Posts Tagged ‘ Retro Games ’

Impromptu Fox (Game) Hunt

Aug 9, 2017

After Let’s Play Game Expo, my friend Phil (@terranceharken) still had the itch to hunt for some games. He wasn’t able to return to the convention on Sunday, so his haul was lighter and he was just really wanting to try and find some new gems. We’ve been friends since grade school and we normally hang out and check out an anime or play games once a week, but he wanted to go hunting this week instead.

As I determined this was “his” hunt, I volunteered him to drive and we headed out.

Since he works nights and I work days, it puts limited time on the options for game hunting and poses serious challenges for the idea of doing game hunt videos at flea markets and garage sales. Truth be told, I’ve long thought we’d not have much luck game hunting on a weeknight since our options are limited, but we’ve had some luck in the past.

I suggested with the limited time we had, we hit pawn shops this time, so we headed off.

First Stop – Goodwill

Goodwill has become extremely hit or miss and I rarely find anything of value. Occasionally they’ll get a good bundle in, but they typically put those in auction either online or in store now. It’s still worth stopping in and checking their games and CDs for the off chance something worthwhile got mis-sorted. We came across a very good condition Guitar Hero II guitar with strap and game case/manual (no disc) still in the box. For a couple bucks, I took it.

Second Stop – First Cash Pawn

I’ve had good luck with this pawn shop chain, finding Wii U games for $5-$10 when they were still worth $30 and coming across some PS3 and Wii games for good value in the past. This stop was severely lacking in games, but they had a $10 Wii U Pro controller. I’ve been wanting one for a while, so I grabbed that in a heartbeat! So far, Phil’s hunt was proving fruitful for me, but not so much luck for him.

Third Stop – Entertainmart

Found in Arlington, TX, this location was featured in the first episode of The Game Chasers. The location has drastically shrunk since it first opened. It closed off its separate game area and brought it into the main area of floor space. It’s since been dwindling the games and everything was marked down or even ½ off when we were there. The music section was a fraction of what it once was. It feels like the place is going out of business.

I talked to one of the employees and it turns out I was right. Sort of. They’re not going out of business, but they’re shifting their focus of what they want to offer. For video games, that means current and previous gen, not older stuff. They’ll still do movies and music as well, and they’re planning to move to a smaller location next year. Personally, I think they’re making the wrong move focusing on current & previous gen games. Plus, they’re moving closer to the Arlington area mall, which puts them in direct location competition with a GameStop inside and outside the mall.  I don’t expect we’ll find any good deals there in the future.

Fourth Stop – Cash America

Another Cash America stop, but this one had quite a few things. Phil went ahead and got Final Fantasy XII Collector’s edition steelbook. I found 11 games for $1 each. I’ll rarely pass on a $1 game. Adding the FFXII to my stack, I got the whole bundle at $5 the total, bringing Phil’s game down to about the sweet spot to pick it up.

Fifth Stop – Game Over Games

I’ve been to Game Over outside Austin, TX before and I didn’t find much I was willing to buy. Most of their games seem terribly overpriced. I found a few Atari games at this location that I needed, but they came out way higher than what I’d pay on eBay. Most PS2 and Xbox games seemed to hover around $20, even when they’re $10 on eBay. I understand stores having some mark up for overhead, but double the price of an Ebay purchase seems really high.

However, I’ve seen others comment that their more common games are overpriced, which are what the casual buyer is more likely to look for and buy without concern, while their rarer games tend to be priced fairly or even at reasonably good deals. This allows collectors to hit their store for the rarities while the store is supported by non-collectors just looking for old games to play. I guess that makes some sense, but it doesn’t keep me coming back in.

Despite my opinion, Phil found a number of games he was looking for, including Sonic 2 on Master System, and some Game Gear titles, for reasonable prices and finally made this hunting trip worth his time.

Final Stop – Movie Trading Company

We mostly went into Movie Trading Company expecting to find nothing because their prices are typically $5 higher than eBay averages, but we were hoping to find something we needed/wanted just to get a bag for all the games in the car outside. We had a couple of stacks and no bag, so hopefully we’d find something.

We looked. We searched. We hunted. We didn’t find anything.

As we were calling it quits, we checked their case one last time and found Grandia Xtreme for a fair price, about $7 under online average. It was complete and on my list, so I bought it to get us a bag. As we were checking out, though, I spotted a Mario statue. It turned out to be a DS holder I’d had been interested in the past. His hat was damaged, the bill of the cap broken off but still able to hold in place. They had it marked at $20 but with the damage, they offered to do ½ off, so I went ahead and took it as well.

Overall, not a bad haul for a day I expected to be fairly empty. Just goes to show, you really don’t know what you’ll find or where. It’s all a matter of going out and looking.

8-9-17-game-hunt-haul.jpg

Game Spent Value
Guitar Hero II $3 $20
Top Gun: Fire At Will $1 $5
Disney Infinity 2.0 $1 $2
Cars $1 $5
Need for Speed Most Wanted PS3 $1 $10
Need For Speed Underground – Most Wanted Disc $1 $10
Wipeout In The Zone $1 $5
Shrek the Third $1 $3
Top Gun Combat Zones $1 $4
Madagascar $1 $5
LotR Return of the King $1 $6
Simpsons Road Rage $1 $5
Grandia XTreme $20 $27
Wii U Pro Controller $10 $20
Mario DS Lite Holder $10 ~$45
Total $64 ~$150

Fox (Game)Hunts 7-22-17

Author’s Note: I’m trying a particular method for writing these game hunting “hunter’s journal” entries. The format and writing style will likely change as I decide what I like best, and what readers seem to like best.

