One of the many peculiar sensations of advancing in age is the constant reframing of what’s considered old. Alongside the ever-growing creak of the bones and the gentle shock in the barbers when the hair that’s falling on your shoulders becomes increasingly white there’s the dry horror of people celebrating the ‘retro’ pleasures of a game you could swear only came out months ago.
It’s a feeling that’s been bubbling up again with this week’s release of Nintendo Switch Sports, a follow-up of sorts to a game that defined its era, and in many ways went on to inform every subsequent era since. You won’t need to be reminded of the outrageous success of Wii Sports when it launched at the tail-end of 2006; such was the ubiquity of the tiny little console everyone will have their own memories of gathering around tatty CRT TVs in increasingly sweaty and smelly living rooms with Wii Remote-enabled tennis or boxing, or Christmas Day bowling sessions with the family that would invariably spill over into the early hours of Boxing Day.
There’s an innocence to those memories - sweetened through the distorting lens of nostalgia - that’s all the more alluring in these troubled times. Who wouldn’t want to forego the misery of the modern always-connected world where convenience has steamrollered any semblance of calm for an afternoon carefully curating the 1000 songs that’ll go on your first generation iPod (and who wouldn’t swap the soul-sapping noise of Twitter for the more charming mess that was MySpace - especially given recent news of a certain egomaniac choosing to spend his fortune on the platform rather than addressing any more pressing concerns).
Nintendo has leaned fairly lightly on the nostalgia angle for its return to the same territory of Wii Sports - understandably so, really, given how it’s always pushing for new audiences (knowing full well older audiences like myself are pretty much captive now anyway, even if we do make a horrendous fuss about it all). Going from some of our own experiences ahead of the review (which’ll be hitting early next week, by the way, so we can take into consideration the online offering that’s not being switched on until launch day) they’ve done an impeccable job, attracting a new audience who weren’t even born when the original first released.
I’m super excited for its release this Friday, boosted by it coming on the cusp of a three-day weekend where family are visiting so that we can bust it out and enjoy it as God - or indeed dear Iwata - intended. I can’t pretend to not be drawn in a little by nostalgia, though, and my gaming diet has increasingly been drawing upon that sweet era of the early to mid noughties thanks in no small part to backward compat on Xbox, where I can enjoy such delights as Midnight Club: Los Angeles - a sort of proto GTA5, and an amazing look at what a Rockstar open world looks like when stripped of that often sickly satire as you race between ad hoardings for iPods and race between The Coffee Bean stores - or FromSoft’s exquisite and often overlooked Otogi.
I’d never considered I might be ‘retro’ gaming (a term I despise, no doubt because Steven Poole’s excellent Trigger Happy column on the subject has always stuck in my craw), perhaps because the aesthetic of the era has yet to be fetisihised in the same way the classic look of 80s arcade and 90s console games has been and spawned a whole nostalgia industry as a result. Part of me feels the aesthetic of that era might, with their extremely restricted colour palettes as evidenced in the murky morass of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots which was recently returned to by John over at Digital Foundry. The PC emulation might offer something approaching 4K60, but what good is that when you’ve only two shades of brown to hand?
Maybe its time will come, though, just as the awkward polygonal look of early PlayStation games has had its own mini-revival in recent years, and I’m hopeful it does. I’m even relishing the prospect of a wave of murky, gruff-voiced cover shooters, and hopefully some more besides. Though if and when that time comes around, I’ll know then for sure that I’m properly old.
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