Kicking it new school

I remember the first time I ever got a console of any kind. It was a SEGA Master System with Alex Kidd actually built into the machine. Man, technology sure was amazing back then. What started out as a distraction from homework soon became a hobby, which then became a passion, which lead to an addiction and then reverted back to passion.

That’s where I sit now, proud to love games and prouder still to be in the generation who grew up with these games as their classics; Sonic the Hedgehog, Bomberman, Super Mario World, Decap Attack, I could go on. And I will. Streets of Rage, Mortal Kombat and umm…… Cool Spot. There’s no doubt you’ve played one if not all of these games.

All of these titles, and more besides, worked so well because they were entertainment at its best: simply enjoyable and enjoyably simple. This may well be down to hardware restrictions, but I for one am glad Sonic the Hedgehog only had a jump button. As current tech gets more and more complex, so too do the games, and as control scheme after control scheme is absorbed into our minds, it’s hard not to miss those days when you could just ask your friend “Which is jump? Oh, ok, I got it”.

Thank your gods then for Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation Network and Wiiware because old school gaming is making a big return and it seems that to truly get value for money these days (I’m looking at you and your map pack Modern Warfare 2) the indie scene is the place to go. Titles on these virtual marketplaces have taken the console gaming community by storm and all without the help of a massive studio’s financial backing.

The simple and joyful gameplay of running, jumping and collecting that made up most of our old SNES and Megadrive games can be rediscovered in titles like N+ and Braid, but each game has been given a much more modern take, ensuring that we get fresh angle on the genre that seems so familiar to so many. Other games such as Castle Crashers invoke nostalgic memories of Golden Axe, while Shadow Complex is a wonderful homage to the likes of Metroid.

As well as gamers being able to purchase great, original IPs such as Castle Crashers or the PS3’s sublime Flower, many of the games that made such an impact years ago are readily becoming more available, allowing younger players to experience the games that may have heavily influenced their favourite titles of today. I can tell you right now that Duke Nukem 3D is still awesome.

With games costing up to £50 each it’s not hard to see why so many are turning to their console’s internal game shop for their gaming needs. Hopefully it has more to do with the steady increase of quality games that these often small, independent developers are producing than it does with our need to count the pennies. It’s a level of support that I hope only continues to grow.

Header artwork by Mikaël Aguirre.