6:40 AM

I had found a Craigslist post for a garage sale that had video games the night before. An e-mail to the poster had confirmed the games were for PSP and PS2. As the correspondence had come back late in the evening, I had elected to retire for the evening rather than answer the query as to any titles I was in search of. My PS2 list is still rather long, so I expected I would simply see what was there on the morrow.

Upon waking, I looked to the clock and had the dreadful realization that I had over-slept. Not by much, but mere moments can prove all the difference when hunting elusive video games. I quickly put the dog out and brushed my teeth before throwing on clothes. I called for the dog to come in, but she ignored me. Going out, she was around the house and upon seeing me, excitedly followed back inside. Another minute lost.

In the car, I drove as fast as I dare go, wary of surpassing posted limits, but making all haste possible. The address of the garage sale wasn’t far, but time was ticking and each red light taunted me. Upon reaching the proper street, a sign posted at the end indicated I had entered a digit wrong in GPS. I hurried to the sign’s address to find no games. Returning to the initial address, I now spotted the location of the morning hunt! The sale was to start at 7 AM and I was still a bit early at 6:55 AM. Hurrying up the drive, I learned the games were purchased in full approximately 10 minutes prior, leaving only Scrabble for Playstation behind. The seller, a kind gentleman I placed possibly in his 40s at most, shared that the games had actually included Playstation 1 titles when he listed Final Fantasy Tactics and Xenogears as examples of what he had.

Not wanting to inflict further disappointment, I did not ask what he had charged. In hindsight, despite the late hour, I should have replied to the e-mail and perhaps even offered to buy them the night before, but alas, I did not and could only move forward.

With Let’s Play Game Expo two weeks away, I had not planned to go garage sale hunting, but out and with the bitter taste of lost games in my mouth, I decided to do a little bit. Finding a post with a CIB (Complete in Box) PS2 in the photo, I headed for another sale. I worried I was again a step behind. After all, another hunter was in the area, so I assumed they would already be on the trail of this one as well.

7:15 AM

I arrived at the house to find no sale. Checking the listing again, I realize it started at 8 and there I sat pondering the best course of action. Ultimately, I decided to wait, hoping for an early start. Not long after, the garage door opened and a short, Asian woman pulled the care out to park in the drive way. I opened my door and half stepped out, asking her if the sale was still scheduled to start at 8. She confirmed the start time and apologized. About 15 to 20 minutes later, she came out again, as well as her husband, who came towards my car.

I got out and he said they had some things to set up, but would start now and I could come look. As I walked up, I told him what I was interested in and they had it sitting on a shelf in the garage. He said something to his wife before going inside, which I thought sounded like he was speaking Japanese. Upon looking at the games, I realize they were all Japanese releases! There was a GunCon 2, which was black rather than the bright orange of the US release. They were asking $50 for the CIB PS2 and games as well as $50 for the CIB Wii and games. A fair price on both, but I only had $100 in my pocket and a game convention in 2 weeks, so I passed.

7:25 AM

I was considering giving up for the morning, but there was another sale just around the corner from the last, so I stopped to check. As I walked up, I spotted a few Wii games along with Call of Duty on PS3 and PS4. They asked $2 each on the Wii games and $5 each on the Playstation titles. I knew Mario Party 8 was worth about $20 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii was worth about $10, so I took them. I had to check values, but went ahead and picked up Michael Jackson The Experience, Brave, and Wii Sports. I tend to always pick up Wii Sports as it sales on eBay for $10 in the cardboard sleeve. This was a Nintendo Selects copy in a plastic case. He agreed to $8 as that was all I had without breaking a bill.

Upon returning to my car, I realized I had not checked to ensure the discs were present and immediately proceeded to do so. Mario Party 8 had no disc, but it was in Michael Jackson’s case. Brave had Michael Jackson. Wii Sports had Wii Sports. I went back and showed them, thinking I would swap the game for Disney Princess My Fairytale Adventure if they didn’t have the disc. Ironically, I should have picked it up first as it’s worth more than Brave.

The man’s wife told him it might be in the Wii, which was in a box right there by the front door. He plugged it in and pressed the button and sure enough, we found Brave. He said the system wasn’t working anymore and I asked what he planned to do with it. He was planning on seeing what a store would give for it, thinking they could fix it. Since I’ve been getting into the repair hobby on consoles, I was interested. For another $10, I got the Wii system with 2 controllers, 2 nunchuks, all hook ups, and the Disney Princess game thrown in.

7:40 AM

Feeling much better about the day’s outing, I had one more stop I wanted to go to, though it was a good 30 minute drive away and would not open until 10 AM. I decided to backtrack and stop at all the signs for garage sales I had passed. The first one I stopped at had a pair of Guitar Hero guitars with their boxes for Nintendo Wii. Normally I’m not interested in the instruments, but it made me ask if there were games and the older gentleman who was busy with numerous people at this sale said there were! Only, he wasn’t sure where they were.

