My fixation on 90s home video game consoles has quickly expanded to include a slight obsession with 80s arcade games. While most of my video game memories take place on the floor at home, Zelda maps spread out next to cans of soda and a bag of Cheddar Cheese Combos, I also spent plenty of quarters at cacophonous arcades. From standing on chairs in pizza parlors to play Pac-Man and Frogger to dumping $5 into Moonwalker at Aladdin’s Castle while my mom got a perm on the other side of the mall. Thin carpeted floors with neon triangles, rubbing tokens together between my fingers, BODY BLOW! BODY BLOW! UPPERCUT!
Initially I wanted to play my favorites from the mid-to-late 80s: Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Double Dragon, Narc, Smash TV, Punch-Out!!, Golden Axe, The Simpsons, and then bathe in the Neo Geo waters. At the time, I thought of those as the new games of my generation. The older stuff was the older stuff, the staples of arcade play, the games I remember playing much less often, the games with long instructions in small print, the huge, looming cabinets that dotted the walls and slowly disappeared to make room for the fighters. Deceptively simple and brilliantly, fortunately confined to the technologies of their day, this compression delivered highly creative ideas and controls and sounds. Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, Joust, Paperboy, Burger Time, Gauntlet – they were delicious. But Defender, Galaga ’88, Frenzy, Major Havoc, Missile Command, Robotron, Tempest, Zoo Keeper, Donkey Kong – these take you to other worlds. These are hard, elusive and painfully addictive games.
Playing Resogun on a PS4 — which tried its best and succeeded in little moments at making my mouth drop — you’re not just reminded of Defender. You want to see Eugene Jarvis get royalties. Things move on, there’s no other way. Games like Resogun pay tribute and yet clearly pave their own path. Galaga Legions DX, on the other hand, just runs in a circle.