Retro Gaming

Top Things I Miss About Retro Gaming

Jordan Zolan talks about gaming’s past…

A friend of mine was recently late to a meet-up we scheduled because he had to reach a save spot in a game. He complained how long it took to save his data, and that he was frustrated about being late as a result.

It all got me thinking about how things used to be back in the day, and that him having to wait a little bit to save is nothing like what we had to go through when I was a kid. We discussed what it was like oh so many years ago, and I started to reminisce about all the other aspects of retro gaming that I miss. Here are just a few things gamers today might not remember, but they were staples of my gaming experience growing up.

Cheat Codes:

Anyone who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s can probably still recite a cheat code or two. Whether it’s “IDDKQ,” “KDFM,” or “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A B A Start,” these sequences are burned into our memories. With cheat codes, we could act like God’s among men, devilishly manipulating the world around us. We now had the power to grant more lives, unlock unlimited weapons, or bring ourselves back from the dead.

Playing through Doom II was fun but having the ability to equip the BFG from the very start made for a really great ride. Knowing the correct buttons to push or keys to input, made gamers feel like they knew something no one else did. It was a secret that made you feel larger than life. Sure, everyone knew these codes, but in the privacy of your own home, you were the sole wielder of such great power.  To this day, I can’t pop in Contra on my NES without inputting the code for thirty lives. It’s ingrained in my muscle memory for all time.

This all still exists today, but it’s not as prevalent and just doesn’t feel as cool as it did oh so many years ago. What are some of the cheat codes you remember always using as a kid?

Retro Gaming

Save Game Passwords

Gamers today don’t know how easy they have it when it comes to saving a game. Most of the time you can just hit the start button and save your data on the spot. Occasionally, there will be a game that makes you work a little hard for it by having you find a save spot or wait until finishing a level. Either way, saving games in today’s world is a simple affair.

This wasn’t always the case, and I remember the pains of what my generation had to go through. Back in the day, we didn’t have the option of saving willy-nilly. What we had, were things called passwords or save game codes. If a game did allow you to save (which wasn’t always the case), it would give you a long string of randomized characters to input. This would allow the player to start at the most recently completed level, or at the spot where the password was received. I used to have notebooks full of passwords written down as to not lose them. I worked hard at advancing through various games, and those save game codes were of vital importance. I can’t imagine having to do something so archaic today, but back then it was the norm.

Retro Gaming

Instruction Manuals

I don’t remember when exactly it became a thing to get rid of instruction manuals with games. Back in the day, every title came packaged with a detailed booklet for all to read and enjoy. If you go back to the NES days, not only were they informative, but many had fantastic artwork throughout the pages. To see a great example, try to find an original Zelda manual. Each enemy and all the weapons were beautifully drawn with immense detail. Many times, there would be whole backstories written inside to build the world of the game.

I used to collect mine, never throwing any away. One day, all of my manuals were tossed, and it was devastating. Today, assuming you don’t buy a game digitally, all we get is a little insert, possibly a coupon or code, and that’s about it. I’m sure it was a cost-cutting measure to do away with instructions, but they used to add so much to the gaming experience. Even to this day, I think about my tossed books of fun, and I wish I had them to read through.

Retro Gaming

Nintendo Power

Sure, gaming magazines are still released on stands today, but none of them are as iconic or enjoyable as Nintendo Power used to be. When you received a copy of that larger than life magazine in the mail, it was a glorious day, to say the least. The wonders and thrills imprinted on each page always brightened my day. The cover art was always amazing, and the details within continually made me excited for what was to come.

From 1988 to 2012, Nintendo fans were treated to something special within those pages. The magazines released today still inform players of upcoming games and news, but it’s not the same. By the time an issue hits the newsstand, the information it contains is outdated and made irrelevant by the internet. I was given a subscription to Game Informer when I paid for my GameStop PowerUp Rewards, but I didn’t read a single issue. The magic that was Nintendo Power can never be recreated.

Retro Gaming

PS1 Power-Up Theme

This might be silly, but I loved the theme that played when you first turned on an original PlayStation. It gave the PS1 an instant bravado that made it say “I’m Different, and I’m going to kick butt.” When you heard that tone, you knew you were in for an experience. I can remember turning up the volume, controller in hand, and hitting that power button with the biggest grin on my face as that music played.

It truth, not all games lived up to the hype generated by that grandiose tone, but it always made you feel you were strapping in for a great ride none-the-less. Other consoles had their other start music after that, but nothing quite matched the grandeur of the original PS1. I loved the GameCube start-up music as well, but it didn’t have the same adrenaline-inducing magnetism as the PS1.

