Editorial: Nostalgia, Wave 2

I like the stained glass imagery, I just hope it's not overdone.
Bloodstained features a cast of characters, some or maybe all of which will be playable.

In general, it takes about twenty years for people to begin feeling nostalgic about a certain era. Disco references were huge in the ’80s, referencing the craze from the ’60s, and the early 2000s were full of people ironically celebrating the cheesy merchandizing kids shows from the ’80s. Today, in the realm of videogames, the nostalgia buzz is still going strong but in classic fashion it is following the twenty year cycle. Gaming nostalgia did not hit the major internet gaming communities, becoming a part of the mainstream conversation, until fairly recently. Once Kickstarter grew to prominence and people could crowd fund things based solely on how excited some people are for a well-served promise of yesteryear, the doors were blown off a few different hype stations where traditional game publishers still held the key. Now increasingly big-budgeted games could safely enter development, and since they were all emulating older games from the ’90s they did not need to match the mammoth budgets of modern titles.

While plenty of issues still swirl around the idea of Kickstarter, with a few games like Broken Age proving the method has its flaws, the platform nevertheless remains the hotbed of nostalgic enterprises. The newest one making headlines is from Koji Igarashi, of Castlevania fame, who has planned to follow in Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s footsteps by announcing Bloodstain: Ritual of the Night. Much like Inafune’s Mighty No. 9, this game will partner up with games development studio Inti Creates to produce a spiritual successor to his past Castlevania work which the rights owner, Konami, seems content with letting atrophy. Given the earlier successes of games that traded on the nostalgia of SNES era titles, like Shovel Knight, there was good reason to believe this project would see equal support.

It would indeed pan out, being fully funded in less than a day (the initial goal was $500k) and continuing to blow past the minimum requirements where it stands as of publication of this article around $1.9 million. The thing that I find interesting in the success of this campaign is not just that the nostalgia factor continues to hold sway or that Kickstarter has not yet fully burned itself out of trust or goodwill, but that the games being recalled have moved up about five years to the early PlayStation era. Before the boom that revitalized 2D games, or even games that used a sidescrolling dynamic at all, there was some talk that those games would be left in the dust. A “lost art” of an older era that technology had outmoded, 2D games were no longer the hot topic and therefore no longer being developed by major studios. The rise of crowd funding and increased support of indie developers has seen these older games resurface where before their best bet was to show up on a handheld console by a studio looking to keep development costs down.

We got a whole lot of these kinds of games at one point, but then nothing for years. No surprise people want more.
Symphony of the Night looks like the biggest inspiration for Igarashi’s newest game and probably the biggest reason people are funding him.

However, not all of what once was is coming back via the Nostalgia Express. In an interview Igarashi had given with former-IGN writer Colin Moriarty, he noted that the game would utilize the “2.5D” style partly because there simply were not enough professional pixel artists left in Japan to get the game finished at a reasonable pace. And while he acknowledges that some fans would prefer a traditional 2D game, as with his most lauded title Castlevania Symphony of the Night, he reassured people that it would be his goal to get the game as close to the feel of an actual 2D game as possible, while also taking advantage of unique things a 2.5D game can offer. So not all things seem poised to come back, despite the heightened financial interest in games from days-gone-by, and maybe that is all just as well. Sometimes we cling onto the familiar for the sake of familiarity, which after all is why a game like this is getting funded.

So I do not think the nostalgia wave is still going so much as the first wave has crested only for a second wave to show up right behind. And should this continue, which I see no reason for it not to, then we are liable to see more abandoned games and game styles from the early and mid 2000s. We already have the signals of those successes with Resident Evil Remaster selling extremely well, a GameCube game from 2001, and ex-Rare employee Kickstarter for Yooka-Laylee, which is a successor to the N64’s Banjo Kazooie, so what other old games are yet to be resurrected? Kart Racers have never completely left the scene, but I think we could get another does of those eventually. Mascot Platformers are another good bet, and we have already seen a small renaissance for Arena Shooters with Doom and Quake-type games getting rebooted or remastered. But I am most excited for what would probably be the trickiest to resurrect, and that is the console-style JRPG. We still get these, but they have all morphed into something very different today. The Final Fantasy series has always been about changing things up, and so it has been doing. But even the occasional C-grade JRPG from a no-name developer has not been released in quite a while, where it once was a genre that would always have at least a small showing. But these games are tremendous, require a lot of writing, balancing, and generally just more of what every other game requires. GungHo Online recently announced a remaster of Grandia II coming to PC, so maybe it has already begun?

Now let me know which games you would like to see, or which kinds of games you would like to see again? Have an opinion on the ones I mused about might be coming? Let me know! Have a thought or two about why you do not want to see any of these nostalgia adventures again? Let me know! Want to complain about me personally? Keep that to yourself, damn it!

2 comments

  1. A quick correction: discos were still around in the eighties, not as a nostalgic look back, but because they were still coming down from the height of their popularity, which was in the mid- and late 70s, and not the 60s as you assert. 1970 (Opening of The Loft), 1971 (Soul Train on TV), or 1973 (Disco covered in Rolling Stone) are generally given as the ‘start’ date for the arrival of disco, which would make a ‘craze’ in the 60s impossible.

    The idea that nostalgia is on a twenty-year cycle strikes me as overly formalistic in the first place, and not really true in the second. We’re not in the middle of a mid-90s nostalgia boom right now, musically or culturally. In fact, of all the things to be making a come-back right now, Disco is one of them, and Folk Rock is another, both of which hail from a period of time more contemporaneous with the youth of my mother than of myself.

  2. Good article Mel, as usual.

    I’ve got my own two cents about gaming having blown up bigger than it can afford to maintain and now finding ways to be competitive without blowing out the bank, but I’m terrible at trying to put words together.

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