24 Jun The Best Time To Be A Gamer… IS NOW
We gamers always like to argue about what the “Best Generation” or “Best Console” of all time is. Arguments and insults are slung at rapid fire between PS1 or SNES, PS2 or XBOX, Atari 2600 or Genesis or NES! Let’s not forget the SWITCH! There’s always the one gamer who interjects, “PC! MASTER RACE!!”. We get it, we all have our favorites and it’s all for good reason. If you were to ask me what my favorite console of all time was, I’d fall somewhere between the SNES and the PS1. The SNES, though it was my second game console ever, was where I began to find my taste in games. JRPGs, platformers, adventure games, Metroid, Mega Man X all on the SNES. My favorite game of all time (*wink*) was on the SNES, Super Mario RPG. The PSX was more of a successor to the SNES, it continued the pedigree of great expansive gameplay whereas the N64 was more of a response to the Genesis, but that’s a piece for another time. PSX continued to push forward the wonder and beauty of JRPGs and adventure games, shooters, and fighters. The Sony Playstation also had Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which was essentially Super Metriod with vampires. Funny to think that the PSX was originally a CD add-on for the SNES, but when actually looking at the games and the libraries, it makes all the sense in the world. The PS1 came out when I was 9 and I got my first Playstation when I was 11, so it’s an important memory from childhood. Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy Tactics, Mega Man 8 and X4, Resident Evil, Symphony of the Night all played a major role in my development as a gamer….
Sorry for the tangent, but you know where I stand. Though I’ll always fight for the SNES/PSX as the best console ever, I often think that for gamers, we are living in a new golden age of gaming. There is something for everyone right now across a wide variety of platforms. Retro gaming has made a serious comeback for both modern consoles and classic collectors. Every niche of gaming has been fleshed out and our wide variety of tastes have plenty of titles to choose from. Let’s dig a bit shall we, why do I think NOW is the best time to be a gamer?
There is Something for EVERYONE
Do you like shooters? JRPGs, WRPGs, Platformers, 2D, Retro games, Action games, games with great narrative, dating sims? There is literally a magnitude of games in each genre. If you’re like me and you like Mega Man and Final Fantasy, both series have been fleshed out recently with new games AND there are a ton of indie developers making games inspired by both franchises. While I liked Mega Man 11, it left me a little unfulfilled, so I played Mighty Gunvolt to get that Mega Man feel. As I said in my E3 post about Nintendo, the switch on its own has something for everyone. That doesn’t even include Steam or PS4 or Xbox One. Jump in to Steam right now, and search out your three favorite genres, yeah you just found 100s of games for each, didn’t you? I like to believe that this is because more gamers are gaming than ever and there are more development houses than ever. The proliferation of indie devs over the past decade has really added the necessary spices to the industry that were missing pre Xbox Live Arcade. While Kickstarter may sometimes leave gamers a little empty handed (I’m looking at you Unsung Story), crowdfunding has made it possible for many of these indies to get their projects off the ground. Shovel Knight and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night stand out as a couple of inspiring success stories. These games appeal to both retro and modern fans alike, but I appreciate their respect for the past. You can be a retro gamer and have a full library of retro and retro-inspired games nowadays. It’s all thanks to games like Shovel Knight, and services like: Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, GOG, PSN, and the Nintendo E-Shop.
With such a great mix of indie and AAA development happening all over the world, there’s no shortage of great games to play. While we may need these services to help us out with curation and help us better sift through the bad games, it’s amazing to see what these libraries have to offer. Each genre is represented so well that you could stay within a single style and probably have enough stuff to play for years. And that gets to my next part….
Everything Old is New Again
I’ve been grossly hypocritical in the past. I used to trash on remakes like it was my job. “Why remake it when the original is so good!” or “Oh great, just another HD remastering of another game” or my favorite, “Why not make something new!?”. Then I played the Resident Evil 2 Remake on PS4. Remakes, just like any other game are only as good as the team that creates them. In the modern gaming era, we may have a healthy portion of the industry devoted to remakes, but that’s not a bad thing. Big fans of Resident Evil 2 can now replay the story of the classic PS1 game, but with modern sensibilities and with 20 years of gameplay improvements under the hood. Resident Evil 2 (Remake) also has learned from the entirety of the RE series to release since then, and is greatly inspired by RE4, one of the greatest games ever made. I love when a remake pays respect to the original while creating something new and fun. I hope that when the FF7 remake comes out next year, it feels the same way. I’m now excited to play these games and experience their stories in a modern context. Seriously, if you like Resident Evil or have never played a game in the series, you should try out RE2 it’s THAT good. I think that FF7 Remake will also be THAT good in March 2020 (check out my E3 review).
