Guilty Pleasures, Game Preservation, and a Touch of Madness

Previously there was a game that was only released on the original playstation. This game was one of several RPGs that came to our shores after the absolutely massive success of Final Fantasy 7. FF7 informed the public that RPGs could be a thing, and everybody wanted a piece of Squaresoft’s (now Square-Enix) pie. This led to a moment where there were arguably more RPGs, specifically JRPGs than ever before. People remember several of these exclusives: The Legend of Dragoon, Xenogears, Wild ARMs (which I think is still a Playstation exclusive?), Legend of Legaia. I literally just looked up a list to confirm a few of those (and it makes me nearly weep for the fact that several are still languishing in the past).

Thankfully, some bold game developers have decided to start delving into the past. We just heard that Chrono Cross will be released across pretty well every modern console in April of 2022, that several others are getting remakes, and, of course, that the game everyone was clamoring for, Shadow Madness is being released on Steam.

the image that captures all our hearts

No… no, wait a moment… I barely remember Shadow Madness. I of course bought it as a teenager because I have always been way too into JRPGs and it was available to rent at some point. Plus it was fairly cheap. I still remember it to this day, sure. It had a pretty funny story and some real engaging characters that felt real. But… I think I only played it once?

It also wasn’t all that successful. It was apparently made by a team with a surprisingly good pedigree: Ted Woolsey, (in)famous translator of the original “Final Fantasy 3” (FF6 as we know it now), and Paul Reed, who was a writer for The Secret of Evermore, a cult classic on the SNES. But, yeah, that’s the writing team, which is why most people have mostly good things to say about its story. That’s what I remember, at the least. But the rest of the game…

So why did this one get saved? And why am I writing about it?

For one thing, I’m eagerly awaiting the game, and were I not saving up for Triangle Strategy and Chocobo Racing GP (thanks Square; no seriously, thank you for giving us both games but f**k you for releasing them within a week of each other) I’d have already purchased and likely played it (though that gave me time to hack through Bravely Default 2; review pending). It’s something I remember fondly, even if I don’t recall it being all that good.

There are dozens of games out there like Shadow Madness, possibly hundreds, really. Games that have been drifting in the void, locked on older consoles. Companies are starting to realize that there’s profit to be made in remaking and retooling and porting these older games. As I mentioned earlier, Chrono Cross is coming to consoles. Plus in that same Nintendo Direct, Square-Enix announced that they were going to redo old SNES games like Front Mission and Live a Live, both of which I am almost trembling in excitement for. Good ole Squeenix also released Saga Frontier Remaster (which made my top games of last year list) and is running through the last of the Final Fantasy Pixel remake/ports (which I will get if they drop on the Switch, but not before). And most of us are aware that Kickstarter’s trade on our nostalgia.

Perhaps my (second) most anticipated title of this year, and it drops the week before my birthday!

Oh, and of course that Chocobo Racing GP game I mentioned is a sequel to an old Playstation game (back before the Playstation had numbers), which I can turn to my right and see on my shelf alongside a few others I adamantly refuse to give up (the Lunar series, mostly).

See, for me, this is an amazing development. I absolutely love these old games, and thanks to budgeting, I have just enough money to give to their recreation and creation. They border on something of a guilty pleasure for me: this nostalgic gaming. I’m not quite as into playing bad games as some reviewers out there (“Uncle” Derek of Stops Skeletons from Fighting has all but built his YouTube personality on it), but I do appreciate some, particularly when they’re bad in a way that gets my interest (like Shadow Madness).

Heck, I’m playing through Earthbound Beginnings right now, which will actually be the first straight up old school Nintendo game I actually beat (the SNES was my first real console). It was recently released by Nintendo onto their online player, which isn’t the best option (I’m with those that want to be able to buy these old games separately and would pay to do so), but still lets me play the games for what is essentially free, since I will always pay for the subscription so long as my best friend lives a long ways from me and still wants to play games online.

These rereleases, old inspired games or remakes are also an excellent way to address a longstanding issue in gaming though: game preservation. Too many games are getting lost altogether. For players, they’re abandoned on old consoles like Shadow Madness was. In some cases, source code has apparently been lost, which means that some games are just straight up gone forever, which is sad and terrifying. Games have always been progressive, but it’s stupid to say that these games haven’t influenced what’s out now.

and yes, I will play SNES Earthbound with a big fat grin on my face

Again, I’m playing Earthbound Beginnings right now. And I can’t help but notice how it’s influenced games I just played. Mechanics, humor, setup, and story all feel almost modern in that game (which is old), and I can see where hits like Undertale and Eastward have gotten some of their influence. I’ll be writing a full review of that game next Wednesday (I’m already halfway through it), but the fact is that I’m glad I got to play it.

That’s only because someone actually released it. It’s important that these new games, even the ones that are more likely to be guilty pleasures like Shadow Madness, get released to the new audience. Several gamers out there may not have even heard of them, and they certainly wouldn’t have a way of getting to them. The only other option would be illegally porting through emulation, which I have done (mostly with games I literally cannot get elsewhere or own but have misplaced my console). If companies refuse to let us play these games legally, they’re not really leaving us much of a choice.

Thank God for Squeenix finally deciding to release ports and remakes of older games. I cannot wait for Live a Live (which will be what I do for my birthday week besides whatever bare essentials I need for living; i.e. writing this blog, grading, eating and getting rid of what I eat) or Chocobo Racing GP or Front Mission Remake (WITH THE SECOND ON THE WAY).

And thank God for Bleem! of all things, a publisher that is apparently snatching old forgotten games and tossing them onto steam (page here: https://store.steampowered.com/search/?sort_by=Released_DESC&publisher=Bleem%21 ). They’re helping to restore games and have put it upon themselves to let us experience things like Shadow Madness in this day and age.

These guilty pleasure things are important. It’s also even more important that we don’t lose games, that we don’t let this important part of what is essentially a culture die out completely. If that means we’re paying for kinda awkward ports of games nobody’s heard of, that’s cool with me. If it means that some companies are going to release games on their backwards, stupid subscription, I’ll take it. If it means that there’s going to be releases of surprise remakes or sequels, I am more than all for it (preorder ho!). But it’s something that needs doing, and I, for one, am going to dedicate some money to helping with the cause where I can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Earthbound Beginnings isn’t going to play itself (actually it might; it’s that kind of game).

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