We began searching, looking around different boxes as his wife was asked where they were. I was about to give up and leave him my contact information when his wife found them. Nothing incredible, but 007 Nightfire on GameCube and NBA2K13 for Wii made it worth the $1-$2 each they were asking. I went ahead and took the guitars for $1 each as well. They also had the manual for Pokemon Red & Blue, which was included at no cost.

IMG_8353[1]

9 AM

I continued to stop at any signs I saw on the way, but mostly came up lacking. A Nintendo DS Lite for $2 was my only find before heading for a small resale shop’s closing sale.

IMG_8355[1]

Looks like poor Kirby’s gotten beat up.

10 AM

Once I arrived at the shop, I saw they had Wii accessories and Disney Infinity figures priced rather high to be considered a real deal, but not completely unreasonable either. I kept looking. In the back with a box of casette tapes, I found a pair of N64 games. Sports titles, but $2 each. To finalize the hunt, I picked up a Tiger Handheld Baseball game for $1 to go with them.

IMG_8360[1]

Pulling out of the shop and heading home, I stopped at a final garage sale, but had no luck. Satisfied with the morning results, I headed home to prepare for the evening’s activities: a Facebook group’s game meet up.

Jpeg

Game Spent Estimated Value
Mario Party 8 $2 $20
New Super Mario Bros Wii $2 $10
Michael Jackson The Experience $2 $10
Wii Sports $2 $10
Brave $0 $10
Disney Princess My Fairytale Adventure $0 $18
Wii System with controllers and hook ups $10 $50
NBA2K13 $1 $15
Ultimate I Spy $1 $4
Game Party 3 $1 $5
007 Nightfire $2 $9
Guitar Hero III $1 $5
Guitar Hero III guitars in box $2 $10
Nintendo DS Lite $2 $20
Track and Field 2000 $2 $11
NBA Showtime NBA on NBC $2 $5
Tiger Handheld Baseball $1 $10
TOTAL $33 $232 Estimated

Facebook Game Group Meetup

5:30 PM

I spent the midday getting all the extra games I have together for a Facebook group meetup. I didn’t think I had anything truly worthwhile at this point, but it was worth taking. My goal was to sell and trade without spending any money.

Upon arriving, I looked around at what people had out. A decent spread of NES and SNES, Wii, PS2, and Playstation games, but little N64, which are what I’m particularly hunting right now. I did meet someone I knew to trade Phantasy Star Online on Dreamcast for Fighting Vipers on Sega Saturn. I also had my first sighting of live chodes in the wild as both Billy and Jay from The Game Chasers showed up.

Finding some small space to utilize, I brought my boxes in and set them up for people to look through. A few found things they were curious about, but no purchases or trades. Once things started to clear out a bit, I moved to a table with more room. Still not much overall, but I sold a few Atari games, Rampage Total Destruction on GameCube, and Bottom of the 9th on N64 for around $22 total.

I had left my higher value items in the trunk, but kept eyeing the table next to me where a guy had Earthbound and Suikoden II. After offering to trade the Tiger Handheld Baseball for Suikoden II was declined (though it was clear it was a struggle for the guy, I assure you!), I knew I’d have to trade some big titles. I loaded up what I had out and brought in the good stock.

He was willing to trade Suikoden II for Dokapon Kingdom CIB on Wii, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker CIB on GameCube, and Super Smash Bros. Melee without a manual on GameCube. I was hesitant to make the trade. These were quality trade bait for Let’s Play Game Expo and had a value of about $165 vs Suikoden II’s $140 average. I started to back out to wait for the convention.

Taking another look, I examined the Suikoden II’s case, manual, and disc. They were in immaculate condition. Despite the value disparity, I decided two common GameCube games I paid $7 for was worth adding to the Dokapon Kingdom trade. We shook hands and I knocked off one of the hard to find, and second most expensive, game on my Playstation hunting list.

img_83661.jpg    IMG_8368[1]

IMG_8367[1].JPG

As I left, I noticed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II for NES in a very nice box. The guy wanted $30, but would take the game out and do $20 for the pristine box and manual. I went ahead and spent the $20 I had made selling the earlier games.

All in all, not a bad day.

Game Spent Value
Suikoden II $97 spent on games traded for Suikoden II $140
TMNT II Box & Manual $7 spent on games sold, then cash spent for the box & manual $30

On to Let’s Play Game Expo!

 

Going Retro: Getting into Game Collecting

Disclaimer: The top image is not my game collection….yet!

I went to GameStop a few years back (I don’t have nearly as much of a problem with them as some) and saw a friend of mine who was the store manager at the time. Before I left, she recommended I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Her recommendation was so high that I wound up going to Barnes & Noble the same time to pick it up. I read the full book in a flight to Seattle and back.

I loved the book, but it also kindled a fire in me for nostalgia of my own childhood, primarily for video games. I started thinking about my backlog of games on current consoles and, like many gamers, wondered if I’d ever get through them all. Then the idea hit me: If I couldn’t play through all the games, why not start collecting them and curating a library of of the best ones?

I started by going to garage sales and looking for older games. One of the first I went to I met a guy who was also collecting and working towards a complete North American licensed release NES library. He invited me to join a Facebook group and I began to realize how many people were into retro game collecting. I decided I need t obetter define what games I wanted to start building my own library.

