Search the Retronick Archive

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Retro Road Trip Part 2: Digital Press

Digital Press StorefrontDigital Press Videogames
387 Piaget Avenue
Clifton, New Jersey

Anyone who's visited the massive retro gaming forums over at has at least heard of their brick and mortar store out in Clifton New Jersey. If you haven't, that's a problem I recommend you remedy ASAP! Digital Press Videogames is not only one of the largest vintage game stores in the country, it's also one of the most well known. Out of all the incredible stops on our road trip, this was by far the one I was most excited about. The store plays host to the North Atlantic Video Games Aficionados (NAVA), which has entitled them to some retro-gaming celebrity visitors such as James Rolphe (The Angry Video Game Nerd), and the late Bill Kunkel (the game doctor). The unique nature of the store also made it the perfect place for Capital One to shoot one of their commercials some time back.

Why all the fuss over just one game store? Sadly, without going there in person you can't truly know, but hopefully the following photos will give you some idea of why I got so excited at least.

The Store
Behold! Your last stop for that thing you couldn't find anywhere else.
Miniature Arcade
The miniature arcade that greets you on your way in is a nice touch.

Pac-Man Jr
I was lucky enough to catch them in the middle of maintenance. These people know what they're doing!

Imagine visiting a museum where you can buy the exhibits straight from their case. That's what this felt like.

Jaguar in-store display
I played on one of these kiosks as a boy. It's more impressive now than it was then.

Virtual Boy in-store display
The first time I played on one of these I couldn't figure out how to turn on the other two color channels...
Then they told me it's supposed to be red. 32 bits, one color.

3DO Advert
An incredible retro 3DO advert. The sheer amount of vintage POP was staggering.

Lords of Thunder POP
This POP is more in my wheelhouse.
Sadly, I only own the Sega CD version of this classic. Muted colors and shit music for me.

Hand Painted Pixel art
The hand-painted pixel art in the gallery at the back of the store is worth a look;
especially if you're looking for that unique addition to your game room that no one else has.
Their bargain bin actually had a better selection than some stores I've been in. *cough Gamestop *cough!
Sorry for the terrible iPhone 3G picture here.
The mini-museum was far more impressive in person.

Yes. That is indeed a SuperGrafx running Ghouls n' Ghosts.
I know, I never thought I'd see one in person either.

Ah yes, the successor to my beloved PC-Engine. One of these days... You will be mine.

Neo Geo MVS Carts
Neo Geo MVS carts! The perfect gift for that bat-shit crazy collector that has everything.
That wraps up my tour through the hallowed halls of the Digital Press store in New Jersey. Very knowledgable staff who were incredibly accommodating to my pregnant wife and I. I was pretty close to buying an Arcade card for my PC-Engine Duo R here, but then the responsibility bug bit me. Ah well, next time!

Check out the world's largest arcade on the next exciting update!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hoarders: Stories of Extreme Collectors: Phillip O'Riley

Phillip O'Riley resides in sunny San Diego California, where he has been gaming ever since he can remember, since the late 1980's. Phillip started collecting games once he started earning income in 2002. His favorite video game series has always been the Mario series. Phillip figures he started collecting because he didn't have a significant amount of games growing up, but enjoyed playing many varieties of games and systems in stores, and at friends houses. His collection consists of over 100 different game systems (including variants), and over 1,400 games. His favorite system to collect for is the NES. Phillip once met David Crane, the creator of Pitfall, and hopes to create his own video games someday.

Q: What can you tell us about your collection?
A: I currently have over 1,400 games and growing. I collect for almost every system, even for systems I do not own yet. Before I started my shopping spree, I had an Atari 5200, NES, SNES, N64, and a Dreamcast I have been gaming ever since I can remember, however, I didn't really start collecting video games with the intention of becoming a collector. Once I got my first job in 2002, my first purchase was an Xbox in June, a Gamecube in August once Super Mario Sunshine came out, a PS2 and Game Boy Advance in October. Around this time I visited a thrift store, and saw a Commodore 64 and had to have it. That is when it all began!

