Chameleon controller

Coleco has just announced that they will be releasing the Retro VGS under the name of the Coleco Chameleon. This will be their first console in 20 years.

To those uninformed, the Retro Video Game System is a modern take on a classic game console that accurately plays video games from the past as well as brand new video games in the 8, 16 and 32 bit format.
This comes as a surprise to most as the Retro VGS has been operating at full speed to deliver a successful console and revolutionize the modern/retro video game market. Coleco putting their name on it should help out immensely as they’ll have more buying power and more industry connections to ensure that the console isn’t just another Kickstarter pipe dream.
If the console looks familiar, that’s because it is. Retro Video Game system uses the shell design of the ill-fated Atari Jaguar and also the cartridge design.

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The company expects to have the system ready for launch in early 2016 with a demonstration at the Toy Fair New York in February.

Yesterday on /R/Gamecollecting, the subreddit that I frequent to see everyone’s sweet video game collections, user /u/gritzma posted what seemed to be the best score in ages. $320 for 5 NES games; Final Fantasy, Friday the 13th, Super Mario/Duck Hunt, Dr Chaos, and Little Samson. Sound like too much? Well it’s actually a pretty good deal considering that Little Samson goes for over $700 by itself. He responded to the Craigslist deal and met up with the seller at the local Walmart. A woman steps out from a Dodge Neon and shows him the games. He inspects the titles, and drives home as fast as he can to test out the games. After he verifies that the games work, the elated Gritzma posts his sweet haul on Gamecollecting.

The Holy Grail of Nintendo Games: Little Samson

The Holy Grail of Nintendo Games: Little Samson

This is where things start going south. As soon as the submission was posted, reddit’s bullshit alarms went off. The top comment of the thread upon hearing that Gritzma got the deal from Toledo was hoping that he had the sense to open up the cartridge to verify its contents before paying $300. Gritzma said not to worry because the game played. But as I’ve pointed out before the only way to know for sure is to open the cart.

So just recently Gritzma confirms the rest of our suspicions stating the game is indeed a fake. He emailed the seller and received a canned response that said:

I sold the games as is, without opening anything or knowing value. I sold to the highest value. You never mentioned anything about it upon purchase and I sold as is. I’m not sure what a reproduction is, and ok sorry you’re unsatisfied with your purchase, however you agreed to the purchase and no wrong was done on my part. I watched you inspect each game, told you about the physical damage on each cartridge, etc. that’s about all there is to say on the transaction. If you did not wish to buy them, you were not forced, you chose to and while I understand you’re now changing your mind on it, I can’t say I’m willing to do a refund if you’ve opened up and potentially damaged what was sold.

Queue sad slide trombone. Gritzma did exactly what any other new collector would have done; he took a seemingly legit deal and got hosed. The label even had damage to it to add to more authenticity. Lesson be learned to all you new collectors out there – Deals do exist, but do your homework first. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Will you find a super cheap Little Samson out there? In hindsight this deal smelled to high noon all the way to Chicago.

a picture of the board - note - it's not supposed to look like that at all.

a picture of the board – note – it’s not supposed to look like that at all.

The Craigslist ad is still up and is very ambiguous. They’re not selling for a set amount and only asking for offers. There’s not even pictures of the games.

The Craigslist ad in question

The Craigslist ad in question

So if you’re going game hunting, do yourself a favor – Buy a 6 dollar security bit that opens SNES and NES games. There’s one that opens Gameboy and N64 games as well. Spending a little now will save you a boatload of heartache and money down the road. If the person refuses to let you open the cart, walk away from the deal. Video game reproductions are shady business – be careful.

Video game stores in Chicago are not as common as you might think. Here are the 5 best Retro Video Game stores in the city

 

Retro video game stores are big business and there are plenty of people looking to relieve the good old days when games only had one button. But the question is where to shop? Currently the best place to get retro or used video games is eBay and Amazon. But what if you want that ever elusive instant gratification of seeing a game on a shelf, paying your money and then taking it home that day, you’ll want to go to a brick and mortar store. I have lived in Chicago for almost 10 years and I have been to every store on this list. So let’s rank the five best retro video game stores in Chicago. For the store to be considered retro, video games older than the last generation of systems (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii) must be sold and in a fairly decent supply. That makes GameStop excluded from this list even though they now sell retro titles online.

