Tag Archives: retro

Playdate

Playdate press release:

Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.

There’s more: Playdate includes games — a full season of them. The games will be delivered over-the-air, once a week for 12 weeks, and they’ll be a surprise: when the new game light flashes, you’ll never know what you’re about to play. Panic recruited some of the world’s best game designers — some well known; others under the radar — to make games exclusively for our system. Playdate isn’t just hardware: it’s a complete experience.

Hot on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the Game Boy, this little handheld console is a sight to see.

Since bringing my Game Boy back to life, I’ve been yearning for the good ol’ dot-matrix days. But I’ve also had the feeling they‘d likely disappoint. Rose-colored glasses and all. Seeing the Playdate feels like a realization of that pining. Something new of something old:

Playdate’s 2.7-inch (68mm) screen is a unique, black-and-white, low-power LCD from Sharp, with a resolution of 400 × 240. On the surface, it might be tempting to compare the screen to, say, the Game Boy. But Playdate’s display is quite different: it has no grid lines, no blurring, is extremely sharp and clear, and has much higher resolution. It sounds odd to say, but: it’s truly a “premium” black-and-white screen.

And it wouldn’t be the same without Teenage Engineering. At initial glance, I knew something looked familiar. Sure enough, I noticed that Teenage Engineering had a hand in the design (and crank!) of the Playdate. I keep a PO-20 in my nightstand and am constantly enthralled by its ingenuity.

I encourage you to read the press release in full — ideally on an iPhone or iPad as there’s a very cool AR experience to check out. The damn thing is so cute!

I’m signed up to receive updates about the Playdate and I recommend you do too.

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Game Boy Restored

Today marks 30 years since the Game Boy’s initial release in Japan. After seeing loads of Game Boy tributes for the handheld, I decided to dig up my old system for a first-hand experience down memory lane.

It was in pretty shoddy condition — unable to power on, battery corrosion inside, possible paint markings on the back, and general grime throughout. I’ve been reluctant to open it up to attempt a repair, concerned about the reliability of the plastic around the screws after 30ish years.

Well, there’s no better time than Easter — a day of resurrection — to take a crack at it. At least I could say I tried to bring this gamer boy back into the world.

Throughout the teardown, I took a few photos of some of main unit and boards, posting them to Instagram. At the compliment of friend Sam Gross, I’ve decided to post them here as well.

My photo setup is nothing fancy:

  • iPhone XS
  • IKEA Malm desk (white)
  • generic table lamp
  • Philips Hue White Extension Bulb A19 E26
  • Apple Photos app auto-enhance
  • Instagram editing tools
  • Video: Apple’s Clips app + Instagram’s ‘Lark’ filter

The Game Boy, pre-spa treatment:

Both sides of the brain:

Motherboard (3)

Display circuit board

I didn’t take a picture, but there was considerable battery corrosion on the battery contacts. This was the likely culprit of the power issue. To clean, I popped out the battery contacts and submerged them in distilled white vinegar for about 10–15 minutes. They came out looking brand new.

Once all of the guts had been removed, I took a baby wipe to the exterior and buttons. For interior grime, I soaked a Q-tip in the white vinegar and swabbed it out.

After all plastic had been cleaned, it was time for reassembly and the moment of truth…

Happy 30th, Game Boy.


Retr0bright Update

A restoration is not complete without attention paid to the appearance. The more I looked at the end result of my Game Boy restoration, the more I was bothered by the yellowing of the casing.

The yellowing of ‘80s and ‘90s electronics plastics is caused by a combination bromine — afire retardant — and exposure to UV light. The plastic is known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS.

The method to reverse the effect of bromine is referred to as retr0bright and includes a mixture of  hydrogen peroxide, xanthan gum, glycerin, and “oxy” laundry booster. Being the lazy sap I am, I decided to opt in for a discovered alternativeSalon Care by Sally Beauty.

Wearing latex gloves, painted a generous amount of the Salon Care on to the disassembled casing of the Game Boy, wrapped it in Stretch-Tite plastic wrap, and placed the piece outside in direct sunlight.Game Boy disassembled during retr0bright process

Essential: The Salon Care coated plastic should be exposed to UV light for 4–6 hours total. However, it is critical to massage the plastic wrap + Salon Care every 45–60 minutes or so. This helps avoid air bubbles which can contribute to blotchiness in the end result. (This is where I goofed.) Likewise, you should rinse the plastic and re-apply the Salon Care every 90–120 minutes as it begins to evaporate after lengthy exposure. (Another goof of mine. I had to redo the process the next day as the Salon Care seemed to lose its effect after about 2 hours.)

