Return to Sector 9

Kill or be killed.  Well, you’re gonna get killed anyway, but…

One thing that I find interesting is that in the gaming world people simply don’t forget their roots.  Sure, the music I listened to as a kid continues to fade out of vogue–even as an oldie status, and even I wouldn’t wear the clothes I did back then.  Idioms have gone in style, then out of style, and then back in style and out again.  But at least when it comes to video games it seems most serious gamers at least have a suitable respect for the old school.

And there’s good reason for it.  Mario and Sonic gave birth to Sly, Ratchet and Clank, and any number of other platformer heroes.  Stealth based games were pixelated long before they were rendered in stunning 3-D complete with light and noise detectors.  There have of course been pioneered genres; the survival horror millieu is widely credited as having been fomented with Resident Evil with some more historically minded gamers crediting Alone in the Dark as being the true father of the genre.  But even so I remember on our old ADAM computer one of the first games my brother attempted to program onto it was an interactive fiction that placed the player in a haunted house.

And so for historical purposes it is significant to recognize the places that Pac Man and Dig Dug have in the world of gaming.  But there’s something else.

To be sure, more often than not the old school of gaming could never hold a candle to the kind of story telling we see in modern efforts.  You didn’t get hours upon hours of gorgeously directed cut scenes on the SNES like you do on current generation systems and computer games.  But there’s also a kind of trade off.

In the older games there was definitely more involvement.  Sure, you may only have a d-pad and two buttons, but in the really good games you could take those meager controls and perform miracles with them.  And you did it all the time.

If you’re my age you remember going to the arcade and watching a machine gobble up quarters not because the graphics were particularly stunning, nor because you were engrossed in a story, but because you had becomea slave to the gameplay.  Because you felt more intuned and connected to your onscreen avatar, and therefore you felt the action more than you do in a lot of the titles today.  And because of the simplicity of control, that feeling was ultimately more accessible.

These are not objective arguments, mind you, and I’m nowhere near being some kind of retro snob.  I’m simply pointing out that there was a difference in feel between the games of my youth and the games of today.  Those games of yesteryear felt simply more dynamic and organic.

Think of it this way.  Imagine the difference between riding in a tuned up old Honda, or a Porche.  Both cars can go fast, and the Porche would probably outstrip the old honda if the driver and mechanic aren’t complete morons.  But the Honda makes you feel more like your running on the road with the noise of the tires running over the pavement and the jostling and the jerking with every shift.  It’s rougher, and admittedly slower, but in just the right moments, it can be a far more thrilling ride.

Not everyone gets it right, and in fact more often than not you find people getting it wrong.  But when it is right, you know it.  It’s more than the thrill of watching someone who understands the language of pixel artistry, and the unwritten code of rendering characters in pixel (for instance, more intricately designed sprites, larger sprites, are reserved only for the more important enemies) conservation.

It’s that feel, that raw and engrossing experience you get when you hit the “start” button and go to town.

Return to Secter 9 is exactly that kind of game.

A space shooter that I could easily have seen myself playing on my SNES, R2S9 is a retro-gamer’s feast.  Gameplay is fast furious, and ergonomically simple though strategically it builds and builds in challenge as you progress.  The music is perfect, and the graphics are simply out of this world complete with bosses that feel as though they came straight from the old school of boss making, bigger, better, faster, stronger.

All the story you need is crammed in a text on the opening control page, and while you can read the stories (and they aren’t half bad), there’s simply no need.  All you need to do is select your ship, select which mission you want to attempt, and let the carnage begin.

The classic gameplay will turn this into an instant favorite for anyone who appreciates the games of old, but it’s all the goodies that you can unlock that will have you playing over and over again.  Hordes of ships, boards, awards, and paint schemes await to be unlocked by completing challenges and reaching certain score standards.  And it is this, as proven by games like Ginormo Sword, and Amorphous+ that turn a game from being an awesome play for a bit into a complete and totally addictive entity.

As everyone who reads this blog should know, I play a lot of games, and I love games.  I love downloading indie games and am not particularly upset when I find myself let down but what looks like it could have been a cool game.  But I tell you now, there’s nothing like downloading an independent game and finding yourself playing something you feel like you should have paid money for.

R2S9 is exactly such a game.  Go download it now, and get lost in pure space shooting bliss.

2 Responses to Return to Sector 9

  1. Hi. I’d just like to say thanks for the kind words, and the great article!

  2. Hey man, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your kind words.

    The game deserves each bit of credit it gets and more. Truly one of my favorites.

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