Boss Battle: The struggle is real..


Every collector knows these struggles all too well…their unavoidable at times and can easily turn a great find into a major headache, I’m talking about the damaged carts, marked up/written on carts and the ultimate bane of many collectors: the video store stickers…I’m getting angry just writing this so let’s get to it!

Broken/Damaged carts:
As seen in the above picture of Willow, this is one thing that instantly kills the desirability of a cartridge. Nothing is worse than seeing a game you’ve been lookimg for, only to pull it up and see it’s damaged. It always makes me wonder “How did this possibly happen?” Especially if the damage isnt obvious like the Willow cart, we’ve all seen the carts with the mystery hole punched in it, the cigarette burns, melted plastic, or my personal favorite: the name permanently carved/etched into the game.

I get that these were pricey games when they came out and you wanted to mark your stuff as yours to stop theft, etc but how do you take such care to identify it as yours but still manage to punch a hole in the middle of the cart? Sadly I come across broken/damaged carts more than I’d like and it’s always something I’ve been looking for and for some reason the prices don’t usually reflect the condition which makes even less sense than how it got the random damage to begin with.

Label damage:


This is another of my major pet peeves when game hunting, the label condition is important to me as I like to display my games as well as enjoy the art work found on a lot of the labels. It can be frustrating to find ripped, faded, unglued, and in some rarer cases the “I just ripped the label off and wrote ‘Mario Bros 3’ on it” labels.

The labels in my opinion are important and their being damaged can lead to having to find upgrades or buying replacements and replacement labels are a whole grey area of ethics on their own. The sad thing is that a lot of the label damage was avoidable, the sun fading, stickers, peeling and writing on the labels could have been avoided. That brings me to…



When I was a kid I loved my limited amount of NES stuff…a lot…but I couldn’t ever bring myself to write my name on them, really it was easier to just remember what buddy you lent it to than to deface the cart. Not everyone was like me so I frequently find carts with some random kids name scribbled on it, fortunately most of these can be cleaned off if it’s just written on in marker.

However…once and a while there was a kid who’s parents thought of that so dad would bust out the trusty wood burning gun and carve little Billy’s name into it…video stores often employed this tactic as well, but if you got those stickers off I think you earned keeping it…but more on that in a bit.

This is most frustrating to me when coming across uncommon games that have been written on as it’s not really killing the value, but does create a headache on my end as I’ll have to take the time to see if I can clean it up or not. It can be amusing sometimes though, as I’ve come across games that were owned by the same kid but have changed hands a few times and end up in different stores so it’s funny to find one somewhere and you see the same kids name scrawled on it.

Stickers…the bane of my existence!!!!


I touched on this in the last segment and anyone who collects knows the rage that comes with seeing these bastards plastered on that cart you just picked up. Most games back in the day were rented from your local convenience store or video store…and these guys wanted to make sure you weren’t going to try to punk their merchandise.

I don’t know what part of hell they forged the glue used on these stickers in, but that stuff does NOT go down without a fight! The worst were the ones that were metallic stickers as their the ones I have the most trouble getting rid of, but the regular stickers were almost as bad. Some stores used a small sticker so it’s not so bad but stores like Blockbuster plastered a big ol sticker right on the back that takes up 50% of the surface space.

At least these offenders usually only put them on the back…however, nothing kills me like seeing a sticker on the front label or in any way covering the end label. These stickers are usually best left alone unless you want to damage the label underneath. I get that stores didn’t want to get ripped off but why would you ever plaster your sticker on the actual game label? Sellers who put price stickers on labels are just about as bad in my books too but at least most of those are easily removed, but still why?

For some collectors the stickers aren’t much of an issue depending where they are, some even like seeing what various places the games came from as it adds a bit of history or a story behind the game especially if you run across one that used to be in a local store where you have used to rent from.

Now obviously nobody really had the forethought in the NES heyday that one day these cartridges would be collectable again in the future, so as collectors we have to deal with the imperfections in a quickly shrinking stock of games. It’s sad to see some of these games didn’t make it through the years without a few bumps and scars, but at least some are repairable with a little time and effort on our end.

In the end these aren’t all things that deter all collectors as not everyone cares about the stickers or writing, etc and really that’s a good thing that a lot of these games still get some love and get rescued from possibly ending up in a landfill.

See you in the wild….I’ll be the guy bitching to myself about the video store sticker on that copy of RC pro AM if you see me say “hi”. Lol.



Warp zone: Reproduction Games.


We’ve all seen them…those rare hard to find games, but in a much cheaper reproduction cart format. I’m mostly talking about direct reproductions and not fan created or homebrew carts right now but will touch on that later.

Reproduction carts have a great ability to divide retro gamers on the lines of whether repros should even be a thing or not, the morality behind repros, and how they fit into the retro collecting scene.


The idea behind reproduction carts is to make available hard to find games at a far more reasonable price, which for many collectors, casual or serious are a good way to get a physical copy of a game you may not have the budget for.

The creator usually takes a rom board from a different version or famicom cart to create the newer cartridge. However, some are actually chips that have been programmed to play a rom or work as an SD multicart. There’s is usually a clear difference made to show that the cart is not an original, most often the label is modified to specifically point out that it is a reproduction.

