Partial Backwards Compatibility Just Doesn't Cut It

Partial Backwards Compatibility Just Doesn't Cut It

A look at the feature's history

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Opinions on

Ever since the Atari 7800, backwards compatibility has been a very cool hardware feature. Now that console manufacturers are striving to expand their compatible libraries, is partial backwards compatibility good enough or should we just keep our old consoles?

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness on Xbox 360 photo
Sorry, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness; you're not wanted on these newfangled machines

My thoughts: all or nothing

As a game collector with almost 4000 games in my collection as of writing this, the idea of a fully backwards compatible console is very appealing. Not having to hook up extra hardware is such a welcome change. When I first discovered that my Xbox 360 could play original Xbox games, I immediately took advantage of this feature. However, after finding out that some games didn't work; I was a bit perplexed. Should I store my original Xbox games in two separate sections? Do I need to keep checking if they added patches for the games that weren't yet compatible? After some frustration trying to answer these questions, I decided to just play them on the original Xbox again. It's not worth the effort having to split my game collection according to whatever Microsoft decided should work or not.

Kirby's Dream Land 2 on Super Game Boy 2 photo
The Super Game Boy 2 is one of the best peripherals a retro gamer can own

Backwards compatibility done right

When the Wii U came out, I was delighted to see that it could play my Wii games. However, it lacked GameCube functionality. Therefore, I decided to ditch my Wii and buy a GameCube (again) complete with a Game Boy Player. What a great decision. Now, I can play Wii and Wii U games on one machine and GameCube, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games on another.

Speaking of Game Boy, the Super Game Boy for SNES is such an incredible accessory. Not only can it play your Game Boy games, it also has cool borders and colour palette options. Additionally, some games can be played multiplayer. For more on this classic peripheral, be sure to read my article about the little-known but awesome upgraded iteration: Super Game Boy 2.

Of course, the fact that the 3DS can play DS games and the GBA can play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is wonderful. Not having to use batteries or squint to see the screen is a treat. My AGS-101 is still one of my favourite handheld consoles.

Another noteworthy implementation is how you can effortlessly play PS1 games on PS2 and PS3. It's a shame that the PS4 lacks this functionality but the PS2 and PS3 have such fantastic libraries of games that I'm sure most gamers wouldn't mind holding on to them.

Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 2 photo
Final Fantasy VII runs just as good on a PS2

Although expanding upon incomplete libraries of backwards compatible games is a noble effort, it's a hard sell for gamers like me who want to be able to play their entire collection on a new machine. What are your thoughts on backwards compatibility? Are there any implementations of the feature that stand out as awesome to you? Let's chat in the comments below.

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