Retro Gaming

Peripherals

Nintendo was king of the peripherals. From the Power Glove, Super Scope 6, the Power Pad, and the Light Gun to name a few, gamers in the ’80s and early ’90s were inundated with first and third party peripherals.

So many of these add-ons were quite useless, but I’ll be dammed if they didn’t look cool on the shelf. The R.O.B for the original NES was probably the most confusing and nonsensical peripheral of all time, and yet there was something special about it. I still have mine, although it doesn’t work, and I’m missing all of the various attachments.

Steering wheels, flight sticks, brake pedals, and arcade-style lap controls were all a part of what gaming was all about. I know they still sell things like that today, but the newness of it all back in the NES heyday made it all the more special. If you loved playing Afterburn in the arcade, now you could have your very own Jet flight stick at home.

It was kitschy and pretty geeky to have some of these beautiful pieces of plastic, but it just made the who gaming experience so much more visceral. What are some of your favorite peripherals from back in the day? Are there any you always wished you had but never owned?

Retro Gaming

Simple Wired Controllers

I can remember getting so frustrated at games (I’m looking at you Battletoads), that I would throw my controller in a fit of rage. The NES controllers were built like tanks, and since they were wired, they couldn’t go very far.

I can safely say I never broke a single controller back then by throwing it. It was a great way to channel your frustrations and to take a minute to cool down and try again. Jump to today, and I would NEVER throw a controller no matter how blind with rage I’ve become. Aside from the fact that they can easily break, controllers are exceptionally expensive. Having to replace a first party Xbox One, PS4, or Switch Pro Controller will set you back $60 or $70 bucks. The Joy-Cons, as much as I love them are also exorbitant. Throwing your controller today is an expensive form of anger management, one which I highly recommend you do not do.

Makes me yearn for the little square piece of hard plastic with its two buttons and securely wired tether.

Retro Gaming

These have been just a few of the things I miss about retro gaming. Sure, many of the things I listed above aren’t practical today, but that’s not the point.

I realize gaming has evolved to make things easier and more streamlined for players, but that doesn’t mean I can’t reminisce about the days of yore. I wouldn’t want to go back to inputting a long password to start a game where I left off or be forced to use simple wired controllers again.

I enjoy how gaming has evolved, but a part of me misses the simple pleasures of how things used to be. Are there aspects to retro gaming you miss? Write in the comments below and let me know what you think of my list and what I might have left off.

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Turning Hollow: Games And Difficulty

Turning Hollow – The Seal of Quality

“Hello again, Chosen Undead.

“I am Jack Boyles. I am losing my humanity. I am turning Hollow.

“We should exercise more prudence when it comes to the modern age of Video Games. We hath forgiven too long and our acceptance is too high. Acceptance of defective, and deficient and fragmentary games; allowing these attributes to slowly become normality. Souls are spent, only to await patiently for the game to be patched, stitched and sewed together.

“The seal of quality has all but faded from time. The seal of quality was guaranteed, a mark of honour, but with the rise of AAA games force releasing and online services with a lack of quality control; the seal has broken. Many hath scoured for the seal, for all whom hath foraged hath lost humanity.

“Won’t thee aide me in my quest?

“Cooperation may assist me to hold on to my humanity, assist me holding on to my cause…

The Seal of Quality

“Masses hath been delivered into this world only knowing of this tactic. As for I, I hath seen better times, a time during which the seal existed. In that period, developers could not manipulate their games with Hexic rituals like today.

“Games had to be made to withstand the test of time, to be made with calibre; as once fashioned, could not be altered. Delays were accepted, unlike the delays that inhabit this age, today delays can turn people Hollow. We can’t wait for anything.

“The games from the bygone age can still be played today and will remain the status as they did back when they were first crafted. As for modern games, once the server is closed the game cannot receive the Hexic spells to alter it – leaving a patchless pile of shame.

“An abundance of AAA publishers and developers make haste to deliver their games, acquiring the souls of many. Many AAA games materialize as buggy, shattered and unplayable until the first patch is liberated, yet that may last several moon circles. What are thou thinking? Is thou thinking those companies fabricate gigantic games, so it’s too be expected, and I concur, but with the emancipation of Breath of the Wild and God of War, tis now inexcusable to witness faceless characters and NPC’s swimming on fresh air.

Reminds me of my first kiss…

“Tis not just the AAA publishers and developers either. The absences of quality control of the independent scene must be held accountable too, with Steam and console eShop releases unimaginable. Such abominations like Fidget Spinner Simulation, Art of Stealth and Life of Black Tiger diminishing the worth only for the acquisition of souls.

