To this day I wish more games would take Excitebike's lead and let us create our own races and courses!
When it comes to fun old school racers there are few finer than Excitebike for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. With its unique controls, exciting multiplayer modes and fun map editor, Excitebike is by far one of my favorite memories from the 8-Bit era. Even now it's still fun to play, even if it feels dated when compared to the likes of Gran Turismo or Midnight Club.
At this year's E3 Nintendo announced that their next generation console would not only be compatible with the GameCube media, but also with the NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64. Fans of old school games would finally be given a chance to download the games they remembered or always meant to buy, a function that should make millions of gamers very excited.
But leave it to Nintendo's own Satoro Iwata to bring us back down to reality. In the most recent issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly Big N's president said that they "We are doing several experiments, including working with the original Super Mario Bros., with the new technology." That's right ladies and gentlemen; Nintendo is planning on remaking our favorite games.
Sometimes a remake can be really good, but by and large it's not a good idea to mess with our nostalgia!
Satoro Iwata insists that the game play will remain the same, but thanks to the Revolution's power these classic games will get a face lift. It could mean that my beloved Excitebike might play the same, but not look anything like I remember it ... which would certainly be part of the charm. This decision makes very little sense and feels more like an excuse to charge more money per title than anything.
Of course most people will be quick to point out that Nintendo has done this in the past, they released the hugely popular compilation cartridge Super Mario All-Stars back in the early 1990s. With slightly updated graphics and sound, Nintendo brought everybody's favorite plumber from the 8-Bit era to the 16-Bit era ... which really wasn't that big of a leap forward.
But in 1993 when this compilation was released we were dealing with a much different industry than we are now. For one thing Nintendo priced the game at $60 right out of the gate, three times more than most compilations go for these days. It was also one of the first times any company had re-released a collection of games, so it wasn't surprising for Nintendo to think they needed to spruce it up for the gamers of that era.
See ... I told you facelifts were bad!
These days consumers buying best-of collections aren't as interested in top of the line graphics as they are remembering how pure and simple things used to be. When gamers go to download old NES and Super NES games they aren't going to be expecting photo realistic graphics, if anything that's going to distract from the overall experience. These games are good enough on their own; we don't need Nintendo tweaking them to make them "better."
Fans of Star Wars will immediately notice that Nintendo is following in the footsteps of George Lucas. Just about every time George re-releases the first three films of his space saga he attempts to add something new - new computer animation, etc. These new effects don't ruin the overall experience of Star Wars IV, V and VI, but they also don't improve the experience in any way. For a lot of people these effects distract from the film and generally deemed unnecessary. There are millions of people who remember Star Wars a certain way when it was projected on the big screen all those years ago ... but George Lucas isn't interested in the version those people fell in love with, he just wants to fix it.
I'm sure there's a funny joke here about how they're fighting in their underwear, but that hardly seems funny knowing what Nintendo is up to!
But no matter how many effects George Lucas adds to Star Wars, they will never look as good as movies of this era ... simply because it's nearly thirty years later and the technology is just much more advanced. Even if Nintendo turns my beloved Excitebike into a photorealistic romp through the dirt, it's still going to be the same 2D game it was when it was first released twenty years ago. Giving the game a facelift is only going to be distracting, the controls and game play are still going to be twenty years old.
But you don't need to take my word on it; we have already seen how bad of an idea remaking old school games can be. Earlier this year Sega released the terrible, terrible Sega Classic Collection which exactly what we're talking about. They took some of the best arcade games of all time - Golden Axe, Out Run, Space Harrier - and gave them a new facelift with near fatal results. Although the controls were left intact, the strange upgraded graphics distracted from the experience and made it hard to love Sega's efforts. Fans of these old games were completely turned off by the new graphics, while people playing it for the first time were confused by why anybody would like these games in the first place. I can only wonder if this won't be Nintendo's future.
The Mega Man collection did it right, giving gamers exactly what they wanted. In this case it was 10 games that played and looked exactly the same!
While I can understand how some gamers might want their Nintendo 64 games to be upgraded, we can't forget that these efforts are taking away from brand new games for one of the three systems they would be currently supporting - Revolution, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. Giving the choice between brand new games or updated graphics for Excitebike, I have a hunch most gamers would want Nintendo to focus their attention toward another Mario game or that Kid Icarus sequel we've all been waiting for.
This also makes me wonder how much these games are going to cost us. If they were the original games I wouldn't expect to pay more than $5 - $10 for classic NES or Super NES titles, but now that people are actually going in and altering their presentation, you have to wonder if Big N will try to get $20 or more for some of these games that are nearly 20 years old.
But whatever the cost, it still doesn't change the fact that Nintendo is messing with our memories. The reason I want to play Excitebike is not because it's going to compete with the racing games of today, it's because I love how it makes me feel like a ten year old holding that little NES control for the first time. It's true that you probably can improve on the originals, but it's completely unnecessary and a little offensive.