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And Now for a Word on Backwards Compatibility (Part 1)

It's no secret that the current generation of gaming consoles will soon come to a close. This generation has witnessed more changes to our precious medium than any other, and not all of them have been for the better. Among the more heated changes, like achievements and digital-rights management, is the idea of backwards compatibility. It certainly receives less attention than those other, noisier issues, so some may be forgiven for assuming it is, perhaps, not quite so important--but that is not the case. Very often when seeing other gamers discuss the idea of backwards compatibility, I see the same thing happen. Someone will criticize how backwards compatibility is implemented (or not implemented at all). The response to this is always either tacit agreement, or simple derision. After all, they say, backwards compatibility is not really an issue. If you want to play older games, simply buy the older console they were made for--or use an emulator on a PC. And every once in a while someone will express the most shameful sentiment of all: it's not an issue because old games are not worth playing, they're all terrible and outdated and anyone who thinks otherwise is blinded by nostalgia.

And we seem to respond to these retorts either with violent bursts of profanity and ridicule... or not all.

But backwards compatibility is an important issue, now more than ever with rumors circulating regarding the next iteration of the Playstation console series, code-named ORBIS, stirring up tales of locking-out used games, forcing constant online connectivity, and not being backwards-compatible with prior Playstation consoles. The backwards compatibility naysayers seem to be growing more common and vocal with each passing day, and all there arguments stem from inattention and ignorance. As gamers, it is our duty to discuss our hobby with civility and respect, and as human beings we have a duty to speak the truth in the face of ignorance. It may accomplish nothing in the end, but at least the truth will be there. So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we: just why is it that backwards compatibility matters? And what is it about the arguments against backwards compatibility that isn't valid?

The most infuriating argument against backwards compatibility is that it doesn't matter, because older games don't matter, and our affection stems solely from nostalgia-fueled delusion. Beyond the fact that the "nostalgia-goggles" argument is inherently meaningless and exists only as a method to insult another human being's opinion without making any valid points or leaving one open to any real response, this argument fails because it relies on an incorrect assumption. Basically, it assumes that games are perishable--like fruit, or that milk you've kept in the back of the fridge for so long because your afraid of what it might smell like when you dump it out. Silly, right? Games don't go bad: that's nonsense. The root of this sentiment, were one to articulate it (and honestly I've never really seen anyone even try) is that the quality of a game is dependent on numerous outside factors, from the cultural environment of the era to the technological limitations of the time. Because these older games come from a time and technology removed from our own, we can no longer enjoy them. Furthermore, our understanding of game design has improved immensely over the past many years, so beyond the visual and narrative elements that have aged poorly, we also must deal with outdated mechanics that render those older titles near-unplayable.

Well, as many of the more vocal critics of Final Fantasy XIII will tell you, game mechanics are not dependent on anything beyond the skill and ability of the development staff, irrespective of time. The basic mechanics of Dragon Quest have remained virtually unchanged since the original title launched in May of 1986--nearly twenty-seven years--and today Dragon Quest is one of the most popular game series on the planet. Final Fantasy VI was released eighteen years ago--in 1994--and is still widely regarded as one of the greatest stories ever told in a game. And twelve years ago Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn was released, a western role-playing game that to this day remains the quintessential example of RPG storytelling, gameplay and visuals.

No, we can still appreciate Starry Night one-hundred-and-twenty-four years after it was painted (1889), in complete ignorance of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, absent the understanding of Van Goghs internment in a sanitarium. We can still appreciate Citizen Kane without knowing who William Randolph Hearst was, or how ruinous the film was to Orson Welles' career. Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no. 2 is just as likely to move us to tears with the knowledge of his relationship to Tchaikovsky as not. So, too, are we able appreciate the quality of a game regardless when it was made, or where it was made, or who made it. Such circumstances are superfluous--they have no bearing on the quality or worth of a game.

