Monday, March 17, 2014

Retro Gaming - An Interesting Movement

Having undertaken a few weeks of hunting down my older gaming consoles, cartridges and CDs, I learned the hard way the consequences of not taking good care of your stuff, no matter how seemingly irrelevant they are at the time. It was an interesting experience to say the least. You wouldn't believe how 20+ years of ignoring an old piece of electronics can do to it.

In the case of the Super NES, it turns out that (and I don't even remember this) we had 2 SNESes in our house. Maybe this is explained by the fact that I have mostly brothers with me. So maybe, back then, there wasn't really much sharing going on with the consoles and some guys wanted to play sports games and there's this other guy (me) who wanted to play those RPGs.

I didn't find my OWN SNES games, well, I didn't find a good majority of them. What I did find were my brothers' games. It was a good thing though that some really important games like Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) and Super Street Fighter II were recovered. It took a lot of alcohol and cotton buds to clean those 20 year old cartridges. Surprisingly they worked fine. But the problem was the SNESes themselves. For some reason, the passage of time had rendered the cartridge slots barely useable. They could read games but only after you stick a thick piece of paper on the front side of the slot just to make sure that the contacts on the cartridges actually touch the metal on the cartridge slot itself.

Other finds include a Playstation 1 (first generation, apparently), a Sega Genesis, a Sega Mega Drive and a Sega Saturn. Yeah, I was a bit of a Sega fan. Just a little bit.

The Sega stuff had lost ALL their cables and controllers, though the cartridges for Genesis and Mega Drive were partially recovered. We ended up getting the missing cables and controllers from the Facebook group "Retro Gamers & Collectors Philippines (RGCP)". A big shout out to the nice and friendly community over there.

The Sega Cartridges were in really nasty shape. Apparently a hive of cockroaches had made a lair of the box that they were placed in! We had to (unfortunately) throw away most of the plastic Genesis / Mega Drive game cases because it just didn't seem very sanitary. At the very least, I thought, best to save the cartridges themselves.

Now this is the weird part about the Sega stuff, other than the roaches. We had found my Sega Saturn CD cases....but all the CDs were completely gone! It was the strangest thing. I was literally asking my own brain to think back to my 10 year old self and think....why would I take the CDs out of the cases?? My best recollection says that I must have taken them all out of their cases and put them in a CD sleeve....and that CD sleeve is nowhere to be found today. If that wasn't what happened, the CDs must have been stolen. But that one doesn't make sense....who would want to steal game CDs and leave the console behind? Unless they didn't really know what they were stealing.

Not every game cartridge and CD was recovered. I think only 40% of everything was found. I had a Sega Steering Wheel (the official one), an Arcade Stick and one of those Virtua Guns for Virtua Cop. All gone. I had Strider for the Genesis. Gone. I had Altered Beast. Gone. There's probably more but I never found all of them.

One time I'll update this post with the entire list of what was found.

The Genesis / Mega Drive themselves, after cleaning, were in surprisingly better shape than the SNES. They could read games a lot better than the SNES after cleaning and the only problem I encountered is some looseness in the video port of the Mega Drive. Not bad for an item that was buried for 20 years.

Playing something that old feels like getting on a real -life time machine. You can somehow appreciate the effort that developers back then must have put into games because they had so little to work with. Also it seems to me that the good old games were a lot brighter and more colorful than today's AAA titles. There seemed to be more variety in the themes and characters. Overall gaming looks really fun, with my nostalgia glasses on.

I would probably write more (and probably will soon) but i just want to say one more thing about this retro gaming "activity". I feel like there's a lot of people out there who are probably going through this same thing. It's been more than 20 or 30 years since the NES and many of the hardcore players who are still playing, like me, are rediscovering the value of older games. Today, everything is controlled by the publishers. There was no concept of 'downloadable content' before. Usually extra stuff is kept in the game as a secret 'easter egg' you can find (or never find at all). Now, developers usually sell extra little stuff like costumes and levels. And they control ownership of it more than we do. Why? Because it's all digital. You don't have an actual disc or cartridge anymore....well there are still disc based games, but notice how there's a big trend towards digital downloads. All it takes is for your hard drive to get corrupted and BAM! You've lost all your games. Yes, you can argue that you can download them again, but it's just extra hassle and imagine if your favorite game company decides to stop offering some of those games for download anymore. They can simply turn off the servers that have those games or not offer some of them if it isn't commercially viable. This 'digital' future of gaming is really troubling and while I do know there isn't much to stop it from happening, i guess the only thing I could do is to appreciate how it used to be. When you bought a game back in the 90s, it feels like it is yours. You don't have to worry about pre-ordering or buying extra stuff like cars or levels or costumes. You just pay for it once and enjoy it forever; well, as long as your media doesn't break.

Once digital becomes the norm, i wonder what will happen to old cartridges and CDs? Will they increase in value? Eventually physical media will become strange to people, and maybe it will increase in value. But I didn't get into retro to get rich.

I just turned 35 a month ago, so I think i get to indulge in a little nostalgia.