The right way to retro
I know someone who refuses to buy DVD’s. She has a Blu Ray player (for her husband) but she will only buy movies for herself on VHS. No logical explanation just she refuses to get past VHS. I used to collect movies on any format I could get my hands on.
I owned movies on LaserDisc, VHS, Beta Max, Super VHS, CED, HD-DVD, DVD, Blu Ray, Digital (Ultra Violet, iTunes and Amazon Video) and yes I even had movies on film. I freely admit my reason was I wanted to collect movies. I had some movies, for instance The Terminator, on multiple formats. In fact my goal was to own The Terminator– and a list of other films for that matter– on every single format I could get them on. It was an obsession. But I never watched my VHS tapes. I put them on a shelf, where they belonged, and watched the DVD or Blu Ray copy if I had it.
I realize some people would look at my movie habits and accuse me of being a “shelf collector”. This is fine by me. Except the accusation is false. You see, while I do see the merit in owning physical copies of these things from my childhood, I never intended to watch them on the original hardware. If I am in the mood to watch The Terminator I am doing it on the HDTV using the Blu Ray copy. Now to be fair I originally came out of the Transformers collecting hobby but even then I was never a shelf collector. I was a big enough dork I played with my toys. Why not? Isn’t that why you buy them? That is until my sisters started having kids. They suddenly were always begging me to let them play with my Transformers. I eventually morphed into more of a shelf collector in that regards. It was the day I lost my temper at my 4-year-old nephew for opening a boxed collectible I got out of it. If you can’t play with the toys then don’t buy them. I mean I can see having a few that mean something special to you but honestly, if you are just going to buy them to keep them on the shelf in the box, please don’t. I mean it, because there is always some kid out there, not kid at heart but real child with a desire to actually get use out of these items. You can certainly buy boxed or sealed toys if you must, but don’t do it because you feel compelled by other collectors to. If you want to play with your toys, do it. If not, let Target sell that copy to a kid who will. Please. It’s being a decent human being.
The more I thought about the disconnect though, the more I realized retro gamers are doing it all wrong. You see, everyone knows eventually those NES machines are absolutely going to break down. Eventually the parts to repair them are going to become so rare and expensive it no longer makes sense to “restore” them to working condition. Then you have to keep in mind as time passes there will be fewer people around who can repair them. Even today I can’t find anyone outside a handful of dedicated individuals on the internet who can repair VCR machines or CED players. Eventually they will stop working. As a film collector I just want movies preserved. I really don’t care how they are presented. I mean if you go the route of retro gamers of only experiencing them as originally intended, things get complicated. I mean by that logic everyone should shun every physical medium that isn’t film. We should have embraced buying expensive projectors, sound equipment and screens to project movies in our homes. True home theater. Now there are some who do buy DLP digital projectors for that experience, but even they are only legitimately representing the films released in the last decade. Even then digital has taken forever to supplant film in cinema.
This begs the question, why do retro gamers insist on playing Super Mario Bros. on an original NES cart on a physical NES machine manufactured 30 years ago? I see some who turn to roms, while others still embrace the Virtual Console method. Yet there remains a large segment of the retro gamer market who insist original hardware only. Some of those people will compromise and buy a Retron 5 or similar machine which allows them to play their “physical carts” on a machine. Except these games are collectibles at this point. I believe the shelf collectors have it right. Buy a copy of a game keep it in a box or display it proudly to show your part of the community, but at the end of the day there is a better way. I am not talking roms. Of course, technically the Virtual Console is just ROMS anyways. Let’s put that aside. If you do deem NES carts as collectible, why on earth would you risk damaging your investment? I certainly won’t take that risk. But there is a way of preserving original games in a way that makes more sense and doesn’t damage the collectibles. At least not in the same way. It’s quite simple. In fact if one is looking for a way to be able to legally buy physical copies of most games there are exactly 2 machines and 1 accessory a person needs to buy. This is a guide to how to retro in modern times the right way.
