EA has been around since 1982, amassing a back catalogue of hundreds – if not thousands – of games. Yet, the company very rarely explores its past, being firmly fixated on the future instead. This has been true for around a decade now, with the uber publisher doubling down on its annual sporting games, online shooters, and well-established franchises such as The Sims.
They’re a publisher that follows trends, rather than being a trendsetter. This isn’t entirely a bad thing in the instance we’re talking about today, though. When the likes of Atari, SEGA, Taito, Midway, and Activision were creating retro collections for the PS2 et la, EA felt the need to follow suit.
The result was EA Replay for PSP – one of the few instances they’ve had a rummage through their archives and dusted off a handful of classics. The PSP was likely chosen as the host format due it to having a slighter older demographic than the PS2 at the time – over five years old by this point– and chances are it was easier to run emulators on it than on, let’s say, the Nintendo DS. SEGA’s Mega Drive collection had proven popular on PSP too, and this was set to offer a similar assortment of 16-bit games.
Developed by EA Canada and launching for $20, EA Replay solely explored the early ‘90s, bringing together 14 games – five from the SNES, with the remainder from the Mega Drive/Genesis. Amazingly, EA’s usual assortment of sports games failed to make the cut – likely due to licensing complications. This left the crass and cartoony Mutant League Football as the one and only sporting outing.
The collection’s highlight was difficult to define. Jungle Strike and Desert Strike both controlled well thanks to the PSP’s ‘analogue nub’ and all three Road Rash games were present, albeit with altered music. Ultima VII: The Black Gate provided a spot of role-playing, a physical copy of which was expensive in 2006, yet alone the present day. Syndicate and Wing Commander made the jump to SNES successfully in 1993, although Syndicate was hampered by a new, uglier, art direction.
Special mention must also go to Haunting: Starring Polterguy, often revered as a cult classic nowadays. Playing as a recently deceased skater dude with attitude (it was the ‘90s, after all) it’s a case of sending the shivers up the spines of a gutless family, possessing their furniture and whatnot to drive them out of one house to the next. It’s silly game, and a little bit limited, but to see it gain a re-release and reach more gamers was genuinely pleasing.
Picking the dud of the collection was an easier task. Sci-fi platformer B.O.B was pretty average, versus fighting game Budokan: The Martial Spirit was showing its age – dating back to 1991 – and Virtual Pinball drastically failed to live up to its name, being flat and lifeless.
A lot of EA’s better games from the era were oddly omitted, such as the creative platformer Rolo to the Rescue, the surprisingly good console conversion of Theme Park, innovative single-screen war game General Chaos, the classic God sim Populous, and the controversial at the time Skitchin’.
Rumours of a second collection for PSP swirled for a while, and so it’s highly likely some of those – if not all – would have made a return. A shame, really.
It’s an even greater shame that EA doesn’t do something with their older games. Add them to Switch Online, release digital-only Road Rash and Strike trilogies, strike up a deal with Blaze for an Evercade cart – there’s a wealth of routes they could take, most of which would require little effort. It’s doubtful that less than stellar sales of EA Replay made the publishing giant skirt around the retro scene for this long. Nobody holds a grudge for that long, surely?