Hey Harvey!

Posted on Aug 15th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under Save States, Mini Consoles, Emulation, Evercade, if save states were in real life sports would be so dull


Bonus points if you recognize this OG save state device.

Any gamer who has played for a few decades knows the moment; you pick up a favorite from your childhood, a game you put a ton of time into long ago, and now you seem to have lost all skill you once possessed.  Maybe your reflexes are strangely different from half a lifetime ago, or you've spent so much time playing other types of games that a particular skill-set has just withered.  Either way, gamers my age and older likely know the sad realization of trying to replay an old favorite and just hitting a brick wall.




I still own and play retro games on original hardware, though I've dabbled in emulation since its inception.  Nothing beats popping in Turtles in Time or Gunstar Heroes for a quick play on a good old CRT with the same model controller I sunk countless hours learning to use.  Still, I'm no video game luddite, and in particular I'm a fan of the recent Mini emulated console trend.  I'll admit a big part of my enjoyment of mini consoles is the faithfulness to the old controllers, the reliability of the hardware, and...*sigh* the save state feature.


My fave mini, I enjoy this thing so much.

I didn't initially use the save state features on the NES or SNES Mini, though I thought they were a worthwhile (and expected) addition.  Really, it was the TurboGrafx-16 Mini that has taught me the full value of saving anywhere, anytime in this phase of my gaming.  The TG-16 library is full of games I played a ton of in my youth, but there were quite a few I never completed on the system.  Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder, Beyond Shadowgate, Ys I&II, Bloody Wolf, and a few others I completed numerous times over, but some of the other classics always stymied me.

Fast forward thirty years (OUCH!) and my final breakthrough with Ninja Spirit.  There is a section right before the end boss where your character is falling, and enemies come up from the bottom of the screen at you.  I got to this part so many times in my youth, and could never figure it out.  This time around, I used a save state right before it and played it over and over.  (Honestly, I finally YouTube-d it and found a very specific spot to stay the entire time, and I have absolutely no idea how that was supposed to be discovered in-game.)  I finally beat the game!  And that got me looking through the library at all of the other games I could save at trouble spots and just keep trying...
So far, I've finally managed to finish Blazing Lazers, Splatterhouse, Psychosis and I'm most of the way through New Adventure Island.  Also, I read that Alien Crush has an ending if you roll the score counter, so I have a save on it that I put a little time into here and there.

Of course, save states aren't just on the Mini consoles, and have been around as long as emulation.  When the Contra and Castlevania Anniversary Collections came out, I picked them up on the Switch, and since then I've played through every game on both.  Using save states I was able to finally see the ending of the Game Boy versions I never completed.  Being able to challenge the bosses in those games until I got it right still felt like an accomplishment.  Also, simply being able to save those games anytime on a portable makes it so much easier to get a little bit of time on them when I can spare it.

Speaking of portability, I'd be remiss to not bring up the Evercade, the  portable from my last write-up.  My current conquest is to complete the Genesis titles Splatterhouse 2 and 3, both games I never completed back in the day.  I have to admit, I'm using more saves than I'd like on 2, because I still cannot get used to the wonky hit detection and slide-y feel of the main sprite.  I loaded up my original and yep, it always controlled like this, so I don't feel as bad using the save feature a bit more.


Can't wait for those Atari Lynx game Carts, maybe I can finally beat Electro Cop!

I find that the older I get, the more I desire and support just about any accessibility option.  I've written about my lefty southpaw dilemmas, nausea from some 3D games and VR, and how at this point I don't mind "easy mode."  I still enjoy a challenge here and there; Bloodborne and Xeno Crisis are two of my favorites of the last few years, and I recognize the high difficulty is part of the experience for those titles.  Yet in most cases I'd advocate the more options the better; why not give more folks a chance to play and enjoy, especially when options are user defined and there is a 'traditional' way to experience any game in question?  I know there are gamers who consider save states as cheating, and would shame me for using them to finally clear some games I never completed.  And I would never claim to have "officially beaten" any game I use save states to finish.  But that is part of what makes me a different gamer now than in my youth; back then, it was to challenge myself and my friends.  Now, I just want to finish the experience the game gives, occasionally revisit, and move on to the next gaming experience.  In theory, most games could provide the ability to do both.

I never used the Game Genie,  Game Shark, or other cheat devices when I was younger.  Aside from using them to let my middle child tinker with coding, I don't usually use them now.  But something about having a save state so I can retry a specific section of a game is a perfect middle ground for me.  It is still far from a perfect solution for every retro title; some games, like the aforementioned Castlevania titles, are built a lot more around the 'flow' and feel of a playthrough and thus save states break down that rhythm.  There is always the danger of saving right before a death or unavoidable fail-state.  Depend on them too much and a real skill at the game can hardly develop.  Save states are just another tool, and like the rest of gaming your thoughts on them will largely depend on what experience you are going for.

After all these years, without using cheat codes or simply YouTube-ing a playthrough, I've finally seen the end of some games I never finished.  Or, never finished the way I wanted (did I mention save states let me finally see the best ending of Sonic and Sonic 2)?  Am I robbing myself of just getting better and a sense of personal reward?  Well, as I look at the towers of games I still want to play through, retro and modern, my take on it is that I'd rather experience more games and see them through (some with assistance) than put more time into fewer games but get closer to mastering them.  It is a matter of personal preference, certainly.  As I get older, I find myself enjoying the experience more than the challenge, although the two are obviously interlinked. 

Seeing the industry grow to where it is now, with more accessibility options than ever before, has been a wonderful blessing.  If you told my teenage self I would be playing Metal Marines on a portable that could save anywhere at any time, I'd have been so excited for the future of gaming and all it can offer for new and old games.

I still am.

Smiley


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Comments
 
It's interesting to think about save stages in the context of today. I remember using them a bit here and there with emulation on PC years ago, but there's been a lot of talk in the shmup community the last year or so about using save states as a practice tool. Play up to a spot you have trouble with, then save state, and grind away at it, until you have it down, then save state at the next spot, etc. I haven't really done a good job of using that method, but it makes sense, and is something I should think about. I've become spoiled with modern games that allow me to save whenever, games that don't punish as much for a death, or a console like the Switch or PS4, where I can leave the game running and the console in a low-power state and just come back to it.
 
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