By vidiot 19 Comments
Heads up for anyone who is interested in purchasing Persona for PSP:
Do you smell that? Yeah, it does kinda smells like sulfur. No, don't be alarmed, I just dropped all my current thoughts on the floor.
In the grand spectrum of gaming history for the last, lets say thirty years, the concept of a proper re-releases and (especially) a proper remake is a semi relatively new concept. The opinions of what constitutes something worthwhile for our matured gaming tastes, is a convoluted concept that I've been recently trying to wrap my head around. Because by definition of a game being old, it immediately cannot stand toe to toe with our current expectations.
Or can it?
The Argument against.
Prior to Xbox Live Arcade becoming an interesting cornucopia of indie, emulated games, remakes and strange... things (It's coming to XBLA)... It was flooded by the likes of your standard, classic issued games. What's new to say for the likes of how a classic version of Tetris plays? Thankfully XBLA is not loaded with games akin to something that comes loaded in the goofy games tab on the Start Button you will never touch. (Unless you love minesweeper, that is exempt I still play the fuck out of that.)
But the argument for me at least still stuck. Played Sonic on the Genesis? Guess how it plays on the Xbox? Here's a hint: It's Sonic The Hedgehog. It's still a 2D sidescroller that has a high emphasis on speed. It's also can become quite punishing. It's difficulty and technically limited graphics can probably be associated with the fact it was made in 1991.
It's also still fun as hell.
The entertainment value of Sonic is still high. (at least in my opinion.) Games age at different rates and with varying degrees of quality. Old games can have core mechanics that can click with gamers over generations. It's a classic for a reason.
Sadly the other side of that coin of being a classic is that it's old, and as stated Sonic can be a punishing experience for gamers who do not have a grasp on the games historical context. How do we rate that? Well, for some reason we usually do it by comparing the game by today's standards, and it's here where things get murky.
No matter how much certain aspects of a game "ages appropriately", which is already questionable to begin with, there will always be something that holds it back. It's in it's nature, it was made over a decade ago.
Let's pick on Persona for PSP for a more recent example. It was made in 1996 for the playstation. There is a high emphasis on random encounters and random encounter rates. The graphics are ugly. Characters have limited frames of animation and the choices that you make in the story seem difficult to initially comprehend the outcome.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Review
This decidedly old-school role-playing game got a fresh coat of paint but not the complete overhaul it needed.
- Intriguing story with two distinct paths to follow
- New, more authentic localization.
- Tedious combat
- Boring, ugly environments
- Absurdly high random-encounter rate.
Score: 5.0 (out of 10)
Now before you write your angry tirade at the editor Mr. Lark Anderson, please take a moment to realize most of these points are pretty dead on. Although one might need to ask why the context of when it was made is being ignored, and why are we now complaining a port of game made in 1996 is being marked down for poor graphics?
Is that a legit question?
The case for
Games are software.
It's another fascinating aspect of this medium that separate's itself from film or books. Is there a problem with the game? Why not patch it? With our strive to keep our nostalgia in check, we often tinker more with our old re-releases in order to gain a wider audience before. We don't just have emulated ports. We can have ports with additional content. We can tweak the gameplay. We can have ports with HD graphics. And sometimes, we go crazy and remake the whole game with additional content, tweaked gameplay and update that sprite work into something that makes your monitor combust into flames!
Glorious, glorious 1080p HD flames.
There is a chance to make your old game better. Recently we have seen some pretty excellent examples of how this can work out, as well as some examples of many pitfalls a developer can come across. Making ports are never as easy as hitting a few buttons. Anyone who disagrees can pick up a copy of the original Sonic for GBA. Again, games are software, and reviews set standards. If your old game plays poorly that it did ten years before: Something is terribly wrong.
But more often than not, we see reviews that try to meet a series of modern expectations. Which is a good thing, old games are old games. Nostalgia sometimes distorts our view, and if we haven't played it before, why should we pick up a game that is so clearly flawed? Unless it was a game that could give you better perspective on how a franchise evolved. A game that perhaps had mechanics, that while dated had been tweaked in a ways that was perfectly acceptable and had never before seen content. A game that had a compelling and original story.
A game....Like Persona for PSP?!
Persona (PSP)"It may be old and ugly, but this RPG is still miles ahead of its peers."
The truth of the matter is, Persona for PSP can streamline it's combat via something akin to Final Fantasy XII's gambit system. There are tweaks abound in this game, including full blown voiced FMV cutscenes and a completely re-worked soundtrack. And sorry, the only touch up with the graphics seem to be that it's now at a letter box aspect ratio. It's old, but regardless of time holding it back, it's not difficult to make the assumption that it's certainly making an effort to stand out.
If you haven't guessed: Pretty damn conflicted.
I think reviews on old games should focus on what the game is trying accomplish.
Are you a fan of Persona? Would you like to play what is probably the most definitive version of the first game? You play JRPG's to begin with, your tastes are probably in line for what this game offers. Step right up.
Do you want to play Sonic with achievements? Have you ever played the original Sonic? We got a port for you.
Never played Monkey Island? Are you a huge fan of Monkey Island? Trick question: You will like this version regardless.
It's the remakes, the ports, and the emulated versions that fail with their goals that should be criticized. Not necessarily their context.
For godsake, they're old games.
So what are your opinions? What do you look at when you come across a review for an old game? Do you even read reviews? Can you read? Please share.