Remade old game vs new retro-style games

I‘ve been playing Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap recently. It took me several attempts to get momentum, but once I did I've really been enjoying playing it. I particularly enjoy discovering an old, cult-classic game that I had not played before through the eyes of a super-fan presenting the game in its best possible light.

I started talking about this in the Idle Thumbs Slack, and impressions of the game from my descriptions noticeably and explicitly shifted when people realized that this was literally an old game re-made, as opposed to a new(er) game with an archaic play style. I found this shift fascinating, and even noticed it myself: I don't know that I would've been patient enough to find momentum in the game if I hadn't been seeking to experience something of that alternate Master System childhood to my own.

But I'm interested to know how far this goes: do you feel differently about playing an old game (whether updated or not) vs playing a new game that _feels_ old?

I‘m definitely way more interested in discovering an old game I haven’t played before then a new retro game,

I don't really know why though.

I beat Dragon‘s Trap. But there is a lot of archaic nonsense in that game that I just don’t feel is worth the reward if your not also getting the luscious remake visuals along with it. That said, I am very in favor of updated old games in that say Ninja Saviors did a lot to make Ninja Warriors a more accessible experience. Going and playing a bunch of NES games this year, I don't think I would have bothered to beat them without save states. So I really fall on the side of old games with some quality of life improvements.

And new old feeling games CAN work, but they need to be a lot more than just a throw back. Streets of Rage 4, Shovel Knight - fantastic. But there's a lot of retro pastiche junk out there.

This is, perhaps obviously, something I think about a lot, because our games sort of fall into an in-between space with this stuff. I'll break it down a bit, at least in terms of my thinking of it.

**strict adherence to the past**: games that use the NES palette restrictions while also aiming for older, clunky styles of play absolutely get my dander up, I can't go for this at all. Likewise any "90s-style-low-poly" game that directly invokes the 90s, or uses the word retro. It upsets me more than it should that people are voluntarily following constraints that the developers of the time were pushing against. The older games using this tech/these techniques were good because they were trying to subvert or push past the limitations, not lovingly cling to them. It's sort of anit-creative.

**vintage styling, new design**: games like sonic mania and streets of rage 4 (to a lesser extent) fit in here, where the developer takes the technology of the game's principal era and evolves it, while also evolving the design. Sonic Mania would not be possible on a genesis or even a Sega CD. And the way the game plays introduces things that are fresh but feel like they could've been part of the game all along. Streets of Rage 4 changes the style but keeps the kinetic action and vibe - basically the way the original game feels to play, not how it actually plays. All the Kengo Project games fit in here.

**Any of above, but original**: Shovel Knight falls into this category. It's much closer to an NES style, but does things the hardware couldn't. It also plays much smoother and with more modern sensibilities than any game of the era. Our intention with Oh, Deer! was a similar approach, but with higher res and higher density pixel art than any platform could've had (so we're going more for the "styling" approach).

**Just using pixel art or low poly as a medium**: In general I appreciate when a game uses a given format as a springboard to try something rather than trying to recreate the past. With low poly, I'd say Ethan Redd's work does this:

That's what we're going for with Gunsport as well. It bugs me to have "retro" applied to these games when "stylized" is more appropriate. Blasphemous is another game. To call that retro-styled would do it a big disservice.

**Remaster**: This is what the dragon's trap is, or halo remaster, etc. Put a new coat of paint on a game that already has a distinct flavor. There's nothing wrong with this approach, though it does excite me less in some ways.

**Remaster+**: Games like the Sega Ages Phantasy Star are prime examples. Take an old game that really feels old, and is generally bad to play in the modern era, and add modern conveniences to it, making it more playable than it ever was. Big fan of this but it's a very specific scenario.

**"recreate my childhood"**: this is a cousin of the first category but games like the messenger and some of these racing games do it, where it's like... lots of attention paid to art and design, but all in service of nostalgia above all else. I just can't get behind that, because it feels sort of anti-creative to me. Like god darned ready player one, though that is not a video game.