What Games To Get?

I started by thinking about consoles. I still had my NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Genesis, and PS3 at this point. I decided I would try to get all the consoles I had played growing up and a “Top 100” library of the best games on each system. Then I’d also include memorable games I enjoyed as a child if they weren’t on the “Top 100” list. This meant acquiring an Atari 2600, Sega Saturn & Dreamcast, a Playstation and PS2. I didn’t include hand held systems as they have never been a big interest for me.

To determine a “best of” hunting list for each system, I started with sites like IGN and GameSpot that had done “Top 100” articles before. Next, I went to fogurms where posters had debated their picks for the best games with discussion and votes moving games up/down the list and adding/dropping off the list. I took the titles that appeared across each list and made that my Hunting List.

For example:
IGN Top 100 NES Games
Retro Sanctuary Top 100 Best NES Games
Game FAQs Top 100 NES Games

All in all, I actually came up with a list of:

  • 106 Atari 2600
  • 164 NES
  • 147 SNES
  • 101 Sega Genesis
  • 88 N64
  • 95 Sega Dreamcast
  • 83 GameCube
  • 215 PS2
  • 220 PS3

Obviously the “Top 100” grew with the additional titles I remembered and moreso as I decided to include infamously bad titles and all RPGs.

Benefits of the List, and How to Use It

I highly recommend creating a list to work from, even if you are going for a complete library of every title on a system. Put the list in Google Drive and get the app on your phone. I use a spreadsheet listing the titles and their Pricecharting value across 6 rows to minimize scrolling, divided up by systems. This way your list is always on hand and you can make sure you don’t buy a duplicate of something you’ve already picked up (so long as you update and save the file in Google Drive, of course).

I did mention I keep the price for each game from Pricecharting on my list. I’ve seen in some groups there are people who think Pricecharting is crap and should never be used. I’ve yet to understand why some think this. Pricecharting basically tracks prices of completed auctions from eBay to give an average price. Using completed auctions ensures you’re getting information based on what people are actually willing to pay. I don’t advise taking it as the absolute price, though. You can look at the auctions the data is coming from to make sure they’re recent. If not, you can go to ebay directly and see what recent prices were on sold listings. Sometimes Pricecharting doesn’t have recent data on their averages, but I find this an uncommon occurrence.

One thing to remember is these are largely eBay based prices, so I think it’s safe to push for a bit less than those prices since a seller would lose 10% to eBay fees, not to mention the hassle of shipping.

Where To Hunt for Games?

The simple answer is: everywhere.

Garage Sales / Flea Markets / Thrift Stores / Antique Stores
Obviously these are all hit or miss, but you never know what you might find. I always keep an eye out for other items completely unrelated to video games that I can flip for profit to further pay for game collecting such as vintage posters, Disney or Warner Bros. items, or anything that I think might be worth reasonably more than is being asked.

GameStop
If you’re looking for XBox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, or Wii U games, it’s worth looking into GameStop prices. There are some titles I’ve gotten much cheaper at GameStop than Pricecharting shows, meaning you’re actually better off with GameStop, especially if you have their Power Up Reward card. A few examples as of the time of this writing:

Sakura Wars on Wii is worth $25, but $13.50 with discount at GameStop
Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii is worth $34, but $27 with discount at GameStop
Ar tonelico Qoga: Kneel of Ar Ciel on PS3 is worth $22.50, but $9 with discount at GameStop

If you’re really lucky and can find a copy of Dokapon Kingdom at GameStop, it will run you $45 rather than $80 for just the disc.

It’s just a matter of researching the titles you’re looking for and checking if they have them near you, then going or calling to verify if they’re complete with manual. If you hunt during a Buy 2 Get 1 Free weekend, you can really clean up.

Half Price Books
People in a lot of gaming groups hate Half Price Books, primarily because they overprice games. I’ve found some stores do, some don’t, and some are reasonably in line with Pricecharting prices. I find it’s worth looking at least and I tend to drive around to as many as I can on the coupon weeks for 20-50% off coupon purchases. That’s how I got Skies of Arcadia on GameCube for $35 and Mario Cement Factory for $50.

Game Stores
The chain stores, such as Game X-Change, are unlikely to offer real deals unless you catch them slipping on values. Sometimes you’ll find fair prices on titles you’ve been looking for but haven’t had luck finding. Game X-Change also offers a B2G1 deal on all games $7.95 or less. This doesn’t help as you get to a point where you’re hunting more expensive titles, of course.

Your best bet is small independent stores where the owner is more likely to be willing to work a deal with you if you buy multiple games at a time and return with repeat business.

eBay
Of course, this is sort of a last resort, but if you’re patient and watch close, you’ll sometimes catch good deals on games you’ve been looking for with no luck for a long while.

Facebook Groups
You’ll find Facebook groups where people buy, sell, and trade their extra games. I recommend taking some time to get a feel for how the group is and if you want to work with them for trades.

Gaming Conventions
If you want to get a good deal at conventions, you probably want to work on your haggling skills and still go in with good games to trade and cash to spend. The last few conventions I’ve been to weren’t too great for deals, but were full of rare things you won’t find at the average store. You might use conventions to target rare and hard to find additions for your collection.

