Friday, May 24, 2013

The Atari 2800 Saga

 I made a pretty nice pic up on Yahoo Auctions last week: my very own Atari 2800!!!

That is correct, Atari 2800 and not Atari 2600.

The Atari 2800 was Atari`s abortive attempt to export a version of the 2600 to Japan.  They were a bit late to the game with it though, releasing it in 1983 just as the Famicom was about to hit.  That meant it was a total failure in a commercial sense and they only sold a handful of them.

That, in turn, means that these consoles are extremely hard to find today.  Until this one arrived in the mail in all of my years of combing retro game shops I had never seen one with my own eyes before.  I think they are about as close as you can get to a holy grail of retro Japanese consoles (sadly this fact was reflected in the price I paid for it, but I think it was worth it).

When I got it in the mail a few days ago I was so psyched, but I was in for one big shock when I tried to plug it in.  This is probably old news to most people, but I hadn`t realized that new flat screen TVs don`t take RF input.  During all my years in Fukuoka collecting retro games both of the TVs in our house were old-school analogue ones so it never came up.

When we moved we got rid of those and I bought a brand new flat screen.  I had been using my AV Famicom to play games up until now so I hadn`t noticed that it didn`t take RF until the Atari 2800 just wouldn`t work on it.

So I went back onto Yahoo Auctions, found an awesome 1989 Sony Trinitron 14 inch TV for about ten bucks and picked that up.  Today it arrived:

I had a hell of a time trying to get it to work, but eventually I did.  The console came with four games (Space Invaders, Night Driver, Baseball and Missile Command) so I decided Space Invaders would make a good game to break it in on.

I don`t have any furniture to keep the TV on (it is in our spare bedroom now) so it is just sitting on a box for the time being, which is actually kind of a cool way to set up a mini retro-console station.  I love how hard it is to play, I have to fiddle with the RF switch for ages just to get a reasonably clear picture and then when I play the game I am never sure when the slightest move will cause the screen to go completely blank.

Oh and bonus thumbs up to old-school TVs for having the ability to have game consoles placed on top of them, thus saving space.  That is one cool thing future gamers will miss out on with these damn flat screens.

True old school.  This is how retro games are meant to be played.  Old system on an old TV that barely works.  Should keep me busy for a while!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Famicom Storage: the Next Generation

As I mentioned in a recent post, I moved about 6 months ago.  One of the sacrifices we had to make while packing up was my beloved Famicom shelf system.  Painstakingly constructed from 100 yen shop dishracks it was a bit too bulky to justify taking with us, so it went out with a truckload of other stuff to the myriad of Fukuoka second hand shops that take stuff off people`s hands when they move.  The North American tradition of the garage sale  does not exist in a country where most people don`t have garages.  Sadly a Super Famicom and a big pile of Famicom carts (pretty much all baseball and Mahjongs) went wtih it.

Until this week my Famicom carts at the new place were relegated to storage in a box and were completely undisplayed.  That continued until the other day when, in a scene reminiscent of my visit to the 100 yen shop in Fukuoka a couple years ago when I stumbled across those dish racks, I stumbled across a pile of these:

Postcard racks!

I picked up a whole bunch of them (the great thing about 100 yen shops: you can buy tons of stuff on a whim and it won`t break you).  I then put them on the wall and presto, a new Famicom cart storage system is born:

Compared to my old dish rack system these have one advantage and two drawbacks.  The advantage is that these do a much better job of displaying cover art of each game, which you couldn`t see very well with the dish rack system.  Since Famicom carts generally have awesome cover art that is a big plus.

The first drawback is that these can`t hold as many games as the dish racks.  One of these can hold 4 Famicom carts whereas one dish rack could hold 8. The other drawback is that these aren`t quite as stable as the dish racks.  In two years the dish racks never dropped a Famicom cart.  With these, the carts are a bit more precariously positioned so when the next earthquake comes along (they do happen pretty often here) these are all going to be on the floor.

Still, I really like the way this ties a corner of the room together. If you are in Japan and are interested, these racks aren`t available at the Daiso (the main 100 yen shop chain in Japan) but only at Seria.  Also, they have two kinds of these postcard holders, the metal ones I bought and some wood ones (you can see two of them in the photo on the left, just below the Famicom carts holding some baseball cards).  I recommend using the wood ones rather than the metal, they are a bit wider and will fit Famicom carts a bit better (I`m probably going to switch over to those next time I hit Seria).