Q: What are your favorite genres?
A:My favorite genre is platformers. Mario being my all time favorite series. Side scrolling beat 'em ups are my second favorite, giving me the most nostalgic feelings of being a early 90's arcade rat. Run 'n gun shooters like Metal Slug almost hold the same spot for me as well. Horizontal shooters such as Gradius and Salamader (partial horizontal) keep me on my feet.

I don't know why, but I love seeing Japanese games
peppered into domestic libraries.
Q: Has your collection taken over your home, or just a room in your home.
A:I have somehow managed to fit everything in my bedroom. Or should I say, game-room with a bed. Finding room to place my new finds and purchases is always a challenge, sometimes involving rearranging entire sections of my room. I have managed to invade my bathroom with gaming merchandise. I have converted a Playstation into a tissue paper dispenser, and I have Space Invader soap bars.

I don't think that entertainment center
 can take much more.
Q: What can you tell us about the rig in your game room?
A:I have one standard definition 19" Panasonic flat screen CRT television which I have most of my systems connected to by two A/V switches and an RF switch. All ready to play on. I simply switch out the A/V cable to play the other systems . I have one television that's part of my Gamecube kiosk, and 2 computer monitors.

Q: What is the largest set in your collection?
A:I don't aim to own complete sets for any system, as I mainly collect games I'm interested in. The system I have the most games for is the NES, approaching 300 games. (Including Japanese Famicom games)

Q: Out of the 100+ consoles you own, what sticks out amongst them?
A:The one system I always receive questions about is my JVC X'Eye. People think it's a knockoff Genesis or something. The other system that perplexes people is a modern system, my Limited Edition red Wii, I'm glad I waited until now to purchase a Wii.

Remember when instruments existed in video games
that actually TAUGHT music? 
Q: Roughly how many peripherals do you have?
A:Wow, at least 5 or 6 drawers and boxes worth. I have a Miracle Teaching Piano, NES Power Pad, 2 ROB the robots, DK Bongos, Sega Genesis Menacer...

Q: What are some of the craziest things in your collection?
A:My giant Spyro plush, TOKIMEKI 2 Collector's Edition Japanese Playstation dating simulator with Pocketstation device, Konami Laserscope (looks ridiculous if placed on).

Q: Do you have any arcade cabinets or retail fixtures?
A:I have a Gamecube kiosk. I used to have a Phoenix arcade cabinet, but due to space limitations I had to let it go. It was a fun Galaga style game. I have some retail store posters and advertisements to be put on shelves.

Q: What's the crown jewel of your collection?
A:I don't have one particular item that I would say is my crown jewel, but I would have to same my boxed game systems give me the most satisfaction, mainly the Gameboy and Microvision. Oh, and I do have a prototype cart for Alien Vs. Predator for the Atari Lynx.

A great, big thank you to Phil, who has packed an ass-load of games into a relatively small space and was goodly enough to tell us about it. Truly a man who has earned the label of Hoarder. One of my favorite pictures below is of a young Phil holding onto his very first NES that he received for Christmas. This is a man who like many of us (myself included), got started in the wonderful world of video games at a very young age. If you want to catch up with Phil on the Digital Press Forums, his handle is buzz_n64. Here are some more pictures he sent us of his collection.

Somewhere there is a photograph like this of all of us.
Mine is of a confused kid looking at an orange TurboGrafx-16 box.

Extra credit for original boxes!

I'm always really impressed to see retail fixtures in the home.
Just because they don't belong there and make for an impressive centerpiece.

WhenI viewed the thumbnail for this I initially thought that wooden box
was an actual NES. Nice paint job!

Probably the tidiest part of the whole room.

It's like the 3DO was designed to be a base for the N64.

What started as a humble media center has turned into a twisted game
of Where's Waldo.

ROB has been making quite a few appearances of as of late.
I'm not complaining, it's just curious is all.