I know I've been talking for a long time now, and I apologize. You're at the half way point, so lets have an intermission. Take a break. Stretch your legs, use the bathroom, drink some juice (I'm gonna go fetch a glass of pineapple-orange myself). I think the issue of backwards compatibility matters (which is why I'm here, after all) so I'd really appreciate it if you could come back after that brief repose and read all the way to the end, if you don't mind.

Continued at

darthv724223d ago

BC is a much needed standard for systems moving forward. Many will say that you dont buy a new system to play old games but if you really think about it, the ability to play the older titles on the newer system effectively doubles if not triples the number of playable titles to someone who is just buying a system.

I guess the big question from the companies POV is can it be done within the new hardware or is something special have to be done to make it work. A few examples of BC that needed special treatment would be something like the Power Base converter for the genesis.

An add-on that let genesis users play master system games. Sure the master system may have gotten the short end when compared to the NES but that didnt mean the games werent worth playing. That was one of the 1st things I got when i got the genesis and I still to this day have my collection of master system games and the PBC.

Nintendo didnt take BC seriously on their consoles until the wii but on the portables it was a standard with the release of the gb color. Being able to play bw gb games on the color system which later evolved into the GBA and still being able to play those older games on it was a sure fire hit. I guess we could say the gb adapter for the snes was a form of bc but not direct bc for NES carts.

Nintendo carried on that trend with the ds playing gba games but left that behind when they made the 3ds but playing ds games on the 3ds is a plus. The wii having cube BC was really nice. Especially if you have a couple of those wavebird controllers.

The big nod, though, has to go to sony and their ps2 being able to play the ps1 games was outstanding. Anyone who didnt have a ps1 but got in on the action with the ps2 had hundreds of quality titles to pick from the ps1 era. The idea of them continuing that trend with the ps3 was a selling point. I know the real selling point was the bluray and promise of much better visuals but still that little feature of BC has its place.

The oddball (IMO) has to be sega. It was like, after the PBC they didnt want to have anything to do with adding convenience to their follow-up systems. Saturn could have played sega cd games or better yet, the DC playing saturn games. But no...

I like the idea of BC and have become somewhat spoiled on it. I know Im not alone in this and when nintendo said the wii-u would play wii games I was genuinely excited. Sure I cant play gc games but i have amassed more wii games now than gc games so it will suffice me when I get one.

The gauntlet was thrown down with sony but then they picked it back up so I really wonder if they will throw it back down for the ps4. And MS...well they did offer a majority of BC support for xbox games so you know eyes will be on them and if their follow-up will have BC as well.

rainslacker4222d ago

I remember the PBC, and had one until I sold my genesis for a TG-16.:) But yeah, Sony was really big on BC and I applauded them for that, and criticized when they took it out. While I don't mind keeping older systems since I've gotten older with more disposable income, it's really nice to have it all in one unit, especially since the PS3 has wireless controllers, and no need for memory cards.

As to the DC playing Saturn games...well that probably would have been cost prohibitive. IIRC, the Saturn had 9 distinct processors in the unit, and was terribly difficult to program for. Also the architecture change from carts to optical meant using a expansion port, which was generally slower than a cartridge port.

It's sad to think that the next PS4 probably won't have BC (except maybe PS1 through software). I'm sure Sony is well aware of the fact their huge PS3 library would help sell the PS4. But today most people aren't willing to pay the extra price. I also believe that BC in general becomes less important as the generation moves on, because it is only a small percentage of us that actually does play these old games.

As far as MS, it's hard to say. I believe the nextBox is close enough in architecture to the last one that they can most likely do it without much effort. That being said though, MS doesn't seem terribly interested in providing that service as they seem to care more about the profit than allowing people to play things they don't make money off of anymore. It is good for those that play on Xbox though, so more power to them.


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just_looken1h ago(Edited 1h ago)

The fact you can kill the end by either changing your console clock or my way when he is on the dock is such a cool Easter egg.

My video/play through i time coded the part of end getting killed at the dock

The river scene with ocelot's dad will also change depending on your kill count

So many things that can change on each playthrough

Oh also the iconic ladder scene always a classic