I appreciate that there are so many shades of this now, but I guess it's pretty clear which ones I prefer!

Gunsport just from looking at it definitely falls into the space that Hyper Light Drifter does where, and I agree, “stylized” would be a much better word, but feel like unfortunately “retro” seems to have more commercial cache or is more graspable by a wider audience.

As someone who is in the process of parting with most of their old games, I find there is less and less to go back to in being slavish to games from before the last 10 years. So much as has improved beyond graphics. I really think that awful era between 1995 and 2010 where pixels graphics where shunned and 3D was STILL finding it's feet really warped our perception of how timeless 8 and 16 bit games (outside of the classics) are.

So yeah Remaster+, Pixel Style, and Vintage Style New Design have been where its at for me recently.

Art direction wise, my personal projects tend to try and land on strict adherence as far as color palette (not the best example, but my avatar using GB's grey scale with a slightly more pleasant interpretation of the colors of the green screen).

I also don't so much mind the "love" being expressed for a time/place/platform through the art direction as long as it isn't the central thing. You loved the Neo Geo MVS? You want this to look exactly like a Neo Geo MVS game? You used the color palette AND the resolution? Big thumbs up from me! Cool shit! But you've made that the most interesting thing about your game? That's as far as your expression is going? It looks like a Neo Geo game? Hrmmm ...

But I can follow the rest of your opinion. Like ... no one wants to play a modern interpretation of [NES's 1942]( Don't replicate the jerkiness and the unpleasantness, unless it's part of something being said beyond, "We use to play like this."

What irked me badly when the 8-bit revival wave initially built up is the whole 'retro-as-marketable-buzzword' approach, and developers who give off the vibe they went with that because low res pixels are "easy" (I mean, okay, but no.). I haven't run into that lately, but gawd. All the pitches that just ran with retro and pixel being the main selling point 8-ish years ago. That's not to hate on doing and saying what you gotta do to get noticed, but it got old fast.

PS: I also think the PSX era art direction stuff can be cool as well. I guess it's a "Context is King" situation. :) Am I only supposed to be interested because, hey, remember the PlayStation 1? Or are we doing something here beyond that?

Ah, oops! Yes, I forgot a category - new games for old systems with new sensibilities, ala xeno crisis, and many of the recent dreamcast games! Fully in favor of those as well.


@exodus#5959 “recreate my childhood”: this is a cousin of the first category but games like the messenger and some of these racing games do it, where it’s like… lots of attention paid to art and design, but all in service of nostalgia above all else. I just can’t get behind that, because it feels sort of anti-creative to me. Like god darned ready player one, though that is not a video game.

The Messenger does a lot of stuff that an NES game would not have done, like TONS and TONS of bad internet humor dialogue while also looking like a mediocre NES game. It's the "worst of both worlds" approach.

@gyozaleaf#6031 I sure disliked pretty much everything about the messenger. I played through the whole thing just so I could be sure I wasn't missing something, the game got such positive press. I felt vindicated to hear @exodus call it out on a recent episode. :grin:

I particularly loathed the Messenger‘s internet humour as well, but it was tough, because of its strong press, like @gyozaleaf and @anderbubble said. But I suspect that’s on me for so much about it being a turnoff and me still going for it anyway.

This kind of thing is getting increasingly tough for me to navigate, because such an enormous number of games are being churned out that have an aesthetic that's appealing to me on the surface, while having not much to recommend it otherwise.

I appreciate @exodus categorizing things on this front-- it's helped me get a handle on what it is that bothers me about various modern 'retro' games.

@Karasu#6411 This is what left me enjoying The Dragon‘s Trap so much that I played it through twice, back-to-back. The Messenger is polished, has a reasonably good gimmick and even feels reasonably good to play, but it’s sarcastic and can‘t stop winking at the camera. Meanwhile, The Dragon’s Trap is clunky and old, but clearly a passion project and labor of love. It feels like an exercise in intimacy with a devoted fan.