Did Gaming Charm Disappear With The Cartridge?


Do you remember that feeling you get when you first turned on the game on your NES? Maybe it was the immediate * ding, ding * of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out that got your worked up for a marathon of dodging punches. Or perhaps, you just enjoyed the charming title screens and the ability to just jump right into jumping on Goombas or shooting down ducks.

On the Sega Genesis, we were routinely treated to a number of comical and mesmerizing Sega logo animations that tied in with the game’s theme while showing off that trademark Sega style. I remember sometimes I would reboot my Genesis just so I could watch that Sega logo animation one more time. (If you’d like to see some of these in action, take a look at this gallery of animated Sega logos. How often do you see these kinds of intros anymore?)

Fast forward just a bit now… Remember back to when you had got your N64, you turned it on for the first time with Mario inside. BLING! It’s A Me, Mario! Do you remember that enchantment followed by Mario’s face instantly appearing allowing you to play around with it.

Now with CD/DVD based machines, that all seems to be gone. First thing you normally see now is a copyright screen and ‘Loading’. Then it’s the developer’s logo, then the publishers, then the people who make the video codec, then Bob’s friend’s company logo. Then, if your lucky you get to the crappy press start screen!

The magic is still in some games, but its getting harder to find. Nintendo seems to still have some first-party games that have a great feel to them. Animal Crossing is the main one that comes to mind — Mario Power Tennis also had the Wario and Waluigi voices in the opening credits. It isn’t so much the game itself that is always missing the magic, its the whole entrance into the game’s world, that is lacking.

To be fair, the movie industry is essentially experiencing a similar fate. Pop in a new DVD and you have to sit through a bunch of copyright notices and commercials before you even get to the menu.

In the case of the gaming industry its rather hard to put your finger on the cause. Could this all be caused by a movement to make their business partners happier instead of the end user? Or is cause by the fact that the average gamer is getting older? Or maybe it was about that time that developers tried to make everything in the game to be more life-like.

Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, even if the developers tried to make the game realistic, it still managed to look a bit animated due to the graphical limitations of the consoles. However, once the machines were able to reproduce respectable 3D graphics, that cartoon-like touch started to disappear. With that change, the magical little touches that pulled us into the game also seemed to disappear.

It looks like Nintendo is our last hope for this kind of magical feeling. Even though I have to click through that same warning every time I boot up my DS, the first-party games do still have some charm to their openings. I also got a real kick out of New Super Mario Bros. when you shut the DS to take a break and Mario’s voice says “bub-bye!” and then welcomes you back when you return.

Again, do not misunderstand me — there are plenty of new games that I enjoy. However, I can’t help but miss those little thrills I got simply by turning on a game.

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Zed says:

Katamari Damacy.

Ryan Janusee says:

Sound to me like we’re all just getting too darn old for magic, friend.

racketboy says:

You’re probably right, Ryan, but sometimes after a long day at work, I need to feel like a kid again.

gord says:

i don’t think its about feeling like a kid, its enjoyable because its pure, simple, fun. Games these days are too caught up in being respectable and serious, personally i blame the ps2 for the downfall of ‘fun’ games but with the wii it looks like they will come back 🙂

Timerever says:

Yeah, the intro screens on the new games are quite annoying, it’s all copyrights and stuff, not to mention that they’ll take forever to pass and you can’t fast forward it. True it also happend on come carts (Mickey Mania on MDrive) but most was instant boot to the Press Start Button screen, the stupid thing is that you can with clever coding make a optical disk boot as fast as a cart.

HalJordan says:

I’ve always enjoyed Namco’s approach to that, especially the Ridge Racer series. I was surprised the first time I played Galaga on Tekken 3(if I still remember correctly).
Long live Sega and all those animated logos 🙂

bonefish says:

I miss the instant entertainment the intro screens provided. But eh its kind of one of those things that’s not really a big deal. The game starts for me when I press start.

racketboy says:

Yeah, I know it’s not a big deal…
It was more of an observation and a bit of a weekend rant.
I also thought it would be good to see if I was the only one that thought this way or not.

Alun says:

I’d agree in part, but not totally. Personally, I haven’t felt the same way about a console since the Dreamcast died. The sheer disappointment that the machine had flopped and Sega games would never be the same really crushed my love of games for a long while. I still played them, but if I have to compile my favourite games, they are all Dreamcast era or earlier, to the cartridge days.

