Video gaming

Tokyo Game Show milks nostalgia for Super Mario and Donkey Kong era with retro offerings

Final Fantasy VII and R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 were among titles making a comeback at this year’s show, where distributors and console makers responded to demand for 1980s games

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2018, 7:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 12:04pm

At the Tokyo Game Show, the world’s top firms competed to show off their very latest in hi-tech gaming gadgetry: from head-spinning virtual reality to cutting-edge multiplayer e-sports.

But crowds flocked not only to the latest smartphone shoot-’em-up, but to classic games from the 1980 such as Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers, as manufacturers wheeled out revamped versions of their old games consoles to capture a new market.

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Alongside the latest top-of-the-range models such as the PS4, Japanese electronics giant Sony caught everyone off guard by announcing the release of a miniature console – designed like the original PlayStation – with 20 vintage games.

Nostalgic fans and curious new gamers found PlayStation classics such as the 1997 role-playing game Final Fantasy VII and 1998-1999 racing game R4: Ridge Racer Type 4.

“Twenty-five years after we launched the first PlayStation in Japan, we are offering this version not only for fans from back in the day but also for those who never knew this console,” says Shu Takura, spokesman for Sony Interactive Entertainment, at the weekend event.

Sony’s move to roll back the years comes two years after bitter rival Nintendo launched the NES, a palm-sized version of its eighties-era games console to tap into nostalgia for titles from the early era of home video games.

The console – which retails for around US$60 – comes with 30 games, including Nintendo’s famed Super Mario and Donkey Kong characters.

“These old games are not beautiful but we used to play them with school friends in the arcades, and playing them makes you automatically think of this friendship and old memories come flooding back,” says Soichiro Morizumi, a gamer and game developer himself.

“Modern games may be beautiful but they do not fire the same emotions,” Morizumi says.

Other firms at the show are also jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon, including Hamster, which has acquired licences to offer classics such as Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers on the latest consoles like Nintendo’s Switch, Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s PS4.

“Games from the 1980s have become extremely popular in recent times and I think the market is exploding,” says Satoshi Hamada, chief executive of Hamster.

“Gamers from that era are over 40 now. They still want to play but today’s games are too complicated for them. They want the same simplicity they had before, because they have grown old,” he adds.

“As you can see from our stand, it is men in their 40s and 50s that are playing these games.”

The Tokyo Game Show is Asia’s largest. While attendance numbers from this year’s show are still being tallied, organisers were expecting more than 250,000 people to visit the four-day event. Some 668 firms from 41 countries showcased their latest cutting-edge wares.