Retro gaming has become huge over the last few years, from Dara O’Briain’s ‘Go 8-bit’ to the Rasberry Pi machines fitted out with old arcade games.
So what’s the big deal?
Lets face it the latest Sony and Microsoft consoles now produce games that are more like movies, graphic designers, script writers, and composers now all work alongside programmers to create da vinci-esque (I made that word up) masterpieces that orchestrate one and a half billion polygons a second around the screen with dolby surround sound blasting out to accompany it.
Yet here I sit in my office looking at the latest gadget that the boss has purchased.
Yes, that’s right, we have an arcade machine in our office, stuffed to over-flowing with retro games, Arcade games, Super Nintendo, Game Gear, Lynx, Neo Geo, Gameboy… the list goes on, in fact there are around 8,000 games to be played. If by the way you would like one of these machines, get in touch and we’ll hook you up!
So how does it play, is it any good… well… yes, it’s great, so many games from my (mis-spent) youth all sitting in one place. Speedball 2, Flying Shark, Pacman, Sensible Soccer, they are all there.
So that’s it right, that’s my fix satiated? Well No, it’s just the beginning I’m afraid, because this acted like a trigger, I wanted more. Yes I have all these games at work, but generally I am, well, working when I am in the office, what about taking on Super Nashwan again, can I still dominate any team on Sensible World of Soccer, and I’m pretty sure I have a score to settle with Yoshitsune. Don’t understand those references? Then you have some serious Googling to do.
What do you do then?
Obviously you go and buy an Amiga 600.
I never owned one, I had the 500 and the 1200, so this was a new, old computer. I managed to get the Amiga to display on my 40” LCD TV quite easily, one Amiga to SCART adapter later and there she was in all her KickStart glory, so lets play!
After purchasing it I did what any self respecting geek would, I looked on eBay for batches of copied Amiga games, and found a few, bought a few, but it became apparent quite quickly that the shelf life of the old 3.5” disk was less than 30 years.
A few games did work, I got to see just how bad at Kick Off 2 I was now, in my heyday there were few of my friends that could beat me, but now I was awful, my timing was out, my reactions seemingly dulled by 20 years of beer consumption. Xenon 2 looked great too, but alas one of my favourites, Speedball 2, would not get past the opening screen.
So now what?
Well now we turn to modern technology. Once again it was the shopping centre of the internet (eBay of course) that saves the day, that and some guy/gal/alien called amigaone_haven, this bright spark was selling a modern 4GB Compact Flash Card with about 2000 Amiga games on it. For those of you who don’t know, this attaches to the Amiga like a hard drive would have.
Amazing! So lets plug it in and get this party started… not quite.
You see this little gizmo needed a particular version of operating system, and my little 600 didn’t have it… F$%* it!
Fear not, you can buy the updated ROM chip, all you have to do is fit it yourself. Having built my own PC, replaced many parts in laptops and phones, built the odd nuke (I’m joking… the guy in Romania refused to sell the yellow cake uranium), I did not fear such a task.
I was right not to, the new chip was less that £15, and I had both the flash card and new ROM chip fitted in about 10 minutes… GAME ON!
It works perfectly, I can now play all my old favourites from 30 years ago, I even went to the extent of tracking down a couple of Competition Pro joysticks so I can invite a friend round and we can bask in the shame of just how bad we are at these old games.
But back to the question, what is the big deal? Is it the mid-life crisis of a geek, am I trying desperately to recapture my youth, I can’t afford a Ferrari, so is this what I do instead… maybe, but maybe not.
As I said earlier these games can’t compete on looks, and because of that they had to concentrate on gameplay, it had to be addictive, if you could make it look good too, great. Kick Off 2 and Sensible World of Soccer are probably two of the most basic looking games around, but they were seriously addictive. Are they better than the latest FIFA, no, but they offered something different. Programmers didn’t have 8 different buttons to allow you to perform specific moves, they had one button, or 2 mouse buttons and the keyboard, that’s it.
This is what made the games so special, it took about 60 seconds to learn the controls, but the next 6 months to master it, and they were so addictive you could easily get repetitive strain injury in a single evening. I remember as a kid being able to walk home from school at lunchtime with my mate and play for half an hour before returning to double maths, and we did it most days… the computer games I mean, not double maths… that would just have been sadistic.
If you are of a certain vintage you will still have a record player, and will only listen to vinyl and will tell everyone it has a warmer sound, whilst your grandchild sits on their bed picking music at will from Spotify or Amazon, not giving those black plastic plates a second thought. That is what this is for my generation, paying homage to the classics, remembering that these games were fantastic and should not be forgotten. I had a PS One, PS2, PS3 and now I have a PS4 and it’s epic, but it’s not Lords of the Rising Sun, it’s not Lemmings or Cannon Fodder and no-one has done violent futuristic sport the way Speedball 2 has. Some things simply cannot be beaten.
Fortunately for my Amiga foes, my days are filled with tedious adult chores, so Super Nashwan will have to wait a few months until I can kick their collective ass again… but it’s coming Nashwan, it’s definitely coming.