Ok, so what if I only added this image because of the Showgirls poster?
That IS an impressive stack of Genesis games.

I don't think I could bring myself to gut a GameCube to house snot rags.
But a Playstation...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Retro Road Trip (part 1 of 4)

Game ZoneGame Zone
270 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
Salem, Massachusetts

A lucky find! One second we were touring the hallowed streets of Salem Massachusetts and learning about the prosecution of alleged witches. Then, BAM! We find what is probably the best retro video games store in the United States (or at least it's in the top 3). The serendipitous encounter would become the first retro gaming shopping trip on our travels.

A small, unassuming brick facade houses the culmination of decades worth of video game history. Just name it. Commodore 64? Of course it's here! Neo Geo AES? You want the box with that? If I had to pick out one fatal flaw (besides not being within walking distance of my house), it would be that they do not appear to have any sort of website. I can't complain too much though. The harder it is for me to buy from there the less likely I am to drive myself broke. Sadly, I did not buy anything here. Not because they didn't have anything I wanted, just because money was a little tight this trip, and there was plenty more to see on this trip without blowing my wad here.

If you've been looking for it, chance are these guys have it.
A Boxed Neo Geo
No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is in fact a boxed Neo Geo. $600 and she could be yours.
Speaking of boxed stuff... This is one unit I coveted in my youth above most others.
The box was as big as I was, and promised a whole new world of mind-blowing entertainment.
I finally got one of these a few years back but no original box sadly.
I don't actually recognize that grey sucker in the center. You learn so much traveling to these places.
I feel Robbed... Get it?
BAM! You've been Robbed!
The unusual suspects. Speaking of unusual...
Fuck! Just when I thought you guys were on the ball...

There are a few more pictures (including the one I teased this series with), on my flickr photostream if you want to see some more of this amazing store. If I ever find myself in Salem again, you'd better believe I'm going back there.

Do check in next week when we visit Digital Press!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Retro Gaming Road Trip

Back in July, some friends of my wife and I were married and the two of us stood in their wedding. On the way there, we came up with a meticulous site-seeing tour that covered Salem Massachusetts, Intercourse (heh heh heh), Pennsylvania, the oldest hamburger joint in the country and other interesting stuff. Beyond the typical site seeing fare however, we also marked some incredible retro gaming locales down in our travel itinerary.

These stores and attractions are so massive that cramming them all into one post would not do them justice. Therefore, over the next few weeks I'll be detailing such exotic retro games paradises as:

Game Zone: Salem Massachusetts
Game Zone
Humble outside,
incredible inside.

This stop was not on my list originally. In fact, I had never heard of this shop until I found myself walking in and seeing piles of old games in mint and near-mint condition. Along with the only boxed Neo Geo AES I've ever seen in person. Sadly, they don't have a website where you can purchase from them directly, but if you find yourself in the area you owe it to yourself to go in and have a look.

Digital Press: Clifton New Jersey
Digital Press Video Games
If it's good enough for James Rolfe...

The infamous homebase of the retro gaming forums and the "North Atlantic Videogame Aficionados" monthly gathering. Not only do they have a working SuperGrafx on display under glass, butJames Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd), has been known to drop in from time to time. 

Fun Spot Arcade: Laconia New Hampshire
Fun Spot Arcade
Think arcades are dead?
Say that to its face!

Gamer or not, Fun Spot is one place you need to go before you die. Not only is it the largest arcade in the world, it's also a functioning retro-arcade museum! They have a working Space Harrier machine that actually throws you around like a rag doll! Why the hell aren't I there now?

I also visited an assload of Goodwill's between here and New Hampshire. While none of these really stand out, I will detail some of the sweet shit I managed to score while there.

Starting at the end of this week I'll talk about my trip to Game Zone with a huge photo gallery and information about the joint. Next I'll go into Digital Press and explain why it's so important to the retro gaming community (if for no other reason than their incredible forums). And finally we'll take a ride through the largest arcade in the world. It's going to be a fun trip through memory lane.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

M2 Spotted in the Wild

Even if you've heard its name, chances are good you've never actually seen one.

