Written by Peter Watts
“A dread of the past [In threat of the past] and fear of the future
That’s manacle, I cuff through my monocle
Mechanical and super-natty
Brand new, yet retro”
Tricky’s seminal Mixinquay album featured a track that ended with these lyrics, and as I boot up Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on the Switch I can’t help but find myself recalling the lyrics to this track.
Gaming seems to be going through a bit of a neo-retro revival, with games such as Hyper Sentinel and the recently announced Streets Of Rage 4 taking the past and wrapping it up for a new audience (or is that the same slightly older more nostalgic audience?)
Retro Re-releases & Modernised Sequels Vs The Rising Cost Of AAA Video Game Development
With the boom in mini consoles started by the Mini NES showing no sign of stopping, it is clear that gaming is becoming more and more obsessed with it’s past successes. For an industry that thrives on a 5 – 8 year console lifecycle and the lure of shiny new graphics and gameplay innovations are we in danger of running out of new ideas or should be embracing the influx of remasters, remakes, compilations and re-releases? As the familiar sound of the Monster Hunter start screen hits my ears I’m not sure I care too much for the ‘New, New’ these days.
With the ever increasing costs of AAA production and the increasing pressure on each new release to be a success I guess it was inevitable for developers such as Nintendo, Capcom and now finally Sega to start to delve into their esteemed retro and arcade roots. New IP’s are risky business after all. Gamers only have so much time and money.
Capcom and Nintendo are probably the most obvious developer to mine in on it’s past and pander to fan devotion. Capcom are at once revered and pilloried for their constant minor updates and excessive DLC policy. Can anyone truly answer how many times Street Fighter 2 has been released on all formats? Have you seen how many Chun Li outfits you can purchase on Street Fighter 5? The most recent Mario Odyssey was filled with homages to older games with a particular set piece taking the series back to it’s roots, all at once being brand new yet retro.
The Comfort Of Retro Gaming Vs Uncertainty Of The New, New
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate that I am playing on the Switch is a port of a 3DS release that has been upscaled and has some new end game content. It’s not all that different from the previous version of Monster Hunter I had on the 3DS. Yet I’ve gone and bloody bought it. I’m also eyeing up that new Neo Geo Mini despite having most Neo Geo games across my Xbox, PS4 and Switch.
True authentic retro consoles now exchange hands for much more than they used to as gamers mine into the past and some rediscover consoles released before they were even born. For these younger gamers these consoles really are brand new yet retro.
The growth of indie and middleware titles has also seen a huge surge in 8bit and 16bit homage titles. The Metroidvania genre has arguably never been in a healthier place. Although they could be hitting a saturation point if they are not careful. In the UK 8 years of austerity has meant pay freezes are cutting into spending power. So these cheaper often more innovative games are much more affordable impulse purchases. They feel at once new but comfortably retro to ensure a new ‘comfort zone’ for spending has been established.
Of course in a matter of weeks we will hit the pre-Christmas AAA season, as is the nature of industry, release everything at the same time. Once again we will see adverts for games that are marketed more like films. The new Spider-Man game trailers could easily be mistaken for film trailers. As an older gamer a part of me sighs. Spider-Man is really just another example of an IP that’s older than me (Spidey first appeared in 1962 according to Wiki) being relaunched. It’s brand new, yet retro all at the same time.
So I press start on Monster Hunter and take solace that I’m not the only one enjoying a bit of the old with a bit of the new.