Retro gaming at work

A blog within a site that used to be a blog? That’s some real meta shit right there.

Anyway, this is where I give myself a bit more license to rabbit on about stuff. Stuff that wouldn’t fit elsewhere on Super Duper Stuff.

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Much like the last day of term at school, the final day before Christmas in our office doesn’t contain much in the way of work. Sure there are a few things that need wrapping up, but none of our customers are in, and we all know we’re going to end up dossing. When the MD spends half the morning in the your part of the office talking about old video games you know not much is happening.

That chat soon turned in action, as some of my work mates came in with a set of consoles I’d never seen in person, let alone actually played. It was time for a lesson in gaming history!

Atari 2600. Atari Jaguar. Nintendo Virtual Boy.

After a bit of tinkering to get the old systems working on newish screens I had a go.

The 2600 is the oldest bit of kit, as shown by the wood finish and simple joystick. I immediately picked Empire Strikes Back as the game I wanted to play. What better thing to do than shoot AT-ATs?

Well, to be honest it was rubbish. The joystick didn’t give you much of an idea about where you were, making strafing runs tricky. I did manage to take out one walker, but my interest soon waned.

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Next up I had a on the Atari Jaguar. Released in the early 90’s this ’64 bit’ (bullshit), system was meant to take on the SNES and MegaDrive, a couple of years before the PS1 and N64 hit the scene. There are some impressive 3D graphics, but the gamepad has possibly the softest d-pad I’ve ever tried to use. It made things tricky! I managed to flip my F1 car a couple of times. Much like trying to play TOCA on PS1, I think it’s a case of figuring out the controller and sensing when the turn becomes massive over steer. Tap tap. Too much! Wall. The sound chip was decent, I played a bit of Tempest too and both had good sound tracks.

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The best was saved for last though. I’d heard about the failed Virtual Boy a couple of times before, but I’d never seen one. I assumed I’d think it was a novelty, play it for 2 minutes and then forget it.

BUT WOAH. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT.

It’s awkward I’ll admit. We had to prop it up to make it remotely comfortable. I think it would take a strap though easy as it’s not that heavy.

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The controller reminds of an early N64 pad, minus the stick. It’s a solid piece of kit, and the earliest controller I can think of with trigger buttons. Felt good. That’s all well and good, but were the games decent? I played Red Alarm and Mario Tennis.

I got so into both of them, which was a bit a dangerous as since I couldn’t see who was around me I wasn’t sure who was hearing me swear. Oh well. No one took offence as far as I know.

Red Alarm had me flying a ship through a 3D space shooting down enemies and picking up upgrades. Perhaps the coolest part is the wire frame upgrades actually bolting onto your ship. Turning was a bit of a pig but I really enjoyed it.

Next up was Mario Tennis. Once I’d figured out the timing (you have to let the ball get right on top of Mario before hitting a button) it was good fun. Rushing the net and leaving Donkey Kong stood still had me cheering into my red and black space. Fist pumps aplenty.

The only downside was when I came away from it. I’m a bit longsighted and couldn’t wear my glasses comfortably, so I needed a minute or two to readjust.

That I immediately jumped onto eBay to check out how much they are says it all. Fortunately (?), they are too expensive for me to just splurge on it.

Today was a great reminder of how working for a small company can be great. A small group of like-minded guys enjoying some classic games, and not a word about work.

Merry Christmas!

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