In brief, the M2 was to be the successor to the failing 3DO. Boasting more hardware capabilities than any other console at the time (to include the Nintendo 64), it looked like the hardware race was about to heat up, and the 3DO name would be salvaged. 

When 3DO found itself with both feet in the grave however, they sold the console to the Japanese company Matsushita, known globally as Panasonic. After 2 years of further developing the device, Panasonic decided it couldn't compete with the likes of Sony's Playstation, and pulled the plug on their consumer games market strategy. The M2 eventually WAS released, but only as a commercial multi-media device to fuel public presentations, ATMs, and vending machines. A somewhat brisk end to what was a hyped and eagerly anticipated console, but not the end of the story completely...

Just last month, a member of the Digital Press Forums answering to the alias, "Bitrate," managed to find a consumer-model M2 used in trade shows and conventions to promote the console. Even better, he also managed to snag a few demos AND the final control pad! All in the wild! It's seldom you hear about a retro-gaming haul of this magnitude or historical significance. This lot goes beyond rare. An excellent find, but don't take my word for it. Check out these pictures from Bitrate's thread on Digital Press.

Did you ever think you'd see a running M2 in 2011?
One that wasn't reminding you to retrieve your card or take your cash that is.

The steering wheel on the left is an interesting touch, but this sucker
looks like either an amputee-N64 pad, or a Saturn pad with a boner.
To see the rest of his pics and to learn more about this white elephant (and no, I don't mean that controller), then head over to Bitrate's thread on the Digital Press Forums. If you remember ANYTHING about the M2 you'll find it interesting.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Esoteric Retrospective: Cyber Core

TITLE: Cyber Core
CONSOLE: TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine
The TurboGrafx-16 didn't have half the library it's Japanese counterpart the PC-Engine had, thanks in Large part to Nintendo's borderline-monopolistic exclusivity practices. That said, we still managed to see some prime Shoot 'em Ups make their way across the Pacific, such as Blazing Lazers, R-Type, Air Zonk, Aero Blasters; the list goes on and on. One title that always stuck out to me, but usually falls under the radar of most jaded SHUMPS fans, is Cyber Core.

The fate of the world depends upon the mysterious entity 'Chimera.' The United Force has elected the enforcer Rad Ralph. Now, on with the mission!” When I was 7, I was completely taken by this intro. Why does Rad Ralph's face now resemble a smashed raspberry? Who did this to him? Am I trying to simultaneously save humanity and avenge myself? Have I become the ship I'm flying around in? Though it doesn't make much more sense, the missing line of dialog from the Japanese intro helps shed some light on Rad Ralph's situation: “A.D. 2269: The Earth was occupied by unknown being, 'Hyper Insect.'” So there you go, you're an average joe (with an idiotic monicker), who must save humanity from “Hyper Insect.” If you have the manual for this game it expands on that to tell you how you've merged with "Chimera," upon discovering Earth's fate at the hands of Hyper Insect preceding your return from Deep Space. I suppose I could have guessed that from the charming metamorphosis animation, but again, I was 7. It's not exactly Frank Herbert caliber canon we're dealing with here, but since when have you played a shooter for the epic story?

