Geek, gamer, writer, graphic artist. KL Yong's favorite shows and adventures are those that allow him to enjoy the world from his bedroom.
Retro games of the 80s and 90: Memories of my childhood
Many game series continue to have releases for new consoles and systems. For example, the 30-year-old Metal Gear series just released another episode. On the other hand, far more franchises from the 80s and 90s were abandoned, usually because the developers went out of business or because they chose to focus on other projects. Here are 10 retro games and series that I’ve enjoyed in those golden years, which I'm really hoping for remakes. Sadly, the way things are going, it seems unlikely that my wish would come true anytime soon.
- Note: This list is a mix of retro PC and console titles.
1. "Getsu Fūma Den"
Konami is my favourite game developer and as of 2020, many of its franchises are alive and active. Curiously though, this retro NES hit from the 80s never saw an English release or sequel. That, despite there being so much potential in the game. A lone samurai trekking 4 hellish islands? Oh-so-Japanese weapons like a magical taiko drum? This could be Far Cry in a mythological Japanese setting if remade properly. I do wish Konami stops referencing Fūma in so many titles and just work on developing a long-awaited sequel. We Fūma fans have been waiting for so long.
2. "Fudō Myōō Den"
Fudō Myōō Den (不動明王伝) has a rather dour reputation in western markets, singularly because the English version, Demon Sword, was utterly terrible. The original Japanese version, though, was an exotic immersion in Japanese mythology and culture. A parade of Japanese mythological archetypes, with many bosses drawn straight from Noh drama. At the same time, there was also a pretty kick-ass soundtrack, particularly the intense boss fight theme. Together with Getsu Fūma Den, this game established my lifelong love for Japanese and Shinto culture. I would truly love to see the bosses and stages remade with today's superior tech. Heck, I still hum the boss theme, whenever I’m high, and whenever I’m exploring the actual temples and shrines of Japan.
3. The Laura Bow Series
Sierra On-line published two Laura Bow murder mystery games in the late 80s and early 90s. Both left deep imprints on me. (LOL) I remember cringing at the PC nightly, jumping each time something ghastly happened or when I was killed in an absurd way. I also kept replaying till I nabbed the (g*d-d*mned) murderers because despite the technological limitations of retro games then, Sierra managed to program a phenomenal amount of interactivity and gameplay variations. In short, I'm deeply longing to be reacquainted with the intrepid Ms. Bow in another classic whodunit. The quality of graphics we have nowadays, I might finally be sent scampering from the PC in shock.
4. The Space Quest Series
I might be biased in my preferences when it comes to retro games, but I doubt few will debate with me that Sierra On-line was one of the top developers in the 80s and 90s. Its various Quests series are widely considered the predecessors of current open-world gaming concepts. No discussion of the subject can be completed without mentioning Sierra’s many masterpieces.
Mentioning them, several times.
Space Quest was one of these legendary series. A humorous mix of space opera, exploration, and galaxy saving, its stylish art and absurd characters will make you remember this series long after you finish playing. Why did I pick Space Quest instead of the other Quests? Well, King's Quest already has a remake. As for Police Quest and Quest for Glory, we have quite a fair number of similar games nowadays, don’t we? Space Quest, on the other hand, never did receive a decent modern counterpart, at least not one that is widely known to the mainstream market. It would really be great to again have a space title that doesn't involve any serious universe saving and is so unabashed in its silly humour. The summary of it, move aside, Master Chief and Shepard. One does not only save galaxies by weapons and power suits. You can also do so by bungling your way through diabolically devilish traps.
I played Sorcerian on the PC in 1989, and I remember it fondly for three things. Its rather strange blend of platforming and RPG. Its extremely catchy soundtrack. And the weird kick of having a tail of companions flagging behind me as I bounced across the screen. In recent years, Falcom did release some sequels for Sorcerian; there's currently one for the iOs system. However, most if not all of these felt like rehashes of the original title. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how a remake of Sorcerian would turn out to be. There’s a high chance of it being an insipid mirror of other JRPG titles like the Tales series. Still, I have such great memories of this game and its music, I'm happy for anything. Just the name of it alone would be enough to convince me to buy the pre-release.
6. Hiryū no Ken Series
Hiryū no Ken (飛龍の拳) was a retro fighting game series developed by Culture Brain in the 80s, with releases right up to the Nintendo 64 era. What made this franchise memorable for me was how the developer boldly experimented with platforming and RPG elements with each sequel. Admittedly the result was clunky most of the time, but nonetheless, it was still a bold attempt to create an enthralling anime-like world, one rich with mythos and in which an average MMA fighter could be the avatar of a Tibetan demon or the shape-shifted form of a god. With today's gaming technology, a truly unusual open-world experience could be possible given some careful planning. Needless to say, Hiryū no Ken has the potential for an awesome MMORPG too. Just imagine, you could play as different classes of martial artists. You wander all over East Asia in your adventures, occasionally popping over to spiritual realms. Wow.
7. Leisure Suit Larry Series
This was what naughty boys and girls played in the 80s and 90s! One of the most "notorious" retro games produced by Sierra On-line, you get to control a middle-age loser or a busty sex babe. You also mosey around town looking for ... sex.
Or what you hope is sex. Most of the time, you end up in impossibly hysterical situations, or racking your brains trying to figure out how to get past absurd obstacles and puzzles. Of all the retro games on this list, LSL is the only one that has any realistic chance of full remakes; actually, a "reloaded" version of the 1987 original was released in 2013. I'm waiting with crossed fingers for the rest to hit. I'm also keenly awaiting the return of Larry's soulmate, Passionate Patti. Dear Patti still has much to accomplish in her never-ending quest for pulsating pectorals.
8. "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark"
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is another naughty retro game from the early 90s. One glimpse at the box art and you'd know why. A mixture of survival horror, exploration and crafting, this one has you wandering around a spooky castle trying to save Cassandra Peterson's famous witchy persona from ghastly death. Truth be told, while the game won accolades, I found the controls somewhat stiff and the horror elements were predictable after a while. But, this was about Elvira. A gorgeous B-movie icon that has unfortunately been somewhat forgotten. Please, bring her back in full 3D glory. Yes. 3D. Hair and spiders and all. And of course, ahem, those legendary b**bs.
9. "Altered Destiny"
Back then, almost all the shops I patronized promoted this adventuring title by Accolade as a copy of Sierra On-line's many Quests titles. In many ways, it was. And as I remembered it, not as polished as Sierra’s titles and other similar retro games too. At the same time, it was also incredibly difficult, with the gaming logic and pathway often impossible to figure out. (I never did complete it) Over time, though, my hazy memories of the bizarre locations and characters morphed into nostalgic fascination. I'd seriously love to have another go at this retro title, if only to determine whether age had made me wiser, or should I say, weirder. This time, I'd have the whole online world of hints and FAQs to help me too. aRRaRRa, you wouldn't be able to squash me so easily this time!
The oldest game series in this list, Phantasie I was my very first RPG game on the PC. By today's standard, this classic from Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) is a rather run-of-the-mill western medieval RPG, but who knows what some thoughtful modern touches would bring? With current series like Dragon Age and Elder Scrolls mostly opting for action-based fighting, it would also be interesting, refreshing even, to revert to turn-based gameplay. Plus, I do long to be reacquainted with the main villain, Nikademus. That name has stuck in my head since the mid-80s. Come on, how could anyone not be fascinated by a name like that?
© 2016 Yong Kuan Leong