A few weeks ago, while playing through yet another batch of indie games, I realized that I had finally been elevated into ‘grumpy old man’ territory. Because I was looking at all of these great, imaginative, fun to play games and I found myself annoyed. Instead of enjoying the bounty of independent game development in front of me, I could only think, 'What are these idiot kids thinking?'
There are a lot of games today that have embraced ‘pixel art’ as the style of choice. Low color, blocky, detail-less objects on the screen that are often described as ‘retro’. The thing is, it’s not retro, not at all. Back in the good old days of 8bit gaming, game developers worked with what they had, and admittedly, it wasn’t a lot. 4 color sprites built in a 32x32 grid was as good as it got. They did some great work. But gamers and developers both wanted more. Thats why we went from 8bit to 16bit to 32bit and on. Thats why each year consoles got more powerful. Retro shouldn’t mean ‘blocky graphics with good gameplay’ Retro shouldn’t mean ‘blocky graphics with good gameplay’ Retro should mean good gameplay with the best graphics you can squeeze from the machine.
Every game doesn’t need to reach Infamous 2 or Titanfall levels of 3D open world grandeuer. But if you’re going to make a title, it should look as good as you can make it, whatever the genre. If you have a 2D platformer that has less frames of animation than Mickey’s Castle of Illusion on the Sega Genesis, then why? If you have a WW2 dogfighting game that is less graphically impressive than Two Tigers from 1984, then why? I no longer believe that it’s a style choice. And even if it is, it’s a style I’m not willing to pay for. I lived through that time, and I waited patiently for games to claw their way out of the era of eye scorching, gaudy, 8 bit graphics. I have no desire to go back. And it also upsets me to have gameplay used as a scapegoat for poor visuals in a game. It’s not an either/or situation. There isnt a gameplay->graphics slider in a console. Hearing the words ‘we focused on gameplay’ makes me cringe because too often it means ‘It looks pretty bad, but if you can get past that it’s kinda fun’.
And don’t think I haven’t noticed the odd double standard the industry has when it comes to graphics. If you walk into one room and proclaim, ‘Graphics don’t matter! It’s all about Gameplay!’ You’ll get a round of applause. Walk into that same room an hour later and say ‘720p is good enough, we dont need 1080p graphics’ you’ll get booed into submission. There are sites that have spent pages on zooming in on screenshots to see if the anti-aliasing for Ground Zeroes is better on the Xbox One or the PS4. And then those same sites will explain how endearing and detailed the squares are in SuperMeatBoy.It’s enough to make your head spin.
I’ve had this conversation a lot with people and I’m usually told at this point that games like Titanfall and Luftrausers are completely different and have different goals and budgets when it comes to graphics. I know this. My point is that there’s no reason for any game released on hardware as powerful as 99% of the consoles and PC’s available today, not to at least be on the same graphical level as games released 30 years ago on hardware 1000 times less powerful. Thats not an exaggeration. A modern console is exponentially more powerful and easier to develop on than systems of the past. So why am I looking at something that would have been rejected from a Tecmo board meeting? The indie community is filled with talented artists The indie community is filled with talented artists that could use your screen as a virtual canvas if given the chance. Instead their work is reduced to the lowest common denominator and then reduced even more.
Not all indie games fall into this bracket. There are legitimately beautiful titles available that fulfill the goal of ‘retro style’ gameplay while not insulting the player with poor graphics just to make sure you know you’re playing a ‘retro indie’ game. You can find them everywhere from the PC, Ouya, Phones, and even on next gen consoles.
When I saw her, the first thing that went through my mind was that she doesn’t belong in a place like this. She’s leaning up against the bar, drink in hand and facing the crowd, oblivious to the mass of people. Her blood red dress contrasts against the dull woodgrain of the world around her.
Her curves. Every line on her body forms a flowing curve. Her shape forces your eyes to make the journey from floor to ceiling. My eyes take note of each destination. Legs. Hips. Chest. Face. It’s as if she was created from the molds of the women I’ve known in the past. The best parts of them sculpted into the work of art thats taking inventory of the room from the bar.
It’s a methodology shared by Brian Provinciano, who has taken iconic traits from legendary games and managed to form them into a fun, expansive title that can be as deep or as straightforward as the player wants. There are the obvious nods to well known classics like Duck Hunt, Contra, and Frogger. But there are just as many influences from lesser known but just as deserving games like Bionic Commando and Top Gunner. From the moment the opening title screen appears, Retro City Rampage makes it clear that its about to take you on a ride into the past.
