In an era of retro gaming and old-school hobbyists, many wonder if yearly releases of remade consoles of yesteryear are relevant. Surely, any NES fan can browse eBay and choose between a multitude of complete in box original systems. Retro gaming is alive and well. If anything the NES and SNES Classics have taught the consumer market is that what is old can always be made relevant again. A plethora of literature is devoted to the hobby of video game collecting and the history of the medium is well documented in numerous publications. This October will mark the return of the Commodore 64(C64) on North American shores.
Since its initial release back in August of 1984, The Commodore 64 is the prime example of great software on mediocre hardware. Filled with glitches, freeze screens, limited processing, and subpar graphics, the C64 still bosted some of the greatest video game titles on a home PC. Stunning truly, when one places the Commodore in the context of its time. But now, 24 years after its discontinuation back in April of 1994, the C64 is looking to make a remarkable comeback. But after importing the EU version of this new retro system, one can easily mark the many shortcomings of this HD throwback.
Both the European and North American releases of the C64 mini feature 720 HDMI support, pixel-perfect presentation of each title, and save game functionality. Furthermore, this product will contain a USB port for software updates along with in-game save state support. Impressive when merely glancing at the basic specs of this retro console. When compared to the SNES and NES Classic systems, the C64 is actually allowing for possible releases of future software which in turns helps elevate this product from a mere emulation device. In regards to visual presentation, the C64 will incorporate a pixel-perfect CRT filter option with a 4:3 aspect ratio for those consumers who seek a purist gaming experience.
The bundle also includes a pack in of 64 titles from the Commodore’s glory days ranging from RPG’s like Firelord to arcade-style sports games such as Speedball. The diversity appears to be its strength with this nostalgic trip, and many of the included games still rank among some of the best the PC had to offer back in the 80s. For just 79.99, the developers give fans more than their money’s worth. But even with decent specs, dozens of high-quality pack-in titles, and realistic reproductions of the original hardware, the C64 still suffered from many of the shortcomings associated with retro systems.
The C64’s Limitations
The C64 is more than just rebirth of interest in the Commodore line, it is a lesson in not repeating the mistakes of the past. With pro controllers proliferating the market, it seems odd that the makers of this retro reboot would stick to an accessory that was much maligned even back when it first launched.
Implementing a joystick into today’s consumer needs truly hampers the whole experience one has when playing the C64 mini. Granted, Retro Games Ltd intentionally set their sights on modeling this product as close as possible to the original source hardware.
But analog sticks and a D-pad would have given the C64 a much-needed boost in market appeal. Unless you are a hardcore gamer, the brand Commodore means little to much of the youth market today. This retro product feels much more like a niche system that targets a more narrow fanbase than for instance the NES classic. Commodore does not hold as much weight as Nintendo or Sega and furthering this divide is the incorporation of such an outdated control style.
But accessories aside, the C64 has many other hindrances that prevent this from becoming a modern phenomenon. This fact is exemplified most notably in the games themselves. Having access to immediately 64 titles would be a dream for any fanboy. But when most of these games are less than notable IPS, one cannot help feeling as if they are paying for just nostalgia rather than substance. It’s truly mind-boggling to think that series that are still around today had their origins on the original Commodore.
The Ultima franchise, Prince of Persia, Spy vs Spy, and Defender of the Crown, are all noticeably absent on the C64 mini. Perhaps licensing prevented their appearance, or maybe they are being saved for a later system update, but if the C64 is to gain popularity in 2018 it needs to hit at the core of its original market base.
Any Commodore loyalist will take notice of these killer apps absence, and newcomers will easily grow tired of California Games in seconds. For a 79.99 price tag, the developers of the C64 could have at least graced this throwback with a copy of the highly praised Maniac Mansion. Even the lack of a second controller adds fuel to the flames when many of the included software allows for multiplayer support.
The SNES brilliantly gave fans a second player controller since it cost twenty dollars more than its forebearer. For a product with an 80 dollar starting price, its developers could have included a second joystick for consumer convenience. The non-functionality of the C64 mini’s keyboard is another let down when one remembers the importance of typing DOS commands in uploading software on the original Commodore PC.
The hardware is dull and stiff by most retro remake standards, and having a nonresponsive keyboard is the antithesis of what the original Commodore was all about. But there is still hope in the impending release of the North American edition of the C64 mini.
Nostalgia For The Sake Of Nostalgia
The rudimentary design and simplicity of the C64’s hardware represent hope for vintage hobbyists and collectors alike. A poor joystick and shoddy selection of pack in titles do little to undermine the fact that the Commodore moniker is alive in the public conscious. The C64 has already achieved what it hoped to in that it placed the now-defunct PC monolith in the same pantheon as Nintendo and Sega.
With any factual reproduction of outdated technology, there are always risks involved. The Commodore PC was not perfect when it initially released and its miniature predecessor bares the same imperfections. This holiday season will be an interesting time for retro gamers. Sony plans on releasing its own classic edition system with just 20 games built into its hardware.
More than likely, the Nintendo 64 Classic will become an actual product to compete with Sony. But the Commodore is the happy medium between the two titans at war. Is it worth the price or the wait? The answer is most definitely absolutely when one considers the output of other companies has had in producing there own retro mini consoles. Knowing that the C64 mini has the possibility of future updates and new software makes it a pearl in the murky sea of shoddy retro reboots.
The C64 is not a static hardware device, nor is it a cash grab from a fledgling company. It definitely has legs, but unfortunately, these legs need to gain speed in order to win this retro console race. Commodore is a name that has long been since associated with the PC market. It is appropriate to mention this fact. The C64 mini is that candle in the night that shines as brightly as it can for those gamers who remember a time before the console Renaissance that is the NES.