Zero Distraction / An Anthology of Examined Nerdy Things

Console Gaming of A Bygone Era

Sega CD model 2

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to collect older consoles and games. At the moment I have a model 2 Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and an original Nintendo Entertainment System. For a while I ruminated on adding a Super Nintendo to the mix, that is until I began to playing games on these platforms. It struck me with a stark realization that my penchant for old things is more about nostalgia and much less about the original gaming experience to be had.

Transition

When the industry transitioned from cartridge to compact disc media, everything changed in a dramatic way. No longer did you have to worry about having to start a game from the very beginning as you could save your game states on expandable memory cards. Back in the 80s, there was no such thing as auto saving or uploading to the “cloud.” Games were invariably more challenging back in the day because you had limited lives, so if you ended up pretty far into a game on your NES or Genesis, you had no other choice but to pause and leave the console powered on. If the power went out in your house in the middle of the night, as you had risen from bed the next morning, you had no idea what horrors awaited in the living room.

The impetus behind getting these consoles now as an adult is because I never owned any of them in my childhood. While most of my friends were playing Nintendo, I was playing games on my PC. I loved my PC because we could upgrade the hardware like the GPU, which meant better graphics—something that wasn’t possible on a closed box like the NES. On occasion, I did rent a console from my local Blockbuster to have for a weekend, but my parents wouldn’t buy an NES because they had spent thousands of dollars on a more versatile and capabile computer. Now that I’m that I’m a grown man and have money, I can own the consoles I never had the opportunity to fully experience.

It doesn’t get better with age

Have you ever tried reivisting your youth by watching your favourite show asan adult? It rarely ever works. There are lots of things that are best left to memory and simply don’t age well. Unfortunately, playing games on 30 year old consoles is not the love affair I recall. It’s plain awful in 2015. The NES and SNES had a plethora of fantastic titles; on Genesis it was somewhat limited. It’s almost difficult to believe that we managed to complete any games back in the 80s considering that we couldn’t just save our process whenever the mood struck. It has come to my attention that Hyperkin has created the Retron 5 to purportedly quash the aforementioned concerns I have. Retron 5 is a console that supports cartridges from many different systems and runs emulation. It has modern connectivity for your HDTV such as HDMI and has internal storage so you can save your game states. You can even connect the original console controllers to it or use their wireless versions that are provided. This looks like an excellent best of both worlds solution. I can play all of the great games of the 80s without the baggage of older hardware. Whilst I don’t own one, I do plan on getting it and will report back with some results.

Coda

There’s been a trend to remaster older games of late. The original Resident Evil was re-released for PS4 with not just upscaled graphics, but radically redone textures and backgrounds. I immediately bought it upon release and after a few hours realized how bad the game is. All of the things that aggravated me about the original are prevalent in the remaster. The way the camera moves is confounding and often gets in the way. To save your game, you have limited areas on a level where there’s an opportunity to do so. When you do get to save a game, there is a finite amount of saves before the typewriter you save on runs out of ink (huh?). Some things are meant to remain in the past. Resident Evil and other similiarly remastered games are fine in theory, but they need to be significantly reworked to comform to modern expectations. Tarting up a 15 year old game with enhanced graphics is simply not good enough in 2015.