Growing Up Gaming – Nintendo 64

I don’t recall the details of buying the Nintendo N64 as vividly as the prior systems and certainly didn’t get as many games for it. After all, the only console I can think of with a smaller library is the ill conceived Virtual Boy. I didn’t even play Super Mario 64 on the system, but there were some games I certainly did enjoy.

I got my first real FPS experience on the system with Goldeneye 007, aside from a bit of prior experience with Wolfenstein 3D on a friend’s PC. Despite that bit of experience, Goldeneye was the first I really played through and enjoyed, both for the single player campaign and the multiplayer experience. My friends and I played the 4 player battles enough that we invented our own games, such as 3 on 1 battles of “capture the base” (where in one level, the “base” was the restroom). While I still like Goldeneye, and had fun with Perfect Dark as well, I never really got into the FPS genre as a result of playing it.

Another shooter on N64 I liked was Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and I still prefer 3rd person shooters over FPS. Although the game was probably fairly ranked as an average game, it wasn’t bad and it did offer a chance to play in the Star Wars galaxy. I particularly liked the Hoth level and the final level with the chance to do some space battles.

But if we want to talk about “Star Wars” + “Space Battles” then Star Wars Rogue Squadron was the game to get. The entire game was excellent, from its own Hoth battle to the more on rails levels. IF any series needs a current gen entry, even a VR entry, it’s Rogue Squadron. An entire game in an X-Wing sounds much more intriguing than just a bit of DLC in Star Wars Battlefront.

But for the N64, even Star Wars has to step aside when it comes to space battles as my favorite game on the system is Star Fox 64. Essentially a remake of the game on SNES, Star Fox 64 feels like it is the presentation of what the initial game was intended to be. With more complete shapes and graphics, superior music, and a bit of actual voice acting, the game was truly a masterpiece that has sadly not been matched since (unless you count Star Fox 64 3D for Nintendo 3DS).

Of all this era’s games, Star Fox 64’s graphics still hold comparatively well.

The only other big game I have strong nostalgia for is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first game to let us explore Hyrule freely in 3D, but more importantly to let us do so on horseback! Truly, Epona was the real breakthrough for the Zelda series here. The other unique aspect I liked was utilizying four arrow buttons for the ocarina music. However, aside from these new additions, it was just an excellent game that brought everything great from the series to the still budding world of 3D graphics.

Seriously, even the opening & title screen said “It’s all about Epona.”

As is obvious by the shortness of the list, I didn’t play too many games for the N64 and while the small library is partially to blame, it’s really the diversity of Playstation’s line up that really reduced my gaming with Nintendo this generation. I did miss some good games, like Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and a few others.

I will give an honorable mention to Mischief Makers, which was a pretty darn good side scroller I remember quite enjoying. I was particularly happy to add it back to my library a couple years ago.

That’s pretty much it for my N64 experience. Next up, I’ll take a step away from consoles and head over to the PC that dominated the next few years of my gaming with a little game a few people may have heard of called EverQuest.

Growing Up Gaming – NES

In the last post, I mentioned not being certain about specifics of my gaming roots, but my memories are more clear as we proceed to the arrival of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I didn’t get one at release, but I certainly wanted one.

I was in elementary school and we had a fund raiser selling raffle tickets with the grand prize for who could sell the most being $100. While my parents took me door to door in the neighborhood or out to the local golf course, and my grandparents around their neighborhood, I had to give the sales pitch myself. Ultimately, I did sell the most tickets and got my $100 prize, which I opted to spend on buying myself the Nintendo Entertainment System.

This set me on a path that I grew rather proud of, having bought every console I’ve ever owned through the years myself rather than asking for one from my parents. While they bought me games at birthdays and Christmas, I always bought my own consoles. I think it was a good lesson in responsibility for young me.

I got the Action set with the console, controller, grey zapper, and Super Mario Bros./ Duck Hunt.

nes-console-set

Note: I pronounce it as N-E-S, not “ness” which is just silly.

My first game, of course, was Super Mario Bros., and my father and I started playing it together. Now, my father certainly has never had much interest in video games prior to this, nor since, but at the start of the NES era, we did play together some. In fact, he played enough that I remember him picking me up from school one day with a big grin on his face. When I asked why, he told me he had beaten Super Mario Bros. My father beat Super Mario Bros. before I did. I beat it not long after, and with the Fire Flower’s power, which he hadn’t.

o9pz6

I tried to claim he cheated because I was at school, but I knew the truth…

The other game I got early was also because of my father: Golf. My dad has always been a golfer and I imagine he hoped playing the game together might spur an interest in the actual sport, but the game did no such thing. It wasn’t all that great of a game either, but it still holds a special place in my memory because of that time playing it with him.

maxresdefault1

Mario played the gentleman’s sport of golf.

Now, there are plenty of other games I will be talking about in this post, but only one other with a connection to family for me. I had my tonsils removed when I was young and after surgery, I got The Adventures of Lolo as a get well gift. I seem to recall beating the game, but never played the sequels.

While I didn’t have a lot of familial connections in gaming, I did have friends. All my close friends had gotten an NES and we would play whenever we visited one another’s house. One friend and I played through Bubble Bobble on 2 player together. I played DuckTales at another friend’s house, but never owned it. I borrowed Mega Man 2 from a friend to play through.

DuckTales The Moon Theme may be my favorite NES tune.

