PlayStation 4: an unsung retro gaming hero
Go 8-Bit's Steve McNeil salutes the PS4 and its commitment to retro gaming...
If you’ve got a PS4, you might assume it’s just one of those new-fangled computer gaming devices the young people use for whizzbang graphics and whatnot. But it’s actually host to a hidden treasure trove of retro classics too. You’d be forgiven for not noticing, as many of them are buried in the darker corners of the Playstation Store, but they’ll languish there no longer – here’s what you’ve been missing out on…unless you’ve already bought them, in which case, as you were…
One name synonymous with early arcades is Namco, and there are several titles of theirs available – Dig Dug, Galaga, Pac Man and Ms Pac Man. They’re £3.29 a pop or, if you want to 3-for-2 it, there’s a bundle of the first three on there for £6.49. Ms PacMan’s been left out for some reason but, let’s face it, if you’ve got Pac Man, you don’t need Ms Pacman, it’s exactly the same (runs and hides from the retro police).
I talked a lot about these titles in last week’s piece about the Nintendo Switch, so we won’t waste time here going into detail. I’ll just let you know that at £5.79 a go (so 50p cheaper than on the Switch) you can grab titles from franchises like Art Of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, King Of Fighters and Metal Slug. Also, if you’re really into Metal Slug (and if you’re not, you should be, they’re great arcade run-and-gunners) there’s also a Metal Slug anthology on the store that contains all 6 original titles, plus Metal Slug X (an enhanced version of the 2nd instalment).
The same guys behind the Neo Geo releases on PS4 (Hamster Corporation) also have a series known as Arcade Archives, which presents arcade classics. There are over 30 titles in the series to date, ranging from cutesy bubble-em-up Bubble Bobble, to co-op classic Contra, through to games like Gradius, Moon Cresta and Double Dragon 1 and 2.
And, speaking of Double Dragon, did you know that a brand new Double Dragon game was released this year? You did? Oh. Well, anyway, Double Dragon 4 launched in January, and stays true to the art style of the originals so, if you want some new old Double Dragon, you can grab that too. Fair warning though, general consensus is it’s a bit rubbish, even compared to the originals.
If you want a bit more meat on your retro bones, you could do a lot worse than picking up Atari Flashbacks Classics – it comes in two volumes, each containing 50 Atari titles, both from the arcades and the home console, the Atari 2600: Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Combat, Missile Command, Pong, Tempest, Yars’ Revenge and 92 more (that’s maths!). When these compilations were released, many pointed out that it was a bit of a swizz releasing this as two ‘volumes’ given they could have just whacked the lot in one package. Also, let’s be honest, Atari made some great games, but they didn’t make 100 ‘classics’. I struggle to believe Nolan Bushnell could name 100 Atari GAMES if his life depended on it, let alone 100 Atari classics. Anyway, both volumes are currently on sale on the store with 50% off so the point, like the noise a cow makes with an extra t, is moot.
Mega Man Legacy Collection’s also on the store, featuring the original 6 classic games, and Disney Afternoon Collection launched not long ago, pulling together the NES titles DuckTales 1 & 2, Talespin, Darkwing Duck and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 1 & 2. If you’re a maverick that likes to push the boundaries of what ‘retro’ even is, you can grab the GTA Trilogy bundle containing Grand Theft Auto 3, GTA: San Andreas and GTA: Vice City – or just grab one of the titles individually if you’ve got a particular one you want to revisit. The choice is yours, guys. Embrace your freedom, for crying out loud.
If I had a quid for every time I’ve argued with the team at Go 8 Bit about whether or not pinball machines are arcade games (they are in arcades so THEY ARE) I’d have upwards of twelve quid. There are several Pinball titles on PS4, but the one you want above all others is The Pinball Arcade. Over time, it’s become a comprehensive repository for almost every classic pinball table (Twilight Zone, Medieval Madness, The Addams Family et al), licensed from companies such as Williams, Bally, Gottlieb and more.
Free to download, it also lets you have a limited play for free on each of its 75+ tables, so allows you to try-before-you-buy. Best of all, each table has comprehensive instructions on the aim of the game – e.g. what things to hit, in what order, and what happens if you do – so, if you’ve ever had a go on a Pinball table and thought “this is fun but I have no idea what I’m meant to be doing”, this is exactly what you need.
Remakes and remasters
If you like the idea of retro games, but can’t stand the idea of looking at old graphics because you hate blocky pictures, there are HD remakes on the store of titles like Tetris (actually, that still contains squares, thinking about it), Qbert (another tricky one – he stands on squares) Arkanoid (no squares, but you do try to hit rectangles which are a bit like squares so your mileage may vary), and Pang (good news: balls).
There are also a couple of fun variations on Pacman – Championship Edition 2 (which turns the original game up to 11 with fast-paced, frantic action) and Pacman 256 which pays homage to the original’s notorious kill screen with some gameplay reminiscent of mobile title Crossy Road.
You’ll also see an increasing number of remastered titles appearing on the store, and not just for up-scaled PS3 titles. From graphic adventures Day Of The Tentacle and Grim Fandango, to PSP classic LocoRoco and the iconic Parappa The Rapper (its sequel’s also on the store, but in its original condition). Somewhat randomly, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life is buried in there, there are more Resident Evil remasters than you can shake a stick at, and the recently remastered Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap is a thing of beauty that’s worth buying just to look at. If no one of those tickle your fancy, you can snag a deal on the 2016 reimagining of one of Sony’s most iconic Lombax and robot duos, Ratchet And Clank and, of course, you’ll soon be able to grab the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy – a HD remaster of the first three Crash titles.
It would be wrong to end this article without showing some love to Yooka Laylee. Whilst it might not be lording it over all other games from a Metacritic pedestal, and it’s technically not an old game at all, if you were a fan of Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, or any other Rare 3D platformer back on the N64, Yooka Laylee gives you a brand new adventure to get lost in. And a million collectables too, naturally.
Whilst you absolutely should be using your PS4 for snazzy graphics and virtual reality doodads, don’t miss out on the many opportunities it gives you to take a trip down memory lane. And, yes, I’m aware that last line makes this sound almost endorsement-y so, in the interests of balance, remember that most old games won’t be as much fun as you remember them being, so bear in mind some of these will almost certainly be a waste of money – you’ll play them once, go ‘oh yeah, I remember that, it was too hard’ and then go back to Overwatch. Overwatch is ace.