Play It Again, Sam: Retro Gaming Is In


But when even "Choose Your Own Adventure" books suddenly start resurfacing on tablet PCs after 20 years and new text adventures are being funded by fans' philanthropic efforts, it's obvious that something big is brewing.

Game Publishers Retread Old Ground on Home, Handheld Consoles

Never missing a good opportunity, game publishers are lining up in growing numbers to retread old ground on home, and even handheld, consoles.

Thought last year was a banner one for retro gaming, between high-profile PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 releases like "Donkey Kong Country," "Splatterhouse" and "NBA Jam"?

Check out store shelves in 2011, soon to be choked with familiar names like "Mortal Kombat," "Jagged Alliance: Back in Action" and "Tomb Raider."

In the downloadable space, new offers range from unlikely updates of popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) titles, such as "Rush 'N Attack: Ex-Patriot," to unexpected re-imaginings of long-lost Atari 2600 favorites, like "Yars' Revenge."

Shockingly, despite a legendarily troubled, 10-year-plus development schedule, they've even manage to resurrect "Duke Nukem Forever" for a May 3 release.

Don't be surprised if the upcoming lineup for the new Nintendo 3DS handheld console with glasses-free 3D looks familiar either. Rather than launch with a glittering range of original titles designed to illustrate its features, developers are, instead, mostly turning to new installments of trusted historical franchises to provide a showcase for its technology.

Experiencing Déjà Vu? You're Not the Only One

From "Kid Icarus" and "Pilotwings" to "Bust-a-Move" and "Resident Evil," countless NES, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation favorites are all making a comeback.

Between new versions of "Ridge Racer," "Rayman" and even "Pac-Man" and "Galaga," you'd be excused for experiencing a sudden overwhelming wave of deja vu.

But it's easy to see why new iPhone games that conjure pleasant childhood memories, like "The 7th Guest" or episodic games like "Back to the Future: The Game," are enjoying the spotlight again.

Harkening back to a simpler gaming era for both fans and publishers alike, these titles prove a simple point that today's designers and fans would both do well to recall: The more things change, the more they play the same. Timeless designs are readily capable of captivating and entertaining, no matter the technology behind them.

In gaming -- as with films, TV shows and other forms of entertainment -- sheer creative genius, not technical gimmicks or fancy production values, trumps all.

Scott Steinberg (@GadgetExpert on Twitter) is the head of technology and video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, and creator and host of online video series Game Theory. He frequently appears as a high-tech analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN.

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