Welcome to Retro Game On!

Everything retro - big and small! Live from Perth, Australia!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Nostalgia Box: A Retro Gaming Museum in Perth, Australia

It seems that the number of retro gaming stores in Perth is an ever growing phenomenon - starting off with Player [1] in North Perth (still my personal favourite), Retro Levels in Gosnells and even a few more that have popped up recently (I've visited one in Malaga and I hear there's another in Wanneroo). Retro gaming really has taken leaps and bounds in Perth since I started Retro Game On in 2011 - and it's taken yet another leap with the opening of a museum completely dedicated to the subject. I visited Nostalgia Box recently to personally check it out, and I have to say that I had a trackball of a time.

Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos. I should have bought my DSLR! Nostalgia Box does not look this faded and colour-toneless in real life, believe it or not.

Nostalgia Box is split into several parts: the museum, an arcade and a store.
The museum is likely the first part you'll enter, and while quite physically small (the whole location is probably about as big as a general retail store) a lot is packed in. There must be over 100 consoles and handhelds on display - all organised by the era they were released.
Starting with the many pong variations and light-gun games of the 70's, as you move through the museum the years gradually roll on by - with the latest on show being from the sixth generation (PS2, Xbox etc). With each console, there is a little blurb describing them as well as what historical impact they had (if applicable). Scattered among the consoles are also plenty of interesting tidbits: for example information about Ralph Baer (widely considered the grandfather of video games) or the history of Nintendo (although sadly omitting the fact they had a love hotel at one point).

Back when light guns actually looked like guns.
An example of the information provided. There was a card like this for every console!

There were plenty of original boxes on show too, which resonated with me highly.
There were plenty of interesting items on show - with most I haven't heard of being from the 1970's of which I quite enjoyed reading about. There were some great obscure additions I had heard of too (mostly thanks to CGR), like the Hyperscan or the Casio Loopy.
Mixed into the museum section were also a few iPads (with headphones) showcasing original gaming adverts. This was a nice touch, and it seemed that the interface (or should I say app?) to select what to watch seemed to be specially designed for Nostalgia Box. This added a nice air of professionalism to the experience.

The second main part is the arcade, which is where you'll likely spend the most time on your visit. The guy running the show when I visited was very present, constantly offering suggestions of what to play or offering to swap games over. His attention to the patrons was great, and should be commended. I personally may not need many pointers (although his directions on how to play Star Ship on the Vectrex was appreciated) it's good the advice was there. I saw that other visitors (families mostly) were a bit unsure where to start when entering the arcade, but were happily kicking each others butt in Mortal Kombat on the Mega Drive minutes later after a helping hand.

Initial Bubble Bobble induced sad-face...
...which gradually evolved into a standard resting bitch-face. 
I personally had a lot of fun playing Star Ship (you would not believe how long I've wanted to play a Vectrex), Bubble Bobble on the Master System and SEGA Rally on the Saturn. I also eventually kicked some butt in Mortal Kombat too along with everyone else (with only some minor butt-kicking coming my way).
There was a nice variety of consoles available to play, although I'm surprised the sixth generation wasn't represented. I guess everyone and their Sony fanboy dog own a PS2 or an Xbox, but I'm sure a Dreamcast playing Crazy Taxi or Jet Set Radio would not go astray. I was also hoping an Atari Jaguar or 3DO would be available to play as well, although that's more personal preference since I've never been able to acquire either personally.

After years of waiting, I finally got to play a Vectrex. It was amazing and beautiful in so many ways.
Last but not least there is the store, and while it is a very small part of Nostalgia Box it's a nice addition. It had all the nicknacky type stuff you'd expect (like a 'Drunk Hunt' NES cartridge flask) but also a few things I was genuinely tempted to buy - like Street Fighter Monopoly or some of those compilation TV games (a ColecoVision machine for example, came very close to being a possession of mine).

One day I'll own you. One day...
On leaving the same guy who was helping in the arcade (and also running the counter) asked if there is anything I thought that could be improved. This was a question that I honestly couldn't think of an answer for, and I stood there for a while looking like a dork trying to think of something. Even on later reflection, there is nothing that majorly bothered me about Nostalgia Box. I did later think that maybe all the consoles should be hooked up to CRT's instead of a few that were connected to LCD's (the quality of the video signal isn't as great on the crisp, modern displays) but I understand that might not be totally viable when space and availability are concerned.
Otherwise really, I just want it to expand. It's off to a killer start, and it would be great if over time there was more. This means more items on display, more games to play and maybe a few more things in the shop. But really, that is likely to happen naturally over time. At the moment, the amount of content available ensures that visiting will be well worth your while.
I was not the only one in there by far, and the website hints at upcoming gaming nights and events - so I'd say it's safe to assume that the future of Nostalgia Box is a bright one.

