STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND
Earlier this year we saw the release of one of my contenders for Game of the Year 2020 (or Best COVID Year Game, whichever sounds catchier) and that game is Streets of Rage 4.
The combined efforts of studios Dotemu, Lizardcube and Guard Crush took a classic series from over two decades ago and made it into a modern-day sequel. Retaining the soul of its predecessors, Streets of Rage 4 manages to feel both like a retro arcade button masher and like a game made for a younger generation of gamers. And this has me excited for more modern sequels and remakes of classic games.
There’s a reason why people still enjoy retro games. In an age where graphical fidelity approaches photorealism and game design grows more and more complex, classic games are where the simple yet fun still resides.
Yes, classic gaming wasn’t necessarily better. Ninja Gaiden, for instance, was purposely made hard to pad out its short length as much as possible.
Castlevania Simon’s Quest was deliberately obtuse and secretive for god knows what reason.
Yet, so many gamers go back to these games. Beneath the difficulty and nebulous design lie fundamental gameplay elements that were insanely fun back in the day and remain just as enjoyable today.
Playing through Streets of Rage 4 multiple times reminded me of a time when gaming was more manageable. Since it launched in April 2020, I have beaten the game multiple times, both on my own and in co-op.
I’ve gone back to try out several characters and in a variety of difficulty settings. I have a single explanation for this newfound obsession and is the game’s length and simplicity. Video games have only gotten longer in length and broader in scope over the past few generations.
There’s no way to beat a modern triple AAA title in a single sitting. Coupling that with the sheer amount of new titles that get pumped out year after year, it’s no wonder that lots of games remain unbeaten in our libraries.
I am currently enjoying my time with Watch Dogs Legion but the end is nowhere near in sight and I have Yakuza: Like a Dragon staring at me with a toothy grin.
“I will wait for you until the gold from the sun dwindles away.”
There’s a satisfaction to being able to complete a game in a few hours versus a span of several days or even weeks. My streaming partner and I have closed the Streets of Rage 4 chapter twice together, both in their respective single sessions. Both playthroughs were fun and ended on a satisfying and conclusive note.
Our Dark Souls 2 run, on the other hand, still cracks on weeks after we kicked it off. Granted, we do co-op streams once a week for a couple of hours per session. I’m not saying that long games shouldn’t exist as these deliver their own sense of accomplishment. What we need are more modern sequels and remakes of classic games that deliver the same experience as SoR4.
Even games that are inspired by retro titles yet still maintain the same simplicity and shorter lengths as their 90s ancestors would be enough. The indie space has managed to some degree to recapture the beauty that can be found in retro gaming.
Hollow Knight, for instance, is a testament that 2D platforming still has a place in the ray-tracing era of graphical fidelity. But it’s a very long game and it can be punishingly difficult at times.
Similarly, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night can take you a few sessions to complete. Its more retro-inspired sibling Curse of the Moon, on the other hand, is a shorter and more immediately satisfying experience.
The two games are an interesting case study on this point of game length versus completion rate. There’s a whole library of classic games that have yet to see a true sequel and would make great candidates for a Streets of Rage 4 style revival.
Golden Axe had an... axed early prototype release during Sega’s anniversary sale on Steam and it played great for what it was. A shame that we may never get to play the finished product.
A true Castlevania sequel that isn’t a sprawling metroidvania experience would also be great. It’s too bad that Konami is more interested in pachinko these days. Dotemu took on the rights for Streets of Rage and made something great out of it.
If the big companies are simply going to hold onto long forgotten IPs with no intention of using them, I say let the hard-working indie space have them and go nuts.
Yannis is a veteran gamer with over 25 years of experience across the spectrum of genres. He enjoys spending time with his family, livestreaming on Twitch and occasionally dishing out unsolicited dad advice. Also catch him on IG.
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