Where things start to get shady is when unscrupulous people start creating carts and getting replacement labels that dont specify that it’s a reproduction, these carts are often passed off on sites like eBay where their advertised as the originals. This is where collectors start to get angry as by the time you receive your cartridge and open it up you’ve already dropped a serious amount of money.

In recent years fakes have really stepped up their copycat game especially with the ability to get much higher quality replacement labels. A lot of game stores see these carts appearing more and more often and unless you’re on top of your due diligence, you may end up with a convincing fake. Most stores with the exception of game stop will usually ask to take the cartridge apart to check the serial numbers and rom board thus weeding out many fakes before they can hit shelves.

Many collectors do use sites like ebay and often private classifieds such as kijiji where the chances of coming across fakes rises dramatically. With any private transactions, if the seller is willing to verify the rom board…RUN! However, if it’s being honestly listed as a repro and the price is reflected than at least that’s your call as a buyer but at least you’re aware of what you’re buying.
There are many sites out there now offering repro carts such as aliexpress, which offers several different repros and multicarts at various prices. At the end of the day any repros can be a definite buyer beware situation, so it’s best to learn what to look for to identify repros especially if you’re looking at a deal on a little samson or bubble bobble 2 that just seems too good to be true…because it just might be.


Now for the other side of the repro coin:

Fan translations, homebrew and user created editions!!


Ever since there has been roms, there’s been some savvy people out there making hacked versions. These rom hacks have been used to create different variations or games like mario bros, zelda, and megaman. Some of the fan creations have gained fame for being superior in many ways to the originals, some are known for being fan fixes of games such as castlevania: Simon’s quest redaction which has fixed the issues with townspeople giving useless hints and sped up the day night process along with a few other upgrades to improve what’s well known as a frustrating game.

There’s also some people out there creating new titles for many old school consoles like NES, Genesis, Atari and the Vectrex to name a few. Many of these titles have brought together a lot of the classic aspects that made the originals great as well as bringing in new ideas.

A lot of these new “retro” titles actually have a physical release which adds to the coolness factor as you’re seeing a new game on an old school cartridge. These new games really reflect the love and nostalgia we have for these classic systems, as 30 years later we’re still seeing new material being created.

Whether you’re a fan or repros and homebrews or not, they have brought a lot of cool things to the scene we may have never seen otherwise like star fox 2 on snes, mother 3, or inspired new classics like shovel knight. As long as we’ve had games, we’ve had people altering them to create new mods, levels, and content. Also as stated before repro carts allow access to some harder to find games and there’s nothing wrong with that unless you’re a shady douche and trying to pass them off on unsuspecting, naive collectors.

Don’t be that guy.


Level 8: You cheating bastard!


Oh yeah…you know you’re busted…you cheater…using a game genie? Really? Do you even game bro?

Damn right you cheated, we all did, we’re all guilty of it but the term “Nintendo hard” is a term for a reason…some games were hard as hell. Fortunately once you got tired of seeing the first few levels over and over,  you could just plug this baby in and cheat your way to the top!

The game genie was that dirty little secret we all had back in the day, everyone liked it but denied ever using it (kinda like Nickelback fans) But when you were stuck in a game nothing was better than looking up the game in the code book and seeing “infinite lives”, “bosses die in one hit”, or “infinite continues”.


The game genie was a simple device that read the game rom, but allowed you to interfere with the code before the information reached the NES. You entered the codes from the main menu and poof! Infinite lives! The game genie was released in 1990 by codemasters and sold by camerica in Canada and galoob in the United States, and sold over 5 million units (even though nobody used it…cheaters and liars!!).

There were a few downsides to the game genie though, because it would put extra strain on the pins when depressed in the toaster NES’ it would bend the pins and over time some units wouldn’t work without the genie inserted. The top loader NES had a different problem, Nintendo desigined the opening so the genie wouldn’t fit but a converter was made available that solved the issue. The only downside to the converters was that they were made in very limited quantities at the end of the top loaders life cycle and are now quite difficult to find and are pricey if you can track one down.

The other problem wasn’t as major, the code book that was packed in only had codes for games released up until 1990, so for future games codemasters offered a paid service that would mail you new code books 4 times a year. Some newer codes were also released through game magazines like Nintendo power and gamepro featured in the ads for the game genie.

Another interesting function of the game genie was the ability to generate your own codes that may or may not change anything, but it was done at your own risk as the odd time random codes would destroy save game info or at the minimum, crashed the game. Nintendo also tried to stop the game genie from working by adding checksum routines to later games after losing a copyright lawsuit against galoob in the States, but codemasters just altered the next generation genies to hide the code patching from the checksum.

The game genie definitely saved a lot of frustration for a lot of us kids back in the days before the internet and walkthroughs unless you had a Nintendo power subscription. I know I would have never seen the endings to a few games without it *cough…karate kid…damn you LJN* The game genie gave us a fighting chance against the games that just seemed to be designed to frustrate the hell out of your 10 year old self…I guess it was supposed to be a lesson in learning patience, perseverance, and that life just isn’t fair….nah to hell with that I’m 10, I can learn all that later…today I want to see the next level in N.A.R.C so plug it in and cheat it up!…thanks game genie!!