Video Game Archaeology Blog #1

My currently non-operational Sega Mega Drive II and the recently acquired Super Nintendo
My currently non-operational Sega Mega Drive II and the rather stained Super Nintendo

If I had access to a time machine I would go back to 1995 and tell my 11 year old self to keep that Sega Master System and Sega Mega Drive as well as the large collection of games I had at the time for despite the excitement of the new Sony Playstation coming down the line I would one day turn 30 and start yearning for the golden age of video games again. As it was both those classic systems disappeared in car boot sales never to be seen again and the truth is I didn’t care because I was young and up-to-date with all my buddies. My parents worked their socks off to make sure I could (attempt) to play Tomb Raider or Need for Speed like the rest of my generation and the thought of going back to 16- or even 8-bit games never crossed my mind.

By around the time I got married in 2006 my dabbling in to any sort of video gaming slowly fizzled away except for the odd foray in to the Ace Combat series thanks in no small part to my interest in aviation. I just lost interest in it all. Keeping up with modern gaming was both exhausting, expensive and just unappealing. I was now more interested in exploring real life and what that was like rather than be stuck in front of a TV screen jabbering on buttons.

Skip forward to about 2013. My wife’s cousin was moving house and he asked me to drive the van for him since he hadn’t yet passed his driving test. We spent the day boxing up everything at his flat in Monmouth and then loading it on to the van for the journey to his new house in Caerwent. During the course of the day I was carrying out a box and when he asked me what was in it I looked inside and found a rather stained, old looking Super Nintendo. I checked through the box and found all the wires and controllers (including a competition pad) were with it as well as a copy of Street Fighter II and Mario All-Stars.

“Chuck it!” he said implying it was only taking up space.

I had other ideas though. Even though I was a Sega Fanboy back in the day and only ever played the Super Nintendo about twice in my life I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it and so I said to him that I would take it as payment for my services.

Now you might be thinking that this was the start of my recent relaunch in to the golden age of retrogaming – but you would be wrong.

I brought the console home, set it up and indeed it worked perfectly and for the next few days I played a bit of Mario before remembering just how bad I was at Street Fighter. Then I had to do some organizing in the living room and after just a week the Super Nintendo was boxed again and put under the stairs where for a second time in its life it was forgotten about. However during the week I had it I put on a Facebook status that it made me want to have my Mega Drive back and I was contacted by one of my wife’s uncles who said he had a console but no controllers and it was missing the TV cable. If I wanted it I could have it and again I said yes.

I therefore managed to blag myself two retro consoles for free from the in-laws (who obviously love me very much 😉 ) and so was that the point I got back in to the retrogaming scene? No!

Like the Super Nintendo the Mega Drive got boxed up with the intention of buying the cables to make it work again but it never happened. So just how did I get in to retrogaming? Well this story actually begins in early 2014 leading up to my 30th birthday when I was talking the usual geeky stuff with a good mate of mine named Mark Berryman. During the course of the conversation we started talking about old games that we used to xenon-2-megablast-europe-virginplay and one of my Master System games was brought up. It was called Xenon 2 and was the classic old school vertical scrolling space shooter. During the conversation I did a quick search for the game to find out when it was released as the question came up but was surprised to find I could play the game online. This was my first foray in to the world of emulation

I had heard about emulation before but didn’t know anything more about it. Basically emulators work by providing all the software surrounding the old console and the game digitally so they can be played on your laptop or PC. They vary in performance with some being good and some being glitchy as hell or having a look that isn’t quite right. I clicked PLAY and using the keyboard I played a game I hadn’t played for over 15 years and suddenly the floodgates were opened as my memories of these games and others came flooding back. I went after other games I used to play and started to investigate the retrogaming scene particularly with Sega and it was at this time that the Sega Does site was starting up which looked set to review every Sega console game from the very beginning so naturally I subscribed to the site and have followed it ever since.

The trouble was emulation was only taking me so far. The games were often broke or didn’t play right but not just that it was only a taste of past glories and soon my interest in them waned but my thirst remained unquenched. Then during a clean out under the stairs I found the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive again. I decided that I had wasted time with the emulators and that I would now get back in to retrogaming for real.

So now both consoles sit under the TV in the living room. The Super Nintendo still works but the Mega Drive remains decoration at the moment. I currently have all the wires on order and a set of control pads to get it working again which should arrive by the end of next week which I am excited about. In the meantime I have acquired my first “new” Super Starwing cartridgeNintendo cartridge in the form of Starwing (known as Starfox outside Europe for boring legal reasons). The reason I chose this game first was because back in the day it was the game we Sega fanboys wanted on our Mega Drives.

But its not just me who is exploring the golden age of video gaming. My four year old daughter has taken to video games as well thanks to a Nintendo Wii we bought her and she subsequently took an interest in the Super Nintendo and the “black one” as she calls the Mega Drive even if she hasn’t quite got a hang of them yet compared to the easier Wii – she is epic at MarioKart. So together we are going to be going through these games with me showing her what I used to play and for the two of us to look at games that are new to me. I am really looking forward to exploring the Super Nintendo range as the console seemed to just totally pass me by back in the day.

You can call it an early mid-life crisis if you like but I don’t care. So far its been a fun bonding experience with my daughter, a nostalgic look back and a way of relieving the stress that comes about from looking after my wife and daughter.

-Tony

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Author: Tony Wilkins

When Man entered the atomic age, he opened a door into a new world. What we’ll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.

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