It’s quite simple really. Step one buy a Sony PS2. The best part is they use fairly industry-standard parts so replacements and repairs are easier to perform than on those old, yellowing cartridge systems of yesteryear. It’s also about simplicity. You can stream line so much of your collecting buy starting with a PS2. On the surface you’re thinking not so fast. But trust me it’s the first of two, yes two consoles you should own in order to have access to purchasing one of the largest retro libraries and you will be surprised how little you will actually be missing out on. Oh sure there WILL be outliers, but you should find more than enough comparable games to put that out of your mind.
The best part of the PS2 is it can also play CD’s, DVD’s and is backwards compatible with the vast majority of the PS1 library. At this point those two consoles provide a gamer with over 3000 games to choose from, many of which are retro at this point. But that’s not even getting into the bread and butter. The PS1 and PS2 are home to a host, literally more than 2 dozen, compilations containing vast libraries of retro games at your fingertips.
Between five games (Atari Anthology, Activision Anthology, Namco Museum, Midway Arcade Treasures 1 and 2) you can pick up 70 percent of the Atari VCS library. In many cases you will bypass the actual 2600 ports and enjoy the true arcade games instead. This is fantastic because a 100 investment replaces having to buy a 2600 VCS console and tracking down those games. Yes there are going to be quite literally dozens of games not accessible, but the casual retro gamer isn’t going to miss most of them. IN fact, unless you are desperate for those Atari Porn carts chances are you will have a better experience with the PS2 games than you would original hardware. This is of course not mentioning the handful, around 15 or so, Ps1 games that also feature either collections of classic retro games, or are fairly enjoyable, updated versions of these games. Frogger, Missile Command, Pong, Asteroids, Defender, Centipede and Pitfall all come to mind.
The PS2 also opens the door to so many arcade compilations. By the time you get through the Capcom Classics 1 and 2, Taito Legends 1 and 2, SNK Neo Geo Collection, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Metal Slug, Konami, Midway, Namco and Sega compilations you will have so many more arcade games than you will ever know what to do with. Each of those discs contains close to 20 or more, in some cases 50, games. Great! Enjoy. That’s not even getting into the post-retro classics on these consoles. For example FF7, Kingdom Hearts, GTA 3, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, Gun, Prince of Persia, True Crime, NBA Street, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance and oh so many more. Yes the classics are also retro at this point but they still offer a vast selection of games to keep any collector busy. Sure you could buy an Atari 2600, NES, NEO GEO, SNES, TG16, Genesis, Sega CD, Saturn, and 3DO to get access to HALF the library available on this ONE game consoles between the two compatible systems.
Sure you can also pick up some Mega Man, Sonic and Final Fantasy compilations to get access to some of the high profile NES/SNES/Genesis games but what about the Nintendo 1st party stuff? There is a way to do this right and still only buy 2 consoles. If you’re following along you can guess what I am going to recommend next. Yep, a Nintendo Game Cube with Game Boy Player.
Oh wait you were expecting me to suggest a Wii? Well I wrestled with this. At first yes I thought OKay Wii plays GC games and has Virtual Console. Except, Nintendo shut down the store so you can’t buy VC games any more. Oops. But if you get the GC and GB Player you can add thousands more games to your library.
I won’t go down the entire list but you have the Game Cube which enhances the PS1-2 offerings with great Nintendo games from that era. Star Fox Adventures, Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion, Geist, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Animal Crossing, and so many more. Oh boy you’ve unlocked a fantastic library totally worth collecting for. But what about those NES games? Hmm… well did you know that nearly every single game worth buying for the NES is playable on this set up, and often the method of entry is lower than the actual NES/SNES carts! Wow. No seriously. If you buy Game Boy games, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games, you can get access to over 3000 games. The SNES, NES and Genesis libraries combined offer half the games you get on this set up. A collector looking for a bunch of games to enjoy, while also sticking true to original hardware, is going to find this far more enjoyable than wasting their time, efforts and money, tracking down expensive NES carts which may require some serious cleaning or more to get working.
Let’s take the big ones. Castlevania. First you get the GB games (these are great games) you also get the Classic NES games on GBA so check that off. With the PS1 giving you Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, the GBA giving you Circle of the Moon, etc., I’d say you are covered. Sure you won’t have Dracula X but you do get the superior PS1 port t’s based on. You don’t get Super Castlevania 4 but you get more than enough to keep you busy you’re not likely to even notice.
