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p4head.jpg (8375 bytes)   July 1998

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday - Saturday, Saturday, Saturday - Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night's all right! ("Hello viewers!")

Unless you're stuck at home watching the telly, that is.

But anyway.




Looking through the new-software pile wondering what to write about this month was a pretty depressing experience, chums - another load of dull racers, terrible beat-'em-ups, useless Command And Conquer clones and bad football games.

There was even, Lord help us all, a football management game for the Playstation. Mercy.

So instead, I've decided that it's time for another look backwards, at the exciting retro scene. Shut up.



Because one of the best things about the retro scene is that, as emulators and retro packs get closer and closer to the present day, it becomes easier and easier to trace exactly how the world of videogames reached the point it's at today. (And whose fault it is.)

Now, the really old days of the C64, Spectrum and so on are well documented, and even people who weren't born at the time know about Pac-Man and Galaxian. But the machines and games that are being revived now come from a time that's shrouded in a lot more mystery.



For example, Capcom are releasing (in Japan, at least) Playstation compilations of their old arcade games. Now, most gamers, if you asked them, would have nothing but respect for the giant company, probably listing them as one of the great developers.

But if you actually take a look at their history, you'll discover that Capcom have been responsible for some of the worst video games of all time. Their back catalogue is stuffed with absolutely dreadful shoot-'em-ups and endless terrible Final Fight clones.



It was only by stumbling across an accidental hit (Street Fighter 2) and milking it to death and beyond that the Capcom name carried any weight at all.

It's sobering to realise that if they'd continued pumping out drivel like Exed Exes, Vulgus and Knights Of The Round, as they did for the whole of the 1980s, the chances are the company wouldn't have been around long enough to bring today's gamers top games like Resident Evil and, er, Resident Evil 2.

Good old Street Fighter 2, eh?



And then there's the Neo Geo. Newly emulated by the fantastic NeoRAGE, the Neo Geo was a state-of-the-art console released the best part of a decade ago, using exactly the same technology as its arcade counterpart.

(You could even save games out onto a memory card at home, then take the card down to the arcade, plug it into the coin-op, and start the game from level seven or whatever. Although why you'd want to put money into a coin-op to play something you already had at home was never adequately explained.)



Neo Geo games still look great today - indeed, the Neo Geo hardware is still found in most arcades, running games like Metal Slug 2 and King Of The Fighters 97.

But it's when you discover, with the help of the emulator, what Neo Geo games were like that you suddenly realise the exact point at which arcades started to become totally over-run with beat-'em-ups, to the exclusion of practically all other types of game (and to the near financial ruin of the arcade business).



Practically all Neo Geo games, you see, were beat-'em-ups. As the hardware was developed just at the time Street Fighter 2 took off, everyone who wrote games for the new machine decided to write an SF2 rip-off.

Since the Neo was the biggest thing in ordinary stand-up arcade games at the time (as opposed to sit-in simulators like Sega Rally), it quickly became the dominant force in the field, and the arcade game as we knew it died more or less there and then. Between them, Capcom and the Neo Geo had killed it.



So now, thanks to the miracle of retro gaming, you know exactly whose fault it is that the only games in arcades any more are fighting and racing games.

It's a real shame, I always think, that no-one ever bothers to look back at this kind of thing and see if there are any lessons to be learned from it.

(Well, no-one except me, and no-one ever listens to anything I say anyway.)

But hey, Super Mortal X-Men Fighters Alpha isn't going to write itself. Tch.

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