Saturday, April 21, 2007


Getting My Retro On

So I haven't made the move into the next generation of video game consoles yet, and I'm not sure when I will. So the question looms: where is my next fix going to come from? What's a video game addict to do without a cutting edge video game system?

The answer, of course, is to go retro.

Retro. I've always sort of associated the word with systems like the Atari 2600 or the Intellivision. You know -- the systems that were popular before they invented good graphics. Maybe even the NES, although that's sort of pushing it.

I've been going through a paradigm shift lately. The Super NES? How could that be a retro console? It plays Yoshi's Island, for crying out loud! The game where you touch fuzzy and get dizzy! That's retro now?

The Nintendo 64 is retro now?!

That's about as far as I've gotten. I'm going to wait a bit before I try to come to grips with thinking of the Dreamcast as a retro console. That's a pretty big pill to swallow. Gamecube's not retro yet -- I'm clinging to that with all of my being.

And yet, as I've pulled my Nintendo 64 out for the first time in months and actually loaded up some of my favorite old games for the first time in years -- Mario Party 2, Super Smash Brothers -- it's easier to recognize it. The graphics are dated. The gameplay has aged very well, but the graphics... yikes. It really is like looking back at the NES after being accustomed to the Super NES.

I remember that night, over ten years ago, when my brother and I went everywhere -- everywhere, all over town -- searching for anyone who had a Nintendo 64 in stock and a copy of Super Mario 64. Oh, what a terrible search it was, in the snowy hell of a Wisconsin winter, but we came back victorious. And from our first delicious taste of what the Nintendo 64 could do, we were hooked.

And I remember, as we were scaling Cool, Cool Mountain, that my brother and I started up a conversation about what would happen to our Super NES. Could we really go back to it after the miracle of seeing a fully realized, three-dimensional, breathing, talking Super Mario sliding around a winter wonderland like a human tobogan?

Even in my awestruck glee, I had a moment of prophetic insight. We were amazed at that exact moment in time, but it wouldn't last forever. Something else would come along, something so amazing that I couldn't even yet imagine it, and that would make Super Mario 64 look just as poor to our eyes as the original Super Mario Brothers.

We had just spent hundreds of dollars on a piece of electronics that would be doomed to obsolescence in just five short years.

And now it's happened. The Nintendo 64 is retro. The Super NES is retro.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'm starting to peek around the second-hand market, and for the most part, I like what I've been finding. To my dismay, I've discovered that Gamestop no longer deals in anything older than Playstation 2, although I'm not exactly surprised. However, there's a store in my area called Mega Media Xchange. I paid them a visit the other day.

It was like some sort of video game Valhalla.

The store was dominated by the same sort of things that Gamestop deals in, but there was so, so much more. I found Atari 2600, Sega CD, Saturn, stacks and stacks of NES and Super NES and Genesis. There were Sega Master System games. There were systems, games, accessories, you name it.

A lengthy tour of the store revealed that it was mostly crap that I wasn't interested in owning, but still! Mind-blowing! And I have to admit, I was awfully tempted to walk out of there with a 2-in-1 NES/Super NES clone system that they had on sale. I put it out of mind by reminding myself that there aren't any NES games that I really want to play anyway, but the question burns in my mind -- is that because I really have no interest in them anymore, or is it because my current NES would crowd my shelf space and is generally too difficult to get to work properly?

I'm filing that one under "just a matter of time".

But the Internet is there to lend a hand. Gone are the days of being limited to what you can scrounge from the local video game pawn shop. With sites like eBay and Amazon Marketplace, it's easier than ever to hook yourself up with a video game that's been out of print for over a decade. Sure, you may have to pay exorbitant prices for the rare or popular titles, but that's pretty much always been the case, eh? The only real issue is waiting days for the mail to come.

I scored myself a copy of Pilotwings 64 on Amazon. I've been developing a fondness for flight simulation lately, and spending a few hours with that one has really hit the spot. There's a review coming. You better believe it.

As I've lamented before many times in this blog, I have no real need for new video games in my life. I don't even spend the time to do more than scratch the surface of what I already own; what good is it going to do to have more? I should be content.

I think what I really lack is some sort of mechanism to keep the games that I already have toward the front of my consciousness. I regularly visit websites where I'm bombarded with information about what's new in video games -- things that I don't yet own that I should be excited about getting in the future. And it's not that I want to turn that off -- I can't say for certain that my life would have been better had I not found out about Puzzle Quest, for example -- but... where do you find the hype to keep you interested in what you already own?

How do I recapture my first all night marathon session with Mario Party 2? How do I reawaken my passion for capturing and training Pokemon? How can I relive that giddy joy that came with finally unlocking Ness in Super Smash Brothers? Why has it been so long since I've played Super Mario RPG? Why can't I be happy that my dream of having unlimited free games of Ms. Pac-Man is finally realized?

I think that's the endgame. When I can cure ownership amnesia, when I can rekindle the passion that inspired me to buy (and keep!) these dozens and dozens of game cartridges for so many years, I'll have won.

I just got a mad urge to play Donkey Kong '94. Think I'll do that.


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