We’re rapidly approaching a new console generation, and terms like “new”, “revolutionary”, “experience” and “used games” are being tossed around at a fever pitch as Microsoft and Sony do all they can to convince you and your wallet to get their shiny new video games box when they come out later this year. New consoles and new generations are usually a field of new IP’s, but while Bungie’s Destiny and Monolith Soft’s X look awesome, what has interested me this year has been the major companies’ campaigns to reinvigorate the past.
Microsoft’s new video game-themed media box the Xbox One is touting the return of nineties classic Killer Instinct, a fighting game series developed by Rare. It’s prominent among Microsoft’s usual lineup of Halo and Forza Motorsport because not a lick has been seen from the nineties fighter since 1996. Rare is once again developing this new title, but it’s a very different Rare from the one that developed the originals (a diffierent Rare that has developed nothing but Kinect sports games for the last few years), so whether or not this new game can live up to the legacy is dubious at best. Still, it’s lovely to behold the return of a classic. Let’s just hope it’s not another Duke Nukem Forever.
Sony’s offering was backed by a powerful surge of Square Enix for their PS4. The bombshells of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III were dropped at their showfloor, and it was glorious. The essence of the hype was so palpable simply because these games have been clamored for for 7 years now, encompassing the entire lifespan of the PS3. Final Fantasy XV, formerly XIII-Versus, has been in limbo and a constant no-show since its announcement in 2006, and Kingdom Hearts II, which came out eight years ago, is only seeing a glimpse of its sequel now. Their presence also brought about memories of a time when Final Fantasy was integral to the Playstation brand, which is a time now past since both XV and Kingdom Hearts III are also coming to the Xbox One.
Nintendo’s homages to the past for the still-nascent Wii-U can be fittingly attributed to the announcement of Super Mario 3D World and the presence of Mega Man in the new Super Smash Bros.
Super Mario 3D World features a 4-player multiplayer component starring Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach, which are the same cast of characters that headed Super Mario Bros. 2 in 1987. In 3D World, they all retain their unique characteristics they had in SMB2 (though I don’t really see any turnip grabbing), which are newly adapted to a simultaneous cooperative experience. It’s nice to see some respect paid to this old game, as it was the underdog of the titans that were the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. It’s also nice to see Peach taking a break from her abductee career for once.
Of course, Mario won’t just be grabbing coins in a catsuit, he’ll be smashing it up with his fellow NES platforming juggernaut Mega Man in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. as well. Mega Man is a new guest character in what is almost entirely a whack-em sack-em hoedown of Nintendo characters, and he had to be pretty special to get admittance. Up until the previous installment, Brawl, it was Ninty characters only, but Brawl gave us the surprise stars in Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog. While Snake got in just because he managed to sneak into the super secret Smash clubhouse from under a box, Sonic’s presence was a celebration of the rivalry he had with Mario during the nineties, and the rivalry between Nintendo and Sega at that time in general.
Similarly, Mega Man’s inclusion is a celebration of the blue bomber’s time alongside the red plumber in the days of the NES. They were truly the two kings of platforming at the time, and they predated a deluge of similar platforming mascots that emerged in the nineties (similar to the deluge of FPS games we’ve had recently) that emerged due to their success. The effects they’ve had on video games as a whole can therefore not be understated, and they are proof to me that though we must move into the future with open arms, there is nothing wrong with celebrating and respecting the past, because it’s important to reflect on what got us to the future in the first place.
Super Mario Bros 2 image credit http://www.nintendojo.com