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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

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