There was a special charm with cartridge games, but I think thats because the industry was so different back then, and when the Dreamcast died a lot of that magic disappeared. When the GC came along and didn’t do so great either it added to that. I’d attriute this to the fact that Microsoft and Sony were on the rise,and it felt like the companies I’d grown up admiring so much were getting shoved out of the way. I still bought a PS1, PS2, Xbox and GC but nothing was quite the same.

So an a sense I agree, but two disc-based consoles I absolutely adored were the Saturn and Dreamcast. I still get a thrill from every intro of my favourite games. I can only say that about a couple of PS1 and PS2 games, and only one Xbox game that got me excited every time I played. I didn’t find many GC games that I loved, either. I think the new generation of consoles is getting better, but its too early to tell if the magic is back just yet.

Caleb says:

I dunno. I like some of the new intros for CD/DVD based games. You still have to get past the main loading screent though.

The “This game features scenes of a graphic and violent nature” screens for games like the Resident Evil an Silent Hil series are cool. And when you start the game the “Resident Evil” voice is pretty cool.

And what about the Dreamcast logo opening? That’s kick ass.

bonefish says:

I always liked the original Playstation boot logo. You know the one that starts with the sony computer entertainment to the Playstation logo. The Saturn had a cool boot logo. I recently played through Conker Live & Reloaded for x-box and Conker chopping up the logo was missing unlike the N64 one where Conker chopped up the N64 logo. Microsoft and their corporate stifling.

extrarice says:

At 5/20/2007 10:40 AM, Zed said…
Katamari Damacy.

QFT. I agree with you, racketboy. In the rush for more realistic graphics, physics, more polys per second, and so on, a lot of game companies have lost track of what making a game “fun” is all about.

It’s interesting to think how different companies had different signature “styles” back in the cartridge days. For instance, Konami almost always had the title screen slide in from the right (ex: Contra, Super C, Gradius, Squoon, etc.) Capcom always had the “Capcom sound” during the 16-bit era. It’s kind of sad to see how it is now, as you illustrated clearly: “Now with CD/DVD based machines, that all seems to be gone. First thing you normally see now is a copyright screen and ‘Loading’. Then it’s the developer’s logo, then the publishers, then the people who make the video codec, then Bob’s friend’s company logo. Then, if your lucky you get to the crappy press start screen!

Richard says:

Wii have intros in the channels

Phil says:

There’s probably no one reading this anymore, but I really like this topic. I recently starting playing some of my old 16-bit titles and I noticed a LOT of things that they have over modern games. There aren’t 10 different screens you have to sit through before you can start playing, there’s no stupid Playstation logo screen, there are NO load times and you know the best thing? Cartridges ALWAYS work no matter what. A little scratch in just the right place on a DVD however, and it’s dead. The worst thing to happen to a cartridge is it getting dirty, but that’s easy to remedy.

I also enjoy being able to actually finish a game in a sitting and move on to something else. With all the 20 to 40 hour games out there today, it’s like every game you play is a commitment. I love how I can actually play through a couple 16-bit titles in a few hours. Try playing every great MODERN game that comes out these days. It’s very difficult, you basically have to sacrifice some games to play others as there just isn’t enough time to play all the new stuff.

I also find it funny that many companies have put out lousy Batman games on modern consoles that are far more powerful than the S-NES and Genesis, yet The Adventures of Batman and Robin on the S-NES is FAR better than ANY Batman game to come out in the past decade.

Just goes to show you, technology means nothing, it’s all about the creativity, imagination and talent of the people making the game

I don’t hate modern games. I have a large PS 2 library and a handful of Xbox and Gamecube games, but there are very few games that come out these days that I enjoy as much as the stuff on the Saturn, N64, S-NES, Genesis and Dreamcast(my fave system). Most games today are so by the book, everyone is doing the same thing and few games really feel “for gamers” anymore(I think that era died with the Dreamcast)

racketboy says:

Well, I still get updates for new comments, and I really appreciate your thoughts.

And yes, I totally agree that imagination and creativity is far more powerful than any technology.

In that case, I think I’ll leave a comment, too.

I’ve been going through all of your entries today, and I’m just so happy to find a blog that really appreciates classic gaming.

