Review Old Games

Gaming blogosphere: your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to discuss a game that was published before 2003, preferably one that has seen few or no updates since 2003. Tell us about the game, what you liked, what you didn’t, and what lessons we should take from it for our current generation of games.

Why? First, nostalgia is fun. I remember the original Kirby fondly. At LAN parties, we will sometimes dig up Warcraft 2 or something similarly non-cutting edge. It need not be new to be fun, and many old games are still in play because they are still worth playing. Why do computer games go away after a few years when people are still playing baseball and solitaire?

Second, we can learn something. You may not have heard of someone’s favorite game, or you might never have tried it because Katamari Damacy looked a little too weird. New to you is key. But learning from is not just learning of. At IMGDC, Brian Green discussed inspiration from other media. What should Funcom have taken from the original Ninja Gaiden? Are there gameplay elements from Settlers of Catan that could have saved Asheron’s Call 2? This industry has a horrible habit of reinventing the wheel. There are lots of perfectly good wheels in the discount bin.

Please, add links in the comments. Old reviews of old games also work: the internet is forever.

: Zubon

We had Shiny Happy Week here at Kill Ten Rats to say good things about various MMOs, including older ones. (also introduced to me at IMGDC) has a policy encouraging reviewing ancient games. And I’ll gesture towards my book blog, where pre-release reviews lie alongside the ancients. I need to get The Iliad up there sometime.

16 thoughts on “Review Old Games”


    Not my reviews, but hey, let’s dredge up an old favorite. Torment was one of those once-in-a-lifetime all-things-coming-together though. Clever game design that took away the sting of death/reload saved game by tying it up with the whole narrative. Strong characters, highly interactive story (you created your own Nameless One and made his story yours through your choices), good writing. Faithful to its setting, which was one of the most unique and well-liked worlds TSR ever made.

    If forced to summarize what made Torment special, I’d have to take a stab at the word THEME. It was one of the first games to incorporate literary themes in an intellectual, but non-preachy or linear manner. Its message was basically, What can change the nature of a man? You get to decide.

    And it was a bit more open-ended than just plain good/evil, paragon/renegade writing that most games nowadays run with.

  2. Here’s another:

    Emily Short’s Metamorphoses. Interactive fiction. Good writing, almost artsy-fartsy. Very responsive to nearly any command typed – aka good playtesting and care taken to anticipate what players often do. Very neat simulation of materials in IF – aka an innovative new feature/design/piece of code no one’s attempted before.

    And most important to future games, multiple solutions to problems posed. Why all these linear, railroaded quests?

  3. I’d have to say Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, published in 1999. A great game that I still play frequently, it uses many features that have never really been adequately replicated in the Civ series (as much as I love that too.)

    Basically there is much more story in this game – the story of each faction, the story of the unexplored world you are landing on and exploring, and how you deal with it, that elevates it above the normal Civ gameplay. There is also fantastic unit building – instead of being restricted to build specific units, you can use any technologies you have in any combination to make units – need nerve gas helicopters? Roving wheeled terraformers? Orbital drop troops that can drop into anywhere in the world? It’s all there.

    I wish that Civ 4 and future Civ games would implement Alpha Centauri’s planetary council – it’s basically a UN but supercharged with a lot of options – need someone’s vote? Offer them a tech, or just cold hard cash. There are also a lot of different issues to bring up, making the politics more interesting than in most games.

    It’s definitely worth another try (also with the expansion Alien Crossfire if you can find it) and it remains a very fun game today.

  4. I revisited Final Fantasy II and Chrono Cross recently ruminating on alternate progression metrics (other than leveling):

    FFII and Chrono Cross

    I like the idea of analyzing older games. The gaming industry is too poised on the bleeding edge to appreciate what has gone before. I think you’ve just given me an idea for a recurring theme for slow days on my blog… looking at old games through new eyes, hoping to discern why they were great, and how to use those lessons for the future.

    Maybe I’ll start with Master of Magic…

  5. In case anyone’s not played it, UFO: Enemy Unknown (aka XCOM) warrants mention. There have been a whole bunch of sequels to it over the years which haven’t quite managed to capture the feeling of the original – the terror while waiting for the alien movement phase, the destructible terrain, the awesome art style, and so on. UFO: Aftershock is probably the best of the three recent sequel/remakes.

    I’d love to see an XCOM MMO, but it would have to be done properly!

  6. I’m not a writer and I don’t have a blog but perhaps someone played and enjoyed Bungie’s Myth series?

    Multiplayer fun and adventure abound!

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