For an industry that’s always looking to the next big thing, whether it’s AR or VR or even artificial intelligence, the games world has been seeing a very counter-intuitive trend. Sure, players still embrace the new wholeheartedly but there has always been love of the old too. So many become misty-eyed when looking back at the old arcade games of yesteryear and yearn for the simplicity that they provide. So, just like the nostalgic fondness for vinyl records over downloads and the positively hipster-ish embracing of anything vintage, we’re seeing what may be the second golden age of the pixel-rich video game.
This has become apparent in everything from the hardware to the games themselves that are so much in demand. A prime example of this is the Nintendo Mini Entertainment System NES that was launched in the States back in November last year. Very obviously styled on the consoles of the 80s it comes complete with 30 classic games pre-loaded including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and three different versions of Super Mario. Even the packaging of the console harks back to the simpler times of 30 years ago but the one thing that has definitely advanced is the quality of the definition which is 60 hz as well as the console’s size – it can now be held in the palm of one hand.
Almost as soon as the console went on the market, demand for it went through the roof and the bad news for anyone not quick enough to snap one up is that Nintendo say that they will be discontinuing production imminently – although they have not ruled out re-starting in the future. This also means the prices of models have risen sharply and they are generally only available on eBay and the likes or by checking out the third-party sellers on Amazon.
It’s not just the hardware that’s now being inspired by the past, the games are too, with some major launches having taken place over the last few months. A great example of this is Kamiko from Circle Entertainment. Everything about the game from its Japanese setting to the saturated colours of on the screen positively shouts “retro”.
The visual style’s very much in keeping with Skipmores’s 3DS titles Fairune and Fairune 2 which is probably best described as a “pixel-art aesthetic”. The gameplay itself is very simple consisting of just four levels to navigate in which you’ll battle demons and other enemies on the way. There’s the choice of three “divine maidens” to control, the sword-wielding Yamato, Uzume who comes armed with bow and arrows and Hinone who favours the dagger and the shield and the whole game takes under an hour to complete.
Equally straightforward, and just as entertaining, is Super Destronaut 3D. Very obviously based on the classic Space Invaders with wave after wave of bleeping aliens to zap, the colours are vibrant and the action is increasingly frenetic. With the additional options of playing in Classic or Time Attack mode and single or multi-player it’s a very satisfying way to while away an hour or too.
Having seen the continuing appeal of retro-themed games this influence has started to permeate many other areas too. One only has to look at the kinds of slots that are starting to appear in online casinos as well as the plethora of new bingo sites that have a distinctly retro feel. These range from ones which help to raise money for charity just like an old-style game in a village hall would as well as ones that try to recreate the atmosphere of the huge bingo halls of the past.
But while bingo may have its origins rooted firmly in the past, social media is undoubtedly a very modern phenomenon, but this doesn’t preclude it from offering a retro-gaming experience for users. You only need to look at Facebook Instant Games for proof of this. Introduced in November 2016 and offering games like Solitaire, Pac-Man and Snake it not only lets Messenger users play without needing to install a separate app it has also recently introduced two-player games, leader boards and even tournaments.
So, with a potential 1.8 billion Facebook users worldwide it seems like there’s only one way that the retro-gaming phenomenon is headed. And, while we might not see the proliferation of amusement arcades that arrived in the 80s or find a Space Invaders machine in virtually every pub, it’s certain that this is a trend that console manufacturers and games designers will be sure to exploit to the full.