The Good And Bad Of Game Compilations
With nostalgia for videogaming's past fresh on the mind of those who yearned to relive yesteryear's greatest gaming moments yet without suffering through the garbage heap of games that deserved a much worse fate than silicon death, gaming companies who were part of the past that videogames were built upon (or at least those who have licensing access to such ancient companies' material, like Infogrames had acquired what was left of Atari Corp.) have blessed retro-players with game compilations that could play on whatever current system they owned from time to time. Namco, which had self-released such compilations featuring games like Pac-Man, Pole Position, and Galaxian for the Playstation and other modern day game systems, also allowed Microsoft publishing rights for such games in their Return Of Arcade compilation for the PCs. Blue Sky Rangers, the group of former Intellivision programmers for the now-defunct INTV Corporation, which also did self-released compilations of Intellivision games for the PC, did similar through Activision in their Intellivision Classics for the Playstation.
The question some people have on their minds when it comes to classic game compilations is whether this is really a good thing or not, to attempt selling yesterday's digital entertainment for today's gaming machines. Granted, it's a tough job trying to make older players of such games forget that the system they're playing the game on is not the original machine itself, whether it's a home game machine or an arcade game machine. There are things such as controllers that can either make them yearn for having the original machines just for the sake of using the original machine's controllers (like trying to play Kaboom!, a game made for paddle controllers, using a Playstation's D-pad) or rejoice over having better controllers to play the earlier era's games with. Other factors such as the modern system's capabilities and the programmer's ability to translate the game itself (or the system it ran on) can affect how well or worse a game compilation can be.
Then again, game compilations can offer things that the original versions of the game did not have and probably would have benefitted from having. A case in point would be Nintendo's Super Mario All-Stars for the Super NES, which featured three things that made it worth owning: (1) better graphics for the classic NES Super Mario Bros. games that were featured, (2) a save game feature that made the toughest of the three games, Super Mario Bros. 3, easier to play, relieving the pressure of having to play through the earlier levels over and over, and (3) a bonus game that never was released in America, which would be the original Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, renamed in this collection as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. Namco with its Namco Museum series for the Playstation also featured games that hardly anyone in the United States has ever seen in an arcade, and Midway in one of its Arcade Greatest Hits compilations included such titles like Joust 2, Blaster, Root Beer Tapper, and Burgertime (created and licensed by Data East) among some of the more familiar games.
As for why there aren't more classic game compilations being released, the reasons are various. One reason may be that classic games don't have the same appeal that modern day games have and probably would sell to a smaller group of gamers who enjoy that kind of game fare. A second reason is that a company (or the original programmers, or whoever) may still be holding the copyrights to whatever classic games we may want to see in a compilation. Nintendo is probably the only company in the business actively doing both hardware and software development at this time, and is holding the rights to such classic games like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. which they have produced and had previously given license for other companies (Coleco and Atari) to reproduce for their own systems. With no intention of allowing their games to be cross-published for systems other than their own, most likely with the intent of gaining sales through people buying their systems in order to play the games, the likelihood of seeing a "Nintendo's Greatest Hits" game compilation for Playstation 2 or X-Box is exceedingly remote, to say the least. Other companies who were responsible for games that we may want to be preserved and reproduced may have passed on, leaving the publishing rights to other companies or the individual programmers responsible for the works, or they may face legal issues in regards to games based on licensed material in other forms of entertainment (comic books, cartoons, movies, et al.). A third reason may just simply be what the company given the right to publish a game compilation deems worthy to reproduce, which means that a game we may want to see in a compilation that isn't based on an existing license doesn't get included. This, of course, can be pretty subjective in the sense that what we consider a "sleeper classic" may be axed or not even considered in favor for what we may see as a waste of bits and code that has passed itself off as a game.
But whatever the reasons are that the powers-that-be in the gaming industry decide on for how many game compilations can and should be produced and what should go into them, we should be grateful that at least we can revisit our favorite games of the bygone years one more time on our modern systems. We may find whether these games still have the power to hold our attention and bring us back to playing them again and again, or that they have become too simplistic to the point where we may just pass them by or play them on occasion. For the sports fans whose first system for playing sports games might have been the Intellivision, they may end up playing the current crop of EA Sports games more than going back to the likes of NFL Football or Major League Baseball, despite the complexity the programmers have put into those earlier games that made them stand out above even Atari's efforts in the same game category at that time in history. But for those who probably can't figure out how to play the latest complex RPG game, they may find more instant enjoyment in the likes of a reproduced Gauntlet II.