Reviewing a retro video game differs in many ways from your traditional video game reviews. In general, a video game review is written as close to the release date as possible, if not before it’s even been released, so as to obtain as much exposure as possible to the article in question while interest in the subject is at it’s peak. In a normal video game review, comparisons and observations are made keeping in mind current day gameplay mechanics and expectations of growth within the video game industry. But in a retro game review, one must be willing to make many sacrifices and be able to live in both the present and the past.
Before writing a retro game review you should ask yourself why you want to write it in the first place. Is it to bring exposure to a video game you remember from childhood? Is it to show how far video games have come since the 80’s? Retro game reviewers are not unlike historians. We do thorough research on every title we come across and take into consideration the social, political and economic climate present when the title was produced. As well, we study advancement in the industry retrospectively, learning who did what and how we got to where we are today.
But being a retro game reviewer is hardly all about the glory. You should consider the following before setting out to write:
The niche in question is incredibly small with little potential to monitize; you are dealing with products that are typically not being sold anymore, and probably haven’t been sold in a decade or more.
Those that are interested in the niche are incredibly passionate and you must be willing to accept a great amount of both criticism and praise from a very eccentric demographic.
Although the nich is small and most information out there is dated and thus a few slots are ripe for the taking, the competition is old and fierce; although not as difficult to break into as a general gaming niche it is still difficult. After all, what can you offer that Wikipedia can’t?
So, let’s say you have either the initiative or the capability to do what it takes, how exactly do you write a retro game review? Well, as with almost all venues of journalism for the most part you are free to do it however you wish. There are, however, some points that you can consider in order to facilitate the writing process. So without further hesitation, here are some tips on how to write a retro game review.
Refrain from your typical numerical or “star” rating systems. You are reviewing content that is usually only relevant in a historical sense, and thus any rating you could give a game are largely arbitrary. A game might once have been a 10 out of 10 or a D minus back in the day, but by today’s standards could be considered either influential or to have aged quite poorly (or both!)
Do research about the game itself, outside of gameplay. What was notable about it’s release. Who designed it, and who was the president of the company at the time? Was the game meant to compete with another company’s game?
Provide the reader with just enough history to interest the reader without becoming to insistent about it’s origins. After all, if they want to know everything about it, they’d have gone to Wikipedia. Just enough history to tell the reader why it’s relevant to the industry is enough.
Use terms and descriptions that a gamer who hasn’t played the game in question before would understand. Use terminology that most gamers would use.