With all the excitement surrounding the inevitable launch of next generation consoles later this year, it often takes away the glory of the here and now. We’re all excited to see what exactly Microsoft have been cooking up with their newly acquired development teams and with Sony’s silence on the PS5, we’ve not seen this type of excitement in the games industry in years. This happens every five to seven years, when a new generation rears its shiny new plastic-curved head.
I’ve always found myself feeling sorry for the games releasing in the launch period of a new console era. Let’s take the PS1 era for example. I recall Final Fantasy IX getting a bit of a raw deal. There was so much hype surrounding the launch of the PS2 that it was mostly ignored by many. Whether the art style change played a part could perhaps be up to your personal taste, but I would debate that Final Fantasy XII saw something similar happening in 2006 when it launched just before the arrival of the PS3 and the art style was on point. It’s just the way it is. Future new tech blurs your anticipation of current gaming goodness. 2020 is the year of new consoles… and some current generation games, not all, will experience that fate.
I mean, we have Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us Part II, Resident Evil 3, Doom Eternal, Ghost of Tsushima and more great titles launching. Not all these titles are going to receive the time or limelight they deserve. I’m sure some of these titles will be remastered for the next generation, but most won’t. The next-gen hype will take over and by next year this time the current generation classics (that you had good intentions for) will be long forgotten. I still have Crysis 3 on my PS3, which I bought for next to nothing just before the PS4 launched. I was supposed to play it and just never got to it. I have zero care for it seven years later and it has not been touched since. We all forget about the classics very quickly. So, let’s reminiscence about this generation, shall we?
It’s hard to summarise this generation when so much wholesome goodness spawned from just a few years. There are however many plus points. This generation finally got open-world right. It’s nearly like the 16-bit era doing some magical stuff with 2D games at the time. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Assassin’s Creed Origins (I’m yet to play Odyssey), Spider-Man and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild just about perfected what I wanted from a genre that I was close to fed up with at some point. The worlds are huge, the side quests are more than just simple fetch-quests nonsense and the stories and themes surrounding it immensely believable. Even racers, such as Forza Horizon 3 and 4, perfected the open world. Japan finally got their act together after the mostly forgetful PS3 and 360 era where, other than PlatinumGames, it was a dog’s breakfast in their effort to understand what the West wanted. Turns out we just wanted more of the same old.
The rising sun rises again
This generation its been as Japanese as it gets and the quality JRPG and action games have been nothing less than sublime. PlatinumGames were on top of their game again, but an old dog returned with tricks too. You know, that Capcom logo has some credibility again. It ignites that same feeling now as what I experienced as a kid. When you saw that Capcom logo, you knew you were in for the best money could buy. After Monster Hunter World, Devil May Cry V and the numerous Resident Evil games hitting the top of the charts it’s proof that they’re back to their best. Oh boy, it’s good to see Japan at their best again.
We saw ‘Best of’ collections such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Super Smash Ultimate bringing us all the goodness in one package. Some of the best stories arrived in the form of Uncharted 4, God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn. Mortal Kombat X and 11, Tekken 7, Soul Calibur VI and Street Fighter V (after a few patches) brought fighting games to the next level. Consoles and PCs finally made crossplay a thing. Today you can buy Modern Warfare or Rocket League and play it with all your buddies online, no matter the platform. Go with that mentality to the last generation and they would think you were insane for even thinking it. I mean, you can play Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest on the Switch. WTF is this even? Awesome craziness. That is what.
Technology went through the stratosphere when our 90s Lawnmower Man dreams became a reality with VR taking centre stage in 2017. The next thing we knew we were looking silly in our lounges living in our virtual worlds. Popping the head off a foe now required you to aim down the sights, instead of fast mouse or analogue stick reactions. You quite literally looked in the rear view mirror as you passed a car in Gran Turismo Sport and ended up experiencing the Baker’s household in person in Resident Evil VII. Make no mistake, VR has a future. Whether it’ll grab the mainstream as more traditional games did is debatable, and sales points to an abrupt ‘It’s not happening’, but it’s likely where most the growth will come from in the coming years.
It’s also been an era where remakes finally trounced those shitty remasters. Remasters be gone! Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy (it’s a remake, not a remaster – Activision were obviously smoking the good stuff), Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fuelled, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Modern Warfare (the remake of the original), Gears of War: Ultimate, MediEvil, Halo 2, Yakuza Kiwami 1 & 2 and more invaded our lives once again. Some of these games were classics when we were children, updated now for our children and ourselves to experience all over again. These remakes are often proof that we weren’t crazy – these titles are still classics several decades later. There is a reason we go so gaga for remakes of some titles (Capcom – DINO CRISIS! FFS MAN!). And we still have Final Fantasy VII Remake incoming at the time of writing. It’s been great for those with a bit of nostalgia.
Owning is out, renting is in
I’ll admit, there is a place for remasters and we saw that in titles such as Kingdom Hearts, Grand Theft Auto V and many more on that port console, the Switch – it’s just that I’m stubborn and mostly not a fan. I’d just rather not pay much for it. Microsoft brought us the sublime Xbox Game Pass service for both consoles and PC and now you can play some of the best games money can buy for R150 a month. Last I paid R150 for a new game was in the SEGA Mega Drive era and those were the knock-off 4-in-1 titles with one game I wanted of the four. Now you pay that for literally hundreds of games. It’s quite honestly bonkers. This generation made games extremely affordable, if you’re okay with not ‘owning’ it, though sales have made games cheaper than ever if you’re patient and can dodge launch FOMO. Us retro nuts, yes, this is for me and the other two of you, got the NES, SNES, Mega Drive and PS1 mini consoles. Hack it and you had even more bang for you buck – not that I’m saying you should.
Which brings me to free-to-play games. It exploded onto the scene in this generation. It was there before, but it is thanks to one particular title that it finally got it all right. I could personally not care for Fortnite, but I have to admit that that game alone changed the entire industry. Thanks to its success, alongside the paid for PUBG, we saw battle royale become a huge deal. At the end it influenced other big hitters as GTA once did in the mid 2000s. I mean, Tetris battle royale? It’s of course, mostly, the free-to-play model that worked so well for it and the reason Apex Legends is still played by many a gamer every night. Love it or hate it, it ain’t going anywhere. Yes, it spawned lootboxes, but after gamers gave it a lashing we will mostly see it in F2P games, where it’s meant to be.
Wow, folks, this has been one incredible generation. I know you’re all excited for the next generation, but don’t let that quality this year go unseen with the hype building up to those big launches. Thanks to digital games you won’t ever miss a game, so you have no reason to miss out. Don’t pull a Final Fantasy IX on the great titles launching this year, especially towards the end of this year.
This generation, in my humble opinion, is the best we’ve ever seen and I’ve seen quite a bit. The next generation has some big shoes to fill.