All posts by jeff

Atari VCS (aka 2600)

Well, here you go – the system that started it all for a lot of people. I never owned one of these when it was new but this was the first system I bought when I started getting nostalgic in the 90’s. Paid $15 for it with 13 or so games in the early days of Ebay – you’ll never find a deal like that on a system in this condition today. Well, not on Ebay, anyway.

This is a common four-switch model, made in Taiwan in 1980, but it does have all of its original accessories, including the box (serial #’s match), and everything works perfectly. It’s minty fresh, though the box has seen better days.

I love boxes, so here’s a little more box detail:

Couple interesting things to me about this box – for one, it shows a four-switch console in the original “heavy sixer” casing, which never existed. Atari had switched to the lighter casings even before removing the two extra switches from the front face. Nothing special about my box, though; I believe they were all like this, at least up to a certain point in time.

Of course, what makes the whole box design work is the images of all these people having their minds literally blown out of their skulls playing stuff like backgammon and checkers.

This kid’s my obvious favorite:

This little girl looks like she’s developed a bad case of hemorrhoids:

Would this image make you want to buy a game console? Is she supposed to be having fun or is she just in need of some fiber?

I can’t help but wondering where these kids are today. Do they tell their own kids that they were once on the Atari VCS box? (And do their kids care?)

NEC TurboGrafx 16

I don’t really have that much to say about this system, as it’s just not one that I’m personally very attached to and I don’t even know all that much about it. I do know that it’s the US version of the Japanese PC Engine, a legendary system in Japan that’s more than just one console but is instead a series of systems that are both modular and backward compatible. The TurboGrafx system more or less duplicates the original Japanese PC Engine, and it does have the expansion port for system add-ons:

It’s about the butt-ugliest system ever made, isn’t it?

To the back of the unit you can attach the Turbo CD, and through various system card upgrades you can turn your unit into a Super CD unit. NEC also sold the Turbo Duo here in the US, which was basically a Super CD/HuCard combo with a faster CD-ROM drive and faster data streaming capabilities.

HuCards are what NEC called the PC Engine carts – they tried to rename them “TurboChips” in the US but the name didn’t take (possibly because it still says HuCARD right on the cart). Anyway, they’re pretty slick cartridges if you ask me:

Their small size and thinness allowed NEC to also produce a handheld called the Turbo Express that played the same games as the home systems (similar to Sega’s Genesis Nomad, but a bit smaller and without the carts hanging out the top). Turbo Zone Direct still sell these things for $169.99 – you won’t find them a lot cheaper than that anywhere else (even used), as this system has a major cult following these days (unlike the home system, which never caught on in America even among hardcore gamers).

Technically speaking, this system is a combination 8/16 bit system, and the games do seem to fall somewhere in between, say, the NES and the Genesis in terms of graphical quality. I don’t have a lot of games for this system and I don’t know much about the ones I don’t own, so I can’t really comment on the quality of gameplay – but I do know that there are a lot more PC Engine games than TurboGrafx games. You can get a converter to play these games here, but I don’t have one.

My system came to me brand new, and it still has its plastic protection on both the system and the controller (little hard to see on the controller because it’s still stuck on pretty nicely, but it’s there):

I don’t play this system much so I doubt that plastic’s ever gonna come off.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Back in the early 1990’s, Sega had shockingly dethroned Nintendo from their perch at the top of the home console arena – at least in the United States. Sega put Nintendo in an awkward position, forced to either prematurely kill their successful Famicom in Japan, or cede the 16-bit era to Sega in the United States. Eventually, Nintendo released the Super Famicom to sell alongside the original Famicom, renaming it the Super NES in the States and giving it a more angular look than the Japanese version. It would eventually outsell the Genesis, but not until Sega had abandoned their 16 bit console in favor of the Saturn.

I admit that I was a Genesis guy at the time – I was in college, and multiplayer sports games were my main gaming interest. The SNES was almost a joke in the dorms; I remember one guy got it shortly after its release, and we all pointed and laughed when he booted up Mario Kart. Then we headed on up to my room to put some blood on the ice in NHL Hockey.

He eventually bought the SNES version of NHL (I forget which year it was that EA finally decided to support the SNES with their sports games), but all it did was convince us further that the Genesis was the superior machine. The SNES version of the game was slower and choppier, and had all the blood removed. Of course, by this time Sonic had also been released for the Genesis, and you’re probably familiar with Sega’s ad campaign comparing Super Mario with Sonic. It was really no contest.

Nowadays I can appreciate the SNES for what it is. It’s a different machine than the Genesis; it is slower, but it has a better sound system and can display more sprites and colors. It is better suited to things like epic RPG’s and adventure games than the Genesis was, whereas the Genesis was better suited to action, sports, and arcade style games. I still prefer the Genesis, but I see the SNES’s appeal.

