Retro-a-go-go

 I’ve been wondering how best to start this. I must have started and deleted over 10 times. It’s not that what I have to say is painful, shameful or controversial, but I guess it’s an admission. An admission that I have a problem.

I’m addicted to retro gaming. Watching it. Playing it. Buying it. 

I’ve always been something of a hoarder. I hate parting with some things, video games for one. I recall having to clear out the spare room in our 2 up, 2 down ahead of making it a nursery for the impending birth of our daughter. I seem to recall a pretty impotent strop I threw when the realisation hit that I just didn’t have alternative space for the PS3 and Xbox 360 collection. Off to CEX I went, bags full of stuff. 150+ games for the 360, guitars, DJ Hero deck, Scene It buzzers, controllers etc etc. I can’t even recall what I got for it all, I was in something of a daze…..

Anywho, roll on another 4 and a bit years, 1 house move, 1 global pandemic and some other oddities, and I discovered the bug. I’d had a Saturn, Mega Drive and Master System knocking about for a bit, but they were living happily in the roof space rarely disturbed. I guess the house move really piqued my interest in revisiting these consoles as I had to decide what was hitting the skip and what was coming along for the move. I’d also for a few months been watching a fair bit of Twitch, something I’d avoided while throwing myself into Mixer (RIP). My regular haunt was and remains the channel for Beanhed81.

Other than being a generally all round decent chap, he has a passion for retro gaming. What he doesn’t know about the Amiga probably isn’t worth knowing (and we all know it was a better machine that the Atari ST). His enthusiasm is catching so I’m blaming him for having to confess all.

My favourite console of all time is the Dreamcast. Like many I cross paths with, I never really understood why I parted with mine. I think I swapped it in to a Portsmouth based game shop for a PS2. Now, the PS2 was a cracking machine, but it was no Dreamcast. It didn’t have…..soul? Maybe that was it. My memories of the Dreamcast partly involved long hangovers, laying on the sofa playing Sega Bass Fishing with the rod controller. Well, that and being massively disappointed by the ending of Shenmue (which is still a sore subject after all these years). Oh, and the stonking soundtrack to Crazy Taxi. The Dreamcast controller remains the best for getting that Crazy Dash down!

I understand that lockdown has driven quite an upturn in retro gaming, I’m sure along with other home based nostalgic activities, and I succumbed and purchased myself a Dreamcast. With a steering wheel. And a fishing controller. A couple of VMUs……some games. Some more games. All arrived, generally decent condition but the console needed a damn good clean, the stench of musty cigarettes not quite enough to dampen my excitement of regaining this awesome system. Sure, it seems to need a little laser adjustment every now and then, but that’s pretty simple. And the internal battery isn’t working, but that’s small fry for the feeling of chasing those high scores on Crazy Taxi, racking up those Kudos points on MSR, for seeing the game logos and art appearing on the VMU in the middle of the controller, for the madness of Vigilante 8 :  Second Offence and maybe even for laying on a sofa, hungover, waiting for the fish to bite on Sega Bass Fishing.

Now a horrible and glaring omission from my console collection was pretty much anything Nintendo. I used to own a SNES and a NES, a few Gameboys and I remember picking up the Gamecube on the morning it was released. Great console! I now have the Switch, which rarely gets any play, and I’d bought the SNES mini on release. Both play games from when I was a kid but don’t have the charm of original hardware. Having recently moved home, I wasn’t prepared to pay the crazy prices for retro Nintendo kit on eBay, so I put the call out on Facebook for anyone I knew who wanted to part with old systems to contact me. Messenger pinged after about half an hour, one of my old drinking buddies had his old SNES in the loft, gathering dust and he wondered if I’d be interested. It was discoloured but worked as far as he could recall. I’m not a collector in the ‘as new or nothing’ camp, functional is more important to me than mint condition so I told him I was interested. While looking for it, he also let me know his N64 was also something he could let go of. Again, not mint but functional. He found that the power pack for the SNES was dead so insisted on getting a replacement before selling it all on to me. One week later, he even dropped it round and we had a good socially distanced chat about life, standing in the snow. And the start of my Nintendo original retro hardware collection was born!

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I’d never really done the Goldeneye thing. Gave it a go and by the end of the first level was loving it. 

But it’s all about A Link To The Past. What an absolute joy that game is, made even more special when not being emulated. The music, the sound effects, I still remember where to go and what to do despite not really playing it since it was released. A fantastic game and I’m genuinely thankful to Sam for parting with this lot.

I’ve since picked up a number of other games for the SNES, and Starflight on the Mega Drive, which again is a great one to revisit. One of the chaps in the village also sold me some Mega Drive and Saturn games. Also, only recently did I notice this about the Saturn.

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Neat, eh?

Sure, not everything holds the magic it did now I’ve been back and played after so many years. Jimmy White’s 2: Cueball feels best left in the land of nostalgic memories for one……

Another nod to nostalgia that I’ve been getting involved in is Antstream Arcade, a fully licenced collection of retro classics on a range of systems, available on a range of platforms for streaming. It’s an impressive thing, achievements have been added, challenges and leaderboards are there if you’re competitive and although I’ve never considered myself to be that, getting an email (or live alert if you’re playing at the time) saying that someone has overtaken me on a leaderboard sends me straight back for another go! 

What my little delve into retro gaming has made me realise, is that there’s a huge community of like minded gamers and old farts out there, and in the main they’re a decent bunch. I’ve really enjoyed a good few retro streamers since getting involved, and there’s a regular core of people who drop into Beanhed81’s stream whenever he’s on. You could do a lot worse that give him a couple of hours of your time one evening. Try it, you might like it!

 

This post has been brought to you by the following albums playing loudly in my ears for the duration of writing:

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