After the process was complete — which is to say the color reversal was at a point that was good enough for me — I rinsed and thoroughly dried the plastic and reassembled the Game Boy and photographed a side-by-side before and after:

Game Boy retr0bright before and after

If you look closely, you will notice some of the blotchiness I mentioned above.

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the end result. This restored Game Boy teleports me back to Christmas 1989, unwrapping my first console ever, and playing Super Mario Land for hours on end.

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Virtual Console kinda sucked

Chris Kohler, Kotaku:

Virtual Console is no more, but that doesn’t mean that Switch won’t become the best place to play classic games. It’ll just be done in a different way than what Nintendo’s tried in the past. And that’s a good thing, because Virtual Console kinda sucked.

Now, by “Virtual Console kinda sucked” I do not mean “Nintendo’s old games are bad,” or even that Virtual Console’s game selection was bad, or anything like that. In case you are wholly unfamiliar with my work, I love old games and think that as many of them as possible should be kept in print on modern-day hardware. I just think that Virtual Console, the feature, was an inefficient way of implementing this idea, and that there is a better way. Virtual Console died so that retro gaming on Switch could live.

My knee-jerk response to Nintendo Switch Online was disappointment. 20 8-bit games, while great, seemed paltry.

However, heeding my own words, Nintendo doesn’t need to release any more than this for the new service. The games are the lure. The online play and cloud saves are the lock-in. Nintendo will trickle classic titles out over time when needed. Additions of consoles (SNES, N64,… GameCube) will be tentpole announcements — when needed.

That said, I agree with Kohler. And Adult Swim Games’ Chris Johnson. Truth is, as much as I loved playing NES, SNES, and N64 games on my Wii and Wii U, I hated not knowing what releases to expect and when to expect them. Likewise, as Kohler mentions in his piece, the pricing structure seemed bananas. Virtual Console kinda sucked.

I do wish Nintendo was offering up more than NES titles, but I get why they aren’t. I’ll take this handful for now with the excitement that lots more classics will arrive at the low fee of $20 per year.

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New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game

Arcade Heroes:

From what I have played and watched, it fulfills those expectations. The game is a beat ’em up just like you would want it to be. Yes that does mean more button mashing than stratagem but that’s part of the charm. The turtles will also do different attacks such as throws and there are items to grab and use such as smoke bombs, shurikens, trash cans, one that makes you spin around in a kind of tornado attack, etc. There are plenty of enemies to duke it out with, there is interaction with your environment, multiple attacks including the ability to throw enemies into the screen, special “Turtle Power” attacks which behave as quick cut scenes, big boss battles, combo tracking, items to use and more. Admittedly it is weird to play a TMNT game that doesn’t have the voices for the characters that I grew up with but that’s ‘old man – get off my lawn as I remember it’ syndrome there.

Beat ’em up fans can also take heart that the Raw Thrills development team stated that they played a number of classic beat’ em ups as they designed this to “get the feel right”. Apart from playing the original TMNT Konami titles, they specifically mentioned “Final, Fight, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Double Dragon” while also implying that they played through several others.

TMNT beat ’em ups are a hallmark for a generation. Kids of the late ’80s / early ’90s cut their cartoon/video game/comic/action figure teeth with this franchise. I probably spent a small fortune of my parents money on the original TMNT cabinet. The NES, Super NES, and Genesis ports were some of my favorite games. I love any chance they get to make a comeback, especially in such a namesake format.

The execution of this cabinet looks and sounds extremely promising. I like to avoid Dave & Buster’s whenever possible, but this may be hard to resist.

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Chronological Console Crash Course

Very interesting read.

Andy Baio:

What happens when a 21st-century kid plays through video game history in chronological order?

Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

Would that child better appreciate modern independent games that don’t have the budgets of AAA monstrosities like Destiny and Call of Duty? Would they appreciate the retro aesthetic, or just think it looks crappy?

Or would they just grow up thinking that video game technology moved at a breakneck speed when they were kids, and slammed to a halt as soon as they hit adolescence?

I’ve always wondered how this sort of thing would play out. For the selfish sake of revisiting the past, I’ve always envisioned doing the same with my future children.

On the topic of experimentation, I was forced to play baseball, soccer, and piano with no interest in the topics. I wanted to be around computers and gadgets. While I ditched soccer and (regretfully) piano after two or three years, I ended up playing baseball for ten with a peak batting average of .069. Needless to say, my time spent on the diamond is not a fond memory, but my parents insisted I play an organized sport. Turns out I learned more playing bass in a high school punk band, collaborating, booking, planning, and managing finances, than playing organized sports. Some kids enjoy music; some enjoy baking; some enjoy technology. Find their jam and run with it. There are ways to develop well rounded people outside of their passion.

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