The allure of the consoles I never owned

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bigsocrates

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Edited By bigsocrates

Growing up my home, like many, was a one console home. My parents had mixed feelings on video games, but they let my grandfather get me a NES and later a SNES because I desperately wanted them. There was never any thought that I might also get a Master System or Genesis, the systems some of my friends had, and if I wanted to play those I would have to go to someone else's house.

This, in turn, made those systems sources of endless fascination for me. If I wanted to play a Nintendo game I could just rent it, so my curiosities were mostly satisfied there (I suppose I could have rented systems too, but it just wasn't something my family did. My parents thought why rent a Sega if you already have a Nintendo? Just rent a game for the system you have and play that.) If, however, I wanted to try out Sonic the Hedgehog or Golden Axe or whatever I would have to happen to visit a friend who had it and they would have to be in the mood to play video games, all of which made Sonic especially hard to get my hands on since everyone I knew who had a Genesis had already played it to death and was bored of it. The Turbografx-16 was even more exotic since I didn't know anyone who owned one of those and I'd see the advertisements for Bonk's Adventure and other games and just have to imagine what they actually played like.

In my older teenage years I was able to get both a Playstation and an N64 and access to more games than ever, but I never got around to getting a Saturn, primarily because I knew people who'd had a SegaCD or 32X (what a piece of absolute garbage the latter was.) I would read about various games for it, especially imports, in magazines and on the Internet with great interest. In the end the Saturn died early and I couldn't even afford all the Playstation and N64 games i wanted, so it would have been a serious indulgence.

What's interesting to me is that as an older gamer looking back I find myself with a special fascination for the systems I never had and the libraries of games I never experienced. I gobble up articles, videos, and podcasts about them even moreso than those that discuss the systems I did actually have. There are plenty of games, even classics, I never got around to playing for the systems I did own, but for some reason I'm more taken by the idea of Magic Knight Rayearth and Burning Rangers than by Vagrant Story or Syphon Filter, even though many would say the Playstation games are the better titles. I find myself hoping for a collection of the Shining Force games, even though I never played Tactics Ogre either, nor the Nintendo DS Final Fantasy Tactics (and the PS Final Fantasy Tactics was in my top 10 of that generation).

I have found myself on Ebay or Amazon considering picking up a used Saturn and some of the classics for that system, even though I can in no way justify the cost and I don't even have time to play all the modern or retro games I already own. In my darker moments I have even considered getting a 3DO or a Jaguar, even though there is nothing I really want to play for those systems. Just the thrill of the unknown.

I think for me those unbought consoles represent whole other worlds to explore, the same way that videogames themselves often do. Just as I play Mass Effect to get an idea of what it would be like to be a Spectre exploring the galaxy, I think about what it would be like to be a Genesis or Saturn owner, exploring those libraries of unplayed games. In truth I know there is no magic there. I'm familiar with emulation and the virtual console, and I've owned those Genesis collections for the PS2 and Xbox 360 (probably why I don't really have the urge to get a Genny anymore.) I played Radiant Silvergun when it came out on XBLA. It's very good but it's just another video game, not transcendent or magical and not very different from other games. As with many things in life the vision I have in my mind could never be matched by the reality.

Yet despite this knowledge I still daydream about what it would have been like to have those systems and explore all those worlds I never got to see. Maybe some day someone will release a Saturn or TurboGrafx mega collection and I'll get a chance to see some of the stuff I missed (though I've already played a lot of the TurboGrafx classics via Virtual Console.) But part of me kind of likes the idea that out there, somewhere, is this whole alternate universe of games I've barely explored, full of good games, bad games, oddities and hidden gems. There's an allure to the paths not taken, you know? And for me that goes for video games as well as the other parts of life.

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michaelenger

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I totally see where you're coming from. I have this aspiration to be a retro games collector, but that dream fades quickly when I consider how much it will cost, the time it takes to find (and maybe repair) the games and the amount of space I'll have to dedicate to them. I never had a Genesis growing up, but I've played the classics through other means (legit and not-so-legit) so I know what the system and games are like. Still there is a certain allure to reliving a childhood I never had, I guess.

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GunstarRed

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#2  Edited By GunstarRed

Do it! Get a Saturn. I never owned a Saturn, I had the N64 and the PS1, but the only time I ever saw the Saturn was when my uncle would let me watch him play Panzer Dragoon one time and whatever was playing on screens in shops.

The one thing about the Saturn is that it's a real collector's console. You've got to be willing to buy a ton of imports, as the Japanese versions of a lot of games are pretty cheap. I wrote a blog about getting a Saturn about a year and a half ago. I'm still importing games every so often (two very, very recently in fact) but you should know the weirder/awesomer stuff only ever comes in That's expensive, but affordable and Holy Fuck! this game is £300 varieties outside of your Panzer Dragoon's and Nights's etc.

Good luck on a copy of Magical Knight Rayearth. Things like Panzer Dragoon Saga and Radiant Silvergun come up a lot because of their high value, but there are a ton of other games that are worth waaaaaaay more. Those games aren't even all that rare.

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Streets_of_Vlad

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I was the exact opposite, I had a Sega Genesis growing up and all my friends had SNESs. Then when the next generation came out I ended up with a PS1 while everyone else had N64's. Later on I snagged a Dreamcast which I loved but I never owned a Nintendo console. There's still that constant allure to go pick up N64 and Gamecube and play through some stuff that I missed out on.