Cyber Core is, a standard top-down SHUMPS game with a story clumsily wedged in to give us an excuse to annihilate giant bugs (as if I needed an excuse). The more unique aspects of the game come to light when you start playing. For starters, the playing field, like Dragon Spirit before it, is split between ground and Air combat. Skyward enemies fall to your standard button II attack, while you must bomb ground-dwelling enemies with button I. This typically degrades into cranking both Turbo switches up and just holding down both buttons, but that can also interfere with certain upgrades, so you do still have to think somewhat. Along with ground and air enemies being split up, the field is actually somewhat wider then it initially appears. You can move over to the left and right sides of the screen to either grab enemies as they appear, or knock out extra baddies to push your score higher. What I admire most about this game is the power-up structure. Your ship which sort of resembles a winged insect at start can metamorphose between 4 alternate types: Beetle, Swallowtail, Mantis, and Hornet. To change your fighter to these types, you must collect the appropriate “radioactive eggs,” which fall out of another bug's ass when you shoot at it and are color-coded to your insect type. Each class has 3 stages of metamorphosis that can be achieved, giving you up to 3 shield batteries and increased attack power. What's great about this system is that the overall look and size of your fighter changes along with your attack. Along with having extra bombs and a deadly, screen-filling main weapon, your ship (and by association, your hitbox), becomes 3 times bigger than when you started! It's now far easier to get cornered by enemy fire, and far more difficult to avoid mid-air collisions. For some, this was a downer because increasing your power to the max was no longer equivalent to enabling “cake-walk mode,” but for me, it added some much needed challenge to a game that could be somewhat predictable from repeating patterns.

Though it's no Ikaruga as far as difficulty goes, Cyber Core is still frantic enough to keep even the most hardcore shooter aficionados on their toes. I have yet to beat this gem, but I have made it to the nightmarish final stage. Compounding the difficulty are the ground-based bosses that can only be hit with your bomb attack. It makes you think differently while playing the game, and, though it's a refreshing change of pace, it can still be difficult to get into the rhythm before you find yourself back in your “Precambrian Cyber Core” state, which is fancy talk for “Weak-Ass Default” state. Though it doesn't hand your ass to you like a modern-day “bullet hell” shooter would, prepare to be challenged nonetheless.

Does this game hold up today? The short answer is yes. Even though I may be looking at it through glasses rose-tinted by 20-years of nostalgia, it's one of the few games I always come back to in my collection and still have a hard time putting down. If you've got a PC-Engine or TurboGrafx-16 and haven't played Cyber Core, you owe it to yourself to try it out. Copies can typically be found on ebay for around $20. Or you can try picking it up at eStarland.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hoarders: Stories of Extreme Collectors: John Hancock

Working as a feature writer on Fraggs gave me the freedom to come up with my own articles and segments. Well, it gave me the freedom to pitch articles and segments and see if I could get them picked up anyway. One of those segments was "Hoarders: Stories of Extreme Collectors;" A segment that featured a different hardcore collector every month. One collector was featured in the magazine, and 2 more were interviewed, and awaiting their run. When the magazine re-structured and became a weekly publication, there was no longer any room for the Hoarders feature. Rather than have these 2 collectors stories go untold, I elected to feature them here on With the Portland Retro Gaming Expo on the horizon, the natural choice for this week was...

Extreme Collector & champion for good

John Hancock started to get serious about collecting games in the mid 90s. At that time, John was reacquiring NES games he grew up with, and building upon his collection of Sega Genesis games that he played in high school, adding to his then scant library of around 100 titles. Living in Redding, CA John quickly pursued all information about where to collect games, hitting flea marts, used game stores, and often traveling around to used video rental stores; sometimes going as far as 100 miles away. After collecting for some time, John was introduced to online forums such as, where he got connected to other serious collectors. It was then that his knowledge and pursuit of oddball video games exploded. John attended the Classic Gaming Expo in Burlingame, CA, where he had the good fortune to meet Rick Weis. Soon after, John moved to Washington State, where he got involved with the Northwest Classic Games Enthusiasts, in Seattle. A year later John would help organize a retro video game show in the Portland Area with Rick Weis, which would become the famed, Portland Retrogaming Expo. Six years, and several video game scores later, John is still actively involved with the Retrogaming Expo, as well as organizing a smaller annual video game show for charity in Kelso, WA, to help fundraise for the Children's Justice & Advocacy Center. CJAC is a child friendly agency where children are interviewed and supported after disclosing child abuse. The Show is called Cowlitz Gamers for Kids, and has raised over $4,000 over the last two shows.

