Monday 6 May 2019

Being A Retro Gamer, Stops Me From Playing The Saturn!

We all love a bargain...
I remember when I first started collecting for the Saturn as a "Retro Gamer" (as opposed to a current gen buyer in the 1990s). The year was 2006, and I was avidly buying up Dreamcast hardware and software. I had inherited a couple of Dreamcasts from people who wanted to get rid of "clutter". They had given them to my kids to be honest, but my kids could not have been more disinterested. They had a PS2 and were dreaming of a 360. I on the other hand was very interested - I had missed out on the Dreamcast completely, because my late 90s and early 2000s had been a blur of parenthood, work and excessive raving. The Dreamcast was a revelation to me... I was enthralled by it and spent my post-raving days buying up as much Dreamcast guff as I could. Most of my transactions and purchases took place at a Gamestation within Blockbuster in Fallowfield, Manchester, where vast quantities of games were being offloaded by punters, usually to pay for new stuff - it was an exciting time - the PS3 and 360 had just come out and the Wii was imminent. The Dreamcast was dead in the water... games that had fetched £40 + were now being sold at Blockbuster for £2.50. The console itself was £17 if you wanted one, and peripherals such as light-guns, keyboards, microphones etc could be picked up for under a fiver. The term retro-gamer had just been coined for people who were generally into systems such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amiga, Commodore 64 etc. If retro-gamers were into any sort of consoles, it was systems like the Atari 2600, the NES or Master System.

So where did the Saturn fit into this world? Well, the value of Saturn games and hardware was even less than that of the Dreamcast. It was available for pennies... literally. The Saturn was simply seen as a failure, an "also ran" system that had been vastly inferior to the PlayStation, and that it had failed both critically and commercially. Many people simply didn't know the system had existed. One of the most exciting things about collecting for Dreamcast or Saturn was the ability to score a bargain. We all love a bargain, right? We tell friends about them, we post our shopping triumphs on Facebook and remember them, sometimes for years after we have used them up, or thrown them away. I distinctly remember the time in 2006 that I found a copy of Sega Rally for 20p!

20p? In 2006, that was a paltry amount of cash - one could perhaps buy a cheap packet of crisps or a small chocolate bar with it. But here was one of my favourite games in pristine condition for 20p! Again, back at the time of production, this would have gone for £30. I remember the fact that I had got a game I rated and valued SO MUCH had blown my mind. For a week or so, I played my Sega Saturn more than my Dreamcast. I revelled in the fact that my gaming pleasure had cost me so little... indeed, it seemed for every hour of Sega Rally I clocked up, the pleasure I took from my purchase seemed to grow. It was a feeling I had forgotten about, until now...

Fast forward 13 years, and times have changed drastically in the world of retro-gaming, but particularly in terms of the Saturn. In 2006, when the doors of the Saturn Junkyard were swung open, the Saturn was not considered a "niche console" or a "2D Powerhouse". It's games did not command a high price (with the exception of HOTD which cost me £25 even then...) Very few people were interested and our blog got very little traffic. There were no YouTube channels or stars who extolled the Virtues of the Saturn, although the odd video of gameplay floated around the Internet. Now we have a plethora of people who tell us that the Saturn is something of a Holy Grail for Retro-Gamers, and there are indeed a plethora of new and exciting experiences out there for those who missed out on the system. But one thing you will rarely get these days is a Saturn bargain - and if you do, it will be one relative to the fact that most PAL/US NSTC Saturn games cost an arm and a leg these days.
It's possible to pick up a Japanese import bargain from time to time, but even this is becoming more and more difficult, as sellers are becoming aware of a growing demand for Japanese copies of games that demand a high price for PAL/US releases.

I paid £80 for my copy of Burning Rangers. At the time I didn't begrudge it... I desperately wanted to play the game, having failed miserably to get anywhere with my JPN copy. I played it almost to completion, then my skillset let me down. I never completed it. the games that have given me the most pleasure on my current Saturn cycle, consist of the burned CDs and repros given to me by friends in the community. I recently bought beautifully built custom cases for two discs which have their titles scrawled on in magic marker (Radiant Silvergun and  Deep Fear)… For some reason owning the genuine (very expensive) article doesn't interest me.