Anyway, as for this topic, I 100% agree. To me, games lack a lot of the soul they used to. I really miss the old SEGA openings, the old instantaneous, colorful, and attractive title screens and introductions for games.

I recently played an older title in my collection that had eluded my attention for awhile. It isn’t really “old,” since after all, it came out in in the SNES/Genesis/TG-16 era. It had and still has an amazing level of creativity, charm, style, and more. It also has a fun logo intro. The game I’m referring to is the Genesis version of Earthworm Jim, which opens up with Jim flexing under the SEGA logo, before being embarrassed as his pants fall down. The next thing you know, the title “Earthworm Jim” is spoken outloud in a burp.

You just don’t see fun intros like those anymore, nor do you see diversity in levels and environments like you do in Earthworm Jim and its first sequel.

One of my hopes for years is that gaming would return to its roots and take on some of the original elements that made classic gaming so great. I feel that Nintendo DS and Wii are doing the best job at this so far, with pick-up-and-play experiences and instant fun being prevalent.

But I definitely agree that gaming began to lose a lot of its magic after cartridges left home consoles. As you mentioned, Super Mario 64 had quite a memorable intro. Another title from the N64 era that I felt really sucked the player into the experience immediately was Star Fox 64. The scrolling background behind the opening titles that led into the intro movie, the noise made when you press start, and the quick fun you can have while moving the “64” across the screen was really well put together, in my opinion.

Perhaps that’s why I enjoy titles like WarioWare so much, games that bring back classic, quick-fire gaming and creativity. And what do you know, at least in the case of Nintendo’s portable platforms, I still feel like the magic is there with games like Elite Beat Agents and New Super Mario Bros. How about the first time you play Nintendogs and you’re knocking on the kennel’s door, or even after that first encounter, where as soon as you boot up, you see your dogs and are immediately engaged? How about titles like Yoshi Touch & Go that are arcade-ish in execution? How about Electroplankton, which greets the user with powerful notes and atmosphere?

As we obviously know, Toshio Iwai was behind that one, and his experience shows in the handling of the interface. The game immediately sucks the user into it without letting its logos and transitions put him/her off. I think there’s significant lessons that the game industry of today can learn from the portable market and its handling of introductions and menu screens.

But if there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that game developers need to remember that they’re developing a game, and thus, games need to attract players as such, and not in the way one is “attracted” while trying in vain to reach the Root Menu of his or her new DVD movie.

racketboy says:

Wow, excellent comment!
I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site so far. 🙂

I’ve been slowly building my DS collection up and have been pleasantly surprised on how many games do fit into this category. Nintendo is pretty much our last hope of the simple things we used to enjoy all the time.

Hey, thanks! I’m happy you’ve been building up your DS collection…there are so many excellent titles available on the platform.

I’d love to continue talking with you via AIM or e-mail or something if you like. It’s not very often that I really encounter someone who really appreciates this kind of thing.

If you like, my e-mail’s modestmrgreen@gmail.com

Stoney says:

Loves real gaming next generation gaming is ok but I agree that it has totally lost it flare. I have a nes snes sega megadrive dreamcast and saturn plugged up to my gaming tv each of those systems get quite a bit of use from me and my friends and sometimes co worker that drops by to visit on a daily if not weekly basis I have a ps2 in a box I have a ps3 that gets more use from the cat on a cold evening or morning plays it less than once a month fun game play is the most important of any game second is ease of use of a controller and the very last would be the graphics new systems have excellent graphics first time ever home games has looked as good if not better than their arcade counterparts but the games themselves are lacking I cannot tell you how many times Ive been scratching my head on which of the 8 or so buttons to press to duck run shoot at something or in some game cases walk and having to read the manual 100 times to just be able to play the game is enough of a fun zapper to ask yourself what the hell happend enter the days of sometimes really bad graphics but really fun games pick up a controller pop a cart or cd relax and before you know it 3 hours have passed. Just wonder what the next generation controllers are going to look like 20 buttons 100 a manual the size of a phone book I think next gen games could be better than the golden oldies if they use the old formula on gameplay ease of use and give it some really kick assed graphics etc. But it seems that all they want to do is make is real and make it easier to walk down the street to shoot your neighbor then it is to walk and shoot something in game.

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