As for my system, I purchased it about four years ago. Like my N64, it’s the Donkey Kong Set (this was intentional – I’ve sort of got a matched pair), so definitely one of the later SNES units produced. Unfortunately, and I am trying to remedy this right now, it is the only system I have without the pack-in game. This drives me crazy. On the other hand, I did get two official controllers, when the original set only came with one. But I need that stupid pack-in game.

Also, when I purchased it, it was in absolutely perfect shape, but it is just ever-so-slightly beginning to “yellow” now in certain areas:

You can see a bit of a difference between the extreme rear of the machine and most of the rest of it, and between the cartridge door and the surrounding plastic. Everything should be the same color. This is an extremely common problem with the SNES and I’m not sure why it happens, but I don’t think there’s anything to be done about it. I’ve seen much worse than this, though; my yellowing is barely detectable, whereas some systems I’ve seen are flat-out, full-on bright orange. (And not on purpose like some of my other systems, either.)

I’ll leave you with a back-of-box shot – Nintendo really did a great job on this one:

Sega Saturn (US)

Damn, console manufacturers really did get a little skimpy on the pack-ins as time went on, didn’t they?

I can’t complain, though – I bought this system right at the end of the Saturn’s lifespan for $50. It was a great deal at the time, and to Sega’s credit (or rather, out of their desperation), I did still get the “three-pack” of free games included in that price. Sega only briefly offered a real pack-in game with the console, but once it became clear that they were fighting a losing battle against Nintendo and Sony, they produced a package containing Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter 2 and Daytona USA that they gave away free with a system purchase. It was actually a great deal even before the system hit $50, because when they first started doing it these were all fairly recent games, with VF2, especially, being probably among the best games for the system. Pack-ins or not, I don’t really know of any manufacturer that’s given away three free games with a new system purchase (though several, including Atari, Sega, and Microsoft, have given away two).

Note that in Sega math these three games are a “$189 value”. The only way they could come up with that would be to price two of the games at $60 and one at $69. To my knowledge, no Saturn game (including any of these) ever carried MSRP’s like those.

I love the Saturn. I lament the fact that it took so long for me to buy one, though I did consider it when the PlayStation and Saturn were first competing and it wasn’t clear who the winner would be (I actually had it pegged right then, though – my mom was going to buy me either one as a college graduation present, and I remember thinking out loud to her something to the effect of “well, the Saturn’s got the better games now, but the PlayStation has more potential in the future”).

I chose the PlayStation, and while I like my PlayStation too, I definitely think the Saturn got short shrift from consumers (like myself). Next to the Neo Geo AES, it was probably the ultimate 2D system, with awesome stuff like Guardian Heroes, Shining Force III, and the Capcom Vs. series. But it also had all those great Sega games like the aforementioned Virtua Fighter 2 and Virtua Cop 1&2, Sega Rally, Fighting Vipers, Nights, etc. Just a really great system.

I pretty much never use this one – before my latest move I had a second US Saturn that was in poorer shape that I used for playing games, with the idea that I’d keep this one in showroom condition. I seem to have misplaced the second one during the move, though, and just haven’t played any Saturn games since – I may need to press this one into action at some point! It is in great shape, though:

As you can see, it’s one of the later revision “round button” systems – more common anyway than the earlier oval button system (and more reliable).

It also comes with the redesigned controller, which Sega also used for the later Genesis revisions:

Pretty much the same as the Genesis 6 button controller.

Check out my V-Saturn and my Skeleton Saturn for a look at the other, more exotic Saturn models I currently have.

Sega Saturn (Derby Stallion “Skeleton”)

I wrote my description of the JVC V-Saturn before I wrote this, so let me say it again: this is the reason why every game collector needs to go to Japan on a regular basis. This is the rarest of all Saturns – only 20,000 produced – and I bought it new in Japan for around $40. I don’t even know what this is worth now – for all I know, not much more than $40, but I don’t even care. It’s one of the highlights of my collection, as far as I’m concerned.

This version of the Saturn is commonly called the “skeleton” Saturn in the US, but that’s not its actual name. It is, in fact, the “Derby Stallion Limited Edition Saturn”, as it says right here in the upper right corner of the box:

(The top says “Derby Stallion Sega Saturn”, the big blue text says “LIMITED EDITION”. The fine print down below says “game sold separately.”)

In fact, there’s really absolutely nothing about this system that has anything to do with Derby Stallion, so it really all seems kind of pointless. It’s just an advertisement for the game, but it doesn’t actually come with it, nor does the system itself bear any Derby Stallion markings. In fact, according to the bottom right corner of the box…

…you just get a set of cruddy stickers. That’s it! All that trouble of producing a special limited edition system for a couple sheets of stickers!

And if you’re wondering, here they are, poking out from inside the bag containing the manual and various other paper products (I have never opened this bag, nor will I):

Now, there were actually two different “skeleton” Saturn models. I don’t know much about the other one as I don’t own one; only what I’ve read in the Saturn FAQ. This is the second one, which also makes it the last Saturn model ever produced.

