It seems that the father we evolve, the more we want to stay close to the same thing. I think that’s why re-issues, gaming compilations and downloadable content have done so well in the past. There are just certain games that never get old and will always have a place in gamer’s hearts.

Re-imagining a game,especially a classic arcade title, is always a little harder. For me, my first exposure was Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar, one of the small handful of games on the system that actually stood out in a positive light. Tempest 2000 was a great combination of trippy visuals, a great soundtrack (which I ordered from Atari and still have to this day), and all the frantic gameplay of the original. At that point, we as gamers were making our transition from SNES and Genesis to Playstation and Saturn. One wouldn’t think that revitalizing concepts that were 10, 15, eventually 20 year old games would be that hard. And yet, for the countless streams of “remakes” that we got in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, it proved that most developers really had no concept of what made these arcade classics classics in the first place (Attempting to give Pong a backstory was an incredible stretch on anyone’s part).

For the longest time, I saw remakes of classic titles as synonymous with “clueless”. Frogger, Centipede, Rampage, so many others…. They never got what made the classic games so special, from the eventually iconic sound effects to the gripping “just one more time” addiction that the originals provided. You don’t play Missile Command in hopes of learning about the lives of the cities you’re feverishly trying to protect. You just want to survive to the next level, while providing that score no one else can best.

A lot of my opinions changed with Pac-Man: Championship Edition on XBLA, which perfectly captures the feel of going for the highest score possible (Makes sense considering the original creator of Pac-Man also made this as his “swan song”). It keeps the hectic nature of avoiding ghosts, but provides levels that change on the fly, ghost eating multi-combos, and a time limit which increases the madness. This would have been perfect in an arcade.

Geometry Wars on the XBLA and Wii is also another example of bringing arcade glory back. Funny thing is, the game never existed until the 360 debuted. But it’s also a wonderful hybrid of Tempest and Robotron: 2084. The game even provides an homage to the days of classic gaming by providing a graphics mode comparable to an ’80’s arcade game.

And then Space Invaders Extreme, which again, pulls out all stops and realizes what the original game was: A relentless game where the player must never stop shooting even though the alien waves keep coming. It keeps the hopelessness of the original game, complete with primitive pixel aliens from 30 years ago, but provides power-ups, massive combo attacks, and a soundtrack that changes based around the on-screen action. Like Pac-Man: CE and Tempest 2000, the game doesn’t try to be any more than what it is, but just provides some extra nuances to a formula that was “good enough” back then. The game’s brilliance and addictiveness is in its simplicity.

And of course, there’s the new Mega Man 9, which is due for WiiWare, and while not based on an arcade title, is based on the multitude of Mega Man games that have come out on home consoles. But this title regresses back about four console generations to the NES days providing one of the first NES games in about 14-15 years. I actually found a decent article highlighting the benefits of this graphical and gameplay regression, and I have to agree. Some stories are great with their cinematics and stories. But others ruin the experience with tutorials and holding your hands maps.

I am all about gameplay. I like to get in and go to play a game, and have fun with it, whether by myself or with friends. And I have games that rank high on graphics and sounds all the way back to the Apple IIc and Atari 2600. In fact, from my earlier rant a few entries back, this article highlights the benefits of casual gaming, to which I also have to agree. I don’t hate casual gaming, but I do think a lot of the new catered-to “casual” stuff is lazy and rushed to be pushed out on the new and unsuspecting audience that doesn’t have enough experience to make enough of an educated reference to say “Hey, this is bad!”. The Wii would be a great system if more developers would actually take the time to see how the control scheme can actually work.

And then Capcom comes along with their “new” Mega Man, as a reminder that it’s not all about graphics and HD. This is one title that I’m genuinely interested in, and I hope it gets more companies to realize that there’s still a place for more simple control scheme experiences like this, and there is a reason why the NES and its library is still so highly regarded: A huge majority of those games were brilliant.

And I’ll just be honest: I love 2D gaming.

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