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How Wreck-It Ralph made me think about the future of Retro games

by AndyLonn   //   11:50 AM on 02.10.2013

Disclaimer: This will be a semi review of the Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph, I will use elements from the movie as examples and some spoilers will occur, Ye be warned

Well I just came back from having watched Wreck-it Ralph with my sister and my nephews (5 and 3), and I have to say, that movie made me think. As a kid who grew up playing games like Q*bert, Pac Man, Sonic the hedgehog and the likes, this movie hit it home in several ways.

First off: the premise of the movie



The movie takes place in every old school gamers favorite place, The Arcade, And just like Andy's room in Toy Story, The real action happens when none of the humans are watching. We are shown that every game that we play, are a masterfully orchestrated "play" where all the game characters plays their respective roles. When the game is over, The characters go back to their starting positions. When the arcade is closed for the night however, the game characters are free to do whatever they want to do, as long as they are back to their starting position when the arcade is open the next day.

Enter Wreck-it Ralph. He's the main antagonist in a game called Fix-it Felix Junior. where he acts as a sort of Donkey Kong to Felix's Mario (Jumpman) in the old arcade game Donkey Kong. Ralph's job every game is to try and hinder Felix from fixing the damages he's made, and eventually, when the player gets through the game, to be thrown off the very building he was trying to wreck.

All of this would have been fine with Ralph if he'd just gotten some appreciation from the rest of the game characters within his game, But for them, he's the villain, and Felix the hero, So they celebrate Felix at the end of each day by giving him medals, and shun Ralph, forcing him to sleep outside "off screen"

Ralph, feeling left out, wants to be recognized for the part he plays in the players experience. and is told by the other characters that only a hero gets to be in the spotlight, and to be a hero, you'd have to have earned a gold medal. Ralph, seeing that he'll never get a gold medal in his own game, leaves on a quest to get the medal in another game.

Along the way he meets a myriad of characters from the golden age of arcade and 16 bit gaming, Characters like Bowser, Dr.Robotnik, Satan and Kano appear in a Bad Guys Anonymous scene where Ralph debates his mindset with his fellow game antagonists. Ryu from Street Fighter is show visiting Tapper's Bar after hours. The list goes on...

Even Sonic appears on an infomercial that serves to tell the viewer, that if you die outside your own game, you won't re spawn, causing perma death for that character.


Wreck-It Ralph introduces several old school characters to a new generation of gamers

The movie is a homage to all the hours my generation have spent with these characters, and even serves as an introduction for many of them to the gamers of tomorrow. I was shocked when my five year old nephew knew who Zangief from Street Fighter was. I mean I wouldn't be shocked that he knew Sonic and Mario, Afterall I introduced him to those games, but Zangief?? To my knowledge he's never even played a Street Fighter game. But thanks to Wreck-it Ralph, He now knows the character, and might actually look up the series some day.

The movie's depiction of the arcade is more akin to the golden age of arcade games than the way arcades are today. And just like Andy's toys were scared of not being played with, The game characters fears the day their game is "Out of order" and they'll be shipped off to a storage, never to be played with again..

And that's what I want to touch on with this blog post: What is the future of Retro Games

A worst case scenario for retro games is that when my generation has left this earth, Games like Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania won't be played anymore. As time goes by more and more games are being introduced to the market, And if there hadn't been so little creativity and new content out there, these games and their characters would have been left in the dust long ago. Which is a damn shame in my opinion.

Nintendo, off course, is the best at keeping their old series alive. Virtual Console keeps the old games alive and they continue to make new installments of Super Mario, Metroid and Zelda, series that were created 20 - 25 years ago.

But still these series have seen an overhaul from time to time. The great Super Mario 64 brought the series for the first time into a 3D environment, shaking up and changing the way we play Mario, a change that still lingers today with titles like Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2.

There is little in the 3D Mario games that remind me of the original Super Mario Brothers. except for the plot and characters of the games.


Old school Vs. New school

The Zelda series experienced something similar with Ocarina of Time, shifting from the top down perspective and exploration element to a more story driven 3D experience

But I do think Nintendo realized that there were a market for old school games, having released New Super Mario Brothers. on their handhelds, then later porting it to their flagship console Wii and later Wii U. And even the handheld Zelda games (espcially the GBA games Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons) acts as throwbacks to a simpler time.

But things change over time...

Sega, who were a direct competitor to Nintendo back in the 16 bit era, had to withdraw from the console market with the commercial failure of the Sega Dreamcast. After the death of their console efforts,
they tried desperately to keep their intellectual properties relevant, something that resulted in a series of crappy Sonic games that near on killed the franchise. It wasn't before the recent Sonic Generations things finally started to look up for Sega.

Midway filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Acclaim was rendered defunct in 2004. And recently Atari, after several years of hardship, trying a last ditch effort to save their brand.

These brands will have a hard time bringing their series back, or releasing game collections that newcomers will be willing to buy, due to their financial problems. And we all know that playing the old games on newer systems aren't the same thing as playing them on the old school consoles

So where am I going with all of this. Oh yeah, I remember. What about the games of old? What will happen with them when people stop playing them?

Will the Retro games of today one day be replaced by the "Current games", Will New Super Mario Brothers 2 replace Super Mario Brothers 3?, Will Skyward Sword replace A Link to the Past?

And what will happen to the retro games that have no counterpart in today's market? Will we be able to visit them in the museum or will they just pass out of all memory and time?


Will games like Street Fighter II end up being museum pieces?

Well hopefully, All that won't happen. and I'll tell you how we can stop just that from happening

My dad have been my gateway into the music that I like. Through him I've learned about bands like Deep Purple, AC/DC, Pink Floyd to name a few. And so my "horizons" when it comes to music have been broadened. I appreciate new music as well as "old" music, And I don't think I would have taken the time to sit down and listen to the "old music" if it weren't for my dad being willing to open that door for me.

And I believe that the way we can preserve the cultural heritage of games, is to act as that gateway for the gamers of tomorrow, when they ask us which games we played when we were kids, let's show them Old School Mario, or Zelda, Let's show them Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat

I've even gotten a head start at this, collecting old school consoles and games. so that when my son grows up, he'll at least have the opportunity to experience the games that made his father the gamer he is today

And so we can save our collective retro game heritage from extinction









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