All I want for Christmas … is the following
My favorite thing about Christmas is receiving gifts. It hasn’t changed since I was a kid. Shopping is horrible, family is an uncomfortable reality (just kidding, don’t deny myself), and I’ve lost the ability to feel happy after an experience gone awry. So make my December, show me how well you know me and bring me a gift.
I also know retro fans aren’t the easiest to buy. Our collections are a minefield. A 3DO interactive multiplayer would be a great gift for the lover of the dark, but does he already have one? FZ-1, FZ-10 or Goldstar?
As a retro lover myself, I’m here for you. You’ll still need to know a bit more about your target recipient’s setup, but I can save you from delving into the used and collector markets. All of the items listed here should be available either in company storefronts or online stores like Amazon.
Just note, this retro gift guide is not a sponsored article. None of the companies mentioned here have compensated in my way and Destructoid is not affiliated with any of them or any of the related storefronts.
If you think I am promoting piracy, you are leaving your crows nest. An Everdrive is a cartridge that works in original consoles that allows you to insert an SD card and play games. Sure enough, yes, you can throw a console’s entire library in there and play it all, but it has uses beyond cheap access to games while still retaining the authenticity of playing on an original console.
The homebrew and ROMhacking scene is one that keeps growing year after year, and few consoles have not been touched by DIY hands. Damn, there are homebrews Atari Lynx and the floating Virtual Boy games. While most of them you can just play in an emulator, nothing beats playing something like Golden finger 64 in the way that nature destined. Need Japanese Famicom game translated to English, but you want to play it on your NES? An Everdrive is a good method of doing this. Do you have a ROM hack that only works on an N64 controller, such as Waluigi 64 taco stand? Shine, you crazy diamond.
Modern controller for classic consoles
Getting controllers for older consoles can be a pain. Newer boxed versions are hard to find, and when buying used you should be wary of things like player grime and other wear and tear. Don’t give out player grime. Round four more Turbografx Controllers so you can play five players Bomberman ’93 can be an effort. Fortunately, the market is full of breeding controllers.
Honestly, this one requires a bit of research because there is so much of it. All of them may appear the same at a glance, and some of them literally have a different brand name. However, things like the spring and the firmness of the button vary from one to another. If an analog stick is involved, as with N64 controllers, things are getting a bit more complicated. Some people are really peculiar about how close the stick is to the original.
Even specific brands can vary in quality between their controllers, so just because Retro-bit did a great job on the new one Genesis and Saturn controllers does not mean that the quality is there at all levels. There are plenty of options out there, including more ergonomic N64 controllers (including “Tributes” to the legendary Japanese only Hori controllers) and other variants, just be sure to do your research before spending your money on anything.
Classic controllers for modern consoles
Do you or your retro gamer best friend have a favorite controller? For 2D games, this must be the SNES controller for me. Strong, light and with a strong d-pad. For years, I just used a USB adapter and a Super Famicom controller, but got tired of playing around with JoyToKey and went for something a little more advanced. I picked up the 8BitDo SF30 Pro (discontinued, but here’s the current equivalent), a wireless controller inspired by my beloved Super Famicom, but featuring an analog dual and an additional set of shoulder buttons. This means I don’t have to worry about compatibility as it supports Xinput, Dinput and even works on Switch.
You can usually find a USB version of any classic controller on the market, but like their conventional compatible counterparts, the quality may vary. If you don’t feel like trying your luck, you can also get usb adapters. While this usually allows you to plug them into a PC and use Dinput, nowadays you can find all kinds of media for modern consoles. There are even adapters that allow you to plug in modern controllers in classic systems.
If you are feeling really brave, 8BitDo sells kits to change the official controllers to connect via bluetooth. Then you can enter a NES or SNES adapter and plug them into the original hardware, allowing you to cut the cord for good.
Retro consoles look like crap on modern TVs. Worse yet, the input lag is created by the TV’s pathetic attempt to increase lower resolutions, so games like Punch !! becomes practically impossible to play. If you or your retro gaming friend is in the mood for tinkering, there is a solution using video upscalers.
For years the only player in the game was Micomsoft’s XRGB line; the most famous the frame master. A few years ago there was an announcement that production was stopped on them, but at the time of writing they are still available. Yes, they’re actually over $ 600, and no, it’s not because of the scalping.
Nowadays, however, there are alternatives, the two most popular being Open Source Scan Converter and RetroTINK. Both are much, much cheaper than the Framemeister and require less tinkering to get the perfect image. At the same time, it also means you have fewer options for tweaking things like the Sega Master System’s picky sync, but I think the cost makes up for it.
No matter what you get, you will need to make some adjustments. To get the best video image, you may need to get a Scart cable for each system you want to scale. Many older systems support it out of the box, but again this requires some research and maybe even some tweaking in the case of systems like the N64. Just keep in mind that it’s not just a cost investment, it’s also an investment of time. Still, ask any retro lover and they’ll either tell you that a high-end converter is absolutely essential, or they’ll look down on you and tell you to buy a CRT.
Modern televisions are constantly moving away from old entrances. I don’t remember the last one I saw with S-Video. It’s even possible to find some that only support HDMI, and that will likely become the norm in the decades to come. That means middle-aged consoles like the GameCube or the PS2 are being left out. It’s quite easy to find composite to HDMI adapters, or you can offer cleaner cables – there are also options for most consoles that plug directly into their video port.
The GameCube has a very special option. Natively it supports 480p but requires an additional cable for component output. It was an exclusive product, very specialized and manufactured in limited quantities. As a result, it has become incredibly expensive in the aftermarket. After some community work, the cable was finally reverse-engineered, resulting in the creation of HDMI adapters like the GCHD. The new MKII adapter even has a port for the Wii’s SCART cable, which means you can connect it to an upconverter for an even better picture. Just be aware that the digital output port has been removed from later GameCube models, and this is required for many of these HDMI adapters.
New games for old consoles
So what gift do you give the gamer who has everything? You can ask what games they’re looking for and then search the aftermarket, or you can find something they’ve never even considered. Something like a brand new game for their old consoles.
As mentioned, the Homebrew market continues to grow over the years. What started when people soldered new ROMs into old consoles has turned into something akin to the days of third-party NES cartridges. Now there are real editors out there for homebrew developers to do their job. Companies like Mega chat studios and the long time AtariAge and RetroUSB frequently update their catalogs with titles that work on systems like the Atari 2600, NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.
You can also get reproduction cartridges from a number of shady dealers online. Just be careful, though. Some might be perfectly happy with a counterfeit Tied to the earth, but other players may feel like they are lying.
I don’t know if this is a sign of my old age, but I’m still excited when I see a fancy power strip. Lots of outlets, good spacing for AC adapters, backup battery, USB ports, USB-C ports! No matter how happy I am with my surge protector, there is always something better.
AC adapters for consoles can be hard to find, and you need to be careful when purchasing aftermarket power supplies to make sure that they match the output of the original and will not damage a console. That’s not to say they’re all bad, but you may need to read about them first. At the same time, the original isn’t always a good idea either. Take the old Commodore 64 power supplies for example. They were made cheaply and the voltage regulator has a habit of failing, essentially killing your C64 with a burst of power. This is where the secondary market Between, just make sure you do your research before buying.
What would really make any wool-dyed retro gamer’s Christmas, however, is an all-in-one. Genesis / 32X / CD power supply. Anyone who has the entire Sega stack can tell you that setup is difficult. Each individual component has its own adapter, which is a lot of space on a power strip. Luckily, someone stepped in and cleaned up the squid.