What about Mega Man? Well you COULD buy the NES and pay hundreds of dollars for the original carts, track down an over-priced Mega Man 7 for SNES, and try to get a second mortgage to afford the SNES Mega Man X 2 and 3 if you must. Or you could buy TWO PS2 discs and be done. Mega Man Anniversary collection plus Mega Man X Collection give you all you should need. Now that’s not even getting into the PS2 exclusives (Mega Man X 7 and X8 or X Command Mission) but hey it also gives you Mega Man 1-5 on GB, the Battle Network games, and a few extras.
The best part of this set up is most Nintendo fans are going to want a Game Boy/Game Boy Advance at some point anyways. Well instead of putting it off and going after those elusive NES/SNES carts why not just cut out the fat and streamline the entire process? It saves you tons of money, doesn’t diminish your prestige at all and due to the vastly smaller size of the carts/discs these games take up you save so much space in your house. Your wife might appreciate that aspect a lot. Plus these games typically trend lower on the price scale than the SNES and NES carts anyways. It’s a great way to retro the right way.
Okay let’s look at a few other games you’re going to stress about. Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, Metroid, Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Battletoads, Disney afternoon and Final Fantasy.
Let’s go through the Mario games you GAIN by going this route and look at the ones you lose.
Game Boy gives you Super Mario Land 1-3. All great games.
Then Game Boy Color gives you Super Mario Bros. DX. If you must sure why not but why not just get Classic NES Super Mario Bros. for GBA?
Sure you could just get Super Mario All-Stars on SNES and Super Mario World but wouldn’t you prefer the four Super Mario Advance games which further enhance the games while also, shrinking them down to mini carts? I would. I did. I almost converted to portable only. (I was going to replace PS2 with a PSP and GC with a DS and GBA) but then I decided nope I need a console experience too.
You lose Super Mario 64 but get Sunshine. I wouldn’t call it a wash but you’re not really going to get me to argue the N64 is worth collecting for anyways when the GC is vastly superior in every way. I will set aside a segment on N64 down the road. Trust me I figured all of this up.
Okay what about Zelda? Ha, dude you’re going to love this. Okay NES has 2 Zelda games, SNES has 1 and N64 has 2. GC has ALL of them.
You can get Zelda Collector’s Disk which gives you Zelda 1, Zelda 2, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Then you can pick up Four Swords/Four Swords Adventures for GC/GBA respectively and get that fantastic SNES classic. Now having the Game Boy Players ALSO gives you Zelda Links Awakening (and DX if you prefer), Oracle of Ages/Seasons and Minish Cap. Then you get Wind Waker followed by Twilight Princess. I mean shit dude damn near every Zelda you could ever find the time to play. If you were so inclined you could also grab the Classic NES Zelda 1 and 2 for GBA. There you go Zelda one and done. You miss the DS games and the Wii Skyward Sword. Nothing to really cry about.
What about Donkey Kong? Well between the Game Boy games you get DK Land 1-3, DK Land 1-3 Color, you get DKC 1-3 GBA, DK (Game Boy) and Mario Vs. DK. All great games. You also get the Game Cube games if you want them, Jungle Beat and Konga 1 and 2. I’d say that covers all the DK games you’d ever need. You miss out on DK 64, another game you can get by without if you’re so busy with all the other games. This is where I also insert the obligatory Crash Bandicoot games are fantastic supplements/alternatives to the SNES DKC games anyways and those are already playable on the PS1/2 set up above. Doing great Mr. Retro gamer. Saving money and buying tons more games than you would have other wise done.
