One of the nostalgia stories of the year so far has been how deeply Nintendo underestimated the demand for their Classic Nintendo Entertainment System retro console.
This apparently bottomless pool of demand was bound to spark some sort of reaction. Nintendo itself plans another jaunt into the retro-console pool with a SNES Classic Edition come the holiday season.
But there has been word of other attempts to cash in on this sort of rosy glasses wish for days more innocent. And last week a company called AT Games announced two such ventures, one for the Atari 2600 and one for the Sega Genesis.
I actually owned both of those consoles… which is saying something since I have never really been a console gamer. As I noted previously, I have no nostalgia for the NES because I already owned a PC before it ever saw the light of day. But what about these two stand outs from an otherwise console avoiding past?
Let’s talk about the Atari 2600.
This was a breakthrough console, a success, and back in 1977 I wanted nothing so much for Christmas as to find one of these under the tree. And I got one too, despite the steep price for the time of $144.
And I played the hell out of it. Well, out of some of the games. The sad but true story though is that a lot of the games for the 2600 really sucked. And the marketing was shameless, promoting cartridges with 27 games when most of the games represented minor variations on a theme.
And that wasn’t even the worst exaggeration. I think Space Invaders might hold that title.
Not that there were not some good games out there. We could play Adventure endlessly, and Surround and Raiders of the Lost Ark kept us going. I even liked Space Invaders.
But I also remember saving up birthday money and my two dollar a week allowance to walk up to Long’s Drugs to buy Slot Racers for $30 in 1978, only to be so horribly disappointed that I feel the shame of it to this day.
I knew that the time that the technology of the 2600 wasn’t up to the standard of the arcades, but there were still some games that were shockingly bad even for the low standards of the medium… and I never even had a copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
But the real problem here is that I don’t feel much nostalgia for the games. Somebody wrote that the internet would eventually kill nostalgia because nothing would ever really go away. You could always go back and read up about Quisp cereal or popular events or fads or video games any time you wanted.
And the Atari 2600 has been way ahead of the curve on this front. While the unit was introduced about 40 years ago, it has come back in some new cheap-ass retro console form a few times already.
Furthermore, even if we leave hardware aside, emulated software packages featuring “Atari Classics” have been around for about 20 years on their own as well. I own a couple of those, so I can play the half dozen games I want to remember any time I want. And even if I were to lose those somehow, I can wander over to the Internet Archive and play them.
Basically, for me, this aquifer of nostalgia couldn’t have been pumped drier if a California almond grower lived on top of it. So why would I want more clutter around the house?
Ah well. So what about Sega then?
My feeling about this is a bit different. The Sega Gensis was never a console I sought out, and I have written the tale about how I ended up with one.
The games were not bad at the time. Playing on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s didn’t feel like a let down from the arcade, which probably helped speed along the demise of the arcades by the end of the decade. But they still lacked the depth of what I could play on my PC. I had friggin’ Civilization to play back then.
There are a couple of titles that might tempt me down nostalgia lane for the Sega Genesys. NBA Jams or Desert Storm or Populous might fit the bill. The problem is that none of the titles I would be interested in made the list for inclusion. Instead the titles available are heavy with Sonic the Whorehog in his various forms, and the problem with Sonic is that Sega has already reproduced any of his titles on every platform possible.
All of which seems to go back to the point I referenced a few paragraphs back, nostalgia requires some absence, and Sonic, like the Atari 2600, never really left. As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away!”
So neither of these retro consoles seem ripe for me, as both are attempting to mine nostalgia that just isn’t there. But then again, I am probably an outlier in that regard. I am sure there is somebody out there who remembers the 2600 or the Genesis fondly and hasn’t seen or played any of the games from them since back in the day.