Why the 1990s might ruin 2016

The 90s were an enormous time for gaming. The move to 16 bit graphics followed by early 3D. Sprawling worlds and the first time we heard characters speak and symphonic swells. It was also a crazy time where anything was possible and frequently done. It’s no wonder why we romanticize this time in gaming and little wonder why plenty of developers are currently looking to past glories for present day riches. But those rose tinted glasses might just be covering up a bit more than polygon jank.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Why it might be good:
The year was 1997. Girl bands were blighting the earth with hit singles, the Titanic had just sunk for the second, tragic time, and a plucky little console called the Play Station 1 was proving that enormous cartridges with less memory than a goldfish might be a thing of the past. It did this by releasing an enormous game that sprawled across 3 CDs.

For a big percentage of gamers, FFVII was their first taste of the entire JRPG genre. For a surprisingly large percentage of those gamers, it was also their last.

Even more than revisiting old friends in Midgar, it would be great to see a wider renewed interest in such a unique form. Not to mention it would be nice to see Final Fantasy as a brand see an upward swing in the larger gaming culture, many of whom seem to think the series peaked with Cloud.

Not to mention I’d love to hear those symphonic pieces remastered.

Why it might ruin everything:
We remember most are the iconic characters that joined us in our first, deep trip into a story. We remember the music. We remember the excitement of asking a friend which disc they were on. But we’re about to be reminded of is the clumsy combat, a story that’s somehow both nonsensical and trite, and the fact that this game treated gender and racial differences with all the sincere nuance of an on-ramp car fire.


“Stop actin’ like a damn kid. Si’down and shu’up!“ an actual quote from one of these

There’s also the problem that we remember Sephiroth’s bad ass music, but not the fact that his entire character was probably written by a child that had been excluded from a birthday party after getting into the liquor cabinet at the last one. And that’s really going to come back out when you have to hear the character speak for himself rather than get to read it and filter it.

Now that it’s coming back, we’re left with a terrifying realization: either Square Enix can leave in all the parts of the game that just don’t work in a gaming culture that’s advanced by 20 years and in so doing be crucified for not improving things… or they can change them and be crucified for “censoring” the game. And either way, all of that is going to be stretched out over multiple installments, making sure the contrast lasts and lasts.

Shaq Fu 2

Why it might be good:
In 1994, Shaquille O’Neal took time away from losing every playoff game against the Rockets to make a fighting game about traveling to Tokyo to battle a tiger woman, a voodoo priestess, and the undead.

Like you do.

Make no mistake, the first Shaq Fu is not a good game by any stretch of the imagination. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play. It exists on the same, unique grading spectrum as television shows like the Toxic Avenger cartoon or movies like Masters of the Universe… things made with earnest intent and comedic levels of ineptitude.

Product placement > Punches

This fighting game’s opening sequence has more Pepsi than fighting. A bold artistic statement.

And believe it or not, the constituent parts of Shaq Fu the Senior make sense. Fighting games were huge in the 90s and were seen as a way to make money. Shaq was similarly becoming a big deal, having become the first rookie to play in an All Stars game (which is alluded to in the opening of Shaq Fu).

Why it might ruin everything:
What doesn’t make sense about Shaq Fu the game that came out of that idea. Any part of the game, actually. And so a sequel just falls apart from the same premise.

I can believe in space marines, dragons, super natural hunters taking breaks to play cards. But I can’t buy into Shaq doing literally anything in this story. And none of that gets fixed with Shaq Fu 2.

How does playing professional basketball make Shaqueille O’Neal qualified to save a small ambiguously Asian child from a Mummy? When did Shaq have time to learn how to do flame-based martial arts? Were basketball shorts the best choice for combat against armed attackers?

The first game became comedic rather by luck. The same sort of happy accident that turned Bruce Banner into a hero but all those who attempted to reproduce it became villains usually sees the same results when a work that lucked into being “so bad it’s good” is imitated by someone setting out to be bad.

That the creators didn’t think to call the sequel Shaq Tu doesn’t bode well, either.

Everything Nintendo

Why it could be good:
Some people are expecting 2016 when Nintendo turns it all around. With the impending release of the NX, new Zelda, plus a brand new direction begun not just by hardware but new leadership, it really could be the year of House of N.

Nintendo can be both innovative and subversive in a unique way. From their whimsical approach to game design to their industry changing hardware choices, Nintendo is one of the few big names that can routinely disrupt the status quo and leave other developers playing catch-up. They’ve also shown with their stable of IPs that they can redefine what we think of as possible in gaming. Games like Super Metroid, the first six Final Fantasies, and Mario 64 still influence games today.

Why it might ruin everything:
I’m just not sure Nintendo has anywhere to go. Nintendo might make the odd new IP, but it mostly leverages the hell out of old ones. Mario and Zelda average more than two titles a year between various platforms and releases, Pokemon is averaging a near annual release on handhelds. These games struggle to innovate within their increasingly dated formats.

After that you get great titles like Star Fox and Metroid that of late have gotten shoved into new incarnations without anything like the care we come to expect from Nintendo. What we’ve seen of the first is poor graphics, confined level design, and nothing nearly as surprising as the first, 16 bit game. From the second we saw a game without Samus, without metroids, and without a hope of beating Rocket League in the “futuristic sport” genre.

As for hardware, it’s uncertain if Nintendo will be able to confront the VR and AR behemoth that’s coming when their last four consoles have all suffered from some kind of glaring hardware and OS deficiency (storage space, online tools, processing power).

Wave wiimote to pay respects

At the end of the GameCube’s lifespan, it suffered from an inability to play DVDs. At the end of its own lifespan, the Wii suffered from only playing Netflix.

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John doesn't really know what he does for a living, but chances are you've played a video game he's worked, on own an article of clothing he had some hand in bringing to market, or heard his words come out of some creative director or chief executive's mouth. You've for sure read his writing, unless you got to this bio by accident. As a kid, John used to tell people he wanted to grow up to be a giant spider, and lately he's starting to consider that a viable career change. But he's afraid he doesn't have the right degree for it. John lives on the South Side of Chicago with one very wonderful wife, two horribly manipulative felines, and about a bajillion comic books, screen prints, and gaming accessories.
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