So, Ms. D’s two lovely sisters came a-visiting recently, and we ended up chatting about their video game habits of old. It turns out that the sisters three were once enthralled by the Sega Mega Drive as youths, and would happily spend hours passing the controller back and forth through epic sessions of Streets of Rage 2, Sonic The Hedgehog and, to a lesser extent, Ecco The Dolphin (which left them “baffled” for the most part, a reaction I can empathise with).
After hearing of this winsome Sega nostalgia, I immediately fired up the trusty old PS3 and promptly downloaded Streets of Rage 2 for a pittance – much to the sisters’ delight. There ensued a highly enjoyable evening of ass-whupping, nineties style – and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Ms. D so enthused over a video game before. As I watched, nostalgia took its vice-like grip as the siblings were transported back to pre-puberty…
Sadly it was an emotion I couldn’t partake of. As a Nintendo-devoted teenager, I only played on a Mega Drive a handful of times, and certainly never owned one – and it’s difficult to be nostalgic about a game you’ve never played. But having said that, it was wonderful to leap back into a simpler time, when games only required a couple of buttons and a big helping of bloody-mindedness, particularly before save games were commonplace and it was de rigeur to play through the opening levels of a game several hundred times, simply because you had no other choice.
But although I’ve never played Streets of Rage 2, I’ve heard lots of very good things about it, and I was keen to sample it for myself. And what do you know, it holds up surprisingly well for a game originally released in 1991. Yes, the gameplay is simple, but there’s just enough variety in the enemies and environments to make it engaging, and the artwork still looks fantastic. OK, some of the bad guys are recycled a little bit too much, but the combinations they’re presented in change throughout, and the final boss is fantastic.
Buoyed by the wave of retro-gaming nostalgia generated by SoR2, I went on to download Sonic The Hedgehog 2, which the sisters greeted with misty-eyed joy. Yet I struggled to warm to this one like I did to Streets of Rage. Back in the nineties, I remember playing Sonic The Hedgehog for the first time and being blown away by the speed of it. Yet very quickly it became apparent that going quickly was actually a recipe for disaster – at top speed it was impossible to see what was coming next, resulting in lots of unfair deaths from unseen spikes. So even though the game’s raison d’etre was speed, perversely it did everything it could to stop you going fast – and the same is true of the sequel. I found Sonic 2 initially fun but very quickly infuriating, and once we progressed to the later levels my long-held suspicions were confirmed: i.e. that the first levels in Sonic 1 and 2 are by far the best levels in each game, leaving little reason to progress.
Still, Ms. D remains a Sonic fan, and while charity shopping the other day I came across the critically lauded Sonic Generations for the PS3 for a mere £3. I’m hoping that both of us can enjoy this update of the old Sonic formula, and that perhaps the 3D sections fix that old Sonic problem – by actually letting you see where the hell you’re going.
But through all this, and despite the D sisters’ Sega sentimentality, my nostalgia glands have remained dispiritingly unstimulated, purely because I’m coming to these games for the very first time. So over the weekend I decided to treat myself to an old Sega game that I HAVE played before – many times in fact.
OutRun was a staple of my youth, being my go-to arcade game in musty waterfront arcades from Portsmouth to Porthtowan on many a family holiday. Recently released on the 3DS, 3D OutRun is an utterly wonderful update of the arcade classic, laden with subtle improvements but still retaining the enthralling gameplay of the original. As soon as I began playing I was transported right back to that beachfront arcade, the ten-year-old me peering over the top of the sweat-slicked steering wheel as I frantically stamped on the sand-covered pedals…
Ah, there it is: that sweet, sweet, intoxicating hit of nostalgia.
Toodle-pip for now!