Her legs. The thin red fabric of the the dress outlines the long supple shape of her legs. Her pose accentuates their tone, creating an angle that allows the slit in the dress to do it’s job, exposing a single, tanned thigh to the world. Exposed is the wrong word. Revealed is better. The cloth separates and is replaced by flesh. It’s an immediate and yet barely noticeable transition. It’s revealing.
Hidden in each section of Retro City Rampage are layers of reasons to replay each level. Not so that you can get extra power ups or max out your point total. Instead you want to make sure that you’ve seen every little in-joke and bit of pop culture that was crafted into the area. Provinciano has taken his time in dotting the game’s landscape with layers of memories from gaming history.
The dress. It was from a different era. A vintage relic from the past that made me question why things had to change. Sheer skirts, low cut blouses, tight jeans, they are all just pretenders to the throne that this dress reigns over. Its fabric hugs her body without being greedy. Instead of being skin tight and trying too hard, the cloth just kisses her skin, tracing the form that nature sculpted for her. The neckline dives down her chest, just barely promising a glimpse at the arc of her breasts.
Like that dress, Retro City Rampage is a piece of the past that has been forced into the modern era. It calls itself ‘retro’ and proclaims that it’s a parody, but thats not true. It’s not a mockup of what people think gaming used to be like. It actually is a game from those times. Its nonsensical story, exacting controls and multiple gameplay styles have created a game that doesn’t parody gaming history, it celebrates it.
Her face. Everything else was just a prelude. Her hair cascades over her shoulders, catching what little light that was in the room and framing her cheekbones. Her pursed lips show only a hint of a smile. It’s a sly expression that lets you know that whatever she’s about to say, it will be about you. Long lashes cast shade over her eyes, and yet their sharp, silver tone still flashes through. She’s scanning the room, like a predator bored with the hunt.
The seconds that I’ve been mesmerized by her feel like hours. It’s as if I’ve been standing in a museum, examining the brush strokes of a Matisse, with more details uncovered every moment. She wasn’t perfection. But she stood there with a smoldering confidence that dared you to notice any perceived flaw.
The faults with Retro City Rampage may be there because they’re inherent in the style of game it is. But they’re still there. No matter how detailed the pixel art is, it’s still pixel art. The reduced color palette may be authentic, but after spending a lot of time with this game (and most likely , you will be spending a lot of time with it), it drifts into being gaudy. But those are shortcomings that can be happily tolerated. Because in return you get a rare title that even though it takes pride in being wholly unoriginal, is one of the most original games released in years.
Christmas means one thing and one thing only. New videogame consoles. This year gives us some huge offerings from the big three, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Nintendo’s WiiU. But what if you dont want to follow the crowd. What if you have $500 of console buying money burning a hole in your pocket, but dont want to hand it over to those billion dollar corporations.
We checked in with some prominent members of the All Games community which consoles they would buy this Christmas, but with a slight twist. There are 3 rules:
Take a look and see what they chose and let us know what alternative systems you'd get with $500 in the comments section.
Derrick Hopkins (Dead Pixel Live)
DerrickH hosts the weekly podcast Dead Pixel Live here on Allgames.com. He's been known to dwell on retro gaming as a 'golden age' of gaming but oddly enough he still manages to get every next gen console.
His list shows off this duality with a mix of old and new consoles.
$250 - Nvidia Shield -
This was a tossup between the Nvida Shield and the MadCatz Mojo. Both let me play phone games on the big screen, but the Nvidia Shield also lets me stream PC games, pushing it over the top.
$175 - Neo Geo X -
It may seem a little over-priced, but when you realize this same setup with the games would have cost way over $1000 when it was released, it’s a no brainer. You get a flood of great looking and great playing arcade titles in a package that fits into your pocket.
$75 - Atari Flashback -
It was either this or one of the Retron boxes. I went with the Atari Flashback because come on, it’s Atari.And unlike the Retron, it has 75 games worth of blocky pixel goodness already loaded in. It even has wireless controllers.
