Making classic games more approachable should be the norm

Games age faster than just about any other medium. Even titles that are just a few years old can feel dated as newer, more user-friendly releases come out. This poses a tricky question when it comes to re-releasing classic games: do you keep them in tact, just as they originally were, or update them for modern players? If a couple of recent titles are any indication, the answer is to do both.

Let’s start with Nintendo. As part of its Switch Online service, the company offers NES games that have been updated slightly with things like online multiplayer. But last month the company took things a step farther with an enhanced version of the original Legend of Zelda. It gave players a whole bunch of money and gear to start with, making it a lot easier to get into the game. This week, Nintendo did the same thing for sci-fi shooter Gradius, offering players a ship with nearly maxed-out weapons. In both cases, a game that’s particularly daunting earlier on has been made a whole lot easier to get into.

Then there’s the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, also on the Switch. The bundle features 13 titles from across the company’s storied history, including some you’ve probably never heard of, with 11 more are coming as free downloadable content. Like other re-issues from developer Digital Eclipse, it’s a collection that really honors the source material, with a museum mode that includes art and advertisements that help put the importance of these games in perspective.

Gradius

Most interesting, though, is the addition of a “watch” feature. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you can watch a playthrough of the game in question. But what makes it different from, say, viewing clips on YouTube, is that at any point you can take over and start playing. This lets you get around particularly tricky moments while still being involved in playing the game.

All of these games have some historical importance. It’s obvious for games like Zelda, which essentially pioneered the idea of open worlds, but that doesn’t make lesser-known titles any less significant. You’ve probably never heard of SNK’s Sasuke vs. Commander, for instance, but it could well be the game that invented the boss fight.

The thing is, many of these games aren’t necessarily that fun to play anymore. They can be slow and cludgy and hard to understand. But with features like watch or Nintendo’s beefed up ports, it makes this process more approachable. In both cases, the original, largely unchanged versions of these games are still available to you. These releases preserve that legacy while opening them up to significantly more people. And for a medium that regularly struggles to document its own history, having those options is increasingly important.

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