“With video game development software readily available and in most cases free. This has given us more games than ever and with smaller team’s producing unique titles. This has also created many people releasing asset flip games. There is no quarrel in an indie developer using asset packs as a tool, but many have taken advantage off this and been making games from nothing but asset packs; no original content, no original ideas, just cut and paste.

Based on a True Story…

“When the youth of this age re-buy the equipment of their childhood to soak in nostalgia; they will not get that same experience from their childhood, what they will get are faceless characters and NPCs swimming on fresh air. Their childhood will be debauched and distorted.

“Will you aide me in finding the Seal, will you aide me to salvation?”

Bujingai Swordmaster

Past Blast: Bujingai Swordmaster – Surprisingly Rare

As I approached my favourite stall at the Doncaster Video Game Market, looking at all the obscure splendours, I thought: ‘It’s these obscure games that make me attend these events’. To dig into gaming’s past, games ignored on their release and games still ignored today.

As I’m looking through the PlayStation 2 games I hear my fiancée’s voice staccato with excitement to my left. There in her hand was ‘Bujingai-Swordmaster’, there was one of these obscure splendours. I hand over the game with my money to the merchant.

“You know what, this game should be a hell of a lot more expensive. This is a surprisingly rare game”, says the merchant consciously grinning.

“I know, I’ve been after it for some time,” I say, noticing the crowd look at the case in a curious bewilderment.

“Not got the demand, which is a shame because it’s a really good game”, replied the merchant as he’s bagging it up.

“Well, no one has heard of it”.

“I know, thanks mate,” I said, taking the bag from the merchant.

“Thank you”.

I walk off in search for more obscure splendours.

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai, Bujingai: Swordmaster (in Europe) or Bujingai: The Forsaken Forest (North America) is a beat em up/hack and slash game with loose puzzle-solving and platform elements.

It was developed by the legendary Taito Corporation in collaboration with Red Entertainment and published by BAM! Entertainment in North America and 505 Gamestreet in Europe.

The game was exclusively made for the PlayStation 2 and was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Taito. Due to the anniversary, some exceptional talent worked on this game, with Toshihiro Kawamoto the character designer for Cowboy Bebop, Yosuke Kuroda the scenario writer Trigun and the main protagonist modelled after J-pop Icon Gackt.

So again, all this talent but I bet you just walked past this game?

Well, here’s what you’ve missed out on or for you retro collectors out there; here is what you can get and get for a reasonable price!

Now when I played this game, I didn’t pay that much attention to the story. I had a vague idea of something going on, but I’ve done some research (I read the Wikipedia page…) and here’s what I’ve got.

A 100 years ago an accident of an environmentally friendly energy source has wiped out 70% of the world’s population and in the process has wiped out the government.

All the remaining survivors have gained special powers from earth’s energy – in swordplay and magic. You play as Lau Wong, a human exile who returns to earth to battle his training partner and friend Rei Jenron – who has been possessed by an ‘Evil Spirit’.

Yohfa has been kidnapped, and numerous portals have been opened allowing demons to take over the Asian city Bujingai; it’s up to Lau Wong, to save Bujingai.

Bujingai Swordmaster

As you can see, not an Oscar-winning narrative, but this game isn’t about the narrative, it’s about gameplay.

The gameplay is simple, with two attack buttons and a jump button. The jump allows you to glide and run on the wall, then the light attack button acts as a counter if pressed at the right time.

The counter is where the game shines, you have these gems in the corner of the screen based on how many times you can defend before taking damage. When the counter kicks in, your mouth will drop, and you’ll salivate at its splendour.

Like all hack and slashers around this era, you have a combo counter; in this game, the combo counter runs out the more you are on the ground, so the game encourages you to jump around, gliding through the air and running on walls like some crazed Chow Yun-fat.

The unspoken genius of this game lays in the hands of the sound designers. It’s like listening to the nostalgia of old samurai and kung-fu movies. Those vivid swooshes of the sword, that ting and swipe of steel on steel, the swooping of bodies gliding in the air, those synthesized laser beams, and last but not by a long shot least, the sound of the loose fabric clothes contending with the force of its wearer.

It’s in those details in sound that gives the game authenticity.

Bujingai Swordmaster

Bujingai isn’t a masterpiece, the environments aren’t that exciting, the glide mechanic never feels like you have complete control of where Lau will go, and the game is repetitive.

But the excellent sound design mixed with the outstanding choreography of the fighting animations is just a fun gameplay experience; it’s a shame it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Well, now I must give it a blast because it was so dirt cheap.