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Counterclockwork87

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I feel just like you, that's why I now own basically all the main consoles : )

(Except the jaguar, its kinda crazy expensive now for some reason)

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MonkeyKing1969

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#5  Edited By MonkeyKing1969
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I always wanted a Vectrex. I even talked about it so much when it was still on the shelf that my mom said, "Well go BUY one!" But, I was a tight wad with my cash as a kid, so I never did. I still regret not buying a Vectrex.

I also wanted a Colecovision....that was a rad console at the time.

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liquiddragon

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#6  Edited By liquiddragon  Online

I was in a one console household too (genisis,n64,ps2) and ever since I was able to buy my own consoles, I've tried to relive the childhood I never had. I don't care about owning the consoles necessarily but even today, I tried to play the games.

Of course it's never going to be the same but still makes for a good experience most of the time. Sometimes it's sad, if the game is really good, that I didn't get to play it then...

Every console and game I got from my parents I really had to beg and whine for so if I really think about my gaming history, it brings up some bad memories...

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fisk0

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#7 fisk0  Moderator

I never had any consoles at all as a kid, only a PC. My sister got an N64, so I did get to play some of those games, but I never had any consoles of my own until I could afford them myself, so in recent years I've been gathering the systems and games I wished had as a kid.

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bigsocrates

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@monkeyking1969: I had a friend whose older brother had a Vectrex. Now that Vectrex owner is a cardiologist. True story. Vectrex gives you the skills to be a successful medical doctor!

In all seriousness the Vectrex was a cool little piece of technology, with its built in display and colored overlays, but always seemed a little gimmicky to me. Maybe it was because I only experienced it after I already had a NES. If I had seen that thing when the closest competition was an Atari 2600 or Colecovision I probably would have had a different reaction.

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GoodlyMike

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#9  Edited By GoodlyMike

I've always wanted to collect old game systems but I think it's too damn expensive (for me at least).

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Shindig

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I didn't get my first console til '99 but always wanted a Mega Drive when growing up. I spent an awful lot of time whenever going round family for visits just playing on my cousin's stuff. If I got one now it'd barely see any use.

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MonkeyKing1969

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#11  Edited By MonkeyKing1969

@monkeyking1969: I had a friend whose older brother had a Vectrex. Now that Vectrex owner is a cardiologist. True story. Vectrex gives you the skills to be a successful medical doctor!

In all seriousness the Vectrex was a cool little piece of technology, with its built in display and colored overlays, but always seemed a little gimmicky to me. Maybe it was because I only experienced it after I already had a NES. If I had seen that thing when the closest competition was an Atari 2600 or Colecovision I probably would have had a different reaction.

They Hayday of Vector graphics games Space Wars, Lunar lander, Asteroid, Star Castle, Star Wars, etc was right in sweet spot for gaming as a kid. There was something about those games that was just interesting as art The 'clean aesthetic' of vector graphics holds up in the same way 16 Bit graphics do. Maybe, when 4K becomes a thing the ability to "fake" sharp vectors will bring that aesthetic back.

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moderateTrouble

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I have very similar feelings to you, except for consoles I never even heard of until recently! Ever since I started coming across screenshots from old PC-98 and FM Towns Marty games a few years ago, I've been entranced by the vibrant 32-bit pixel art that seems to grace all of their games. "Thrill of the unknown" is a perfect phrase for this fascination. For me those games represent a time and place completely foreign to me, and the thought of an entire library of games existing that I've never had the tiniest semblance of is really exciting; even if part of me knows I would probably be bored by most of the games if I ever had a chance to play them.

The thing is, even if these games could never live up to our expectations, it doesn't lessen the attraction or the wonder we feel towards them. Sometimes, it's okay to ignore the truth in favor of a more appealing fantasy if it allows us to appreciate something more :)

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ArbitraryWater

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There was a period of time where I was seriously considering buying a SNES, but it turns out that the SNES games one would want for their collection aren't cheap and most of them have been re-released for the GBA or Virtual Console anyways. I... did not buy a SNES. I was also looking at 3DO and Neo Geo prices around that time and some of those things make used copies of Chrono Trigger or Earthbound look reasonable by comparison.

I can understand that allure; original physical hardware and software beats a bunch of ROM files sitting on your computer (that are of their own questionable legality anyways) or even something like a Retron. Authenticity only goes so far for me though. When I'm rich and can afford lavish things, maybe.

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Baltimore

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Growing up I was strictly a Nintendo kid until late 1997. In the 80's and early 90's everyone in my neighborhood has a NES after that I was the only kid that had an SNES. Everyone else got the Genesis. I was very happy with the SNES but had access to the Genesis. All my high school buddies either had N64 or PS1. I traded in my N64 for a Playstation and Final Fantasy 7. Then in college when the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube came out our groups had one of each system. So until the 360/Wii/PS3 era I never had the allure of the other consoles to deal with since, effectively, I had some access to all of them. Now I have a PS4 and WiiU, but I feel the Allure of the Xbox1 since there are a few games I want to play on it. But I also have a toddler at home, so my gaming is limited.