Something I used to collect pretty passionately was retro video games.
My focus was on Sega, particularly the Mega Drive (or “Genesis” to any Americans) and their last console, the Dreamcast. I also had a few Master System games that I could play via the Master Converter and tried the Saturn out for a little while but never really go on with it.
Anyway, at the height of my retro collecting I had six consoles (multiples of some) and around 150 games. It was a lot of fun playing the older games and the magazine Retro Gamer fulled my desire to get more.
Then I bought a new TV. Up until then I’d have a cheap-ish flat screen. Perfectly serviceable but far from the best. The new one was a “smart TV,” and was in high definition. Movies looked amazing! The older games…not so much.
All the consoles I had connected via AV cables. Again, these are fine on a standard TV but on HD (which was by then the new standard) it just didn’t cut it.
I looked into various solutions of providing a better image from the ageing machines. However, all the talk of “upscaling” and “s-carts” was a bit too much for my little brain. And it seemed to cost an awful lot.
Thus, after some consideration, I decided to let go. Retro game collecting was fun and I loved playing the games. What I didn’t love, however, was the battle to get them running.
With the decision made I began to rely on emulation for my retro gaming (with the exception to Dreamcast which still looked fine on the new TV). I kept some of the consoles (a JP and PAL Mega Drive and a PAL Mega Drive II, along with the DC) and the games that had sentimental value. Everything else I sold. I made a decent little sum, too.
I know there will be the gaming purists out there who will shout all manner of insults my way for this but emulation is by far my favourite way to enjoy these older games now.
I’ve tried several methods of emulation. I’ve built myself a RetroPie which, while a little fiddly to get running, is quite fun. I’ve tried various emulators for Android, but the touch controls just leave me cold. I’ve even hacked my 3DS so I can run older games on it.
The easiest — and in my opinion best — is simply running emulators on the computer. They are incredibly easy to get up an running and there are SO many tweaks you can make to have the game oh-so smooth. It’s also incredibly easy to get mods running which really makes it worth while.
So now pretty much everything from the 16-bit generation back I play on my PC. I’ve not really delved into it yet, but I’ll probably do the same for 32-bit games so I can finally play some of the Saturn classics again. And once the tech is out there to do it, I’ll probably play my Dreamcast games on PC too.
While collecting the systems and games was a lot of fun, the difficulty of getting them running (and continue to run) simply outweighed the fun for me. Retro gaming via emulation gets rid of all that fuss and, personally, I don’t feel that you need to run games on original hardware to enjoy them. One of the things I’m looking forward to most when I get my XBox One back is taking advantage of the backwards comparability.
Emulation allows you to enjoy classic games either exactly how they ran on original hardware, or enhanced so they are a bit more stable thanks to a few tweaks and mods. It’s the best of both worlds. And even better, it’s not going to cost you an absolute fortune to play.