I had a retro craving or rather a desire to ask what my Dreamcast is doing and visited one of Cologne’s prime locations for retro gaming, Retrospiel. This is also a personal journey about my retro collection.
When it comes to video games, I’m not particularly loyal to a specific brand. With a supportive mother who was (and still is) a gamer herself, there were no reservations regarding video games. Of course we couldn’t afford all systems and the game library that goes with it.
The first system I owned was the Nintendo Entertainment System. I finished Super Mario 1 & 3 and the action RPG Faxanadu which I still own on cartridge. I skipped famous franchises like Mega Man and Castlevania though. Every system I had was also played by my mom, her favorite was the puzzle game Puzznic, which she finished. I also had the original Game Boy which was a marvel compared to the simple LCD games I played with previously. Heavy Tetris sessions had an effect on my sleep patterns, the (in)famous Tetris effect.
But then brand loyalty shifted to Sega and their great Mega Drive and the Game Gear handheld. The Dreamcast is the first system I preordered for launch and the system I most fondly remember. I skated through fictional Shibuya in Jet Set Radio, asked around for sailors in Shenmue and was awed by the first true 3D Sonic on a VGA display. For me, it was the first system to do 3D graphics right. Rose-tinted glasses? Oh, yes. But Sega were undoubtedly at the top of their game creatively.
Through the fledgling web, I discovered various other systems, some released before I was born. I bought some of them out of sheer curiosity for technology. These include the Vectrex, a home-console with a built-in vector display from 1984, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy or the MicroVision, a portable video game released years before the GameBoy.
With other systems, I was just lucky that I bought them at the right time: Atari’s Jaguar and Lynx consoles were sold at a steep discount at one point. Generally, I only bought what I was interested in, never aiming for a complete collection.
An interesting system is also the Gamepark GP32. This system looked like a GameBoy Advance but failed as a commercial platform and is unknown in its home country Korea. But what it had was a free SDK and thus it became the first popular emulation platform, providing enough pixels and performance for 8 and 16 bit emulation.
Retrospiel is an independent shop for retro games and systems and new games for old systems. For some reason a Commodore 8032-SK is a mainstay in the store window. The store also sells computers and computer games. The latter are scarce though, don’t expect to find specific games such as a copy of Dungeon Master or something at the store.
The shop was surprisingly full of stuff, more than before the Corona pandemic. The store’s owner explained to me that some customers did buy more retro stuff (a customer before me bought a GameCube as a birthday gift – excellent choice), others used the time at home to go through their old stuff and trade them in at the store. What’s visible is only a fraction of the inventory.
A Commodore 64 caught my eye. This was the earlier model with a dark keyboard, not the one I owned with a light keyboard. Still love the C64’s chip sound. Many games were rubbish, but the sound – excellent! I also spotted an Amiga 500, another computer praised for its sound chip. I’d still choose the synthesizer C64 SID sound over Amiga’s Paula samples.
On top of the shelves and the desks were systems I was familiar with even though I didn’t own them. I skipped an entire generation of consoles (PlayStation 1/Saturn/N64). Never owned a PlayStaton 3 either (I do have a PS4). Imported a PS2 to practice karaoke and bought one for my mom so she could play EyeToy (and later Samurai Warriors).
I also saw a PC-Engine complete in box along with a CD-ROM drive. I remember piles of PC-Engines in Japanese retro stores. Hugely popular there, not really released in Germany. Various game magazines here loved the system though. This is a system I thought about picking up while living in Tokyo (along with the Famicom), because it’s very small.
A rare system is the Tele-Fever, which was originally sold by coffee roaster Tchibo. Tele-Fever is a clone of the Emerson Arcadia and one of the early video game consoles. The main unit (with one integrated controller) and the second controller have a distinct look and plenty of buttons. Such primitive games, yet the controller has more buttons than an SNES pad.
Talking about primitive, I saw the Intel Super-Tele-Sports, a Pong console. I actually own one of these – probably bought because it’s amusing to pretend that it’s actually electronics giant Intel and not German company INTerELektronik.
I briefly thought about picking up some Microvision games, but I found a freshly arrived used New Nintendo 3DS XL. I was looking for a replacement for my Nintendo DS Lite anyway and I am a fan of the 3DS 3D technology. I’ve used my DS as a console, homebrew device, dictionary and synthesizer and own quite a few cartridges from Japan and Germany.
Besides the obvious advantages, this device has another one: the SD card slot. The 3DS XL as well as any other DS/3DS variants have been unlocked and cracked to run homebrew software. After trying out some old DS cartridges, I went through the steps to install Homebrew Channel and removed the link to the previous owner’s Nintendo account(!).