It’s hard to say wether or not 2021 will be looked back on fondly yet. Sure things have gotten a little better since the pandemic began, but things are still not completely the same. However us Retro gamers got some good and bad surprises throughout the year. This is a look back at some of the highlights of 2021.
NINTENDO ANNOUNCES/RELEASES N64 GAMES ON THE SWITCH
When the news first came out people were excited. Classic N64 games were finally coming to the Nintendo Switch’s online service. This was something fans have been wanting ever since the addition of SNES games to the service. Not only were N64 games coming, but Sega Genesis games as well with the standout title being MUSHA. At the time many weren’t concerned about the price increase. Nintendo did say the N64 games and the Genesis games (along with Animal Crossing DLC) would be part of something called the “Expansion Pass”. So to enjoy these titles we would have to pay a little extra. Gamers were optimistic that the price wasn’t going to be too bad. True the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) isn’t the best of the online services, but at $20 for a whole year with access to classic NES and SNES titles it was a good deal. However things went sour very quick when Nintendo announced the price point for the Expansion Pass. A $30 increase for the Expansion Pass was met with heavy criticism from fans. Meaning if you wanted everything Nintendo had to offer with the NSO, you would have to cough up $50 for 1 plan or $80 for the family plan. If that wasn’t bad enough the emulation for classic N64 games wasn’t the best. Many emulator enthusiasts were quick to point out the flaws in the emulation, especially with Ocarina Of Time. The Genesis games worked fine, although the news of Nintendo releasing a wireless Genesis controller did stoke some flame wars on Twitter. With all the bad press, gamers are still excited to use the service. Like the NES and SNES, Nintendo is still releasing games for the N64 and as of this writing, Paper Mario was just added. Hopefully Nintendo continues to work on the service to make it better, and reach the potential we all know it can.
ANALOGUE POCKET COMES OUT TO RAVE REVIEWS
All in one systems usually do one of two things. They promise what’s advertised by taking huge short cuts and killing the quality, or they cut back and focus on a smaller thing while the rest of the features are cut entirely. The Analogue Pocket however has found a third thing clone consoles do. Work as advertised with near perfect precision. Constant reviews for the Pocket have been nothing but great. IGN gave the Pocket a 9/10 and PCMag gave it a 4.5/5. Does the system have some issues? Of course it does. Mostly from connecting the device to the dock to play on your TV. Playing as a handheld has gotten no complaints from the reviewers and YouTubers who got a review device. To summarize the system does exactly what it advertised to do, play your Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games with no problem. The trick is the hardware used is essentially a more powerful GBA with more bells and whistles. There are even adapters for the system that can play Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and Neo Geo Pocket Color games. This device truly is the all in one handheld, but getting one requires patience. As of now pre-orders are up for the next wave of devices, but on their website Analogue clearly lets customers know that they will have to wait a while until they get their new system. Due to the supply chain issues currently plaguing the world some people will have to wait an entire year before they get their system. Reviewers say it’ll be worth the wait, but there is one more rub against the Pocket. It has a $220 price tag and it comes with a charging cable, but if you want the ‘official’ power adapter and the dock you’re going to shell out more money. The dock by itself is $100 and the adapters for the other game systems are all $30 each. Even if you don’t want the dock at the moment, getting all the adapters is going to add an additional $120. Of course this is for those who have massive handheld libraries. If all you have are Game Boy family games, then you’re set. You may just have to wait a good long while until you get your system.
THE WATA GAMES SCANDAL AND RISING RETRO GAME PRICES
Quite possibly the biggest scandal involving retro gamers was the revelation that Wata Games (allegedly) were artificially inflating game prices to get rich. The videos YouTubers Karl Jobst posted on his channel (which you can see here and the follow up here) got quite a bit of attention and sparked backlash against Wata Games and auction houses everywhere. This sparked even more conversations about selling and buying older video games and some collectors have even left the hobby altogether. Wata isn’t the only thing to blame when it comes to rising retro prices. Since 2020 more and more people were trying to find ways to spend their time in lockdown. One way was to buy and replay their old video games. YouTubers (also not at fault) would talk about certain games and the price said games would usually see an uptick. Wata just added fuel to an already raging fire. One thing Wata did do recently was release the population reports of certain game consoles, but but the damage has been done. I wrote a piece (read here) on buying games post-pandemic which dives a bit deeper into the rising prices of games and how some sellers can and will be shady.
THE RETURN OF RETRO GAME CONVENTIONS
Seeing retro game conventions open up again was a sight for sore eyes. Too Many Games, Retropalooza, and others had events this year or are planning events in 2022. While I personally haven’t attended any conventions yet (I have a ticket bought and am patiently waiting for SoCal Gaming Expo in late February) seeing others go to these conventions and expos makes my heart warm. Video game expos are some of my favorite conventions to go to. Not only can you buy games and other gaming merchandise, you can play arcade games and home consoles that you’ve never owned before. Normally all the arcade games are set to free play and there’s no telling what great things you can find on the floor. At the time of this writing SoCal Gaming is set for the weekend of February 26 and Portland Retro is still in the planning phase with hopes to open between August and October. Eyes will be kept on the news incase things get worse because of the new variant, but hopes remain high.
Now that 2021 is over and 2022 has begun I remain hopeful. The past year was hard for everyone, and while not everything came out great for us retro gamers, there were a few things that made our brighter. So with that here’s to 2022 being better and from me to you, I hope you have a safe, and amazing New Year.