They’re desperately unforgiving, the graphics are laughable compared to modern day, and they hail from the 1980’s and 90’s a time before internet, so why are consoles like the Mega Drive suddenly so back in favour? Firstly, we’re not called the nostalgia generation for nothing, you only have to look at some of the most popular films doing the rounds, including Jurassic World, Mary Poppins Returns, a new addition to the Mission Impossible franchise and the revival of the Star Wars films; as well as completely original films that still take us back such as Ready Player One. We are a generation that loves to be wrapped up in a blanket of days gone by.
But after getting a Mega drive for Christmas last year, I wondered if my two children (4 and 2) would be as interested in the pixelated adventures my husband & I have already spent so many hours playing on. They are after all, estimated to be part of a new generation that looks to the future and clears up the mess we’ve been left in (thanks Baby Boomers…I’m joking, mostly). So perhaps looking back won’t be quite so appealing to them.
A few of the real classics include Aladdin (remember trying and failing repeatedly to get through the cave of wonders?!), Lion King (swinging from a hippo’s tail and getting thrown about by monkeys and STILL usually ending up in the water!) and of course Sonic. And we have all three, and it turns out none of them are any easier with an extra twenty years gaming experience! In fact, although games have become more epic (Witcher 3 & Dragon Age Inquisition two of my most recent fantasy-based escapades) and more complex and definitely more photo realistic; they have become significantly easier! With constant save points or autosave that allows you to pick up where you left off, and with often unlimited ‘lives’, not to mention that most games now do not at any point become ‘unwinnable’. One of my earliest gaming experiences was with a Point & Click PC game ‘Maniac Mansion’, which you could ruin for yourself within the first couple of minutes if you made the wrong decision or used the wrong item that you needed later! But in many 1990’s games, there were a few ‘checkpoints’ and once you died a few times, unless you knew a cheat code (which you couldn’t look up online!) or could somehow find a way to get infinite lives (I still recall the control directions to get 99 lives on PlayStation 1’s ‘Rayman’), that was it, game over and back to Level 1!
One hugely beneficial gift from older consoles for a young family is that we can give the two-year-old the second controller and she can ‘play’ to her hearts content. Mess around with the significantly more expensive controllers of the most up to date consoles and they will more than likely switch on and/or break quite quickly with the careless hands of a toddler! So, she’s a big fan of the Mega drive because she gets to play! The four-year-old however is starting to get to grips with a bit of gaming, she’s learnt Mario Kart on the Switch with the steering wheel accessory, and she likes barking orders out when playing Point and Click on the PC. So, would she be impressed by the retro gaming or would it seem very boring and/or frustrating compared to the sorts of media she has access to, at home and at school?
We were somewhat surprised, as very quickly, it has become her favourite of the gaming appliances we have in the house (we currently have a PS4 & a PC as well as the Mega drive). She quite often ‘dies’ relatively quickly (although we refer to it as fainting!) and she hasn’t quite got to grips with being able to use the directional buttons at the same time as the action buttons, but she absolutely loves it. Perhaps there is a charm that appeals to our nostalgia and her childish eyes in the cartoony aspect of the games. They are perhaps, much more approachable than the more complex and infinitely more graphic games that we play on the PS4. Admittedly, we make sure some of our favourites are out of toddler prying eyes; one of my absolute favourites is the Resident Evil series, and I am aware that cartoony or not, that’s not an appropriate franchise for my two daughters (not quite yet anyway…!).
So the Mega drive, far from being a fad before realising they’re old fashioned and belonging in the cupboard while we go back to the PS4; has taken pride of place next to its modern counterpart, to be used by each of the four members of our household. Whether the appeal be nostalgia, a comfortingly simple layout, the challenge of the puzzles, the heightened sense of achievement when ‘winning’, or the simple fact that they are such approachable games; the Mega drive is back, and more than holds its own in our household from the 34-year-old man to the 2-year-old girl!