Q: How many games in your collection?
A:I have around 6,000 games currently. My collection started over 15 years ago with a box of Atari 7800 games from a San Jose Flea Mart. I sold my then large Star Wars Collection and used the money to start on my NES Collection. I now have 19 complete US collections. They are:

1.  Nes liscenced US set
2.  Sega Genesis CIB
Looks more like a store display
than part of a personal collection.
3.  Nintendo 64 CIB
4.  Sega CD CIB
5.  Sega 32X CIB
6.  N-gage CIB including online exclusives
7   Odyssey 2 CIB
8. CIB
9.  Atari 7800
10. Microvision CIB
11. Action Max CIB
12. Interactivevision CIB
13. Neo Geo Pocket CIB
14. RCA Studio II CIB
15. Sega Master System CIB minus Sonic UPC label
16. Nuon
17. Dreamcast CIB
18. Game Gear(loose US cart set)
19.  APF M1000(loose cart set of games)

I am also a boxed light pen away from having a Boxed CIB retail set of a Vectrex Collection.  

Q: What are your favorites?
A:  My favorite games include Robotron 2084 on the 7800, and  Burgertime on the Intellivision.

Q: Has your collection taken over your house, or just a room?
A:  My collection resides in a game room which is a converted garage. It took over a year to construct with custom shelving. The garage only had one electrical outlet when we first bought the house.

Original Atari dust jackets? This guy puts me to shame!
Q: What can you tell us about the rig in your game room?
A: I have Three Television Sets and computer monitors in the game room. I have 32 game systems connected. I have various system selectors for each TV set to connect them all. I use heavy duty hardware shelves to house my game consoles. I usually just use folding lawn chairs for furniture... that way I can easily just move them around to the different TV sets to play things.

Q: What's the largest set within your collection?
A:  My largest set of games is my NES set, with over 800 games that include variants, homebrews, and hacks.

Q: How many consoles do you own, and what sticks out amongst them?
A:  I have over 160 unique consoles. Some of the more bizarre are the White Bally Astrocade, Boxed Memorex Video Information System, and a Pioneer Laseractive.

Q: Approximately how many peripherals do you own?
A:  I have never counted my peripherals, so I would guess in the hundreds.  

Q: What's the craziest thing in your collection?
Hard to say something specifically, but I guess a Boxed Intellivision Basic Cart with manual. A friend of mine gave it to me after scoring it at an estate sale for 25 cents.

Q: What's the crown jewel of your collection?
My Stadium Events cart for NES. I scored it for a mere $100. It is a long, long story but the short version is that I won a Mystery Box auction at a Classic Gaming Expo in 2005. I won a rare Atari 2600 cart Magicard, and then was offered an insane amount of trade for it. Among one of the things was Stadium Events.

Q: Can you tell us about your "Video Collector DVDs"?
I have created a series of DVDs showcasing different parts of my collection to help fellow collectors and enthusiasts pursue these things. The Videos are organized into volumes.  Each DVD showcases Games, System Packaging, and Accessories, for Sega, Nintendo, Oddball Systems, and now Atari.  My Atari 2 disc DVD has just been finished.   Each Volume DVD set is approximately an hour to two hours.  Each Volume is $10 plus shipping.  For more information contact me

I'd like to reach out and thank John for taking the time to talk to me, and for sharing his incredible collection with us. John also has a collection of videos on YouTube that can be viewed on his channel. He does a great job of showing off key pieces of gaming history, and introducing us to new and interesting artifacts. Here's some more of his collection in pictures:

I think it's a safe bet that John's SNES collection rivals your whole collection.

Party like it's 1977.

His shelving system is not unlike eStarland's.

Wow! I didn't know they made that many Lynx games.

It's times like this I wish I lived near the other Washington...

I admit it, I don't think I'd ever heard of a "Bally Astrocade" before talking to John.

If the first thing you notice in this pic is the garage door mechanism
then you need to work on your priorities.

EarthBound, Stadium Events and Cheetahmen! This guy has everything!