Next are the remasters, cleaned-up versions of classic games that run well on modern hardware. They have been plentiful as of late. While I love to play classic games on original hardware, I understand that it’s impractical for many people to hold on to so many space-filling devices. Luckily we have companies like M2 who have mastered emulation on modern consoles and have given us a doorway to the library of classic games. Nintendo, Capcom, Square, Konami, Sega, have all released collections of their best games so that fans of new and old can play them within seconds. I’ve been spending my time lately replaying Secret of Mana on my Switch via the Collection of Mana. It’s amazing that a game like this is so accessible and because of Switch, portable!! My Steam Library and Switch home screen are both filled with collections from: Castlevania, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and Sega Genesis. As an older millennial I can play a great deal of games I missed when I was younger or I can revisit some of my favorites. While Super Mario RPG is not yet on Switch…I can hold out and play The Mana Collection or Final Fantasy IX.
New games that feel old? We’ve got a lot of them, as “retro” has somewhat become a genre. The Aforementioned Shovel Knight and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night are two instances where retro gaming has influenced something new and amazing. They look and feel old, but have brought different dimensions of classic gameplay to the forefront. If you’re a retro gamer who’s been out of the loop for the past few generations, now is a great time to get back in. Even the big developers like Nintendo have used their retro pedigree to create new games. 2D Platformers still rock! You can get your feet wet with classic collections then branch out and play games like New Super Mario Bros. U or Super Mario Maker. Then, follow it up with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Do you like retro JRPGs? Then go check out Cosmic Star Heroine or Octopath Traveler or I am Setsuna. New games, old feel, perfect for the retro gamer in all of us.
It’s cool to see younger gamers get into these retro-inspired titles and then have access to decades of older games with the click of a button. I love having conversations with Cuphead fans and encouraging them to play Contra or Metal Slug, both of which have a plethora of their games available for purchase on modern consoles/services. Which leads to my next point…
Games are More Accessible Than Ever
I’ve been talking a lot about being able to get games everywhere. It’s totally true. Platforms like Steam and Switch have made it super easy to play your games anywhere you like. The Internet has also helped companies overseas show off their games to fans all over the world. In addition, fans can profess their love loudly online and show developers that certain series actually could succeed in different regions. It feels like more and more JRPGs are releasing stateside these days and while part of it is due to overall gamerbase getting larger, companies like Square Enix or Atlus are now more aware that people want their games localized! The most important aspect of the current gaming environment is how accessible great games are. They’re easy to buy, easy to download, easy to pre-order, and easy to keep up with. I frequently go to Amazon on my phone to pre-order a new game, while buying a game digitally, and playing a game. It’s so easy and seamless and it’s become so much more customer and gamer friendly. Ultimately this lowers the boundaries for entry for new gamers, and the joys of gaming can be brought to more and more people. This is completely anecdotal, but I have talked to many gamers who had fallen off for years or weren’t really that into it previously, but with digital distribution and streaming looming in the future, they’ve recaptured the spark or lit a new one. Video gaming no longer feels like some unapproachable stronghold, it’s more like an open marketplace that’s inviting and welcoming. C’mon non-gamers, download steam, get an Xbox controller and try some games out!
In conjunction with the ease of access is the accessibility of news and information. There are countless game sites today that are easy to read and follow. Developers can use social media to communicate directly with their fans. We’re made more aware of new games and their quality. In addition, we can read articles and posts about old games, remakes, remasters, and reboots; allowing gamers to be more informed. We know what’s good, but more importantly we can gauge what we LIKE. We can follow journalists we agree with or watch trailers for new games from our favorite companies. There are dozens of gaming podcasts that can make any workout or car ride fly by (I’m a big fan of Retronauts, and the IGN suite). E3 is open to the public and much to the chagrin of gatekeeper gamers, the information contained within trade shows is available for everyone at the same time. It’s created a network of gamers and fans who can celebrate what they love and share information. Both Nintendo and Sony have decided to take their announcements directly to the consumer, and it’s working better than many expected. The gates have been unlocked so we all can play together.
Video game streaming has also had a HUGE impact on the medium. Being able to watch gamers stream directly to the web has also kept gaming in the conversation. Some streamers are able to support themselves wholly by streaming to services like Twitch. This raises awareness for gaming as a entertainment medium, but also as a culture. There’s a real sense of community among streamers and their viewers. It’s also easy for ANYONE to do it.
I find it hard to find a better time to be a gamer. I’m constantly surprised and excited to share my hobby with friends, family, and newcomers alike. Gaming is more accessible and offers a better variety than ever. Services like Google Stadia, Microsoft XCloud, and Nvidia Shield will only help to lower the boundaries to gaming and grow the population further. I’m quite excited to see what the future holds, and I’m here for it. Now…back to Secret of Mana.