Watermelon Corporation and the Benefits of the 16-Bit Experience

Creating games for consoles that came out 20 years ago is possible thanks to the support of the gaming community and a bit of modern ingenuity.

by

If you were locked in a room with the last big-budget game you'd purchased and a game from your childhood, and you had to destroy one to save the other, which would you choose to save? Herein lies the great rift between the games we'll eventually cherish and the games we'll merely remember, and while there's no right answer, if you hesistated for a second, there's a good chance you see the value in, for lack of a better name, retro games.


Nostalgia has inspired a revival of development for so called "dead" consoles.

There was a time when creating fun and enjoyable experiences was at the forefront of developers' minds. That's not to say that modern games can't be fun, or that there aren't new games built on these same ideals, but the ratio has shifted. Indie and mainstream developers have made an effort to revive games reminiscent of a simpler time, but even when Capcom does the unthinkable and releases two "8-bit" Mega Man sequels, there's a little voice in the back of your head calling their bluff. Their heart is in the right place, but wouldn't it be something if you could play Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 on an actual Nintendo Entertainment System?

So what do you do if you want to re-create the experience of gaming in your decade of choice?
So what do you do if you want to re-create the experience of gaming in your decade of choice? As usual, the Internet has you covered; eBay and Amazon are full of sellers with antiquated games and consoles in ready supply. Spend enough time chasing your childhood favorites, however, and you'll eventually come to the realization that there's a finite selection of games. Yes, you could in theory collect retro games until your dying days, but when you examine the number of games that you actually want to play, you'll likely discover that you truly care about only a fraction of any console's library. So what, then, do you do when you've exhausted your particular stable of memorable titles? If you're a "normal" person, you'll bury your nostalgia-driven motives, put the cartridges and consoles aside, and call it a night.

On the other hand, if you believe that your NES or Genesis can coexist with a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 in the untamed wilderness of your living room, how do you continue to enjoy a system that has effectively been put out to pasture? There are really only two options:

A. Sample other (potentially unfamiliar) games that were released during your childhood, in the hopes they'll keep your nostalgia boat afloat.

B. Support the talented and reckless individuals who, against all odds, continue to produce original games for systems that are 10, 20, even 30 years old.

Believe it or not, option B isn't as unrealistic as it sounds.

In 2004, an unusual game named Tavern RPG appeared on Eidolon's Inn, the site of a community dedicated to the development of homebrew software for the Sega Genesis. Conceived as a tribute to the members of the site's forum, the Tavern, its developers eventually abandoned that concept in favor of creating a grand tribute to Japanese role-playing games. They renamed it Pier Solar, and in 2010, they released a finished, physical product. The team, now known as Watermelon Corporation, self-published elaborately designed packages based on each region's (North America, Europe, and Asia) traditional packaging aesthetic.

Watermelon's attention to detail is staggering. The packaging is so well made, bursting with nuance and extra "goodies," that you'd easily mistake it for a limited-edition Genesis game. The fact is: it is. Copies of the first two printings cost hundreds of dollars when they even show up on eBay. These original printings also include a companion soundtrack CD that replaces the standard synthesizer tracks when placed in a Sega CD, something not found in the still (barely) available, modestly packaged Reprint EP edition.

It's good then that Watermelon was able to craft a game worthy of such an exhaustive treatment. Pier Solar comes on the largest Genesis cartridge ever produced in terms of memory capacity. At 64Mb (megabits), it towers over the former champ, the 40Mb Super Street Fighter II. Pier Solar's structure and art style are reminiscent of Game Arts' Sega CD legend, Lunar: The Silver Star, a testament to the talent hidden within Watermelon Corporation.

With Pier Solar under its belt, and a Kickstarter for an HD version currently in progress, Watermelon started preliminary development of two new games for old systems, one each for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Most interestingly, Watermelon is crowd-funding and crowd-designing each of these games, tentatively known as Project N and Project Y. Anyone can purchase gems (1 gem = 10 cents) from Watermelon and use them to influence the decision-making process as development continues. Whenever Watermelon opens polls requesting input, you essentially vote with your gems. You can also occasionally invest in, say, 500 gems and qualify for an increase in your influence on the game in question.

Watermelon reserves the right to ignore any decision made as a result of these polls and is up front about this policy, but it's not a cause for concern. When you examine its history as a community-based development team with a track record of integrity and a proven capacity to deliver on promises made, it's reasonable to expect that the company will stay true to its initial vision.

While the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign for Pier Solar HD will ultimately determine its fate, Project N and Project Y aren't tied to such conditions. It may take a year, though more likely a couple of years, for Watermelon to complete the games, but if the result ends up even close to the quality of Pier Solar, it'll be worth the wait.

If you've longed for the experience of returning to the consoles that brought you and your gaming compatriots joy during your childhood, or even as adults, you have the ability to support their revival. As Watermelon continues to grow, the hope is that it will eventually be able to regularly produce original games, and potentially inspire others to do the same. We can count on most publishers of AAA games to do what they've always done: chase technology and dollar signs. If efforts undertaken by the likes of Watermelon are to continue, it's up to the minority of the cartridge obsessed to make it happen.

