Two weeks ago, I wrote about things you don’t miss from retro titles. While video games have advanced as a medium thanks to technological improvements, some departures have been made, especially in an increasingly digital world. So here are four things that you DO miss from retro games.
Early games used to come not just in neat packaging, but also with items like manuals, art books, and other physical goodies. You could just sit down and get a feel for how the game works and what to do before you even booted it up. Entire narratives were explained succinctly within these feelies. Plus, the manuals usually contained a few extra pages to jot down notes!
Although some stores offer feelies in a digital format, like GOG, they’re not as nice or as chunky as the real deals. And as games became more advanced, manuals became either in-game or replaced with tutorials. On a positive note, the written narratives have grown into complex stories that are shown within the game itself.
More Local Multiplayer
There was no such thing as online multiplayer in the early days of games, so developers opted to go for simpler ways to accommodate several players. Some games (like Super Mario Bros) took the simple route of letting 1P play until they die, then it’s 2P’s turn, and so on. Others had full-blown competitive multiplayer like racing games in split-screen format or co-op like side-scroller games. While some consoles just supported two players, the PlayStation One and 2 had the multitap accessories that let up eight different people play a supported game at once!
However, as the internet began to be accessible and fast, taking multiplayer to the online world was the next logical step. While it opened a lot of new opportunities and even forged otherwise impossible friendships, it seems like local multiplayer is becoming more of an afterthought, if even considered at all.
There was no easy way to update a game in the past, apart from recalling the original release and issuing a revision. As a result, not only did games have to be as polished as they could be before release, but you could just play them anytime you wanted. No sitting around while waiting for the next big update to finish downloading, the game would start as soon as you insert the cartridge or disc. And you couldn’t receive an update that changed the game for the worse, either.
That said, although recent games sadly ship with a day 1 patch waiting for download, it is much easier to fix critical bugs that can wipe or impede your progress than the recall and reissue process of the past.
Cheat Codes and Devices
Classic games had a lot of fun little secret things you could do by entering a combo of buttons – cheat codes. One of the most popular examples is the Konami code (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start) which gave you thirty lives in Contra. Whilst some gave you clear advantages in games, others were purely cosmetic and more for fun, like the Spyro trilogy’s color and head size cheats. If those weren’t enough, you could buy a cheat device like Game Genie or GameShark and use mundane cheats like infinite health, or manipulate the physics of the game, or even go as far as to access cut content!
However, cheat codes aren’t as common as they used to be in recent years. With the rise of modern staples like online games and achievements, combined with complex hardware and software, as well as crackdown from console manufacturers, cheat devices have become a thing of the past.
Even during the infancy of video games, some things were done just right. Some of these features benefit from newer technology, like local multiplayer on HD screens, but they are overshadowed by other features meaning there is a lot of untapped potential. And some of these just can’t co-exist with our increasingly interconnected world, like lack of updates. Either way, I do hope to see some of these features reinvigorated!