The first tricky one is Metroid. You can get Metroid 1 through Classic NES on GBA. You can also get Metroid 2 Game Boy and you can get Prime 1 and 2 on GC. This just leaves Super Metroid lacking. This one hurts. I mean it does Super Metroid is easily one of the top 50 best video games of all time. I mean how do you live without being able to enjoy it? Well, you have the GBA to the rescue once again. Okay it’s not exactly the same but between Fusion and Zero you are going to get an adequate Metroid experience to easily hold you over. Sure it’s not Super Metroid but you could make a case Fusion is just as good. I played it first and loved it. That’s not to say I didn’t love Super Metroid as much cuz I did. I would rank Fusion on my top 100 Nintendo games, I rank Super Metroid on my top 50 ALL time video games from all systems. Fusion doesn’t make the top 200 on that list. So yes, this hurts but it’s painful not life threatening. You will survive. Plus you can get all those Metal Gear Solid games to offer you some comfort as they are great distractions too.
How about Final Fantasy? You’re going to try to snag me here. Good think you are in luck. Heck man, ignoring the NES/SNES is the better way to go anyways. You have some great options. First PS1 gives you Anthology (FF5 and FF6/3), Final Fantasy Chronicles (FF4/2 plus the beloved Chrono Trigger~SNES), then you get the Game Boy games (FF Legend 1-3, FF Adventure, Tactics Advance, Sword of Mana, Dawn of Souls, FF4 Advance, FF5 Advance, FF6 Advance) and then you get the PS1 and Ps2 games (FF7, FF8, FF9 FFX, FFX-2, Kingdom Hearts 1-2, FF11, FF12, and Tactics) and on the Game Cube you get Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. By the time you get through all of those I’d say you probably won’t notice you’re missing FF1 on NES as it’s such a primitive game anyways.
Stop the presses Mr. smarty pants. You left out Super Mario RPG. You CANNOT seriously pretend to be a retro gamer who loves the SNES and tell me you can get by without Super Mario RPG! Ha.
Now wait a second. I’m not saying this isn’t going to be difficult. What I am saying is if you do it this way the number of games you get access to is vastly larger than if you buy ALL those other retro consoles, combined. Sure a few games, by my count around 200 or so, will slip through the cracks. Okay 200 games is a lot to neglect. But I assure you for the most part any game missing is going to have a truly worthy alternative. Most of the times t’s a direct sequel, a remake, a remaster or another game in the same genre that’s more than good enough. You won’t get NES TMNT. But you get the Game Boy, GBA and Game Cube/PS2 TMNT games (which includes both arcade games and in their superior to the NES/SNES versions anyways) Is it a perfect system? No but hell it beats having to keep seven, 9, 12? different consoles lying around collecting dust. Even if you play them daily they ARE collecting dust not meaning the hyperbole it’s science. But if you have the PS2, Game Cube and Game Boy Player oh boy do you have at your disposal the ability to collect thousands of games usually cheaper and always in smaller packages. If you insist on buying physical copies playable on original hardware this is the best way to do it. Otherwise pirate the games and get the roms to your hearts desire. I mean if you give the money to some third party re-seller for a used copy, it is 100 percent fact the publisher still doesn’t get paid a dime anyways. Seriously.
Me, I decided this is the ultimate gaming set up and gives me the best bang for my buck. Sure you can always add ancillary systems to keep going. Want a DS, that’s easy get a 3DS XL or 2DS Xl and you’ve added thousands more games to choose from. If you need a Wii get it, or get a Wii U and buy the games you want knowing at the very least you will be unable to buy VC games or eShop titles at this point. You are limited to physical releases, or piracy, so make your choice but do NOT tie yourself to a digital eco system or get trapped in the past because it’s not the ideal way to enjoy these games. Not to mention, as stated earlier. Buy the games you want on NES nobody is stopping you, but have a way to PLAY them on non-original hardware to preserve that failing NES that IS currently a collectible and not far from becoming an antique. Do you want to chance breaking an antique that can’t be repaired easily? Not me. It is sad to say but the sun has set on the days of old school retro collecting. The ultra die-hard collectors will continue to invest in keeping the hobby going. But my observances is these machines are fragile and the available stock is shrinking. At the same time the number of gamers wishing to play these games is always increasing. Something has to be done and a good compromise is better than out right piracy for some. Me, I’m going to stick to this set up because it really does offer me the best of both worlds. Plus, I already have my ROMS on my laptop so I’d say I am set there. Nintendo, I PAID you for the ROMS, more than once, via VC so back off. Everyone else enjoy and happy gaming.