EGX is the UK’s biggest gaming convention seeing around 80,000 people enter its doors over the course of four days, and this year Rings & Coins was lucky enough to be there. Not only that, but I was granted a Press Pass entry, and was able to truly represent the site and retro gaming. This meant that I was able to see a great deal of the event when it was both quiet and busy, and the event was very busy. Due to this I was given the opportunity to both see and play everything, and then view how everybody reacted to all the event had to offer.
One of the first things you notice when stepping into the event is just how big it has become. Stretching across numerous halls, EGX featured all the latest upcoming releases from the major developers and publishers. As such gamers were able to try everything from Star Wars: Battlefront to Rise of the Tomb Raider, with some even lucky enough to demo PlayStation’s brand new VR technology. That is if you were willing to wait, as some of the queues were extremely long, truly showcasing the popularity of gaming.
Nevertheless, none of this means that retro was forgotten, far from it. Alongside Replay Events, EGX showcased an impressive range of retro platforms and titles, all inside a dedicated Retro Zone. This area wasn’t hidden away in a corner, but was represented loud and proud in a central area. Inside this dedicated zone was the full range of consoles, from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Neo Geo and the more obscure PC Engine. There was even custom Arcade cabs playing titles such as Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Streets of Rage 2, alongside pinball machines.
There was also some really nice touches here too. For example, every single game from franchises such as Super Mario, Sonic, and Mario Kart were displayed side by side so that gamers could see the evolution of these legendary games. Additionally, the area really embodied the spirit of community, with people playing side by side. Moreover, despite being extremely busy, there was very little queuing to be had thanks to wealth of games available. All in all the Retro Zone really showcased the spirit of gaming, with everyone sitting back, relaxing, and having a great time with all the different people attending. All of this despite there being a wealth of new games on offer.
On top of the dedicated Retro Zone, remembering gaming’s history had quite a presence at the show. Giant statues dedicated to some of Rare’s most famous characters adorned Microsoft’s stand, large banners featuring Fox Mcloud and Super Mario Bros’ 30th anniversary were present at Nintendo’s stand, and everything at Sony’s stand looked to celebrate their 20th anniversary. This also meant that many of the latest games that were being demoed at EGX find their roots in the 8 & 16-bit era.
I was lucky enough to have extended plays of many of these, especially Star Fox Zero and Street Fighter V. From playing these it’s very clear that neither have lost the original touches that made them classics in the 90s, with both staying true to their roots. Yes, both have modernised and altered the look of the characters alongside some of the gameplay features, but it was obvious how important the old-school approach to game design is in the modern environment. Not only that but all of these returning classics have not lost any of their charm, with Street Fighter V in particular being very hard to walk away from, as it felt as good as the series ever has.
Indies were also embracing the spirit of retro. Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 was playable at Nintendo’s stand, and there was a wealth of games over at the Indie Zone build for those of us who love 80s and 90s gaming, such as Replay: VHS Is Not Dead, and the arcade Run n’ Gunner Cast Of The Seven Godsends. I’d also like to give a particular shout out to MakinGames’ Raging Justice. A game that looks to bring back the gameplay and spirit of 90s brawlers such as Streets of Rage and Final Fight, as such breathing new life into a somewhat forgotten genre.
Whilst many of the developer talks focused on where gaming is going and VR technology, an equal amount embraced the idea of looking back and remembering where we have come from. The most interesting of these had to be President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida’s talk on his memories of 20 years of PlayStation. I was lucky enough to be in the audience, and seeing Shuhei Yoshida’s passion for both the present and past is very refreshing. It also shows how all of gaming’s past hits factor in on what Sony is doing today with PlayStation 4. His insights into the challenges that Sony faced when developing a 32-bit console were very enlightening, and when one audience member asked about Nintendo’s influence on Sony, he was very graceful in saying that we as an industry have a lot to thank Nintendo for.
Ultimately EGX proved that Retro is alive and well, not only within the classic games that we know and love, but within many of the modern games we see today. It also proved that many developers are more than aware of the lessons that can be learnt from taking a step back, and that the industry at large is enjoying retro experiences just as much as they did in the 80s and 90s. At EGX there may have been many new experiences to be had within VR and games such as Star Wars: Battlefront. However, intermingling alongside these were all the classic experiences we all know and love, and this is just the way it should be, old and new all sharing the hearts and minds of gamers and those who make them.