"Ready? FIGHT!"

Discussion

1 comments
nate1222
nate1222

I'd like to see a PC release, via Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Classics (GamersGate, DotEmu, Amazon Game Downloads, Steam). Being able to play it on my laptop alongside Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Gunstar Heroes would rock.

grimhope
grimhope

I chipped in my $125!  Can't wait to get my hands on the Dreamcast LE in about a year!!

PyreofKoL
PyreofKoL

Man, I may have to throw some cash into their KickStarter. This game looks great. I love the Genesis dearly.

penpusher
penpusher

I always find it amusing reading an article on retro gaming, by a writer who works for a game site which covers only modern video games. "How do you keep enjoying a system that has effectively been put out to pasture", comments like that reinforce my belief that these journalists dont actually have a clue what they're talking about :)

 

The games may be old but that doesnt mean they stop being fun just because games these days are super realistic looking and have guns with chainsaw bayonets ...

rey2
rey2

To get my Sega Genesis and SNES out of the attic and into the entertainment  room again.  All i've relied to these days are fan translation sites who truly loved that era way back.  But straight back into the limelight?  Hell, i'll support it as well.

XGoldenboyX
XGoldenboyX

Thank you Gamespot and everyone for posting the news and supporting our team!

 

You wont be desapointed : )

tgwolf
tgwolf

I support it, though it would great to recreate the old classics without licensing issues...

FlakeyCrust
FlakeyCrust

I guess these guys are deaf, because the FM sound engine in the Sega Genesis made my ears bleed. Oh, but this kind of nostalgia whoring will get you laid real quick... if trailer chicks who buy their games at swap meets give you a chubby.

wiserat4
wiserat4

Totally disagree with the author's introduction paragraph as I hate modern gaming in general. But excluding that, this was a really interesting article.  Watermelon reminds me or Working Designs in their Sega golden age before their transitioned to PS1.   I really want an English adaption of Dragon Force 2 for the Saturn as well as a Panzer Dragoon Saga resurrection.  I think if this really caught on it might even bring Sega back into the console wars which would be amazing.

SNESNOSTALGIA2
SNESNOSTALGIA2

I know this might start a flame war because people keep bringing it up but I would like to see them do this to FF7 and FF tactics those are two of my most nostalgic and I love 16 bit especially HD + well drawn combining the old with the new like vanillaware !!! Mind you, I grew up with Nintendo and Super Nintendo as well and there are countless other games that I want redone and I don't see why with today's tech they can't emulate good hand drawn animation it's hilarious!!! A good example of what the industry has become is double dragon neo - I'd rather play Odin sphere or Scott pilgrim versus the world - something with inspired art design and not these clunky pseudo 3d/2d trailer trash graphics we get. There are things like mark of the ninja limbo and dead light that I think people are gonna use as exceptions but we all know that with these super powerful systems a company could make an amazing looking 16bit style rpg with 100s of hours of gameplay ANY 16 bit genre but these soulless companies like ea and activision won't do it thank god for my Wii u in a week Mario will bring me back...

lulababy
lulababy

I just want Konami to bring new SUIKODEN to Kickstarter...This would break records...

 

When will you start listening to your fans KONAMI ???

EMPTY-V
EMPTY-V

Interesting to see development of games for old consoles. And I thought emulators and roms were all we needed.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Why cant we get snes style 2d HD graphics for some new RPG games on current consoles and PC? We dont need 8 bit or 16 bit graphics you have no limits on 2d art quality give us symphony of the night style HD 2d graphics, People will buy RPG games that are quality

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

sounds cool, i'm liking some of the direction of the indy community, i feel as though this isn't what i want to see with the WHOLE gaming industry....do we really have to go retro? doesn't it mean that going retro say something about not going forward as an industry?

guard12
guard12

i have been craving some Earthbound recently. One of the best RPGs ever.

bisongeese
bisongeese

Just have to agree that Pier Solar is an excellent game and I was happy to support it. I would say that if you don't have a Genesis lying around to buy the reprint, support the HD version. It is well worth it.

TheBlackEclipse
TheBlackEclipse

The 16 bit era was truly the golden age of gaming in my opinion. I think that the SNES was the greatest console of all time, especially in the category of RPG's. Glad to see that people still love these consoles.

Renoo27
Renoo27

I never owned NES. SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection is all the nostalgia I need. :D

danielwd
danielwd

I would to see this turned into a video.

hostX9
hostX9

I call this hyper nostalgia!

 

I can't believe some people are actually doing stuff like this. Those guys are totally rad! XD

u1tradt
u1tradt

Why would I want to buy old consoles and games from eBay or Amazon when I can play them all on my PC?

Chaceace100
Chaceace100

This sounds pretty cool, It'd be awesome if indie developers started to port their games that are out now to older game consoles, it'll be a long shot probably due to demand, licensing, and manufacturing of the games, but hey I'd buy them :D... 

mateyman
mateyman

I love (good) retro games, but I'm pretty sure that nostalgia plays a bigger part of our love than we imagine. They had games that sucked back then too, and we have games that are pretty decent. 