And that social aspect, the trading games, led to exploring other games. I got Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers because I liked DuckTales. I got Mega Man 3 because I liked Mega Man 2. I went back to the original Mega Man via rental because I liked Mega Man 2 (but never beat it.. darn rock monster in Wily’s castle).

Rentals. Ah yes, before our town even had a Blockbuster, we had a local family owned rental store. I remember renting Dragon Warrior, which I didn’t care for at the time, Dick Tracy, Robocop, Yo! Noid, and Ninja Gaiden games. My friend and I would play Ikari Warriors for hours each rental. I also remember loving Wolverine on NES after the disappointing offering of Uncanny X-Men. Unfortunately, I owned (and still own the same copy of) Uncanny X-Men and only rented Wolverine, though I’ve rectified that now.

Like almost every young boy in the USA, I was wrapped up in turtlemania, so of course I got the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. I don’t recall how I got it, but I’d be willing to be it was a birthday or Christmas present one year. While many had trouble with the underwater level diffusing bombs, I never had too much trouble and with some practice, I was able to ace that level every time with minimal damage. It was the level afterwards that always got me, with so many places to go and not knowing where the correct path was. I’d waste too much health going to dead ends or in circles and lose lives. Without YouTube and the Internet, the best we had was whatever Nintendo Power had to offer (which I was subscribed to starting with July/August 1989, Volume 7). We watched my friend’s older brother get to Shredder once, but he didn’t manage to beat him.

nintendo-power-mega-man-ii

Some of the covers were pretty amazing.

By the time TMNT 2: The Arcade Game was out, we all knew the arcade game (which I would love to own one day) and though not as good, the NES version was still a blast. We still went over to each other’s houses to play it and we’d replay the full game again and again after beating it.

Another curiosity of the NES era is the movie games. Today, and for a few generations now, it is generally expected that movie tie-in games tend to be fairly lackluster, though there are some exceptions. This wasn’t the case with the NES, possibly due to the more simplistic game designs. Still, the NES had some decent movie tie-in games. The 1989 Batman movie game was a pretty good side scrolling platformer for its time.

I also still love the Who Framed Roger Rabbit game with the ability to drive around in Benny the Cab and outrun the weasels being one of my favorite parts. The game had some puzzle solving, amusing items to employ (exploding cigars and cartoon holes to cause enemies to fall through), collecting pieces of Acme’s will, some joke telling mini games, and a little bit of fisticuffs for combat. I remember spending a lot of time on that game, and a lot of frustration against Judge Doom.

maxresdefault

Seriously, it was a hard fight.

Other movie tie ins I remember being pretty good include the Robocop games, Dick Tracy, and particularly Gremlins 2 was a lot of fun. I think Back to the Future is supposed to be pretty good, though I don’t recall playing it. I also liked both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, despite what anyone else says. Of course, not all were great, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but the ratio of good to bad movie tie in games is definitely in the system’s favor.

I also played Super Mario Bros. 2 at my friend’s, or borrowed it, yet never owned it. Once again, it spurred me to get Super Mario Bros. 3 and eventually went through every level (though I definitely prefer wise use of warp whistles). The third is definitely my favorite on NES, though Super Mario World on SNES may edge out as my favorite of the series. Still, Super Mario World made polishing touches where Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced so many new things. Flying with the raccoon tail, saved games (correction, this was not on NES’ SMB3), the different suits with different abilities were all impressive and stunning new additions.

super_mario_bros_3_power_ups

In hindsight, I actually missed a lot of great titles that set the standard in their categories and launched both their own franchises as well as imitators since. I only briefly played, or watched friends play, Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link. The same goes for Metroid and Kid Icarus. I never played Kirby either, though a friend of mine had the GameBoy game.

Bomberman.
Metal Gear.
Castlevania.
Even Final Fantasy!

All games I never played as a child and still haven’t played through yet in some cases. I’ve got them in my library now, added to the ever monolithic backlog, but haven’t played through them.

Honorable mentions of other games I did love: Contra, Bucky O’Hare, Tiny Toon Adventures, Little Nemo, Battletoads, Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, Double Dragon, and Shadowgate.

As a bit of a sidenote to the NES, I never really got into hand held games. I never had a GameBoy, but later got a GameBoy Pocket and then GameBoy Color, but I pretty much only got in on the Pokemon craze with Blue and then later Yellow. Otherwise, I didn’t really play GameBoy through its iterations.

pikachu

Back when he was a pudgy Pikachu.

To me, the Nintendo was all about fun. Well designed games with solid gameplay. Often light on plot, they were still a lot of fun. And some did have decent plots within their constraints. But Nintendo, the NES, was also about fun with friends and sharing your experiences and your knowledge with each other.

Playing video games at my friends, trading games to borrow, and talking about how to beat them pulled me deeper into loving video games. They weren’t just for introverted kids (even though to some extent I am an introvert), there was always a social aspect to them, even to single player games.

And though I may have missed some great games, I still had great experiences with the ones I did play. Experiences I hope to share.

In the next entry, I’ll talk about my favorite games from the Super Nintendo, where I fell fully into RPGs.

National Videogame Museum Opens Its Doors

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened in Frisco, TX on April 2, 2016. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. 10:00 AM, to be precise, was the opening of the doors. I was there and I was excited. Obviously, it’s taken a while for me to get to writing my thoughts on the grand opening of the nation’s, the world’s, first museum dedicated to the history of video games (I use “video game” though the museum officially uses “videogame”).

