Welcome, NPCs, to the second to the last day of our month-long 31-Day Elemental Challenge! We’ve come to it at last: the Retro games category. At once we’re confronted with the difficulties of having to define our terms. Problem is that terms like classic, retro, vintage, old school and the like get thrown around a lot without much general consensus on what they mean, or any authority on them to help with their definitions, for that matter. So the question remains, what counts as retro and what doesn’t?
Personally, I’ve come up with what I think is a reasonable definition for retro. You may have encountered it here on this blog before, or maybe you haven’t. Please indulge me: I think a rational cut-off point for “retro” is at the start of the 5th generation of consoles, at the end of the 4th gen with the SNES and the Sega Genesis. So the transition from 16-bit to 32-bit/64-bit or more importantly to 3D graphics taking over mainstream gaming around ’95-’97 marks an easy line to delineate with some precision. After all, there’s a greater difference between the SNES and the N64, the Genesis and the PlayStation One than there is between the NES and the SNES or between the PS1 and the PS2. That also means, thankfully, that ridiculous assertions like “the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U are totally retro” can be reasonably debunked by looking at gaming history. I think this still leaves room for some subjectivity but it’s a definition in which nostalgia doesn’t play a primary role. “Vintage” could be anything in the 1st or 2nd generations (Atari 2600, Vectrex, etc.), pre-NES.
Whichever way you slice it, based on your own experiences, let’s talk retro games!
The Green Screen Mage
Dr. Mario is my jam. I am a beast at that game. And Fever is way better than Chill. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The Black Humor Mage
I’ll stick with the 8-Bit Era. The first 8-bit retro game I ever beat, and I still continue to appreciate is Kirby’s Adventure. It’s such a fun game, and just the right amount of challenge, while being great looking for a NES game.
The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)
Super Mario Bros. This is the first game that I can recall ever playing. It is also one of the best games of all time and I remember fighting with my sisters for a turn or in the more civil times playing “Life – Life” as we called it for hours and hours. (Honorable Mentions – Pac-Man, Paperboy, Frogger)
The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)
The concept of retro is so subjective to so many people. I grew up during the NES era, and still remember my thoughts and feelings when it was current. So to me, retro is Stickybear Basket Bounce (1983), which I played on a Commodore 64, and you could hear the hard drive struggling to load the sick graphics between each stage.
The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)
Alex Kidd In Miracle World. I played Alex Kidd so many times as a child; intentionally and accidentally when the cart I put in didn’t register and I couldn’t be bothered trying again. As a child I had to get my mum to help me get through the castles and it wasn’t until I was much older that I went back and completed it myself. The music is forever etched in my memory and is one of my favourite soundtracks purely due to nostalgia.
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)
Altered Beast (Mega Drive). Well-Red Mage is probably shaking his head here, but I love this game! Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s sluggish. Yes, the speech sounds like Elmer Fudd. However, Altered Beast makes me think of retro gaming. I bought it at a time when I was falling out of love with games and being as daft as it is, Altered Beast reminded me that games can be fun.
As a game, it’s a decent if limited offering. Altered Beast was quickly surpassed in the arcade by Golden Axe and Shinobi but the Mega Drive version is a good port. As the initial Mega Drive pack-in game, Altered Beast was seen as a graphical showcase and sure, it’s not much more than that…but it’s more fun than it’s given credit for.
The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)
Lost Secret of the Rainforest (EcoQuest 2). The 90’s gave us Captain Planet, Fern Gully, & The EcoQuest Series. It was hard to choose but given the recent review of Never Alone, we had to include Lost Secret of the Rainforest, as Adam ventures into the Amazon to thwart poachers, rescue animals, & befriend the indigenous tribes of the jungle. Kudos to Sierra games for creating such diverse titles & tackling Ecology in an engaging, entertaining, & memorable way. This is a great example of how native history can be incorporated into gaming to provide rich dynamic storytelling that is much needed in our current climate of unscrupulous corporate greed in the face of real environmental issues.
The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)
Half-Minute Hero is a quirky little retro-styled game that is actually several games in one, all with the same premise: you have (technically) 30 seconds to complete the stage. The main game, Hero 30, featured a tiny wandering hero who you had to guide through the stage to defeat a dark lord before they could cast a world-ending spell in 30 seconds, grinding as much as you could before paying a quick visit to a goddess statue to turn back time, at the (increasing) cost of gold collected from defeated enemies. It had branching paths and a lot of side objectives that were easy to miss the first time through, making for a fun amount of replay value. Along with Hero 30 were Evil Lord 30, an RTS, Princess 30, a shoot-em-up, and Knight 30, leaning more towards action with a bit of escort thrown in.
The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)
When I think retro, I think retro. We’re going back to the 80s for this one, and that awesome retro game is Tempest. I believe the arcade version of Tempest came out in 1981, but on the Atari it released in 1989. I was merely a small person back then, but on my uncles Atari, this game was an absolute blast to the young Decaffeinated Not-Yet Nostalgia Mage. It was also one of the first games I ever played on a PC, on my grandfather’s old IBM.
It had you rotate along a fixed 3D environment, shooting downwards towards the middle of the screen as enemy ships tried to fly to the top. The rudimentary Atari graphics looked so cool to me at the time, and the control scheme worked very well for what it was. I’ll always look back at Tempest through rose-colored glasses – it was perfect!
The Rage Mage
Very few things remind me of my childhood. Once you get past all the ingested toenails and paint chips, cut through the fuzz of repression, there sits a fat Italian breaking the back of a dinosaur. Super Mario World is strong enough to cut through any cynicism.
The Well-Red Mage
This is probably the hardest category to give an answer to in all of the days in this Elemental Challenge. I adore classic, retro, vintage games. They are my bread and butter. My meat and potatoes. The very 8-bit air I breathe. I’m really stuck between two games that I’ve not named thus far which represent two incredible and foundational franchises: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Final Fantasy VI. Both games are my favorite entries in their series. Both games are perfect. How to choose?
In the end, I’m just going to have to pick Final Fantasy VI. It’s on my favorite system and its a part of the series I themed this blog around. FFVI has the best Final Fantasy villain, and it’s the best game in the series, a sci-fantasy standard, a milestone among RPGs, and it’s 16-bit perfection. I played it later in life so it’s not childhood nostalgia talking. In my mind, the Final Fantasy franchise has never improved upon it.
There’s only one day left in our Elemental Challenge! What’s your favorite retro game? How do you even define retro?
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