I grew up in the 90s and thus my early gaming was dominated by 8-bit and 16-bit games. Between my Nintendo, Genesis, Super Nintendo and Gameboy, I found some of my favorite games, games that now inhabit the “retro” category. Now I’m going to try to avoid whining about how people see old games, but there is something I’ve noticed lately that is borne of a fascination with this apparent bygone age of gaming. Nowadays you can’t browse a single game catalog without tripping over countless stylized games using 8 and 16-bit graphics. Now for some this is due to nostalgia, others ease of access, and others still likely have different reasons for pursuing this retro design, but it really does feel like a gimmick anymore to slap some pixel graphics onto any hastily-made game and expect instant appeal.
I’m really trying to not dismiss all “retro” graphic games. I’ve already discussed the Earthbound-inspired Undertale, which derives a great deal of its heart from its retro graphics and soundtrack, and the puzzle game Camera Obscura which definitely packages fun platforming in charming simplicity. However, there exists a swath of half-hearted platformers and derivative RPGs that pollute the gaming market and seem to garner praise more for the look and the idea than the actual gameplay or story. Effectively, aspiring developers seem to be telling us that it’s “easy” to make a 2D game so they’re going to grab a copy of RPG Maker and grind out whatever it takes to get noticed. Unfortunately for them, it isn’t easy, and accessibility does not automatically promise success. Games like Undertale are good because they not only knew how to use their medium, but because they wanted to utilize it to realize a very clear vision.
Creating a good game requires a wide variety of skills, especially if you are doing most of the work by yourself. One of the most important skills though is to be able to be self-critical—to be able to look at one’s own work and decide maybe it isn’t exactly turning out as hoped. Now I’m not necessarily saying that everyone should accept only perfection when making a game. If we were always crippled with doubt about our work very little would ever make it out into the world. However, I don’t think this is a problem when it comes to the indie gaming community. Steam is flooded with underwhelming RPGs with stock assets and stilted dialogue. One such game is today’s focus, an RPG that promised to be filled with surprising twists on a classic hero’s tale. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to assess the merits of these claims, as the gameplay and bugs stand in the way of any wish to explore the world. Valiant Resurrection, produced by Aldorlea Games and developed by Warfare Studios, does little to shake up RPG conventions, and winds up weighing itself down with some of the more tedious standbys. Also, I’ve been told that my reviews would benefit from the inclusion of more dragons, and this game has a dragon right on the title card. So the dragon’s alright, I guess.