Stephen Gibson, otherwise known as Esgee from the R9Cast is a unabashed fan of high tech gaming. His selections reflect his interest in staying on the leading edge while still getting the most bang for the buck.
Listen to him and his cohost BrigitteB every Sunday on Allgames.com
$250 -Nvidia Shield-
I'm not a super hardcore PC elitist, but the idea of being able to stream PC games to this handheld controller screen contraption is alluring. Not to mention it also has a suite of android based apps to choose from. To date, it's the most powerful handheld console. It's a beefy machine in a portable package.
It's just my morbid curiosity that allows this console to reside on this list. I must admit of having some hype for this prior to release but as the reviews came in, that hype quickly turned to stoic mehs. I still like the industrial design of it. A very cool looking paper weight.
$60 -Retron 3-
Let me first say that my first choice of consoles from Hyperkin was the Retron 5, but a delay due to faulty pins has caused me to choose it's older sibling. I have over 200 games and would like to have an all in one machine to accommodate my collection.
$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-
I used to be a hardcore Sega Fanboy. I guess I kind of still am. The main reason I play video games, the game that made me fall in love with video games was a Sega Game. That game was Space Harrier. With it's 15 built in games and a SD card slot
Lord Moon (Writer)
Lord Moon, aka Tracy-Mark Gorgas, is a long time contributor to AllGames. His tastes lean toward not just the Next Gen, but the Next Next Gen. Having played nearly every system out (and some that still arent), his list is filled with cutting edge tech and new ideas. Check out his latest review of LocoCycle for the Xbox One
$250 -Nvidia Shield-
Hard choice between the Madcatz M.O.J.O. and the NVidia Shield. I got to play around with the M.O.J.O. at E3 and found it to be a pretty damn good system and I like the fact they let you tap whatever Android market you want Google Play, Amazon, and Nvidia's TegraZone. The Shield looks to be limited to their store and Google Play.
But I love the idea of PC streaming. The Shield is also portable, the M.O.J.O. isn't. So I'd probably slide to the Shield. $250
$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-
I'm more of a SEGA guy so I would go with the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player with a great collection of 80 games, granted it's limited to SEGA and CAPCOM games, but there is a good selection, plus again it's portable also. $50
$100 - Sifteo Cubes
Lastly would be something that seems to flown under everyone's radar, Sifteo Cubes. I already have a set of these, both the original and the newer fully portable touchscreen versions. They make games a little more challenging and fun with each cube having it's own touchscreen.
Leftover money would go towards games on the Shield and OUYA systems.
Hunter Red (Redertainment) values gameplay over all else when it comes to consoles. With a selection filled with retro consoles, he'll have access to hundreds of games great games and still have cash left over for extra controllers. Read more of his insights at , R.C.O.A.: The Four Stars Blog
$60 -Retron 3-
This is the Retron 3. There have been many devices like this put out over the years, but this device combines all of the best things that all of the people who love retro consoles obsess over. The Retron 3 is a Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and a Sega Genesis all wrapped up in one. While the Retron 3 doesn’t have all of the features of the upcoming Retron 5, namely the ability to play games from two more retro consoles, the Retron 3 has the unique feature of actually being available for purchase right now
$45 -FC Mobile II
$75 -Hyperkin Supaboy-
$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-
There are plenty of options available for people who want to indulge in retro gaming on the go., such as the FC Mobile II and the Hyperkin SUPABOY, some options reek of piracy, like the At Games Ultimate Portable Game Player. However, since these don’t involve me having to download game ROMs that may or may not work, I’m going to go with them
Throwing in the three portable retro consoles, along with the one non-portable retro console and two wireless controllers, brings my total $400
Fred is joined by an all star list of guests as Gaming History 101 looks back on the longest, most successful, and most diverse generation of consoles. Steve (R9cast) and Norma (Knuckleballer Radio and Zombiecast) come on board to discuss the beloved Xbox 360. They take a deep look at the console launch, launch titles, significant advances, hardware setbacks, and a bunch of other ups and downs in Microsoft's second, and currently most notable, console.
Then Fred is joined by 42 Level One host Andy and Video Game Outsiders own Matt (@MattoMcFly) to reminisce on the Playstation 3. They look back on the launch, early titles, and myriad of ups and downs that Sony struggled with on its third console
Last month, I had the chance to attend the third annual Seattle Retro Gaming Expo. While only in its third year, the event was held for the first time at the Seattle Center. The Pacific Northwest is a haven for retro game collectors and gamers, so Seattle figured why let Portland have all the fun?