I had arrived at the Frisco Discovery Center, where the NVM is located, at 10:05 with a bit of a hurried step. I wanted to get in with plenty of time to look around as I was meeting someone in 3 hours to hand over some video games I had accumulated that weren’t going into my collection. I knew the doors opened at 10, so I went right in. And found the line. I followed the line outside again and saw just how many had arrived to see the history of their hobby.

There were a lot. The Museum holds about 240 people and the line was well out of the building and along the sidewalk, starting to curl around the build like a human formation of Nibbles.

0001 Outside

One or two people showed up

I stood in line with a mother whose 7 year old son was running around playing with other kids while they waited. Preston was here to see more about video game history, particularly Pac-Man and Galaga. I learned something from Preston’s mother in the hour we waited outside.

Pixels was a good movie. That’s right, Pixels.

Pixels

Yes, THAT Pixels.

Preston saw Pixels more than once in theaters and probably a dozen times at home since it released on blu-ray and DVD. Pixels introduced this young boy to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and made him want to learn more. He went to Google and began reading about these games and these characters and when they came out. He grew interested not only in the games themselves, but their history.

If a 7 year old boy loves a movie about video game characters, and that movie drives him to pursue the history of the industry, then I have to say the movie did something right. Adults and critics may not like it, but if it stirred the interest and curiosity of children, then it’s a good movie by my measure.

And so, there we were, at the first museum in the nation that would let him explore more of that history. TekForce was present and volunteered to provide music and MC the waiting room that we reached at 11 o’clock. I was able to speak with him a moment and learned that the museum was expecting 1,500 visitors for the grand opening day. In the first hour, they were adjusting expectations to 4,000. They underestimated how many people would come out for the grand opening.

As we waited for our ticket groups to be called there were pictures available to color, music played, and a couch set up with a Wii U and Super Mario Bros. available to play. Kids were having a great time. There was also trivia to win prizes – the question I was present for was regarding Pac-Man’s original name (The answer is Puck Man).

At 11:35, our ticket group was called up and we finally went into the NVM lobby to pay for our tickets to the museum proper. Tickets are $12 for adults, but include $1 worth of tokens for the arcade at the end of the museum. By noon, 2 hours after arrival, I finally set foot inside.

The Museum is divided into 16 stages, all of which cover a different portion of video game history.

IMG_7651.JPG

But first, you’re greeted by Mario

 

Stage 1, “Begin” covers the early days of video game history. In fact, with Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box Prototype” on display, it might be safe to say this touches on video game pre-history and then advances through history from there.

IMG_7526

An important aspect of the NVM is that it’s not just exhibits to look at and read. There are a lot of interactive features at the museum, mostly in the form of playable games in the exhibits. Almost every Stage has something you can play.

IMG_7539

Just like the one you grew up with, right?

Stage 2, “Timeline” is the most time consuming interactive option. With screens set up above oversized Super Nintendo controllers, this allows visitors to browse every single video game console ever released to get some information about them. Release year, MSRP, some highlighted games, as well as notorious games, and some of the most valuable on the system can be reviewed. There are 53 different consoles to read about, all of which are on display on the wall.

Stage 3, “Third Party” showcases a number of the third party titles that helped consoles excel with the public. Pitfall, which is playable in the exhibit, Stampede, Megamania, River Raid are on display in their original boxes in a display case while some notable Nintendo entries from Activision share the bottom shelf of the display with Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, and more.

Stage 4, “Control” is, quite simply, a full wall with a history of controllers through the years. Multiple controllers from each system are displayed, as well as a disassembled Atari 5200 controller.

Stage 5, “Portable” explores portable games. Game n’ Watch is on display, along with others that pre-dated the Game Boy most think of when “portable gaming” is mentioned.

IMG_7573.JPG

Again, there are playable games set up here as well. However, one of the most notable items features in this display is the Barbie Edition Game Boy, which is an unreleased prototype Game Boy Pocket. Supposedly the deal never went through and only two of the systems, along with a gaudy carry case, were made.

Stage 6, “Crash” is ironically my favorite exhibit, despite its dark days in gaming history. It deals with the video game crash of 1983. The first thing I liked was the introduction plaque does detail that the cause of the crash is much more complicated than the simple examples often cited, but not without being self aware of these rumors. Poor E.T. still appears in the stage’s image, even though it’s acknowledged the game was not the cause.

What I really liked about this exhibit, though, was the “going out of business” store front. With various 80s items such as Pac Man trading cards and bubble gum under the glass, a Top 5 sign for the week’s hottest games (which includes E.T., I might add), and a sign indicating the store is going out of business, it’s a very nicely done presentation.

IMG_7577

I promise I was also NOT the cause of the crash.

Stage 7, “Rise” presents the return of video games, stronger than ever, on both computer and with the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot, and I do mean a lot, of set ups are here to play and interact with.

IMG_7581.JPG

At this point, as you venture through the museum, you’ll find the bathrooms. Not exactly something you’d think worth mentioning, but this is the NATIONAL VIDEOGAME MUSEUM, so of course the bathroom entries are worth mentioning with their clever indication of “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs.

