On account of a seemingly endless series of non-gaming related distractions (sometimes referred to as life), I’ve been regretfully slow at responding to some of the great reader questions that find me on social media.
Let’s take a look into the digital mailbag and see if we can’t rectify that situation.
Q) Regarding your coverage of 16-bit fighting games, wondering if you’re planning on continuing on with 3D titles (some of my favorites to date). Also what was the worst fighting game you played back then?
I honestly gave consideration to carrying on with the fighting game coverage into the 3D foray when titles like Virtua Fighter and Tekken and Battle Arena Toshinden came onto the scene. In fact, it could be argued that the transition to pseudo 3D began even earlier than these when games like Ballz 3D came to the 16-bit platforms. The trouble, I soon discovered, was that there is no definitive point to stop. It could very easily be argued that 3D fighting games from those days never stopped being produced and still exist today. One of the problems of writing for a retro-centric mag is that there is no clear and concise line between what separates modern from vintage. And if there were, it would be forever advancing as newer hardware is a very frequent cycle.
In short, this is the long way of saying that while I do remember that transition to 3D well and respected it at the time for what it was, stopping the coverage at the conclusion of the 2D era made for a good bookend.
As for the worst – that’s tough! I had some very dubious titles in my Genesis collection while waiting for SFII; Street Smart, Fighting Masters, Slaughter Sport. I think one of the worst though had to be the home port of Pit-Fighter. Atari had beat Mortal Kombat to the punch (no pun intended) on the whole digital scanned characters in a one-on-one fighting game but abysmal controls and some of the choppiest animation in existence at the time made this one of those rare instances where it couldn’t go back to the rental store quickly enough!
Q) You seem to cover the Amico a lot but rarely talk about the new VCS. Why play favorites?
I do try to treat all new retro-themed hardware equally but the VCS is a tough sale for me. While it is admittedly nice to once again see the Atari logo on a new piece of hardware – especially one with some wood veneer face plating; the price and purpose of the new VCS really make it difficult for me to even understand what they are attempting or who it’s for.
It is essentially a very pricy Linux box with an included 2600 emulator. Already there are instructional videos appearing online on how to get the UI to work on any PC. Worse still, at $300 without a controller, and the fact that titles purchased outside of their Vault system aren’t cheap, it’s really encroaching on next gen prices to play some titles that are available just about anywhere else these days (for considerably less).
Again, no bias intended but unless the hardware cost comes down substantially or they begin to get some exclusive killer apps, the Flashback 9 Gold with its 110 titles, two controllers and 720P output that I picked up for $50 will probably retain its entertainment center location.
Q) What is your feeling on this Next Generation madness?
I am usually a sucker for the latest and greatest hardware but have bowed way out of the mess that has been the Playstation 5 and XBox Series X launch. Sony and Microsoft did consumers no favors when releasing (just before the holidays, no less) hardware that they knew couldn’t keep up with consumer demand. It’s no industry secret that Covid has severely limited raw material production and stymied shipping times and, as predicted, resulted in a situation where demand severely outweighed supply.
This isn’t the first time we’re seeing this and it surely won’t be the last (a very famous example of this technique being used to manufacturer extreme demand would be Nintendo with the NES Classic Edition) but it feels like the public in general is extra antsy of late – due, in no small part I’m sure, to political unrest, Covid-induced isolation stir craziness and the arrival of government stimulus checks. It’s all adding up to a fever pitch where product is being purchased up by scalpers who are demanding (and getting) exuberant money for the hardware.
The worst part about this all is that this is possibly the most unnecessary hardware generation in the history of home gaming – the reality is that 85% of consumers don’t even own displays powerful enough to capitalize on the hardware’s increased video output and there is no exclusive “next gen” software slated to be released for the next two years. In short, waiting on this one makes a lot of sense.
Q) Why hasn’t Nintendo released an N64 Mini yet? What do you think will be the next retro console to get a mini?
As to why Nintendo hasn’t released an N64 Mini, I can only speculate. The most likely answer is that Nintendo, being Nintendo, marches to the beat of its own drum. They don’t seem overly concerned with what’s going on in the industry at a given moment, instead opting to release products that no one sees coming. Another way of saying it is they generally like to be trend setters, not followers of trends (even the ones they create).
Aside from that, Nintendo is in a strange position. Unlike many of the other retro minis being produced, Nintendo is still a very active company in the current console and handheld generations. They still manage to make millions upon millions in selling their retro games across all of their platforms (both physically and in their e-shops). Often times their biggest competition on these things is themselves. So while no one doubts an N64 Mini would sell extraordinarily well, it’s very possible Nintendo doesn’t see the need to open a factory to manufacturer the new hardware when they still have many of the titles available from the system’s library available for purchase already.
As far as what will be the next retro mini – this logic is the opposite of my answer above. Companies that are not currently active in the industry have a great opportunity to capitalize on licenses and hardware that has been lying dormant for decades right now. If you were a rights-holder to something like 3DO or CD-i or Amiga CD32, this would be a gold mine opportunity. Strike while the iron is hot.
If you wanted my prediction, I’d take the easy way out (since it was already confirmed) and say it’ll be another from Sega. Which one, however, that’s a bit tougher. Most are hopeful it will be a Dreamcast Mini but I’m not so sure they would leapfrog to the very last piece of hardware they manufactured. I would hope they would do a Saturn Mini next with plans to follow that one up with the Dreamcast a couple years after.