That Stupid Camera – The Challenges of Playing Retro Games

I’ve hit a noticeable obstacle to playing classic games.

This obstacle isn’t noticeable in the really old retro games. We’re not talking about the era of game consoles dominated by 2D side scrolling games. So to be clear, I’m not talking about games for your Nintendo, your Super Nintendo, your Sega Genesis or anything like that.

I’m talking about that transitional era of games where 3D first became a thing. I’m talking about the growing pains era, the puberty of the gaming world.

We’re talking about the Nintendo 64, the PS One, the PlayStation 2, the Sega Saturn and the Sega Dreamcast.

You look at the list of systems I named there and I bet just about everyone has one of their favorite systems included in that list. For me, those systems include two of my all-time favorites, the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation 2.

So if these are some of my favorite systems, why would there be a problem in playing the games from that era?

Two Words: THE CAMERA.

It took playing Shadow of the Colossus and Silent Hill 2 over the past week to realize some of the issues we faced with cameras were too much to get over in that generation. Both of these games are often considered some of the greatest games of their generation. Some people would even consider them some of the greatest games EVER.

Silent Hill 2 Cameras EDIT

So why is it when I’m playing a game like Silent Hill 2 now, I run into issues with a camera that doesn’t know how to follow the action? Why is it that while I’m wandering through the fog of that forgotten city, I’m constantly disoriented because of a camera that keeps changing its angle on me at the worst possible moment?

There are some good elements to Silent Hill 2’s cameras, like a button where you can just snap the camera back behind you in most of the game’s areas. But it always seems like the camera is positioned in the wrong location at the worst possible moment, an issue that seems almost non-existent with today’s generation of games. Its also an issue that wouldn’t be tolerated in gaming today, but was tolerable back then because 3D was new and camera angles were hard to work with.

The problem isn’t isolated to Silent Hill 2. While we’ve come to expect difficult camera angles in games like Super Mario 64, the Banjo-Kazooie games and many other classic platformers, later games for that generation of consoles seem to avoid the scorn of wrathful gamers giving camera angles a tweak.

Climbing Mountains Shadow of the Colossus

Last night, I gave Shadow of the Colossus a go for the first time. I wish I had played this game much earlier in my time as a gamer, because I’m coming into this experience as a gamer spoiled by modern gaming’s visuals and controls. While I only played Shadows of the Colossus for a short time and cannot judge it as a full game experience, I could see camera issues right off the bat while trying to climb a mountain. Every time I would try to angle the jump from one cliff to another, I would see the camera moving away without any input from me, trying to snap back into some default position that would leave it in the middle of a hunk of rock and totally useless to me.

I would like to stress that I’m not going to give up on playing Shadow of the Colossus because of this issue. Far from it. I want to play this game to its end and experience what many call a monument of gaming.  Quitting Colossus now would be like quitting Super Mario Bros 3 because it doesn’t have a save system. You can’t fault a game for the limits of its programming.

All I’m saying here is that one of the best games of this past era of gaming is not immune to the issues seen by many of the 3D games released during that time frame. Its taken years for game developers to figure out how to deal with camera issues and even today, we still see some games that fail to pull it off.

I know I’m not alone in this experience, so what do you think? What games have you played that have given you trouble with their camera controls or camera angles?




One thought on “That Stupid Camera – The Challenges of Playing Retro Games”

  1. Camera issues are often born from the design of the game without consideration of the camera. Narrow corridors? Bet ya they didn’t think about how to use the camera and focused more on the fascinating geography.


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