NEStalgia Week Pt.9; Congratulation! A Winner is You!

The nice thing about being a full grown man with a healthy dash of nostalgia is that you can pursue whatever collecting and hobbies your time and wallet will allow. The rotten thing about that is paying the rent and working a more than full time job means there’s never enough money or hours in the day to scratch that itch fully.

Maybe it’s a good thing. Almost everything is better in moderation, they say, and after a half dozen margaritas I’m inclined to agree. If I had infinite free time to play the games, and infinite money to collect them, I don’t think I’d be having nearly as much fun with my Nintendo return.

Happiness doesn’t come from having every idle wish instantly fulfilled, it comes from facing life’s challenges and difficulties and forcing yourself to carry through. It comes from having goals to work towards, things that require struggle, sacrfice and effort to achieve. And so, even though I could strap a Game Genie onto Metroid and blow through it, or just look up the all items code, it was more rewarding to pick my way deep into the game, and eventually die in the bowels of Ridley’s lair at 4 AM. Even if I’d gotten through, it wouldn’t have been fast enough for the good ending, but that was a moot point.

For the most part, my return to NES gaming had been a mixture of fun nostalgia and a realization that old grey H, he ain’t what he used to be. It’s a shame to say it at 30 years old, but I just don’t have the hand-eye coordination I did when I was playing most of these games for the first time. A game like Castlevania III, that I played a ton of and was able to finish as a kid, now confounds me after a point. But there had to be a tradeoff somewhere.

I just don’t think 8 year old H had the patience to backtrack and puzzle solve in the way that Metroid asks you to. A linear platformer built on timing? Oh yeah, youth is all over that. An open world that requires patience, memory and multi level thinking? A grown ass man has the advantage. Sometimes you just have to run across something at the right time in life. When I played Metroid for the first time, it was too soon, I didn’t get it. I was a little older when Super Metroid came out, and I loved it, even if I leaned heavily on Nintendo Power to get through it. But I never really revisited the first until last night.

Not as chipper as Bubble Bobble, but just as to the point.

Now, most of the original feels fresh to me, even though it’s a nearly 30 year old game that I’ve played before. I think that really gets down to the heart of the appeal of retro-gaming, that what is old is constantly new again. For most people who are into the hobby, the thrill of the chase is of course a big part of it. But the days when you could walk into any thrift store and expect at least some type of dirt cheap find from the early console era seem to be fading, as more people get into the hobby.

The flipside is that the retro gaming resale market is thriving online, where if you hunt hard enough, you can still find a lot of quality games for cheap. Well, sometimes cheap. I’d love to give Sword Master another shot, but if it’s $60 bucks to take the trip, I’ll probably pass. I did pony up 7 bucks for a copy of Crystalis, which I’m looking forward to diving into. And ultimately, I don’t want to limit myself to just the NES. I have a smaller SNES collection, and a few stray Genesis cartridges plus a working console. I sold or gave everything else away through the years, so until I come across any stray cheap other consoles, I’ll be focusing on those 3. The last couple weeks, I’ve been ducking in and out of thrift stores, hoping to find some random retro console goodies. I haven’t found them, but it hasn’t stopped me looking.

On the other hand, I have found a wealth of NES era advertising.  After awhile, you start to wonder how they sold any of these things.  Thank god most of the products were better than the commercials.

NEStalgia week turned into 2 weeks, and over the course of it I worked a ton, turned 30, and discovered the fun that’s still waiting to be found in games that are almost as old as I am. If you’ve been enjoying the NES related content here, well, you’re in luck, because there’ll be more retro gaming articles to come, mixed in with the regular random nostalgia and esoterica I usually indulge in.  There’s still pedestrian lessons to be learned from Paperboy.  Maybe Scrooge McDuck can teach me a thing or two about how to manage my finances.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first trip down Nintendo memory lane, and I hope you’ll join me on the adventures ahead. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rip off various housewares from a blue skinned family.

It’s cool. Here’s your flashlight and your cheese and all the other shit we stole from you guys.

