Retro Holiday Shopping
The holiday shopping season kicked off this past weekend, and this year looks like it’s going to have a lot more to offer the gamer in your life than previous years. There are some really cool gifts out there that would make excellent additions to any collection, or even items for your very own wish list. Here are a few excellent gift ideas.
The awesome stuff at StoneAgeGamer.com
If you haven't seen this already, this was my write-up about some of the coolest stuff to get during our Black Friday sale. The discounts aren't still applicable, but the items themselves are 100% great gift ideas. Flash carts, Bit Boxes, and all manner of really great items are available right now at www.stoneagegamer.com and they would make for some really great and unexpected gifts. Seriously, have a look at these items, and if you've got any questions about any of them, don't hesitate to ask. If you don't have the first idea about what a flash cart is, the fine folks who run the store are super nice and super helpful.
But, If Flash Carts and original hardware don’t seem like the right direction for you, there are still plenty of options out there to get great retro content into the hands of your loved ones. These are hardly new, but this year is the first year where the best of the bunch will be readily available for purchase. The newest kid on the block is the PlayStation Classic. Sony’s first entry into the increasingly competitive market of retro consoles hasn’t been without its issues. From a questionable games list to a seemingly incredibly bare bones presentation, it’s hardly the dream PlayStation tribute many thought it would be. Still, it’s hard to argue that it’s still a pretty cool thing to put under someone’s tree. Launching December 3rd for $99.99, it isn’t necessarily a slam dunk, but it’s also hard to imagine anyone being upset about getting one.
Then you have Nintendo’s returning champions, the NES Classic Edition and the SNES Classic Edition. These two mini consoles are well worth the price of admission and have incredible game libraries to boot. They still suffer from criminally short controller cables, but with a bevy of existing solutions for that problem currently available (some from stoneagegamer.com!), it’s more of a minor inconvenience than anything. It’s worth noting that if you’re buying for a perfectionist, The NES Classic Edition might leave some feeling less than enthused. The sound emulation on this little guy is just a bit wrong, and can be very jarring while playing some of your old favorites. The SNES Classic Edition, on the other hand, features some of the best SNES emulation I’ve ever seen. Honestly, these are both fantastic gift ideas, and are guaranteed to provide at the very least several hours of classic fun.
Then we have AT-Games’ output, which is… questionable at best. You’ll see giant stack-ups of the latest Atari Flashback, Sega Genesis Flashback, or Legends Flashback units in big box chains all over. These things are nice enough, I guess. But they leave a LOT to be desired. They feature strange ports of games, less than stellar emulation, and overall cheap production values. That said, they’re considerably less expensive than the more high end stuff like the Playstation and SNES Classic consoles, so it really comes down to what kind of experience you’re looking for. Even with their faults, they’re still neat little devices, and pretty much any retro gamer would at the very least appreciate the thought behind receiving one of them as a gift.
This has been a pretty great year for retro compilations, and if the person you’re shopping for has access to any of the current gen platforms, there’s there’s a better than even chance you can find something to buy. The Atari Flashback Classics line is available on PS4, Xbox One, and will be hitting Nintendo Switch on December 4th. These games are the most classic of the classics, and are still very fun to play today, especially if you’ve got the right crowd around.
While in that neck of the woods, there’s also the Namco Museum Arcade Pac, which is an excellent little compilation that includes a host of Namco arcade classics like Pac-Man, Galaga, and even Splatterhouse, as well as Pac-Man Champion Edition 2 Plus, which is a really great time. If you don’t have a Switch, there are similar collections available on PS4 and Xbox One called “Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 + Arcade Game Series” I know, just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
Then there’s the absolutely stellar SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, which at least for the time being is a Switch exclusive. This compilation covers some far less mainstream classics like Crystalis, POW, Alpha Mission, and a whole lot more, but what it lacks in name brand recognition, it more than makes up for in quality content. If you’re shopping for someone who likes quality extras in their classic compilations, this is a tough collection to beat. Digital Eclipse really knows what they’re doing.
Speaking of Digital Eclipse, the Mega Man Legacy Collections are another incredible value. The first volume was handled by DE and they did an incredibly stellar job of recreating these games for play on modern TVs, as well as putting together an awesome museum to peruse once you’re done with all the great gaming goodness. Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, Mega Man X Collection, and Mega Man X Collection 2 are all great packages too, but if you had to choose just one, I’d lean toward the first.
