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The 64 Is a New Computer for Old People Who Like To Throw Money Away

Who needs to play on a PlayStation 4 when, soon, there'll be a new way to get Commodore 64 "classics" on your HD TV.

by Mike Diver
19 April 2016, 4:51pm

Photos via Indiegogo

Okay, before we get any deeper into this: I like old video games. That's because I, like them, am old. Enough to remember the "first times", anyway. I grew up on the Amiga, Master System and Mega Drive, but before that I had a Spectrum and drawers full of pirated cassettes (shut up, we all did). I would spend rainy holiday afternoons at friends' houses playing International Soccer on the Commodore 64 and the first Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, when we couldn't sneak The Terminator into the VCR.

I've lived through the best and worst of the video gaming's 8- and 16bit "golden" years, is what I'm saying here. I've played the games that came on eight discs, swappable every other round. I've blown on more cartridges than you've had hot dinners. (I haven't, obviously, but I've put my share to my lips in the hope of clearing dusty pins.) I can see, with absolute 20/20 clarity, that the games of today are so much better than the vast majority of those in the past. Which isn't to say your memories of having fantastic fun with a Competition Pro on your lap are in any way wrong, but they're just that: memories. And memories tend to favour the better aspects of any given experience over the shit that came with it, at the time.

So it puzzles me, palpably, whenever crowd-funded campaigns to bring old titles, kicking and screaming like a Speccy cassette on an endless loading loop, into the contemporary gaming landscape pop up, promising new ways to replay the fondly recalled favourites of your childhood. Because, if you liked games then, and still do now, you know full well that Turrican doesn't hold a candle to the best of Call of Duty (wow, I actually wrote that), and that Ultima IV looks like a disaster on a Stickle Bricks production line beside the gorgeous, entirely enveloping fantasy environments of The Witcher 3. And, I know, these games shouldn't be compared like that. Different times, different technology, different worlds. But that's the choice that new products like The 64, currently raising funds on Indiegogo, presents to us in 2016: do you want to smash about with your mates on Rocket League, or will Super Sprint fill that free time just as excitingly?

Of course it fucking won't. Rocket League is magnificent. But you can't play it on The 64, another contraption in a long line of reimagined machines stirring your rose-tinted synapses like so much gloopy brain soup. A system that is, as Indiegogo launcher Darren Melbourne told Eurogamer, "a homage to the greatest home computer of all time". Cue: every greying, middle-age-spreading Crash reader grinding their teeth to a fine dust.

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What you will be able to play, on the Commodore 64 That Isn't (because it can't legally call itself that) once it launches in December 2016, is a bunch of emulated games in "glorious" HD and stereo sound. Which is great, because video games in the early 1980s were absolutely designed to look their best on 1080p LED flatscreens. I mean, why take on the next adventure of Nathan Drake on your PS4 – or even the forthcoming, 4K-spilling-over-its-bleeding-edges PlayStation 4 "NEO", as revealed by Giant Bomb – when you can move a little man around who looks like he's made from what's left behind on the tissue when Minecraft sneezes?

But I digress – and I apologise, too, for sending out the wrong signals here, in as much as I do see the appeal of the 64. Grown men with few responsibilities and limited outgoings in any given month can accumulate a worrying amount of spare cash, and it's absolutely correct that they should spend some of it – $650 (or £459) of it for "The Whole" 64 package, including the Computer Console, lovingly modelled after the original C64, the accompanying handheld, some joysticks and a load of games and other titbits – on unashamed nostalgia projects like this one. They'll get their delivery, tear it open, stroke the keys, slam in a cartridge (but not an original one, because they won't work) and fire it up. And ten minutes later, it'll all be up on the shelf beside all those other gaming relics that have no place being activated in 2016. The Atari Lynx. The Atari Jaguar. The Atari 7800. The Atari Atgames Flashback Pro. Some other, now-forever-silenced consoles by manufacturers that aren't Atari, possibly.

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I like old video games – but I like new ones better, and I always feel that these revivals of really old systems, like the recently profiled Vega+, are working against the progress the gaming medium needs to maintain if it's ever going to be seen as a significant influence in and on popular culture, outside of circles that already know that to be true. Okay, so it's a passion project, likewise the Vega+, and I honestly have no problem with people supporting it. What I do have a problem with is the idea that persists within some of these purchasers, that video games aren't what they used to be, like that's a bad thing. That kind of blinkered nonsense is maddening.

I'm glad that video games aren't like they used to be. Power Gloves and light guns, two hours of battery life and avatars that make The LEGO Movie's Batman look like Ben Affleck – forget all that. Okay, don't forget it, but trust me: returning to the video games of the 1980s will not make you happier. Spending your money on different-shaped means of practically the same emulation you've enjoyed for ages now might be a thrill, but the end products are only ever destined to collect dust. So what am I saying here, exactly? I suppose: don't let shiny new manifestations of your memories cloud the fact that we've never had it better in gaming. The classics do go out of style, because technological progress is unrelenting, and it's okay to accept that. I mean, as a Wii U owner, I came to terms with it years ago. This, here, on my face? It was raining outside.

Check out The 64 on Indiegogo here. For what it is, it looks alright, and I'm sure it'll have its supporters and meet its funding target. Good luck to them, I say. Even though I'll laugh at anyone I meet who's actually bought one, before buying them a pick-me-up pint.

@mikediver

More retro gaming stuff from VICE Gaming, because everyone loves a terrific hypocrite:

'Street Fighter II', Today: The World Warriors Reimagined for 2016

An Expert Agrees: The 'Streets of Rage 2' Soundtrack Is Still Brilliant

I'll Never Love a Console Like I Loved the SEGA Dreamcast

Tagged:
vice gaming
indiegogo
crowd funding
Commodore 64
commodore
Retro Gaming
Mike Diver
Vice Blog
Doesn't really hate old games or anything like that
But is a bit sick of all these revival systems bleeding money from people who lived through the old days
Cos it's not like it's hard to still play C64 games
Just get a C64 off eBay and some games and have a laugh for a fraction of the cost of what this is asking for
Old Computers