NEStalgia Week Pt.1; The Bubble Bobble 2 That Got Away

It’s NEStalgia week on Htopia!  Several features to come, including; humiliating attempts at beating Castlevania 3, a list of the best multi-player titles for your retro gaming get together, the Badvertising of the Nintendo era, and much more!

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In the disposable and constantly recycled world of modern pop culture, our very natural and human feelings of nostalgia tend to lead us down one of two paths. The first leads to questionable remakes of movies and shows that didn’t call for a revamp, except for the fact that there was money to be made by scratching that nostalgic itch. Everyone complains about reboots, but people keep seeing them enough to make them profitable, and so Hollywood is going to keep right on making them, regardless of whether or not you asked for a gritty modern take on The Monster Squad.

On the other hand, if your nostalgia calls for an experience that stays truer to your memories, well, you can always just pay a premium for some plastic shit you already had once as a kid.  And I have always felt most kindly towards the Nintendo plastic shit of my youth.  But if you want to get back on board that train now, the ticket is starting to get awfully expensive.

My white whale.

Used copies of Bubble Bobble 2 start upwards of $200 for just the cartridge, not even including box or manual. I scoffed at $12 for one in a video game store a few years back, when NES games had next to no resale value and working Nintendos were few and far between. Now, because of it’s combination of rarity and uh, fun-ness, if you want a copy you have to shell out some serious style.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dunk my own head in the toilet for a few minutes.

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I suppose a little context might be in order. I had about 25 games when I was a kid, and I hung onto them through the years, even after the old Nintendo stopped working. When I started going to thrift stores and flea markets, I found that a discerning eye and a little patience would over time net you a pretty good cross section of quality carts, all for dirt cheap. I slowly built a solid NES collection of about 90 games that way over a several year period, and I never paid more than a couple bucks for anything, even stuff like Final Fantasy, or Super Dodge Ball.  Actually, I couldn’t have afforded to, working Nintendos came and went, and any money spent on plastic rectangles that were just going to sit unused in the closet was wasted, in the young adult urban survival sense.

So yeah, even though the first Bubble Bobble is one of the great multiplayer games of the early console era, I passed on it’s sequel because at the time, anything north of $5 for a used Nintendo game without a box seemed fairly outrageous. Even as conservative as I was with it generally, it never once occurred to me that I should have been more liberal in my spending. It was always an idle nostalgic itch scratching, not an attempt to build a comprehensive collection for future returns.  Eventually, my last working Nintendo passed on, and the days when you could find another working one for under $20 bucks were passing by, so I stopped sniffing out NES games.

Then about 2 years ago, while my collection lay sleeping in the cabinet, the NES resale market unexpectedly began to take off, fueled primarily by the new wave of 3rd party consoles (like the Retro Duo, which I’ll be reviewing later in NEStalgia Week) that can play old NES and SNES games without invoking the traditional magics of rubbing alcohol or the NES blowjob.

Now suddenly given life again, quality rarer games like Bubble Bobble 2 or Little Samson can fetch $250-$350 for a working cart, and even shitty rarer games that nobody wanted in the first place, like Wayne’s World, can net you $50-$100. The more common stuff we all had ( think Excitebike, Super Mario 1, 2 & 3, or the Castlevania games) generally settles in the $2-$20 range, depending as always, on relative rarity and quality.

Awesome and Common = $6.

But you know, I’m not quite ready to sell, even if this might be the right time for it. When the news that the Nintendo Power was going out broke, the old NES itch flared up once more, and I picked up a Retro Duo and broke out some old games. So it turns out, I might just be buying again. Kid Icarus and Ninja Gaiden are still out there for just a few bucks, and I want to fill in the gaps in the collection. Sadly, Bob and Bub’s 2nd journey to the cave of monsters will have to be left to some other Nintendo enthusiast, because while in the last few days I’ve remembered that 250 rupees buys a Blue Ring in The Legend of Zelda, I have never once forgotten that 250 dollars buys a lot of god damn groceries in real life.

How many groceries is your collection worth? This price guide averages sale price across ebay, amazon, and half.com.