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21st Century Classics 

Best new video games are old ones

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I’m a curmudgeonly old man who frequently wishes that the kids would get off of his lawn, and I come from a different era of video-gaming—one less interested in graphics and realism and more obsessed with easy to understand but difficult to master gameplay in side-scrolling levels of absolute fun. It’s not that I don’t care about the sweet new graphics; it’s just that I feel more emphasis is placed on them than making a challenging but intuitive game. But one of the very few things I appreciate about getting older is the work that’s being done to bridge the gap between the things I loved in my younger days and fashionable modern technology.

Some companies are learning that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to attract gamers of both generations; all you have to do is slap new hubcaps on it. Perhaps my favorite game—maybe one of the best ever made—is Nintendo’s Punch Out. Casting you as the boxer Little Mac and pitting you against a cadre of increasingly bigger, better and faster foes, the original game is as fun and challenging today, in all of its 8-bit glory, as it ever was.

I was one of the lucky few who kept my original NES and game cartridges, so on particularly stressful days, I could go punch Super Macho Man’s lights out. It was a stroke of brilliance on Nintendo’s part to release a direct port of the game to play on the Wii console. I bought a new copy of the game, and haven’t had to hook up my NES since.

But Nintendo then took things a step further. The Wii-based update for Punch Out is a gorgeous hybrid of the game from yesteryear and today’s more graphically cartoon-y games. What they did not do was add in a fancy story or radically alter the play of the game. Sure, if you want to duke it out shadowboxing, that option is available. But for us old-schoolers, the controls are exactly the same: three buttons and a control pad, which is all you need.

As a more old-school gamer, I’ve been thrilled to see this melding of old and new so gamers of all levels can come together to enjoy the same games. Another company that’s particularly good at this is Capcom. If you were born in the 1980s, chances are good you spent a small fortune dumping quarters into a Street Fighter II machine. And for me, the only reason I bought a Sega Dreamcast was because I could play Capcom’s Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo without paying an arm and a leg for a copy of it on my PSOne. Knowing people were thirsty for these games, Capcom re-skinned them with top-notch HD graphics and resold them in the online console stores, making a mint and bringing generations of fighting- and puzzle-game fans together.

In March, Capcom announced one of the single most exciting game upgrades ever. This summer, they’ll be remastering, adding voices to and upgrading the original NES classic DuckTales.

Maybe you’re under the impression that DuckTales is just a Disney TV show from the ’80s—but I assure you, the game adaptation is one of the finest pieces of puzzle-solving, side-scrolling action you’ll ever encounter. I helped my friend in grade school play so much that we wore his cartridge out.

Because of licensing issues, no one thought we’d ever see this game again, but Capcom is outdoing itself with this port, even bringing in the original voice of Scrooge McDuck, Alan Young, now a spry 94 years old, to add new life to the game.

I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly exciting this is for fans of old-school video-gaming. The new batch of young whippersnappers had better prepare for a game as good as DuckTales. And because it has all the bells and whistles of a modern game, they won’t have any reason to complain about it.

If they do, they’ll just need to get off my lawn. Damn it.

Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.

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