Website: www.thenostalgiabox.com.au
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NostalgiaBox
Twitter: www.twitter.com/nostalgia_box

Friday, February 26, 2016

Welcoming an NES into the Retro Game On Fold

Over the years, I've gradually fulfilled the wish list of consoles I want in my collection. However (and unfortunately), since I started the price of everything has seemingly risen two-fold.
That sucks, and since I'm an extreme tightarse who can't stop talking about the price of retro hardware 'in the good old days', I very rarely add new hardware. The last thing added was a restored Game Gear, and that was back in the August of 2014! Plus, the only reason I bought it was because I failed at trying to fix two other broken units - my way of trying to save money that ultimately wasted a lot of time and money anyway. Check out the 'Game Gear' label to the left if you want to read more about those particular stories (to build intrigue I'll add that it all started in a French village).

Anyway, not being one to be swayed by two failed repair projects - I did it all again by buying a broken NES. I'm glad to say, though, that this time I was successful in the repair.
I got the idea after seeing a broken NES for $100 in a pawn store. Yes, I shit you not. I thought that was a bit ridiculous since I've seen a lot of working units go for between $120-140. Not wanting to pay that much anyway, though, I visited one of those Nintendo buy and sell pages on Facebook asking for a broken bargain.
I found a nice guy who offered me a dismantled NES (including all parts) AND a replacement 72 pin connector (the likely problem part) for $50 delivered. Considering the size, the distance (he was on the other side of Australia from me) and the fantastic packing the guy did, it was an amazing deal.

Towards the end of the repair.
The connector was an issue - yes, but replacing that didn't quite fix the problem. A little later after some Googling, though and I was deactivating the region lock-out chip. I should add by the way, that all of this is in the video I posted a few weeks ago.
If you don't feel like watching that however, pulling out that chip (well, pulling out the right leg of the chip, anyway) actually got the NES running. It wasn't the end of the road, though, as the controller didn't work.
The controller I had was a cheap aftermarket knock-off (told you I was a tightarse) that may have been the cause of the problem. But since I had to wait a little while for a legit controller to arrive from eBay, I researched all the possible problems that could cause the controller not to work in the mean time.
The possible issues ranged from the controller port modules being shot (which could be replaced but at a high-ish price) to the IC's that tell what the controller ports to do being fried. I didn't really feel like dealing with any of that, so it was a relief the legit controller arrived and it worked.

This brings us to the Part II of that video linked above, where I reassemble the NES (firstly doing it wrong) and then where I try to repair the broken knock-off controller (unsuccessfully).

After all that, my $50 NES works. I may have spent quite a bit of time on it, but hey - it's there now and working. I even plan to eventually give the case a one over and attempt to make it less yellow, as well as cleaning off all the sticky residue from shipping (it was all taped together).

So, what's next on the console wish list? There is quite a bit actually, but discounting the rare or hard to find in Australia (like the Vectrex or 3DO) the two I really want is the SEGA Master System and SEGA Saturn. I might try to do the same thing with the Master System and buy one broken, but that's only because it's cartridge based. I would love to buy a broken SEGA Saturn and try and repair it, but systems that run on disks and use laser assemblies seem to be a lot harder to fix. Once a laser assembly goes, it really goes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Video: Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 for Dreamcast Review

It's been a long time since I've done a Dreamcast game review and for some reason, I chose this. Don't ask me why.
It was mentioned in the first ever blogpost here, though (if anyone finds that interesting).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Video: Restoring an NES [Pt. 1]: 72 Pin Connector Replacement & Lockout Chip Deactivation

This was not supposed to be a series but life's not perfect and sometimes multiple problems with 30-year-old hardware arises. But hey, at least by the end of this episode it ACTUALLY plays games! It's a start... stay tuned for Part II.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Video: Top Gear Overdrive for N64 Review

A few years ago I reviewed Top Gear Rally - which didn't exactly receive a positive reaction from myself. Viewers didn't seem to agree with me, so let's check out its sequel and see if things have improved!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Retro Scan: c1995 Dick Smith PC Advert

Following on from that Harvey Norman scan I posted a little while ago, here's a scan from it's major competitor (at the time anyway), Dick Smith!
Sadly, Dick Smith isn't doing so well these days having gone into receivership and all - but putting aside the negative aspect of this business in its current state I think it's important to remember just what a fantastic company it used to be. I always loved going to my local Dick Smith as a young boy; so much so, in fact, that it eventually led to me working there for four years! Those days are behind me now and sadly so are the glory days of DSE, but it left a legacy which I think is important to remember.

Taking a look at this particular advert, we're shown the 'Computer Easy Customer Care Plan'. This offers such incentives to get into computing such as free installation, free training and a whole heap of other cool stuff (like 12 months of free bulletin board access).
A lot of the popular brands at the time are mentioned too, such as IBM, Compaq, HP, Microsoft and DSX. I googled around and wasn't able to find much about DSX, but I'm assuming it's a part of Dick Smith's home brand considering the use of DS. Who knows, though, that just could be a coincidence.