 

IMG_7583

Women’s

IMG_7584

Men’s

Stage 8, “Create” presents games moving from just being games and actually involving the user in the creative process. Games like Mario Paint are on display, but I wasn’t able to spend much time hands on (there were a lot of people here, remember?).

Stage 9, “Invent” presents a theoretical game studio’s office. Games adorn the shelves, a PC and work station are present, various articles and news clippings are framed on the walls.

Stage 10, “Transmit” discusses the rise of online gaming with various Blizzard entries, Quake, and two terminals that visitors can use to communicate and send a webcam image to each other on either side of the exhibit with.

Stage 11, “Listen” details music coming into games more with entries such as Parappa the Rapper and, of course, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Stage 12, “Unplugged” is likely to surprise many visitors with the various board games that were released based on video game properties. Frogger, Q*bert, Pac-Man, Legend of Zelda, and more are all on display.

Across from “Unplugged” is an exhibit showcasing various items. Systems, the Pokemon series, rare and valuable games, this section is an eclectic mix of things that didn’t belong to a single exhibit, but are definitely fun to look at.

IMG_7606.JPG

Before venturing to the next stage, there’s also an exhibit with various pieces of merchandise, including the wearable Mega Man helmet.

Stage 13, “Family” accurately portrays a family living room from the 1980s, with a console hooked up for play on the television, a fake plant, wood panel walls, and a Dogs Playing Poker painting on the wall! There are even family photos on display.

Stage 14, “Sanctuary” depicts a teen’s bedroom. Bear in mind, the NVM is in Frisco, Tx, so if you aren’t a Cowboys and Rangers fan, forgive the decor!

IMG_7622.JPG

A Pac-Man throw pillow, 80s movie posters, a record playing 80s music, and a Mario phone. It’s worth noting that the visitor I caught in this picture….still had trouble with the NES Zapper hitting the ducks in Duck Hunt.

Stage 15, “Respect” isn’t an exhibit so much as an art display. A cube art mural of Ralph Baer hangs near the conclusion of the museum tour.

Stage 16, “Bonus” is a collection of framed posters, displays, arcade machines, and a life size statue of Gabriel Belmont. Along the wall next to Stage 16 are a line of consoles, all of which had someone playing them. I did get to finally play a bit of Bonk’s Adventure on Turbo Grafx-16, though. Above the consoles is a mural with a number of recognizable video game characters.

IMG_7636.JPG

Stage 16 leads to an 80s style arcade to conclude the tour of the National Videogame Museum. The lights are dark and lit more by the neon marquees and the screens of video games than overhead light and it was packed with a person on just about every cabinet. A machine is in the arcade to give tokens for dollar bills in case your 4 tokens from entry aren’t enough to get your gaming fix.

Finally, you exit the arcade to find yourself in the gift shop. I didn’t look at everything, but overall they had some cool items in there. Some books particularly caught my eye and they were all priced reasonably compared to Amazon.

I’ve gone on for over 1700 words about this museum and don’t think I’ve scratched describing it. I was hopeful for this endeavor after visiting the “History of Videogames” exhibit at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA, but this is far beyond what was presented there.

The one thing I’d like to see NVM add if they are ever able to expand in size is to build a display library for every system. The curators, I believe, have only brought out a small part of their overall collection. I would love to see a glass display shelving every Atari or NES title in their boxes. In time, seeing every video game on every system lined up on shelves, their spines facing out would be truly a sight to see.

If conclusion, if you’re in the DFW area in Texas and have time to get to Frisco, the National Videogame Museum is well worth your time. I only had a couple of hours available and don’t feel like it was remotely enough time. I’m looking forward to going back with friends when they come into town, but I might have to sneak an extra trip before they make it.

My only hope is that they get repeat business and are able to stay open for a long time to come. Video games have become a huge part of our culture, both in America and across the globe, and it’s great to see a museum preserving and sharing their history.

 

Retro Games MEGA FIND trickling to eBay

It’s a story that makes any retro game collector a little jealous.  Multimedia personality Patrick Scott Patterson, through just amazing luck this time, came into possession of over 600 video game boxes that were stored carefully and remain in pristine condition.

Patrick Scott Patterson, or the Original PSP, was contacted by a friend who came across multiple comic book long boxes filled with video game boxes from Atari 2600 and before sitting on the curb for the trash collectors!  The full collection was sent to PSP, who went to “work” (I imagine it was more “went to giddy fun” myself) sorting through them and seeing what all was there.  All in all, 616 boxes were present, with some being rather rare.

Patterson has long been a vocal proponent of video games, video game history, and video game preservation through the years and has often defended attacks on video games from the media critics, appearing on news segments in support of games and calling for rational discussion and realistic debate any time the media tries to scapegoat the hobby for the latest tragedy.  After much deliberation, he decided to put the mega find on eBay piece by piece in hopes that the mint condition boxes will go to collectors who, like him, wish to preserve these gems of gaming history.

From the press release:

“Last thing I want to happen is for these to end up in the hands of resellers who will only treat them as inventory,” he added.  “Given the unique nature of the find I found that opinions on value vary, so it is going to be up to the public to determine them while giving all collectors a shot at what they need to complete their collections.”

You can read more about the story behind this amazing discovery of retro game history from the source itself here and if you want to get a box or two for your own collection, the eBay page can be found right here.