This list could go on all day, but the last one I’ll mention here today is the Sega Genesis Classics for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. For a whopping $29.99, you get a collection of over 50 Genesis games to keep you company, and the amount of game time you get for that price is really impressive. Your run of the mill standards like Altered Beast and several Sonic games you probably own 20 times over are all there, but it’s also got a ton of really great games you may not have played as recently like the Phantasy Star RPGs, Gunstar Heroes, the Streets of Rage games, and stuff like Landstalker and Beyond Oasis. I’ve read some reports about the overall emulation quality here not being spectacular, but it’s hard to turn your nose up to this kind of value.
If you’re into retro gaming, a lot of the new games that come out these days that play to your interests are probably digital only, at least at first. For this reason, gifting some truly outstanding indie games can be something of a challenge, unless of course you aren’t opposed to giving the give of credit. PSN, Xbox Live, and Nintendo eShop cards are way better gifts than you might think. The whole idea of a gift card may seem thoughtless at first, but in the modern world of indie greats frequently recapturing the magic that made 80s and 90s gaming great, having a bunch of free money to spend specifically on that is a truly wonderful idea. And honestly, if you or someone you know loves their classic retro games, the landscape these days is positively brimming with new games that will scratch the retro itch in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine.
This year was pretty good for remakes and remasters too. The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy hit Switch earlier this year, which features Crash’s original three PlayStation hits. The game has managed to sell about a bajillion copies on PS4 and Switch, and it’s also available on Xbox one and PC if that’s your cup of tea.
Speaking of PS1 classics, Spyro Reignited Trilogy released on Xbox One and PS4 recently, and it’s a very nicely done remaster indeed. For $39.99, you get all three of Spyro’s original adventures, gussied up in gorgeous fashion for your next gen system of choice. It isn’t on Switch, but considering the success of Crash’s appearance earlier this year, it seems like it should only be a matter of time. Of course, you would have thought the Disney Afternoon Collection would have made its way to Switch by now too, so I guess you can never really predict these things.
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee just dropped last week and they’ve already sold like the hottest of hotcakes. This is essentially a remake of Pokemon Yellow, and does a masterful job of bridging the gap between the phenomenal successful Pokemon Go and the more traditional Pokemon experiences. The next mainline Pokemon game is coming to Switch next year, so if you’ve never gotten into the craze before, this game makes for a terrific point of entry.
Speaking of the Switch, it is definitely home to a ton of ports, but a few outstanding games that deserve your attention are Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Katamari Damacy Reroll, and Bayonetta 2.
Books, Books, and more Books!
These are always some of my highest gift recommendations because they’re super awesome, often informative, and really easy to wrap. There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to books about video games these days, so no matter what kind of gamer you have in your life, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something for them, or yourself in the process.
First, earlier this year author Brett Weiss released volume 1 of his SNES Omnibus, a gigantic tome that details every US commercially released Super NES game. It’s loaded cover to cover with fantastic images, detailed descriptions of every game, and probably the coolest bit, personal accounts from people in the industry. Sometimes it’s someone who worked on the game, sometimes it’s someone who was working in video game retail at the time, sometimes it’s people who spend their days writing or creating content about video games in general. Heck, even Dan and myself wrote a few bits for the book. It’s a really great read, and with volume 2 on the way, it will make one fine-looking thing to have up on your bookshelf.
If you’re looking for something considerably less wordy but no less cool, you might want to try Art of Atari Poster Collection by Tim Lapetino. This little bugger contains 40 nice-sized posters of unedited Atari artwork. Some of the very best work to grace an Atari cartridge is on display here, just waiting to be framed and hung on your wall. They are double sided, which means if you wanted to display every single piece you’d have to buy 2 copies, but 1 should be enough for most.
There’s so many more out there, like the excellent Legend of Zelda: Art and Artifacts, Encyclopedia, and Hyrule Historia trilogy, The Game Console which is just a book full of amazing pictures of game consoles (trust me, it’s way cooler than I’m making it sound), Artcade, an art book full of original arcade cabinet artwork, and the Mario Encyclopedia, which is exactly what it sounds like, but I would be remiss if I didn’t call specific attention to Leonard Herman’s Phoenix IV: The History of the Video Game Industry. This massive book is, in my opinion, the best there is when it comes to learning about the history of video games. The newest edition is easily the most impressive iteration yet, with tons of pictures and new chapters added. It’s a little dense, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete account of the history of the video game industry. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you’re a video game fan, this should be considered required reading. And if you can swing it, get the hardcover edition. It’s gorgeous.
It wouldn’t be hard to argue that there’s been no better time to be a fan of video games. A hobby that was once considered by many to be something only nerds do is now pretty darn mainstream, and as a result there’s no shortage of awesome merchandise out there to make just about any video game fan happy. Enjoy the holidays, everyone!