I love old games, and I enjoy collecting retro Sega games in particular, it's a bit of an expensive and inconvenient hobby I'll admit, especially when it comes to actually being able to play the games comfortably using modern technology (such as newer television sets). As much as I love collecting, I only collect what I really want to play, but sometimes there are some really great retro games that unfortunately fetch a very hefty price on auction sites. Try looking for a Chrono Trigger complete for SNES or Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Saturn, the asking price for those classics is over $300 today. They're essential gaming experiences for sure, but no single game in my view is worth over $100 on its own (collector's edition is a different case), let alone $300.
Thankfully, with the rise of digital platforms and stronger technology, this console generation has seen an increasingly growing trend in bringing back classics from the past, all repackaged and ready to run on modern technology, now benefiting from improved resolutions and even online multi-player compatibility. It's great to have classics available conveniently on a digital platform, that too for a bargain price. This year saw many great and obscure games brought back to the modern gaming scene in a big way, not to mention affordable! This year the rare and expensive Sega Saturn classic Radiant Silvergun made its way on Xbox Live Arcade for just a mere $15-$20, sure beats the $500 you'd otherwise have pay to acquire the original Saturn version today!
This year so many old gems re-emerged with a fresh coat of paint, and I've enjoyed so many of them. I wish I could list all, but here are my five best picks.
5. Radiant Silvergun HD
This game has a legendary reputation as one of the greatest and most essential gaming experiences on the Sega Saturn. It was hot when it first came out, regarded as a very refreshing scrolling shooter as it offered a ton of variety and great presentation. Over the years it became increasingly rare and expensive to acquire, which is why the Xbox Live Arcade release is pretty much the greatest blessing you can ask for as a 2D shooter fan. For a bargain price, the original Sega Saturn game is beautifully recreated in HD resolution with several modes and features. It's a great game, and one that is still very ahead of contemporary games in the genre today. There are a several unique types of weapons at your disposal, and all available at the same time, in fact this game probably offers the most weapons to boot. In the end it all comes down to using the right combination of weapons in a given situation. It's a brutally challenging game, has an interesting structure and level design to it, and the 3D graphics have a lot of style to them. It's a great game, worth $300 or more on the Saturn? of course not, but worth $15-$20 as a digital title? absolutely.
4. Virtua Fighter 2 HD
A superb, if not the very best conversion, of what I view as the true gold standard of 3D fighting games. The HD port is great, and offers the very best frame-rate you could ask of a 3D fighting game. The game is fully playable online too, with a solid net-code and plenty of players available online at this stage. The best part is, it only goes for $5. Great methodological fighting game that is devoid of all the pretentious fluff of modern fighting games, instead offering a timeless, refined, and perfectly tuned fighting engine. I've clocked over 300 online matches already, and I still can't get enough of this deliciously fast, effective, and polished fighting game.
3. SEGA Vintage Collection: ToeJam and Earl
The Sega Vintage Collection lineup has been amazing, and they're all worth checking out depending on where your interests lie. I enjoyed the Streets of Rage collection, and it was great to finally play Monster World IV in the Monster World collection. However, the ToeJam and Earl collection easily wins it for me, simply because the first game in the collection offered the most fun I've ever had in 2 player co-op in years, and the best part is that I can enjoy it online with a friend. My friend and I have had so many sessions with this, and the random and unpredictable rogue-like design ensured that each session was a distinctly memorable experience. We have yet to actually complete the first game together, but we're going to keep playing and trying until we do, and continue to play even after that. ToeJam and Earl is a crazy and insanely addictive game in its own right, and with a fully functioning online mode now, I can see myself playing this game for years to come.
2. Zone of the Enders HD Collection
There have been so many disc-based HD collections of old PlayStation 2 titles, which really isn't that old a system when you think about it, as it was only just the previous generation. Still, a HD coat of paint is nice I suppose, and having several PS2 titles in one disc is convenient even when most of these collections fail to address the bugs and performance issues of the originals, with some even performing worse than the originals.
There were some cool HD collections this year, but for me personally, the most important and desired HD collection was of Zone of the Enders. While a Zone of the Enders 3 has been long overdue, it was still awesome to bring back two games that were niche back in the day, in one nice package to give the IP some exposure and relevance again. Playing these games after all these years was a great experience, in particular I was amazed at how much I adored the first game more than I ever did before. The first game looks and performs with sheer splendor, and offers a very organic and poignant adventure experience. The second game in the disc while looks and performs very well, still leaves something to be desired with its technical and frame-rate short-comings that could have been addressed. Still, Zone of the Enders HD Collection offers two very distinct robot action experiences, and regardless of which of the two games you prefer (first game wins it for me), the experience offered here is unlike anything out there. Above all, it's great to see another Zone of the Enders release after such a long time.
1. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus HD (Retro Revival of 2012)
When Guilty Gear XX first came out for the PlayStation, it really modernized the 2D fighting genre. While the BlazBlue series succeeded it remarkably and became the premier 2D fighting franchise of the current console generation, a big part of me still wanted the Guilty Gear fighting series to carry on and benefit from the new technology, and not in the form of some mediocre 3D action game like Guilty Gear 2: Overture.
This HD release of Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core Plus, while based on a 2008 PlayStation 2 game, is soon going to be patch updated to the 2012 R update released in the arcades, so I guess it counts as a new entry. Guilty Gear XXACP is a timeless and modern fighting experience, heavily infused with heavy metal culture in just about every aspect and area of game, in particular the soundtrack which is easily a hard-rock fan's dream video game soundtrack. The massive cast of characters are incredibly vivid and varied in their designs and play-styles, and the game visually is just as inspiring and refreshing as always, this time performing even more incredibly in HD. The online, while a tad wonky at the moment, offers great multi-player thrills with no shortage in the quantity and range of available opponents. The upcoming R update in 2013, with its host of improvements and additions, will soon bring this game to full circle. Even as it stands now, I can't help but welcome a new Guilty Gear game with open arms, one that I can readily enjoy on current platforms with online multi-player. Out of all the retro re-releases this year, I was most pleased with this one, bringing back a franchise that really truly still belongs in the current gaming scene, not so much as a retro title, but as a game that is still very modern and relevant when it comes to the 2D fighting genre.