Retro games remain in demand to this day. Even though they’re succeeded by technically better and more mature games, backward compatibility is still a highly sought-after feature in consoles, due to nostalgia or simply standing the test of time. That said, there are things retro games had that I’m thankful didn’t last, either because of console limitations or videogames as an entertainment media weren’t that mature.
Even after The Legend of Zelda introduced the concept of game saves, saving your progress or even just your top scores took a while to become more ubiquitous. This didn’t stop some games, such as Kid Chameleon, from including extremely difficult campaigns with multiple levels, often trying to remedy the problem through the usage of continues, if at all.
While most games didn’t offer unlimited continues, a few games did (like Castlevania for the NES), but either way, you couldn’t turn off the console, or you’d have to start over from the beginning. Nowadays, even the most soul-crushing games let you save, letting you shut down the game without worry.
PlayStation Memory Cards
On the other end of the spectrum, there are the later retro games that were released for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles. While other, cartridge-based systems enjoyed automatic saving, the two Sony consoles relied on external, removable memory cards. This meant that loading and saving took time, always had to be done manually, and even going through several prompts to be done. Even auto-saves occasionally needed user confirmation.
Better yet, some games only read from the first memory card slot, which meant that even if you inserted a card in the second slot, you’d frequently need to swap them to save on your second card. Not to mention that if you lost the cards, you’re effectively unable to save and therefore unable to play most of their libraries without turning off the console and hoping the game doesn’t freeze or crash for whatever reason. Although devices as recent as the PlayStation Vita have opted for expensive proprietary memory cards, others have gone for the more ubiquitous hard disks and microSD cards, allowing you to easily upgrade storage space without worry.
Don’t get me wrong, wired controllers are still good to have, especially on PC, but there is one disadvantage to wired controllers: the wires. It’s easy to get tangled or trip on wires, and if you pull the controller away, you might risk moving your console or even dropping it to the ground. With some controllers, the wires can be short, forcing you to stay way too close to the console.
Wireless controllers allow you to sit down wherever you want without staying too close to the console or having wires run across your room. They can even let you boot your console remotely! However, wireless controllers need to be recharged often and may suffer from latency.
Arbitrary Time Limits
Some of the especially hard classics went as far as to include timers that forced you to keep going or risk losing lives. A lot of NES games like Ninja Gaiden and even Super Mario Bros used timers to keep players quick on their feet without much rhyme or reason. Even the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games have you lose a life if you spend exactly ten minutes, though there are only a few acts in which you may run close to the time limit.
Timers haven’t gone away in recent games, but thankfully they’re usually used in situations where they do make sense, like escaping from a collapsing building or doing something before a checkpoint.
I like challenging games, especially failing, learning from my mistakes, and improving myself. It’s what makes difficult titles appealing. But way too many retro games took the difficulty a bit too far through very long levels, respawning enemies, timers, and lack of saving, one hit KOs, checkpoint starvation (if any exist), limited attack reach, cheap knockback, and even more.
While there are plenty of modern games that will make you throw your controller in rage (please don’t do that!), a lot of changes have been made to make games more accessible without lowering the difficulty, such as by allowing saving, or entirely removing the lives system in favor of restarting at the last checkpoint or requiring multiple hits before you’re KO’d.
There are plenty of good things that retro games have pioneered and expanded upon by later titles and consoles, like saving or checkpoints. But some things I honestly don’t miss, and I’m happy to see that they have evolved, culminating in better and more accessible games. That’s not to say some of these elements don’t have their charm, like actually owning and holding a memory card, but now that the limitations that made them necessary are no longer there, videogames are now more convenient and accessible.