 

 

Now, if you would excuse me, I'm going to get back to playing Ecco II: Tides of Time

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

I would choose to keep Illusions of Gaia or Super Metroid over most of the games of recent years.

gamerKris82
gamerKris82

I love retro games but don't have the old hardware anymore. Please also make them available for digital download on 3DS or PS Vita. That's where I play games now.

Mon6ana
Mon6ana

shadow hearts ftw

sotn for the win

silent hill 1 ftw

side pocket for the win

and many many more

lonewolf_kai
lonewolf_kai

Here, here!  Maybe the big name corporations will start paying attention to why "retro gaming" has become so popular lately.  It's because these indie producers are actually paying more attention to their product rather than the dollar sign.

Johny_47
Johny_47

I think the main benefits of such... crappy graphics =P - is that developers had to think about story and characters more than anything, they couldn't rely on fancy photo realism or realistic physics. Most developers these days should have one week of the year and just play older games to keep their minds in check and stop them from recycling the same crap over and over again, Activision / Infinity ward in particular =P

FojMohsin
FojMohsin

Sega mega drive 2 was my first gaming console.... good old days...

Pixelitoo
Pixelitoo

You can easily find all the information you want here : http://www.magicalgamefactory.com/

That is where you can buy Pier Solar, and where you can have a look to the WaterMelon project for Genesis and SNES !

Rtarroyo
Rtarroyo

I have my genesis installed and ready! Where do I find this Pier Solar game?!

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

Great article! I would def favor old timeless classics over new modern games if I had to choose. I really hope indie dev groups like Watermelon succeed and increase in numbers, if this becomes a trend we might actually see the revival of legacy consoles. Not to mention it  would catch the attention of old console companies like Sega and they might re-produce their consoles if there's enough demand for it, I know its wishful thinking but one can dream.

 

I also wonder how easy it is to jump in and start developing these games ourselves? I would be really interested in trying to make a game for a legacy console.

franzito
franzito

I'll be forever nostalgic, recently I've been playing Castlevania and Chrono Cross for PSX.

irishdude199210
irishdude199210

I'm only 20 but very nostalgic. Just last month I played Tekken 1, and I'm currently playing the old Mortal Kombat games (aswell as the new one). The first MK game came out the same month as my birthday :P I don't have the old consoles, but emulation is good enough for me.

Gravelord_Nito
Gravelord_Nito

demon's crest, breath of fire 2, super castlevania 4...ahhh, memories ^^

StarkJJ
StarkJJ

 @u1tradt Because being "legit" and playing emulators are 2 very different things.  

Chaceace100
Chaceace100

 @u1tradt If you don't already own the consoles then just stick to the PC. Us older peeps though (im not that old but...) could get good use out of our old consoles this way.

marsilies
marsilies

 @Chaceace100 There's actually a name for these type of games, "demakes". Most are done for PC but in the style of an earlier console, such as 8-bit or 16-bit graphics and such. One developer, Eric Ruth, has made a large number of these games:

http://ericruthgames.com/

 

Licensing is an issue, since the indie developers typically don't ask for permission ahead of time. However, some are actually officially made/endorsed, like the recent Borderlands 2 demake:

http://www.wubwub.eu/demake.php

 

Again, most aren't written for a console, but written for PC and just made to look like an old console game. However, some are actual full console ports, like Halo 2600:

http://members.shaw.ca/jeffv/halo2600.html

hostX9
hostX9

 @Chaceace100 It would be cool but at the same time if all indie devs would be concerned only with porting then who would create new games? Number of new games would drop. But this is all just a hypothetical guess so who cares XD

Iranazi
Iranazi

 @gamerKris82 Emulators man, emulators everywhere :P I play my favourite old gameboy games on my phone, but yea since these are new releases we're talking about, digital download on new handhelds would be good

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

 @Mon6ana Shadow Hearts was awesome! It's a shame it was overshadowed by Final Fantasy...

Gravelord_Nito
Gravelord_Nito

 @mav_destroyer well...we meet again xD but seriously, my SNES still works like the day i bought it. man did i take such obsessive care of it, gollum and his precious were nothing compared to me. its been 17 years since i brought it home now, breath of fire cartridge is still in it, all wrapped together in plastic xD

 

i think going retro would spread like a wildfire. us, the old school troops would all go after these things without the second thought.

hostX9
hostX9

 @Chaceace100  @u1tradt Well I was a child in the time of SNES and SegaGen but never had the opertunity to buy any of those consoles. I had back then the old C64 and later upgraded to the PC to which I still stick beside my Wii. Thanks to the community (and to the internet of course ;)) I can now play all those games I missed on my PC through emulators.

King9999
King9999

 @mav_destroyer  @Mon6ana That, and several other games were overshadowed by FF back in the day.  Nowadays  I don't think that's the case.

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

 @Gravelord_Nito Indeed it will my friend! I would love to have an excuse to take out my old consoles and power them up again