to mention that I still have <em>Wizardry V</em> and <em>Might & Magic III</em> coming up.  But I’m confident with where I have everything.  It may take a strong constitution (and loads of patience) but these games are great if you can give them a chance.

 

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