If you read the FAQ about this, they describe the system as “blue”, the controller as “grey”. This is not correct at all – the system is grey, the controller is purple. The system is a lighter color grey than the earlier skeleton model, but it is plainly grey.

Anyway, the Derby Stallion model even came with its own crazy warranty:

I know you probably can’t read that, but what it says is that the system is warranteed through the store. Have a problem, you gotta bring it back to that store (stamped on the bottom) and they’ll try to fix it. If they can’t fix it, only then will they send it in to Sega. What if you move in that 12 months? You’re screwed. Now that’s just nutty. I’m told this is unusual even for Japan.

Sony PlayStation 2

My double-barreled PS2 attack from back when both were active systems in my arsenal. One US model, one Japanese. Both are launch systems, and both work perfectly – I know this may shock you given the notorious unreliability of first-generation PS2’s, but I have had no problem whatsoever with either one over nearly four years of pretty active gameplay.

Somewhere down the line I lost both the original controller and the box to my Japanese PS2. The controller there is the American one, and it’s so loose at this point that it’s barely usable (the thumbsticks twirl around and slip all the time). Here’s the box:

I was pretty shocked when the US model was released with the same plain blue box as the Japanese model. This is almost unheard of in the US.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a lot of play out of my PS2’s but I can’t say I’m a big fan of the system. Like the Xbox, it doesn’t really have a soul. It has no identity of its own. It’s just a box that plays a lot of random games from different publishers and developers, as I guess is probably going to be the fashion from now on. Gone are the days when one manufacturer basically controlled the destiny of a console, when a good console would have a completely balanced and controlled first-party game library that all conformed to a “house style”. In other words, I like a lot of PS2 games, but I have absolutely no feeling one way or another towards the PS2 itself – those games could be on any system. There’s absolutely nothing about the PS2 that makes those games unique.

To digress a bit, a lot of people wonder why I bother keeping two PS2’s hooked up these days when I could just mod one to play imports. Well, the truth is this: a) they’re not actually both hooked up (I swap the cables and whatnot around when I want to play imports), and b) I actually used to have the import system modded and was so dissatisfied with the results that I literally opened the thing back up and violently ripped the mod chip off the motherboard one day, like it was some sort of cancerous tumor I was expunging from the system. PS2 mod chips have really been a disaster compared to the methods for playing imports on other systems. The only foolproof way of doing it is to just have two PS2’s.

Like the original PlayStation, I have a feeling that once I package up the system in favor of the PS3, I will probably never have cause to even look at it again (unless I decide to take some better pics for a site like this). It’s not a system anyone’s ever going to feel nostalgia for, however popular it may be now.

(2016 update: I was right.)

Sony PlayStation

Here’s my tricked-out yellow PlayStation (I’ve got a thing for nasty yellow game systems, I guess) – no, it’s not in “original” condition, but I’m not too concerned about that. There are around 50 million of these things in the world and if I ever want to preserve the original system I’m confident I won’t have much of a problem finding another one.

I actually replaced the case on this while it was still a current system. I like it better this way – grey consoles never did anything for me. I don’t know when the “bland is better” mentality first gripped the console design community (if there is such a thing), but I decided to put a stop to it with this case replacement. I do believe this is probably one of the only surviving PlayStations in this color – a quick Ebay search for “orange PlayStation” or “yellow PlayStation” turns up zero results.

The controller is simply a green Sony Dual Shock controller (you’ll note I also have a thing for green and yellow color combinations). It is not the original controller that came with the system – that would be this one:

Yeah, this is an old PlayStation. No Dual Shock! Still works great, though.

Couple kinda neat things about my PSX – nothing mind-blowing, nothing too rare, but kinda neat, I think. For one, just check out the power LED in the dark:

How cool is that?

Second, it’s not only one of the older and now less-common models with the parallel port (for use with “game enhancers” like the Pro Action Replay – Sony banished this port in later models for that reason), my replacement case actually came with a cover for it (some didn’t) and I’m probably one of the few people in the world that didn’t lose it!

My case also came with a little divot for the PlayStation logo emblem. It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally did, and I actually managed to pry my PS emblem out of my original PlayStation lid without damaging it and then glue it to the new lid:

Most people with these replacement cases just have a little hole there, which obviously doesn’t look very good. It ain’t a real PlayStation without the PS logo.

I like my PlayStation, but it’s probably not a system I’ll ever need to play again. For one, the PS2 is backward-compatible. For another, almost every good PlayStation game has a newer, better sequel on the PS2 or another console. I guess it’s possible that people will be nostalgic for the original PlayStation one day as they are now for the Atari 2600 (despite it having many of the same issues), but I sort of doubt it. The 2600 was the first truly widespread, mass-market system. The PlayStation was just a popular system in the middle of the continuing timeline of game consoles. Mine will probably stay in the closet until my future grandkids decide to take it, and the rest of my collection, on the Antiques Roadshow 🙂

On that note, one more pic of the system itself for the road: