This past weekend (29-30 June 2013) was an absolute blast!
A new retro gaming event took place at Gateshead Stadium under the name of North East Retro Gaming, or NERG for short.
It’s a shame that arcades are dying out but this is the purpose of the event, to bring back the classic 80s/90s arcade for the weekend. For me, the greatest thing about the event wasn’t necessarily the sheer amount of selection of Consoles, Arcade and Pinball machines; it was the ambience. It just sounded like an Old Skool arcade with the sounds of the mass of video game machines blaring in the background, unable to distinguish any one machine amongst the sounds of the hundreds of people that were most likely, like me, in a relapse with memories of their favourite arcades from back in the day.
For me it was a mixture of Spanish City and Metroland, 2 amazing amusements that are now, sadly, long gone.
There must have easily been over 200 machines at NERG. Most of the early popular arcade games seemed to be covered with the likes of Marble Madness, Robotron:2084, Defender, Crazy Kong, Galaxian and Pac-Man. I wasn’t too interested in the early stuff but rather the late 80s-late 90s games including Point Blank, After Burner, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Turtles in Time, Carnevil and Crazy Taxi. The list really does go on though.
I love, and in some ways really miss, the arcade versions of these older games. So much that I’ve even gone the route of using MAME to satisfy my needs. As great as MAME is, it’s just not the same as standing at a massive cabinet with a Cherry-top stick in one hand and the other hand loosely placed over the other buttons, ready to hammer away.
The guys at NERG (I’m assuming there’d be more than just Phil ‘cus A LOT of work had clearly gone into this) managed to get hold of a bunch of pinball machines too. Again, like the older arcade cabs, I wasn’t particularly interested in the pinballs at first but after playing a few, I really got into it. I hadn’t played on a full sized Pinball for a good 15 years. I had almost forgot how much I used to enjoy it.
Again, there was a good selection of pinball machines there including The Addams Family, The Terminator, South Park, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, Black Rose and The Wizard of Oz.
The main machine there that everyone seemed to want to have a go of was The Matrix. It was an amazing custom built pinball machine from Holland, I believe, and was so popular that I never managed to get a shot of it…
While the main focus was the arcade/pinball action, there was a whole host of home consoles. I don’t even want to guess the year of the earliest console there as there was a lot that I had never heard of. Pretty much all the major consoles were covered going right up to the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. There were some 360s there too provided by GAME to showcase some of the retro ports available on XBLA.
I pottered about the consoles and had a quick blast on a few of them. The one I was really looking forward to seeing and trying out was the Japan-only Sharp x68000. I saw a couple of videos on YouTube which then lead me to installing an emulator on my original Xbox for it. Pretty confusing to use at first as all the games are in Japanese. The sound chip is pretty impressive and a few games, such as Akumajo Dracula (Castlevania), are able to use different sound modules and play a different version of the sound tracks. Very interesting concept.
Another machine I was looking forward to just seeing was the Panasonic Q. For those who don’t know, this is primarily a Gamecube that plays DVDs. Nothing spectacular but it looks amazing with it’s mirrored front to the console.
As with any kind of event like this, there were a few vendors there promoting their businesses and selling masses of video game related paraphernalia. The majority of it, as you’d expect, was retro video games and I was expecting the prices to be pretty high but they were actually decently priced. I didn’t really pick up anything there ‘cus I’m a cheapskate and prefer hunting out bargains online.
There were a few competitions on also, including a raffle, tombola, cosplay competition and a chance to win a Neo Geo X Gold just for attending each day. I didn’t win though…*sad face*.
All in all, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the weekend was amazing and I hope it returns again next year. I would say there’s a pretty good chance there is so if you’re reading this in the UK before June 2014 (I’m assuming it’d be round about the same time), get yourselves to Gateshead for NERG!