I haven’t picked up my Razor Ramon and Brett “The Hitman” Hart action figures in many years. This might surprise some of my loyal readers, but I stopped dicking around with that stuff back when Little Penny commercials were still cool. I am not asking you to be impressed by this.
Unfortunately, many of my peers still spend an inordinate amount of time with their childhood playthings. Even with the advent of new gadgets, some of you really like your old shit to the point that you’re willing to ignore the newer, better ways to waste your time. It’s OK to be a little nostalgic, but it’s not OK to pretend every product made after 1997 is tearing at the fabric of American society. And this includes video games, too.
People: It’s time to put down your Nintendos.
Old video games are kind of fun — and some of them are genuinely great — but that doesn’t mean you should be playing “Paperboy” for more than two hours a year. It also doesn’t mean that modern consoles are nothing more than means to download old software.
Now, I should probably make a few things clear. I like old video games. In fact, I played “Super Mario World” not very long ago. (Fuck Larry’s Castle.) But I also like modern video games because they’re typically better, and I’m not eight years old.
This past week, Capcom released “Mega Man 9” for wireless download on the Nintendo Wii and PS3. (An Xbox 360 download is coming this week.) For $10, anyone with a next-generation console can buy a brand new “Mega Man” game. As someone who spent a lot of time not beating “Mega Man” games as a kid (they were way too hard — not “Battletoads” hard, but pretty difficult), I was decently excited about the prospect of a revitalized “Mega Man” when I heard about the game. And then I saw my housemate playing it and got a little sad.
“Mega Man 9” looks like it was made in 1989. This is no accident. Though the game was recently developed, someone at Capcom decided their new video game should look like an old video game. As such, “Mega Man 9” looks like a classic, 8-bit side-scroller, complete with the jerky animations and a goofy, old-school soundtrack. I assure you this is not nearly as cool as it sounds.
There’s really no cultural comparison for “Mega Man 9.” The current Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger are distinctly retro but that doesn’t mean they come without catalytic converters and CD changers. I don’t have to pour lead additive into my gas tank, and that’s a good thing. The most apt comparison seems to be the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature “Grindhouse,” which was an homage to grindhouse cinema. “Grindhouse” has an intentionally antiquated look to it — missing reels, damaged film — but there’s also a lot of CGI, especially in Rodriguez’s film. It’s a modern film with retro sensibilities. But “Mega Man 9” is just an old video game. A really old video game. Like “this-thing-may-blow-up-my-HDTV” old.
On the one hand, I applaud Capcom for attempting to revive the classic side-scroller — a cause I’ve championed for years — but on the other hand, I can’t get past the fact that they’re just pandering to overly nostalgic goons. The developers could have stuck with a simple, 2-button control scheme but with a modern audiovisual treatment, and the game would have been no worse. In fact, it would have been much better. Eight-bit graphics are kind of cute for a few minutes, but you’re a crazy person if you would honestly rather look at NES graphics than PS3 graphics. So instead of properly rejuvenating one of the premier — but largely forgotten — side-scrollers of yesteryear, Capcom went all Pottery Barn on us and churned out an old-looking “Mega Man.”
And I’m pretty sure most people don’t agree with me on this one. Generally speaking, anyone who plays modern games has at least some appreciation of (read: not obsession for) old games. But there’s a substantial segment of the population that deifies their old games while quickly writing off modern platforms. Most of these people are quick to point out that modern video games are too complicated and that they just want the simple games they played in between watching “Doug” and eating Dunk-a-Roos. If people truly lack the motor skills to operate an Xbox controller then that’s fine, but I think the majority of these people like the nostalgic appeal of old games more than the actual games themselves.
And while “Mega Man 9” might be the most extreme example of retro-pandering, other legitimate games are trying to appeal to people who are put off by games they didn’t grow up with. “NHL 09” is probably the best hockey game ever made because it gives players an unparalleled degree of control. Yet the game also offers — and promotes on the back of the box no less — an “NHL 94” control scheme for those unwilling to dabble in the realm of analog sticks. Considering you can’t even make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed, I don’t really see the appeal of this feature.
Maybe this is no different than trying to convince my parents that there are actually some half-decent modern bands, but I doubt my dad likes Jethro Tull strictly because he grew up on it. If that were the case, my childhood home would be decorated with “Fuck Spiro Agnew” posters.
So put down your old toys for a minute and at least give some modern games a chance. You can be excited about “Mega Man 9,” but only because it’s a “Mega Man” side-scroller — not because it looks like hell.