Video games from days gone by are once again becoming a prominent part of gaming culture – Are we heading for a retro Renaissance?

The repackaging of older games on new systems is nothing new. After all, you could argue that Nintendo started the craze of re-releases with 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation of all of Mario’s NES adventures, remastered to take advantage of the extra power of the SNES, while also making these games more accessible for new and old audiences.

It makes perfect sense to repurpose old content in this fashion, but admittedly until recently, retro compilations lacked passion and respect for the source material, at least for the most part. Nintendo’s Virtual Console scheme had the most promise when it was first announced ahead of the original Wii’s launch: The ability to play accurate emulations of Nintendo’s entire library on the Wii was a promise that even Nintendo couldn’t keep, with sparse releases, glaring omissions and high prices for individual games.

Great Retro Compilations?

For years, of these collections have been lacklustre, offering bad glitchy emulation, terrible sound (including some that use CD audio for their soundtrack, which faded in and out between loops) and even mess around with the controls, swapping buttons around in a way that makes no ergonomic sense.

But this year saw the release of two excellent titles that make me question the need for individual retro re-releases, and instead call for bundles that offer more than just ROMS on a disk or a download.

retro compilations

First we had Rare Replay, arguable offering the best value of any retro compilations ever. 30 games, spanning the entirely of Rare’s existence and while not all of them are playable by today’s standards – A host of options are made available to the player to make a lot of this earlier games more palatable, including the addition of a rewind function and cheat modes. Then, there are Snapshot challenges that offer up small snippets of the earlier games in the collection, in the form of challenges. Add Achievements to the mix, and there’s now multiple reasons to have a go of several 20-30 year old games that very few of us would have played unless we owned those games at the time. Plus, this collection offers an astounding array of exclusive mini-documentaries, interviews and other making-of content, which are incredibly interesting to watch.

Closely following Rare’s excellent package, was Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collection. Developed by Digital Eclipse, this is another example of a decent compilation even if it doesn’t quite compare to Rare Replay in terms of content. Comparisons aside, this collection of all six of Mega Man’s NES adventures was emulated well and also included all sorts of concept and promotional artwork, not to mention a ton of challenges – Much like Rare Replay’s Snapshots, these are challenges through the toughest of Mega Man’s early adventures. Each challenge also has leaderboards and you can even watch replays of the best times to see how these super players are that much better than you.

It’s the success of these two retro compilations that give me hope that developers and publishers start to go through their archives and start to look outside of the box in terms of how they repackage these games, and how this content can be repurposed to suit modern audiences, as well as appeal to longtime fans.

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