Next-generation video game consoles are teetering on the edge of photorealism, and pushing the limits of modern technology to draw more customers within a competitive industry.
But are the jaw-dropping graphics and high definition hardware what gamers really want?
The cell processor-toting Playstation 3 was received with much anticipation, but was also criticized for its issues with backward compatibility. Only three percent of games for Playstation and PS2 had issues with playback on the PS3. The newest Playstation also caught heat from consumers for not supporting legacy peripherals from the older platforms.
The Xbox 360, which also boasts an impressive hardware portfolio, is only Microsoft’s second console release. However, the company struggles to obtain full backwards compatibility with both generations. Emulation software, which can actually enhance the graphics on older games, gives the Xbox some backwards compatiblity. Still, the software cannot emulate all games properly, though Microsoft is regularly releasing updates to increase the library of first generation Xbox games that can be played on the 360.
Next up: the Nintendo Wii. While the Wii is not a technological powerhouse, its popularity has grown for other reasons. Most notably, its backward compatibility has thrown late underdog Nintendo back into the spotlight. The console directly accepts previous generation Gamecube controllers, and it also offers an online store where you can purchase ready-to-play games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64, all for reasonable prices.
In an age that offers real-time physics processing, 1080p video and internet connectivity, why are gamers still stuck in an 8-bit, side-scrolling state of mind? Is it nostalgia, or do games today just suck? Whatever it is, gamers are doing everything they can to get their fix of retro gaming. From emulation to third party adapters that allow gamers to use original NES controllers on their PCs, the Web is buzzing with retro gaming marketplaces and resources.
Back in the day, when retro gaming was state-of-the-art gaming, developers did not have the technology or resources to wow their customers with three dimensional rendering or digital surround sound. The focus was left to the game itself.
Now, clearly not all NES titles were gold. In fact, some were plain terrible, but the platform produced more timeless classics than any other console. Games like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda paved the way for many games since, and they basically wrote the book on video game story lines. These are the games that showed people how video games should be developed and what game play should feel like.
Today, the focus is on technical specifications and maximizing the console’s performance. But is this really all that gamers want? Are developers trying too hard to use all the technology available, without looking at the quality of their game and its story? Games can look good and be great, but many of the shiny new 1080p games are lost in mediocrity.
There is nothing better than pressing start and taking in the sweet midi-driven melodies of your favorite 8-bit games of yesterday. Even if you aren’t playing the cartridge, the side scrollers you probably unwrapped for the first time on your 8th birthday are just fun to sit back and watch.
Who still has the instruction booklets that came with their first game? No one, and you probably tossed it out the first day you got it, because you didn’t need it. The games were so simple. No ridiculous cinematic sequences, no internet connection errors, and no loading screens-just gaming. Everything was self explanatory because it had to be, and the great games made this work. At any time you could pick up the pad and have a blast, regardless of what level you were on or how good you were at playing the game.
Ten years from now, will the kids of today regard the PS3 and Wii as the holy grail of gaming? Perhaps, but that’s only because they will never be able to fully appreciate the true trail blazing retro systems that some of us were lucky enough to grow up playing.