But something that has taken me away from the Saturn (for the first time in 18 months) in the past few weeks, It all started when I went to Game with my son. he wanted to buy a Switch (a system I had studiously ignored for the last two years) so that he could experience and participate in the latest edition of Smash Bros. Whilst there, I was surprised to see the rows and rows of second hand games had seemingly disappeared. Whether or not they sold second hand current gen games, I have no idea. but their PS£ and 360 stock had all but disappeared. What was there was reduced to a single shelf of raggedy looking last gen titles, all squeezed onto a very low shelf in an unassuming crevice at the back of the shop.

There must have been 60 games in total, and from this tawdry pile of discarded plastic, I managed to sieve out the following titles... Kane and Lynch, Gran Turismo, Assassin's Creed, Killzone 2, Bioshock 2 and Resistance 2 for the PS3.I considered whether or not I needed to stock up on a bunch of games I had already played some years ago,. Didi I need any more old shite to clutter up my already bulging collection of dusty, old, rarely played games? Of course I did!

 This whole pile cost me £4.20. 70p a game! You can see where I'm going here? The realisation that I had purchased a stash that would have cost me nearly £300 in the not too distant past, for the paltry sum of 70p a pop, gave those games an instant draw and appeal - and I spent the two weeks battling through the FPS side of my haul... Killzone 2 was particularly magnificent. After 18 months of Saturn gaming, it looked graphically sumptuous and luxuriant. The other three didn't get a look in, but I might come back to them some time later.
Of course, I couldn't resit going back for more... like an addict drawn back into the circle of junkies, I returned to the Game in question to delve deeper into the world of budget last gen pick ups. This time I picked up Bioshock Infinite, Resistance Fall Of Man, Fallout New Vegas and Sega Superstars Tennis for the PS3... All good games, and all worth the pittance I ended up paying for them. But what REALLY got me excited was finding DJ Hero 2 on Xbox 360 for... You guessed it! 20p!

And YES! I did dust my old DJ Deck peripheral off. Not so much 'wheels of steel', as a giant "wheel of plastic". I'm very pleased to report that I still have all of the 'skillz which pay the bills' and this afternoon, I've been scratching more than a man with eczema and chicken pox, after falling into patch of poison ivy wearing a mohair jumper. Retro Gaming is anything from the last gen backwards. It won't be too long before we are ordering our PS5 and Xbox Whatevers. The right time to buy REAL bargains is right now. But not on The Saturn!


Jet Brian Radio (@VirtuaSchlub) said...

Absolutely! This is probably the best time for building up those PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii libraries.

At this point, some of the PS3's most iconic and quintessential exclusives are dirt cheap. A quick look at GameStop's site suggests I can go to one of several nearby locations and get Uncharted 1-3, Killzone 2 & 3, inFAMOUS 1 & 2, Resistance, and Virtua Tennis 2009 for a buck apiece.

For anyone who skipped those titles during last gen, that's a hell of a lot of entertainment value for such little coin. Definitely worth exploring those games at that rate.

The Saturn will always be there but we have to recognize that it's a relatively hostile console for collecting, which makes alternative solutions like Pseudo Saturn, Rhea/Phoebe, Satiator, etc. all the more crucial to sustaining and expanding the community going forward. The more options we have for enjoying, appreciating, and sharing those games, the better it will be for everyone. The material aspects of the hobby just aren't as important in the grand scheme of things.

fatherkrishna said...

Exactly Brian!

Stewart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stewart said...

Totally agree with this, and have found myself in a similar position recently!

I was in a CEX in London a year or so ago and spotted Metal Gear Solid 2 on PS2 for a whopping 75p. I own a promo copy of the game from years back (I was briefly reviewing games for the university newspaper), but thought I might as well pick up a proper boxed copy for my collection. I mean, for that price it was basically free! I then found myself picking through the PS2 rack and finding a ton of games I either had promo copies of, or missed entirely, most of which were priced between 50p and a whole £1.

I came to the same realisation as Simon - now was the time to pick up games from the last few generations. Whilst they will never be in as short supply as Saturn games, and therefore not fetch the same kind of crazy prices, they are still likely to slowly raise in price as the years go by.

I'm now like an addict and regularly scope out CEX whenever I pass by one, check out the Music Magpie website often, and any other second hand game stores to pick up super cheap PS2, PS3, Xbox (original - these are stupidly cheap), Xbox 360, Wii (also stupidly cheap) etc. There are still the occasional games from these generations that demand higher prices than I want to pay (I'm looking at you Klonoa / Persona 3 FES), but looking at how Saturn prices have ballooned in recent years I'm wondering if I should just bite the bullet and pick these up now? I'm still bitter about not picking up Deep Fear for £60 a few years back...