The convention itself is still in the process of blooming. This year, the sponsor was Game Gurus, a local game store that trades and sells used games, including retro and even board and card games. Other sponsors included Pink Gorilla, Another Castle, and The Airlock, all associated with retro gaming and which can be found within Seattle and the surrounding areas. But the event was not only for those living here- many other vendors showed up from all over the country, including Anime Haus and Hyperkin, who brought along the Retron 5 for attendees to play before its release. Even collectors and employees from game companies were there selling parts of their personal collections.
Aside from game sales, there was also a part of the convention for artists. Jewelry, hats, goggles, trinkets that look like sweets, soap shaped like controllers, and even custom gamer blended teas were on sale. Some of the vendors included DigitalSoaps, 2.5d Sprites, and LuvCherie Jewelry. Also, choose your own adventure books for adults were available from Choose o Matic Books.
The next room over held freeplay consoles. Here, large groups of friends and even strangers gathered around retro consoles to face off or battle on together. While pinball was not a feature at this expo, the list of freeplay games was immense, including every U.S. SNES and N64 game, as well as games on systems such as the 3DO, TG16, and the Jaguar. On Saturday, this is also the room where Arcade Armageddon held their qualifying rounds to enter their tournament. Arcade Armageddon is an annual partnered event with SRGE, and it's only in its second year. This year, it was held right next door at The Vera Project. All expo attendees were able to play a mixture of retro games to qualify, and those with the highest top scores of the day were then allowed to compete for prizes, including retro systems, games, and more. The tournament, set up in a style similar to the movie The Wizard, also featured live performances by Fighter X, Danimal Cannon, The Icarus Kids, and Mega Ran. Contestants battled each other in rounds of Saturn Bomberman, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Street Fighter 2 Turbo. The final round was a previously undisclosed game, and was finally revealed to be Ice Climbers.
Both days at the expo featured panels on topics ranging from chiptunes and collecting to survival horror and trivia. (Although the survival horror panel, hosted by panelist Ryan Payton, was changed at the last minute to focus on the revival of retro gaming through independent developers.) The last room offered 10 player Steel Battalion rounds, as well as many other games like Counterstrike and Wolfenstein that offered up to 16 player link ups. The freeplay and Steel Battalion rooms were some of the best offerings for getting hands on with retro gaming I've seen at any convention. The possibilities were enormous, and everyone in these areas seemed to be having a great time.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience and am looking forward to next year, but I wish there had been MORE. MORE panels, with a more diverse cast of panelists and types of gamers addressed in the topics, MORE artists, basically more people getting involved. Those working behind the scenes at SRGE and the partner events have done an amazing job establishing the event, and they have built a solid foundation for a larger expo in years to come. It's up to us, the expo-goers, vendors, artists, and gamers, to step up, join those already involved, and make the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo reach its full potential.
On April 26th, Steve Hertz and the Southern California Classic Collectors (aka SC3) set up shop in Santa Ana, CA at the Last Arcade on the Planet and let anyone with a love for games (and a recommended $5 donation) relive the glory days of arcades. Inside were rows of classic arcade games and on the outside were tables filled with retro consoles of all shapes and sizes. From Asteriods to Zookeeper, everything was set to free play. Eventhough the games were the main attraction, the real treat was seeing video game lovers young and old get together, socialize, and just have fun.
Find out more info about SC3 at http://www.sc3videogames.com/and be sure to make it to the next meet up. You wont be dissapointed.
Monday March 23rd at 4pm PST/7pm EST Mom's Minute will welcome the people behind the highly anticipated Retro VGS game console for an indepth interview! Mike Kennedy and Daniel Kayser, the driving forces of Retro Magazine and the creators of the upcoming console, will be on the air live to give us the scoop on the newest game console that's set to bring back the classic gaming experience. The Retro VGS is tracking to be unlike any other console currently on the market. Being a cartridge based system inside a classic shape, it redefines 'retro' while still using modern hardware.
You have questions and we'll get some answers. Just head over to the AllGames Chatroom (allgames.com/live) during the interview and you can submit them to the hosts. And if you can't be here live during Mom's Minute, you can always leave your question in the comment section below.