In praise of retro graphics

This post was inspired by Fall of Angels, a brilliant and original JRPG. It’s rare that I get really interested by the story of an RPG as most are so generic, but this one makes you actively want to know what happened. It’s different and strange.

But onto the graphics. The problem faced by many developers is that graphic goalposts are now set so high that any game whose graphics fall short of Skyrim’s gets heavily criticised. and you even see people in forums who outright reject or avoid a game for this reason. Even Skyrim gets slammed by those who have souped it up with graphics mods. Sadly, Fall of Angels has not been immune from the graphics gripers.

So here are five reasons why “retro” graphics should be appreciated rather than slammed:

1. More original games get made, faster
There are some brilliant people sitting by themselves in their bedrooms who can write and code a fantastic game, but lack the ability or the resources (=money) to use high end graphics. I want those people making games, not giving up because people bitched about their graphics in forums. I don’t care if their work looks more like Nethack than Uncharted 3.

2. Resources aren’t being wasted
While some game genres depend heavily upon artistic, high res graphics (such as HOGs) – with an RPG the key features are story and gameplay. A beautifully balanced, challenging game is far more important than a photo-realistic 3D gameworld. For games with simple graphics, you know that all the effort and resources have gone into the gameplay.

3. Retro appeal
Believe or not, some of the more “vintage” gamers get a bit of a nostalgia kick out of old-school graphics.

4. Accessibility
Simpler graphics mean people with older systems and devices can still enjoy a game to the full. They also usually mean you can play a game for far longer, battery-wise. Dragon Bane II was so undemanding that the battery meter never seemed to go down despite hours of play.

5. A gilded turd is still a turd.
“Amazing” graphics don’t make up for a shitty game. And high-res graphics and animations can still be poorly done or even annoying: surely there must be others who get irritated by the endless (pointless) sprite twitching and quivering and bouncing in many KRPGs?

And returning to Fall of Angels, simple or “amateur” graphics can also be beautiful and even moving. When the snow suddenly started falling, tiny little flakes spinning gently down against a violet-shaded world, it was in its own way just as wonderful as seeing the first snowfall in Skyrim.

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