In the spirit of “The Big Bang Theory”, I submit to you all a nerd question. What do we gamers really want out of collection/compilation games. Collections of retro games are a double edged sword. On the one hand they offer us games on the cheap. On the other, companies often exploit gamer nostalgia with multiple packs, lackluster additions, and lazy emulation. With the release of the NES Classic and Mega Man Legacy collections, it is time to look at compilations with a critical eye. What should be in a compilation game? What is valuable to gamers? How do we rate and review collections?
Video game CompilationGame collections have served a few different purposes. It preserves games for future and current generations to enjoy and play. New audiences are able to explore past standouts, and duds. New platforms allow for portability, enhanced graphics, and new control schemes. Essentially, collections give old games new life.
From a publisher and developer standpoint, a simple re-release allows companies to make a quick buck for limited work, especially when using emulation. Marketing capitalizes on nostalgia. Remasters and remakes are a different beast outside the scope I wish to address in this article, but do represent a much larger financial investment from developers.
The recent release of the NES classic, and Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collections, neither maximized the storage capacity of the mediums. NES Classic has over 300MBs of space after operating system and saves are included. With the majority of games taking 128-384kBs, 30 games is drastically low. Hackers were able to place over 700 games on the NES classic, or virtually the entire NES library. Nintendo instead trotted out 30 games and called it a day. The primary reason for this limitation was likely license and cost for the consumer. Nintendo though did not even put all of their own, free to add, games on the NES Classic. The nostalgia driven console sold like crazy and Nintendo will likely produce a follow up with another 30 games when demand slows for the current iteration. Clever way to milk every last penny out of the device.
Video game Compilation 1Capcom has followed this model. After allowing the Mega Man series to become dormant, Capcom returned with Mega Man Legacy Collection to test the market. It was comprised of Mega Man 1-6. It sold well and two years later gamers received a follow up. Seeing the potential Capcom arbitrarily split Mega Man X series to be able to sell more games to the masses. Capcom was perfectly capable of putting all the games on one disk. Need proof, simply look at the previous Mega Man X collection. It housed X1-6 on a PS2 disk, with ample space for extra features. X7 and 8 were both PS2 games. Add the three together and you are looking at no more than 6-15 gb. Current generation disks and downloads average 40gb, easily enough space to fit it all. The excuse for limiting the amount of games is often the extras, such as manuals, song tracks, and other “goodies”.
Which brings us back to the question, what should be in a compilation game? Do fans want a one stop collection of the games or a smaller collection with bonuses like art and songs?
Video game Compilation 2Extras in compilation games are fun, but simply extra. I’d wager that if all the extras were put on a disc and pitted vs a collection of games, the games would win in sales every time (even with different price point). I have purchased several video game compilations in the past. I snatched up Sly and Cooper, Rachet and Clank, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Kirby Anniversary, and the Orange Box. Purchased each set for one reason and one reason alone, the games. Purchasing a collection is usually about catching up on games you wanted to play but missed on the first go around. It is about getting games to play on systems you already have rather than purchasing whole systems to get one game. For the thrifty gamers, it is about getting classic retro games at a reasonable price. Never have I purchased a game for only the extras. It is about the game itself.
This seems obvious, but when it comes to reviewing collections media outlets and commenters can lose sight of what is important. In one recent article reviewing Mega Man Legacy 2, the article hammered the games and ended with a score of 4 out of 10. Commenters railed against this rating, arguing that collections should ignore quality of games as people can look up previous scores for the games included. The point misses that emulations and re-releases on non-native hardware can change the quality of the games included. At times, it can correct limitations of early system’s lag issues. The NES was notorious for only being able to display a limited number of sprites. Games adapted to this by limiting enemies or bullets visible on screen at any point in time. New collections often change the lag, sometimes for better and sometimes worse. We are looking at you Wily Wars. Delayed input is another issue that can hamper emulation games. New controllers, which change the availability of buttons and options, change the feel of a game. Ultimately, there are many variables for how an emulation and compilation hold up in a re-release. This necessitates the review to focus on the core of the collection, the games.
Video game Compilation 4For any review, additions like save points, new modes, trophies, art, and songs, are worth considering beyond the basic review. These however are not the core part of the game. They are additions to improve the core gaming experience. In reviewing games, the question always ties back to the core game. Does the extras improve the gameplay experience? Do they provide more fun? Sadly, the additional modes are often lackluster. Most compilations simply add a user interface to get to each game and a gallery for art and manuals.
There are two ways we make our voices heard. The first is we can refuse to fall prey to the lazy and predatory practices. Just like the Hobbit trilogy, splitting unnecessarily is a business decision to get more profit. If a brand new Mega Man game costs $30, then a re-release of 8 old games that require less company resources should not be $40. On the flip-side, if a collection is done right and includes great games, give it a go. Reward companies for positive and fair practices.
The second way to respond is to remember what is important with these games. Reviews and comments should focus on the complete package and not just extras. This lets companies off the hook for lazy ports.
Using our voice will help ensure better products and games in the future. Change came to poor DLC practices. It can come to the poor standards in compilation collections. How long will we have to fight? Only the X buster on his arm knows.