Retro things-we-love-to-hate

Published on January 3rd, 2013 | by Chris Powell

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6 things we love to hate about retro gaming

They say as technology advances, it brings with it new-found comfort and ease of use for its users. This certainly holds true for video games as we now enjoy wireless controllers, cloud storage for save data and entire games we can download within minutes.

However, these new leaps in innovation have also stripped away essential pieces of what made the games we played as children so special, even if we didn’t necessarily enjoy them at the time. Today, we’re going to take a look back at some of those things that absolutely drove us nuts, but we now, for some reason, look back fondly on.

Passwords

password

Ffffffffffffff!

Kids today just don’t understand how good they have it with many games sporting auto-save features and what not, but back when we were young, we had to jot down 15 to 30 character passwords, damn it! I distinctly remember how nervous I’d be after spending several hours playing through a game and needing to transcribe that holy mess of garbled text on my old, blurry-ass TV.

What exacerbated this problem was the text on many games was way too hard to read. For instance, the number ‘one’ often looked like an “I”, “O”s looked like zeros, and some real asshole developers made “Q”s virtually indistinguishable from either. This often meant that after I came back to a game and inputted the 40-character password, that it was usually incorrect. The next logical step in this scenario found 8-year-old me in a state of rage where I’d yank the cartridge from the console and punch it repeatedly.

Unfortunately, that never helped me with my password problems.

genesis-01

This is literally how long the cord is for the Genesis controller.

Short cords

Did you ever hear your mom say, “Johnny, you’re going to go blind if you sit that close to the TV!” Well, she was lying. You wouldn’t have gone blind, but you also wouldn’t have had to sit so damn close if the asshole console makers didn’t make the cords on their controllers only 3-feet long!

The TV and game systems in the bedroom my younger brother and I shared sat upon a tall dresser. The controllers barely reached down far enough for us to sit on a chair about a foot away from the TV. Doesn’t sound so bad, you say? Well, imagine being forced to sit in the front row of a theater every time you went to go see a movie, and then you can start to understand what we had to go through. I really don’t think we had to worry about going blind, but I’m pretty sure the awkward position I had to sit in during those formative years is the leading cause of my grotesque scoliosis today.

Incredibly delicate systems

delicate consoles

This is what happens if you touch a retro game console while it’s powered on.

As I grew a bit older and wiser, I one day had the brilliant idea of taking my SEGA Genesis down from Mount Olympus (our dresser) where it safely rested upon and sit it on the floor with the rest of us peasants. This really helped our neck cramps and offered us the chance to actually lay down while we played games, which we found was a great way to play RPGs. It also meant I was safely outside the blast radius of the irradiated TV, which made my mom rest easy, knowing we wouldn’t go blind.

As you might have surmised, this led to many times in which my dumb brothers would clumsily stomp into the room, completely unaware my damn Genesis was on the floor and would bump it with their foot. What happened to my game of Shining Force that I spent hours playing, much of which of unsaved, you ask? Those beautiful pixels transformed into a frozen mess of colors, and I had to reset my game and start over.

I hate my brothers.

Congratuations! A winner is you!

congratuation-01

Whuuuut?!

As a child, beating a video game was something to be damn proud of. Not many gamers were skilled enough to do it and even less had the wherewithal to put in the time required to level up your characters or learn a game’s combat system well enough to grant them access to the final boss. But hours of tirelessly toiling away at a game meant that you were finally among the small minority of gamers who would take on that fat ass.

And once you finally beat him, you were overcome with a sense of pride and joy. You waited patiently for that amazing ending that you had been dreaming about. Surely, you knew all your hard work, the dozens upon dozens of hours you spent playing, were about to pay off … and then it all came crashing down when you were met with a single screen that simply thanked you for playing the game. No amazing ending that lived up to what you had imagined or paid you back for all the time you had put into it. To really shit on you while you were down, many times, the developers didn’t even bother to spell shit out correctly.

I can’t remember for sure, but I’m pretty sure this caused me to cuss for the first time.

Judging a game by its cover

Look at that hair!

Every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him!

When we were younger, we didn’t have this thing you cool kids call the Internet. Nope, we couldn’t hop online and quickly check a game’s Metacritic score before we threw down $50 of our parent’s hard-earned cash. We relied on game reviews we read in our favorite magazines, but if we didn’t have that ancient parchment of wisdom handy, we had to resort to looking at the game’s box to decide whether we wanted it or not.

Stupid me would see some badass box art and immediately assume the game was amazing. In fact, one day at Funco Land, I vividly remember seeing the box art to Wizards and Warriors II: Iron Sword on the NES, which featured a shirtless Fabio brandishing a magnificent two-handed sword and his trademark golden locks flowing in the wind set against fiery mountains and ominous clouds. I knew this game was going to show me some shit, and I just had to have it.

However, I can’t exactly put into words the dissappointment I felt once I popped it into my NES and turned it on. My brave hero wasn’t Fabio but a dorky knight, clad in armor head to toe, who would awkwardly jump from tree limb to tree limb while pathetically wagging his sword at some hapless squirrel or owl. This taught me a couple of valuable life lessons: never judge a game by its cover and never buy anything that features Fabio.

Game Over means game over!

battletoads-01

Sigh. We saw this screen far too many times.

Games back in our day didn’t pussyfoot around. When you ran out of lives, you had to start your damn game over again, right back at the beginning. We didn’t have any of this checkpoint system and coddling you bratty kids today have. Our gaming skills were forged through blood and sweat … and getting our asses kicked by Contra and Battletoads was our rite of passage to become men.

Very recently, I was playing Blazing Lazers on the TurboGrafx-16, and my son walked into the room, watched me play for a few minutes and said, “Wow dad, old games are hard. That’s why I don’t like old-school games.” Full of disgust and disappointment, I glared at him and pointed him to the door, for he was not worthy to be in the presence of the almighty Blazing Lazers.

So as I said before, many of the things we hated about retro games as kids, we tend to look back on very fondly now that we’re adults. It might be one of those, “Back in my day, we had to walk through 12 feet of snow on our way to school.” type things, but I’m kinda proud that we persevered through the rough and tumble years of the gaming industry. Now we can look down upon our children and always know that we’ll be better than them.

(Editor’s note: I really don’t have scoliosis, except that I do. I don’t, though. Oh well, you’ll never know for sure.)

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About the Author

Avatar of Chris Powell

Chris Powell is the editor at Bit Loaders and the host of The Bit Loaders Show. In his day job, he's the managing editor of Airman magazine - the Air Force's official magazine (www.airmanonline.com). He has been a print journalist in the Air Force for nearly 13 years. Previously, he wrote for Joystiq and is the former editor of SegaNerds.com.



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