Thirty years after its release, the Super Nintendo console still inspires modern video games with retro design

Thirty years after its release, the Super Nintendo console still inspires modern video games with retro design

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In 1992, the French discovered the Euro Disney Resort amusement park (now Disneyland Paris), the Renault Twingo and… the Super Nintendo. Released in November 1990 in Japan, the 16-bit console did not arrive until April 1992 in France, the United Kingdom and Ireland before being marketed from June on the rest of the continent. Thirty years later, his heirs have never been so numerous.

Eastward Where Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion in 2021, the adorable Little Witch in the Woods or the dynamic and colorful souldiers in 2022, or the next Metal Slug Tactics, Spirittea and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge : all reclaim an aesthetic furiously close to that of the Super Nintendo.

The eternal restart

The phenomenon is “inevitable because time does its work”, laughs Maria B. Garda. Almost ten years ago, the Polish postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku, Finland, became interested in the emergence of nostalgic aesthetics in Nostalgia in Retro Game Design (2013, untranslated).

She noted that the phenomenon mainly affected creators from the ecosystem – then emerging – of so-called “independent” games, that is to say small studios that do not rely on the financial support of a editor. Rather than trying to compete with the biggest productions in the sector, these studios were then inspired by arcade terminals (like Pac man) or 8-bit consoles, for aesthetic as well as economic reasons. An approach summarized by Maria B. Garda, taking the example of Canadian Phil Fish, director of Fez in 2012 :

“He had a nostalgic motivation and wanted to reconnect with the experiences of his childhood. But he didn’t design his game with just the kid he was in mind, but also what he would like to play as an adult. Because he wanted to be a notable artist of his time.she explains.

Most nostalgic works are not frozen in time, the scholar points out: “Like historical films, they say more about the period in which they were made than about the moment in the past that they evoke”.

Ten years later, this recipe mixing madeleine and modernity still works. So much so that his audience has grown considerably. Stardew Valleythe champion of the genre, has sold more than 20 million copies since 2016, including 5 million in the last nine months.

A still welcoming console

Nostalgia also evolves. While it was mainly oriented towards the 1980s a decade ago, the new generation now favors the aesthetics of the 16-bit consoles of the early 1990s. But the divide between owners of the Super Nintendo and those of the Sega Megadrive which polarized the market thirty years ago seem distant.

The advantage of the Super Nintendo over its competitors comes from its catalog: it is overflowing with nuggets which, thirty years later, have aged surprisingly well.

“In North America, the Super Nintendo is now considered THE most influential console of the 16-bit era”, reminds us of the Canadian Jean-François Major, co-founder of the Tribute Games studio, and yet owner at the time of the Sega console. The advantage of the Super Nintendo against its competitors comes from its catalog: it overflows with nuggets which, thirty years later, have aged surprisingly well. Street Fighter II, donkey kong country, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past… So many flagship titles that remain accessible in 2022.

For Jean-François Major, whose studio is finalizing the long-awaited Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revengethe Super Nintendo is even ideal, even today, to initiate the youngest: “It’s so easy to pick up the controller and play. It’s almost as if it says “Jump” on the B button and then “Attack” on the Y button… It’s something you can’t do less with modern consoles and their twenty-four or less controllers. I don’t know how many buttons… which necessarily require some learning. »

Depth of scenarios

Born in 1994, Christophe Galati is part of the first generation of children to have adopted the Super Nintendo when it was already retro. Beyond the beauty of the colorful and childish visuals, the French creator of Save Me Mr Tako remembers being intimately seduced by the deep scenarios of role-playing games like Final Fantasy IV, Secret of Mana Where Terranigma.

“There was something ambitious in the storytelling at that time, which we may have lost a bit afterwards”, evokes Christophe Galati. He regrets that most current blockbusters, whose budgets and teams have swelled over the decades to respond to the technological race that is playing out in the video game industry, are content with less subtle and original stories.

He therefore wishes to pay tribute to this ” Golden age “ in his next creation, called Himitsu Projectwithout forgetting to integrate contemporary themes, from ecological concerns to the representation of queer characters.

souldiers, from the Madrid studio Retro Forge, available on console and PC since June 2, does not hesitate to innovate visually. This medieval-fantasy action game thus combines an aesthetic faithful to the Super Nintendo while offering light effects, fluidity of movement or complex animations that would never have been possible thirty years ago. “due to technical limitations”explains Alberto Hernandez, its creative director.

While we already perceive, elsewhere, a recycling of fashion or cinema from the early 2000s, isn’t interest in the Super Nintendo likely to weaken? Alberto Hernandez cannot imagine such a scenario. Already, because the design of the games of the next generation of consoles is, on the contrary, associated with a certain idea of ​​ugliness. Salient polygons, camera bugs or approximate maneuverability… The beginnings of the 3D game rather inspire a form of ironic nostalgia. Then, because “The pixel art games that are coming out today are often created by people who, like us, grew up with them. But this trend itself generates new fans, younger than us. Thanks to them, this aesthetic will never die”answers the Spaniard.

Read also: “Demake”: they hijack the engine of “Doom” to parody recent games


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