Reinventing The Golden Age Part 2
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Mar 1st 2023
More Classics Getting Modern
Welcome back! In case you didn’t catch the first part a few weeks ago, we’re taking a closer look at some of the cool golden age video game reboots that happened in the late 90s/early 00s. Let’s continue, shall we?
This one here’s probably one of the most famous retro remakes ever, and basically THE killer app for the Atari Jaguar. Tempest 2000 took everything that made the original Tempest cool and dialed it up to, well, 2000. It’s trippy as heck, has a killer soundtrack, and retains the essence of the arcade game while adding cool new elements that don’t detract from the experience. Versions of this game wound up on a bunch of other platforms in different forms, but the original Jaguar version seems to be the fan favorite by a wide margin. And thanks to Atari 50, it can be played on modern consoles with a higher frame rate and all!
This one says 2000 on it, but it’s not a part of the 2000 line on tha Jaguar. No, this game was a Sega 32X exclusive, of all things. It’s also a great example of how not to do a game like this. One of Zaxxon’s defining traits was the ability to change your ship;’s altitude. The isometric camera angle sold this feature extremely well back in the old days, so while it’s cool to see that viewpoint remained intact for this update, they removed the ability to change altitude. As it stands, it’s a pretty grim little game. It’s ugly, it isn’t anywhere near as fun as the original, and it’s totally not worth your time.
Now this, on the other hand, is killer. Jeff Minter, the guy behind Tempest 2000, was also involved in this one. It does have the issue of being a bit zoomed in for its own good, but it’s still a really fun game. It’s got cool new weapons, cool music, and is also unfortunately absurdly expensive on the aftermarket. Defender got some other new remakes during the PS2-era, but this one in particular was special, and one of the coolest Jaguar games out there.
This one actually showed up first in Japanese arcades in 1996, but was then ported brilliantly to the PlayStation in 1997, bringing this updated version of Xevious to the US for the first time. Xevious is one of the most influential games of all time, and seeing its classic locale displayed in 3D on PSX was a really cool thing, but then the game took everything further by adding new 3D environments, weapons, and more. This is a fantastically fun shooter and while it isn’t quite as insane as many of the shooters of this variety, it doesn’t need to be. It sticks with what worked about Xevious and builds intelligently from there.
Pac-Man got Pac-Man World, which was cool, but hardly what I’d call an iteration on the original Pac-Man formula. This game though, is exactly that, an evolution. In this game, you move around gigantic levels that are mostly made up of Pac-Man style mazes, but interspersed throughout are various environmental puzzles. It’s a real trip with some great music and it’s tremendously fun to play.
1999’s Q*Bert was brilliant. It really didn’t do all that much to the original Q*Bert formula, but the small addition of just changing the scope and shapes of the levels transformed it into a crazy fun new experience. It doesn’t hurt that they absolutely nailed the visuals as well. It’s got a really trippy vibe to it, and Q*Bert himself is as charming as he's ever been here. His jumping animation is fun, the enemies look neat, it’s just plain great.
This is weirdly enough one of my absolute favorite Playstation games. This game came out in 1997 and was actually a pretty big success. So much so that it started its own franchise revival, but if you ask me, nothing that came after this game landed quite as well. This was Frogger taken to the next level thanks to what modern technology could do at the time and it’s honestly one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.
The basic premise of jumping one “square” at a time to save a bunch of other frogs is still in play, but now the levels introduce elevation and other collectibles into the mix. There’s even an element of exploration to the whole affair. Not a ton because there’s still a tie limit like in the arcade, but the stages can get much larger than your traditional crossing the road and river fare. It’s honestly quite a brilliant little game, and it’s got a really great soundtrack too!
As far as I can tell, this particular reinvention had two versions. Robotron X for PlayStation and Robotron 64 for Nintendo 64. Robotron X was a solid attempt at a remake, but it didn’t quite work. Robotron 64 though, is fantastic. Not only does it look and sound super trippy (in a good way) it allows you to use 2 N64 controllers to simulate dual analog control!
Boy, this game doesn’t look very good, does it? Paperboy for Nintendo 64 is an unfortunate mess. It does what it sets out to do, which is to apply modern technology to an aged arcade game, but woof. Even by 1999 N64 standards, this game is hard to look at. It also sounds terrible and isn’t all that fun to play. Paperboy deserves better, and given what else Midway was cranking out around this time, it’s surprising this one made it out the door in this state.
Speaking of which, On the other hand, Rampage: World Tour absolutely rules. Yes, it’s still monotonous like the original, but the improved visuals and new exciting ways to bash the buildings add just enough to make it feel fresh and fun. The fact that one of the platforms it was released for was the N64, a system with 4 built-in controller ports, certainly helped. The visuals are fun, the game feels tight to play, and it’s just an all around blast. Like Frogger, this one even kicked off its own series of sequels with even more playable characters to wreck stuff with.
And here we have yet another killer modern adaptation by Midway. Like Rampage it did see release in arcades, but it’s the home console ports, especially the 4-player Nintendo 64 version, that have cemented this game in the minds of players everywhere. The core mechanic of Gauntlet remains intact but with new 3D graphics, an added inventory system, and repetitive yet addicting gameplay. It’s a blast, and is widely regarded as the best Gauntlet has ever been.
And there you have it. This really was a golden age of golden age reboots with way more hits than misses. It’s a shame that more of these games aren’t currently widely available, but a lot of these rights have changed hands, and companies like Midway, Atari, and Hasbro have gone through some pretty major changes. The good news is, most of them are really easy to find on their original platforms, and reasonably inexpensive too. (Except Defender 2000. Wow, that’s a pricey one.)
What are your favorite retro reboots?