October 21, 2015. The day Marty Mclfy arrived in the delorean with Doc Brown to save his kids from going to jail. Also in October of 2015 is the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, a place that will make you feel like you’ve been sent back to 1985. With all the pinball machines and booths selling old Nintendo and Atari games, and music like David Bowie and Europe playing through the convention center, I had to retrace my steps in my head to make sure I hadn’t stepped into some kind of time portal taking me back to when I was a 5 year old. cosplayers, artists, and retro game enthusiasts filled the room and made me think that I might have just died in some kind of train crash on my way there and went to heaven instead. So many different and cool things to see and play that i had either not seen in 20 years, or had never even heard of.
Every corner of the room held something awesome, but towards the arcades, I noticed an old Dragon Slayer arcade game, so I headed that direction to see what other gems were out there. A whole row of pinball machines that I’m pretty sure they pulled from the nickle arcade that was down the street from my parents house when I was a kid. They had the 4 player versions of both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-men. The old Road Blasters arcade and some new crazy version of F-zero that had a moving chair and about 6 new characters/ships I had no idea existed. A new arcade game called “Tweet Fighter” was being demonstrated. It looked like the old Street Fight II game, but it was turn based and played on a keyboard. You would start by picking a twitter a twitter username, and then take turns by typing in keywords that people would use when they mention the @username. The more relevant the keyword, the more damage the attack would do. There were some newer arcades, and by newer I mean they didn’t come out in the 80’s, mixed in too. San Francisco Rush and San Francisco Rush 2049, along with Big Buck Hunter, to name a few. They even had a couple of the late 90’s Star Wars Trilogy arcade cabinets. I had to spend a few minutes with that and my old friend Area 51, gotten me through some hard times, those two. All the way in the back, the Tetris world championships were being held and a documentary was being filmed on the event.
The rest of the floor was the booths that are standard in conventions, holding gadgets, trinkets and art inspired from all manner of games. They parked the Angry Video Game Nerd’s van inside and you could go and sit in it if you wanted. My favorite was the new gadgets they have for playing older games. A 3-in-1 console that played Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games caught my eye along with a handheld Super Nintendo that looked like a giant Super Nintendo controller with a screen in the middle called a “Supaboy”. There were even some roms that had been put into cartridges that will play on a Super Nintendo available, and they weren’t the regular titles. Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, a fan made sequel to Chrono trigger, Castlevania: Dracula X – Evil Trevor and Earthbound Uncut caught my eye. All these are available as regular roms from emulator sites that you can get for free, but the appeal is the ability to play them on your Super Nintendo. You could find pretty much any old console you could possibly want there. All the old systems were available for purchase. Ataris, Nintendos, Sega Master System and Genesis, I even saw a few Virtual Boys for the very nostalgic price of $180 (launch price was $179.99). My buddy Dan was able to pick up a Sega Dreamcast for $40, complete with cables controller and memory card. Throw in a copy of Shenmue for $45 that he found at a different booth (I don’t think he ever thought he would be buying a system for $5 less than the the first game) and you have a very happy Dan. There were a lot of great artists set up there, too. One booth, hosted by RH Potter, had some very cool paintings of foxes and birds. Charlie Donkin, a local artist, had a booth to show off his drawings of iconic video game characters done in a steampunk theme. Look for an interview with artist Tommy Harbour by Tony Lambert in the next few days for more on the video game art scene.
If you’re ever in the Portland area come October, I would double check to make sure that the Retro Gaming Expo isn’t going on while you’re there. Great old games, great art and great deals aplenty are happening in that exhibit hall that you really shouldn’t miss out on if you’re an old gamer, like me.
P.S. here’s some more pics I took while I was there