Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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New England Gamer
January 2010

Sweating to the Oldies

Each year I make a New Year's resolution. I will put an end to my backlog of games. I will stop buying new titles and just finish all the ones I have stacked and collecting dust. It never happens. This year I suspect will be no different and I have the PlayStation Network to thank for it. Accompanying the release of the rather pointless PSP Go, the North American PlayStation Store has seen boost in content. Some of it has come in the form of new games. I haven't had the chance to sample any of minis (small, short, bargain priced games) being offered by the store. That said, I have recently found myself a big fan of the PSN's growing library of PS1 classics.

Let me take a little time to tell you about myself. Up until about puberty, I was a complete Nintendo fanboy. In fact, save for a brief infatuation with Sonic the Hedgehog, I was a full-fledged member of the faith of Big N. If a game did not come on a Nintendo console, I loudly and proudly labeled it as dung, in public. This ended one holiday when, with no new Nintendo console on the market yet, my mother bought me a PlayStation 2. With time I managed to scrounge a few games, but with the older PS1 titles being cheaper I suddenly found myself interested in those same game I had been for insulting for years. Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil; I picked these and many more and began to line my shelves. But flipping through my old magazines, there remained so many games that I had missed and now couldn't find. I resolved myself to having missed an entire generation of games.

Over the past few weeks though, I've found myself knee deep in blissfully old PlayStation games. In addition to some of my favorites, I've finally gotten the chance to play some that I've wanted to for years. Wing Commander IV for instance, has been my most recent purchase. I love the Wing Commander games. They represented, in my opinion, some of the best video game narratives ever crafted, portraying a decades long war with all the heft of a first class space opera. Wing Commander IV was the only one I never played and honestly the one I wanted to the most. I had a trailer for the game that I watched dozens of times. I bought the novelization, but I just never got to play it. Suffice it to say that when the opportunity presented itself to finally get my hands on the thing, I took it and I have been loving it.

And the best part? It cost me all of six dollars.

As much as I love the newest, coolest, and most state-of-the-art software, I am at heart a cheapskate. I'm the guy who breaks a sweat if gas prices rise a fraction of a cent, and then does a public happy dance when they drop. Whenever I stop into my local GameStop, my first destination is generally the various used sections of the store and then when buying a game, I calculate in my head how many hours of fun I'll be getting per dollar spent. My most recent PS1 classic purchases have netted a good two, three, or four dozen hours of play time for a mere fraction of what I might have paid were I buying something new. Suffice it to say that I've been a happy camper.

Though it isn't as if these old games don't come with any downside. They are after all, old games, and unfortunately, the PS1 era has not always aged well. Visually, many of the games look downright primitive. I play them mostly on my PSP, so the smaller screen helps to hide some of the ugliness, but in the case of some games (Final Fantasy VII, Wing Commander IV), no amount of technical concealer can cover their blemishes.

Even more problematic is that the controls are often a trial in patience. While I never minded the stiff "tank" controls in the early Resident Evil games, a lot of people revile them. Furthermore, if you're like me and play these old games mainly on your PSP, the control issues are two-fold; they are archaic and the PSP might not have enough buttons to play the game properly. The only reason I was apprehensive about paying money to download Wing Commander IV is because I knew that the control scheme was complex, and I wanted desperately to be able to play it on my handheld. It wound up working out pretty well, but there are still issues that sometimes require a little personal compensation on my part.

While the new year is bringing with it the promise of a load of new, great games, I am beginning to think that the bulk of my attention will be turned toward the past. Between the PlayStation Store and the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console (the only reason a Wii is worth owning) I can only imagine how many retro games I'll be investing in during the coming months. In some cases, I know this interest of mine is just based on nostalgia. The games being put out today are often massive improvements over the titles of yesteryear. That said, I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes they simply don't make them like they used to.

Read more by Stewart Shearer

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