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.