5. Play N Trade – Various locations across Chicago
Play N Trade is a franchisor based in California so the stores in Chicago do vary slightly.  The video game store offers a wide variety of merchandise in addition to video games. Some prices may be a little different depending on the area. I like going here because sometimes I get a decent deal and since the stores aren’t really that popular, sometimes the selection of popular titles is more robust. Play N Trade specializes solely in video games and accessories. The staff is friendly and willing to help out with any questions you might have.
4. The Exchange – 935 W Belmont Ave & 1524 N Milwaukee Ave
The Exchange is another Franchise company that has 2 locations in Chicago. Each location sells records, DVDs, CDs, and Video games. The difference between The Exchange and Disc Replay is that The Exchange sells new video games and other media in addition to their used stock. The Exchange has various inventory and competitive prices. I’ve gotten some really good deals at The Exchange and the condition of the items are acceptable. My best find was a copy of Conker’s Bad Fur Day for $35. Staff is always asking if you need something because the majority of the video games are behind glass. It’s really helpful that they’re always around because nothing is worse than waiting for someone to open up the case.

3. VideoGames Then & Now – 4351 N Harlem Ave
VideoGames then & now is the first store on the list that isn’t a franchise. There is only one location in Chicago.  Videogames Then & Now has a wide selection of retro video game titles and they also offer repairs. The Chicago location on Harlem also has a space for LAN parties which allow the store to stay competitive with Amazon and eBay. This store has a really good return policy and they stand behind their products. They have a heavy amount of games prior to NES era, so if you’re looking for a good deal on some Atari 2600 games, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better store with a better collection. I found a copy of E.T. still sealed for 10 dollars. Can’t beat that, even if it’s a terrible game.
2. Disc Replay  – Various locations around Chicago
Disc Replay operates on the same business model as Play N Trade – they’re individually owned franchises which means that certain promotions and pricing are set by the store and not by the corporate office. The only thing that they have in common is the name and branding. Disc Replay has really fair prices. I was able to get a Virtual Boy complete in box that was sold as parts for 60 dollars. On eBay, the box alone goes for $60. I was able fix it and now it’s worth over $200. They’re also not technically in Chicago, so the taxes make the prices a lot easier to handle. Disc Replay also sells DVDs and CDs which could be a reason why their prices are reasonable. I ranked them higher than Videogames Then & Now because of the selection and overall quality of the merchandise.

1. People Play Games – 3268 N Clark St

People Play Games is the top of this list because of the quality of their product and overall care of their merchandise. Items are tested before an offer is made and if it’s not up to their high standard, they refuse to take it. After the items are purchased, they are intensely cleaned and inspected before the item goes on shelf. Discs are resurfaced prior to purchasing so you know the game will play on your system when you get home. While pricing is really close to eBay, the amount of work that goes into cleaning the items plus a 30 day guarantee against defects really makes up for it. Even with The Exchange within walking distance, they still manage to stay busy and draw new people in.  The store has a vast selection of games all the way up to Xbox One and they sell some very rare items that you don’t see every day. They currently have a Super Nintendo Excertainment Bicycle for sale and a sealed copy of The Amazing Spiderman: Web of Fire for the Sega 32X in their glass case. The staff is knowledgeable of all things video games and they are a must visit if you plan on visiting Chicago proper.

Retro Video game stores in Chicago are few and far between, but when you find a really good one, you’ll feel right at home. Whether you’re visiting Chicago or have been here your whole life, you should stop into one of these stores if you really enjoy retro video games.

Saturday I was at a game convention in Northbrook, IL known as the Video Game Summit. This was as small gaming convention that had about 15 TVs so people could play retro games and the rest of the area was for vendors from across the Midwest to sell their retro video games. Video games ranged from Atari to Xbox 360 and they had some really common games along with some ultra-rare games like Flintstones: Escape from Dinosaur Peak complete in the box. That was going for two thousand dollars. I was there for 8 hours doing everything from playing a retro styled western RPG to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and to watching a person named Brody obtain Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Mega Man by trading between the vendors starting with a The Untouchables: a game worth five dollars.

I didn't even know this was a game

I didn’t even know this was a game

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GameStop has been working on getting back into the retro game market for a while now. When it was first announced, there was mad speculation on how this would affect the retro video game market. Would it trigger the burst of the retro video game bubble? Or would it cause games like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound to climb so high, you needed to take out a second mortgage to play it? The store is now live and the prices are…. Actually reasonable. Chrono Trigger is listed for 90 dollars, 4 dollars below the average 94 listed from pricecharting and Conker’s Bad Fur Day is 80 dollars, 3 dollars below the average 80 listed on pricecharting. Of course both of these items along with other desirable titles are listed as out of stock at the time of this article. One surprising item – the NES top loader was listed for 60 dollars. Well below eBay’s going rate.

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The Chicago Blackhawks are playing Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals. As a person who doesn’t care about hockey but cares about Chicago, this is exciting to see the Hawks in another Stanley Cup final because Chicago hasn’t had a winning dynasty team since Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

Of course in the mid 1990s, Chicago Hockey was non existent. The team’s owner prohibited televised home games, hiked ticket prices and the team was terrible. No one except the hard core fans cared about the Blackhawks so I didn’t either. But I cared about the next best thing – Video game hockey.

Again, back in my day, video game sports were the best back in the 90s. The simulation was there but it was still easy to pick up and play. The best pick up and play hockey game was Mutant League Hockey.

