Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Unretrofied for you: Retro City Rampage

at 5:25 PM
Retro is all the rage these days. Sorta. It's getting to the point where it's losing any meaning because people forget to distinguish between genuine throwbacks and any game with pixelated graphics. For instance, as far as I'm concerned: Cave Story is retro; Super Meat Boy is not. La-Mulana is retro; Retro City Rampage is not. The biggest giveaways are modernized control and balance settings, in-your-brain's-face story presentation, cars, general lack of concept. As usual, we need a definition to get to the core of the issue. "Retro" can mean a lot of things to different people - clearly whoever titled Retro City Rampage doesn't define it the same way I do. I'm not saying Vblank's game is a failure to achieve its objective, just that the developers probably have some childish, pathetic, and completely wrong understanding of the term, and probably roger small mammals, burn Christmas cards, and drive fifteen miles under the speed limit FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

Back from my IRL barf break (how many times do you get to read a post where the author has to pause to vomit? That, my friends, is deadication). The dic' definition gives us nothing, simply that "retro" means "related to the past"- that doesn't tell us anything about function. I of course consider myself a budding dictionary, so face your demise:
retro (word, adjective): evocative of a specific time period or work.
Seems lazy, is lazy! At least it leaves plenty of room for both intentional and unintentional retrofication.
See the tiny blob? Okay, that's you. Now see the other tiny blobs? Okay, those are bad guys. Now see the other tiny blobs? Okay, those are civilians. Why is this game so much uglier than actual NES games?
Let's talk bad before good. Boy I hate Retro City Rampage. I'm here to admit to you that of course I only played the demo, because I would never put down cash for something so... well... stupid. RCR strikes me as moronic straight from the concept. "What if Grand Theft Auto was 2D and top-down?" [oh wait, it already was! It's called Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2]. So, well then it's kind of a remake/revival of those early crime-driving games? But instead of remaking it in the original visual style, or modern "technology-graphics", Vblank went with 8-bit micro-sprite RTS graphics. Huh? Then, when my brain is already completely lost, you throw me the twist that it's also a cover-shooter? Since open-car-world-games are so widespread today, and nothing screams "2012" like cover shooting, all RCR has done is arbitrarily amalgamate the safest and blandest forms of gameplay with the safest and blandest form of "retro" visuals, while evoking no classic era whatsoever.

God, like, if GTA 1 and 2 had never existed, I could be so much nicer, or at least understand a little bit what this game is going for. But instead it's as bizarre as someone sitting down to Super Mario Galaxy and saying "I wonder what this game would be like on the SNES".
And then as a result producing Plok.
In particular the game falls prey to all-too-common retro condescension - it's not revering or even evoking past days so much as mocking them. "Look at all the stuff they didn't have back then!" This (understandably) rubs me the wrong way, because developers in the '80s and '90s were just as smart (if not cleverer) than those today. See yesterday's bit on Panorama Cotton. Is GTA really a great example of where games have come in all these years? Seems the opposite - emblematic of the missteps and the taken-for-granteds. The notion that RCR would blow people's minds in 1987 is just kinda embarrassing. It's not like we didn't have NARC.

That was actually a tangent, not my main point. Retro City Rampage wasn't even in my outline for this post, I was planning to discuss Mutant Mudds, Rocket Knight, and Black Knight Sword. I've said before that I'd rather use the blog for conversation on those games I love, not shit on whatever doesn't work for me. Today I've Yahtzee'd, but tomorrow I'll return / to stand within the pleasure dome, decreed by Kublai Khan

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