Made by EA in 1994, this game had everything you could want in a hockey game and more. It had silly team names which were spoofs of official teams, different species of players like skeletons, robots and trolls, and also different arenas that you could interact with. One arena had spikes on the wall that you could get hooked on and your player would bleed out. For a 10 year old, this game was amazing.

The coach gave great peptalks

The coach gave great peptalks

If you scored from behind the second line, the goal was worth two. If you needed to take your goalie out to add an extra player on the ice, the goal was replaced with a giant monster that would attempt to stop the puck from getting in. If it did go in, the mouth would explode leaving guts all over the place. If your player got too close, it would eat you and spit out the bones. At the end of each period a slug zamboni would come along and clean up the ice.

complete with mutant babes

complete with mutant babes

The gameplay is similar to EA’s official sports title NHL Hockey but obviously this has a much greater arcade element to it and doesn’t take itself seriously. The game has yet to see any type of sequel and is one of those hard to get Genesis games because of the nostalgia + greatness factor.

If you have the means to get it, I highly suggest you pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Gamestop is going to start taking older video games back to the Nintendo Entertainment System starting with a small market in New York. This pilot program will eventually lead to Gamestop selling retro games on their website to take advantage of a growing economy that has focused on playing games from the good ol’ days.
This decision shouldn’t really surprise anybody interested in picking up used games on older systems. Gamestop has been selling their games more at the market rate for the better part of two years. They know what this stuff is “worth” and are making sure they get their cut. The best example of this practice is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D – the game is no longer in print and since Majora’s Mask 3D was announced, the price has skyrocketed. Used copies are fetching well over 50 dollars even though the digital version on the eShop is $39.99. Gamestop sells (if you can find it) copies for $54.99 and you have no guarantee that you’re getting a complete copy.

Cart only for 55 is a bargain compared to eBay prices

Cart only for 55 is a bargain compared to eBay prices

So what’s going to happen to the retro video game economy when this goes live? Will there fabled video game bubble burst and cause prices to bottom out? Doubtful. Unless Gamestop all of a sudden keeps a steady stock of Earthbound and Chrono Trigger in stock and keeps the price reasonable, the market prices will stay at a high level.
The only issue I do take with Gamestop selling retro games is that the overall quality of the item (Manual, box, label) is not guaranteed. For the majority of the population interested in purchasing retro games, this isn’t an issue. But for collectors interested in near mint items, they may want to steer clear of the website unless Gamestop starts posting pictures of each and every item they have in stock and price accordingly.
Gamestop will be just another contender in the retro game market and I don’t think anybody will take too much notice unless they start selling the retro games in the stores. So relax, people. This was an inevitability and I’m honestly surprised it took as long as it did.

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Video games have been a passion of mine. I’ve been playing them for decades. As technology progresses, older systems get left behind. New televisions (those made after 2010) do not have the capability to detect a signal below 480p. While this isn’t really an issue for most people, it will be a problem if you like to play a system that’s older than the PlayStation 2. Working at the game store has exposed me to a number of customers who are calling asking why their Nintendo 64, our best seller, isn’t working on their modern TV.

The Nintendo 64 runs 280p on most games and a couple like Majora’s Mask run at 480i. That resolution is just outside of some TV’s spectrum and you’ll just get a blank screen. There are work arounds such as a HDMI upconverter which will take the lower signal and boost it up to 1080p. The downside being that the input lag would be unbearable for most games.  Even with the lag, games of that era do not scale well on the big screen since the original ratio is 4:3 and the new standard is 16:9.

So what’s the solution? Video games are meant to be played on their original hardware and you a TV is considered hardware. The question is which TV is the best. I currently have a 13inch TV that sits in the basement that I bring up from time to time to test light guns, but the picture and sound isn’t that great. After a bit of research  I found that the Sony Trinitron series of televisions, specifically the ones made in the early 2000s offer the best picture and sound quality for video game systems before the HDMI era.

The best thing about these TVs is that they’re plentiful and cheap. I just picked up a 32 inch KV-32FS13 Flat Screen Wega for 20 dollars off of craigslist. The thing is gargantuan in both screen size and heft. The old CRT monitors had solid glass panels that were up to 2 inches thick making them extremely heavy. My beast is 165lbs and too bulky to carry up the stairs myself. It took my fiancée and I a good 20 minutes to roll it gently up the stairs. In hindsight I should have gone with its lighter 27inch cousin who only weighs 85lbs and has handles on it. But 32 inches is a fantastic size and I can’t wait to play some Chrono Trigger or Goldeneye on this beauty.

For those of you who can’t lift that much or you simply don’t have space for a TV with such a large footprint, you can get a framemeister xrgb mini which offers the best HD solution for old system even adding the scanlines of old TVs to recreate the same experience. The only downside of this piece is that it costs $300