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Buying Guide: 3DO

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Historically the 3DO, most commonly associated with Panasonic’s license because it had the largest manufacturing numbers and advertising campaign, is the most expensive video game console of all time.  Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts (EA), formed the 3DO company for software development and developed a hardware spec that could be licensed to companies for manufacturing, much like companies have done with VCRs and DVD players.  Unfortunately since the profit for manufacturers had to come from the sale of the hardware itself – all other consoles were sold at a reduced price for a loss and software sales would close the gap for profits – and the 3DO sold for the staggering price of $700.  As a result, few consoles were actually sold and three companies (Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar) had already manufactured units that weren’t selling.  This balance of supply and demand results in the 3DO being the much more reasonable $100-$150 on the used console market these days, but few know what actually came in the box.  Here’s what you need to get it working:

  • AC cord: Since it was manufactured by multiple companies and doesn’t require an AC adaptor, a simple AC cord with a two-pringed circle end (looks like a figure 8) can be used.  Replacement cables can be found at Walgreens or RadioShack for roughtly $3-$5.
  • A/V composite cables: These cables are just your standard yellow/white/red composite cables that plug directly into the ports on the back of the console.  Again, due to the multiple manufacturers there is no console specific A/V cable.  Replacements can be found everywhere for $2-$10 and I grabbed mine from unused composite cables in DVD players and other HD compatible devices.
  • Controller: Even though the plug port looks like an Atari 2600 or Genesis port, you can only plug actual 3DO controllers into it.  Almost all of the controllers look like a 3-button Genesis controller and each controller has a controller port on it for daisy chaining additional controllers (the 3DO only has one controller port).  Controllers are pretty easy to find still and you can pick one up for about $10-$20 online.  There is a 6-button controller out there, which like so many other consoles was only released because of a Street Fighter II port and isn’t worth the high price due to rarity.

Optionally the only accessory you may want is the light gun peripheral, the “gamegun”, for a handful of FMV shooters (Mad Dog McCree, Who Shot Johnny Rock?) and a mouse for certain PC ports like Myst.  Be warned, rarity makes these peripherals an expensive endeavor that may cost close to or more than the console itself.  I could easily find most of the poor light gun games on the 3DO on the Sega CD as well and they only suffer slight quality loss and are much less expensive.  The one thing you may want to pay attention to is the console type you buy.  Like other CD systems, there are both top loading and slide tray versions of the 3DO and you may want to consider dropping the extra scratch for a top loader for reliability.  Here are the different manufactured types:

  • Panasonic made two models in America, the FZ-1 and the FZ-10, and the FZ-10 is definitely the recommended model with a lighter and slimmer design and a top loading CD tray.  There was also a model, the ROBO, which was only sold in Japan and had a slide loading 5-disc CD tray.
  • Goldstar only had one model in America, the GDO-101M, and it looked almost identical to the FZ-1 and featured a slide loading tray just like that model.  Although reliable, the Goldstar is nearly impossible to find parts for so a broken belt on the tray means a required replacement console.
  • Sanyo only made one model, it was only sold in Japan, and it has a similar design to the FZ-1 and the GDO-101M.  It is probably the most rare of the consoles.

Since the 3DO is region free and will play any 3DO disc, you can really pick up any version you want but the price increase can get out of control.  I don’t trust drive trays of the 90s personally so I’ve only ever owned an FZ-10 and I’ve never had one stop functioning.  A complete console should run you $70-$100 online and hopefully even less than that if you can find a used console in a store or at a convention.  video coming soon – ed.

Written by spydersvenom

December 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Buying Guide: Super Nintendo

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There’s really no denying the popularity of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES for short).  Despite Sega taking a temporary lead over Nintendo in the early 90s, there’s no denying that the SNES was the champion of the 16-bit console generation.  This simple machine managed to introduce us to hardcore JRPGs, mode 7 graphics, early polygonal 3D (Starfox), and even faked 3D environments (Donkey Kong Country), all without the multiple add-ons and disc-based media of other consoles at the time.  If you’re discouraged in the least by yellowing of the plastic casing for the console, don’t be, it’s a mere chemical reaction with age and actually speaks to the durability of the product.  On that same note it’s pretty doubtful that you would need a buyers guide for the SNES as just like most other Nintendo consoles there are few parts, but all the same here’s what you will definitely need:

  • AC Adaptor: Despite having a common plug port, it differs quite significantly from the NES power adapter so don’t use those specs and with different plug tips there’s no way to actually plug an NES AC adapter up to your SNES.  The official SNES AC adaptor is 10v, 0.85 Amps and should be used only for the SNES. 
  • Video cable: It’s possible to use an RF switch or the provided composite cables with the “av multi-out” port.  It is true that these are compatible with N64 and Gamecube cables as well, although only for the composite video cables, don’t use component cables and I’m unsure if S-Video works or not. 
  • Controller: As with all consoles, it’s best to find official Nintendo SNES controllers and most sellers out there try to have the system come with 2 controllers.  For the most part that’s all you’ll need.  Most 3rd party controllers suck and replacing official SNES controllers can be an expensive endeavor ($15-$20 each).

As far as accessories, I can’t really recommend any because there weren’t really any to concern yourself with.  That’s just another joy with the SNES.  Sure, hardcore light gun fans can pick up the Super Scope 6 (although I am a hardcore fan and I don’t use it), the mouse is only for use with Mario Paint, and Super Gameboy is a welcome addition to certain gamers but it’s certainly not a true SNES accessory.  No, the only accessory the SNES really requires is a great game.  There are 2 models for the SNES, the second and lesser known console being the SNES Jr., and they’re both perfectly fine and have no changes or incompatibility.  Prices are pretty standard as well, around $50-$75 for a good complete console, but I’ve often seen them sold for less in the interest of selling it off.  Note: The video will be posting shortly, hit a temporary snag. – ed.

Written by spydersvenom

December 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Buying Guide: Sega Genesis (plus Sega CD and 32X)

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

We have finally come to the console I started this entire buying guide series for: the Sega Genesis (and its many add-ons).  With a short period of its life having a 55 percent market share over the SNES (the year it launched, mind you), there were plenty of households who had a Sega Genesis.  So many, in fact, that there were five different versions of the console and 3 iterations!  Depending on the console version, your specs will vary but the list of what you need should stay the same so I’m going to run over the list. 

First of all, figure out which model you want, here’s the gallery of what they look like:

Model 1

Model 1

Model 2

Model 2

Model 3

Model 3

Each model has its own set of pros and cons.  Model 1 has a headphone jack with varying audio but only has mono sound, outputs to RF, and requires extra patch cables to hook up to the Sega CD and 32X (that I’m sure you can imagine are hard to find and expensive).  Model 2 is the most compatible with all add-ons and features an “av-out” port that allows you to put RF, composite, and S-Video output cables in it, but it’s also the least impressive visually and has a power and reset button that break somewhat easily.  Model 3 is the smallest, uses the least amount of power, but is incompatible with the Sega CD and 32X.  Depending on your preference, you may go with one or the other, but for making the 3-in-1 Frankenconsole, I recommend the Genesis 2.  Here’s what you’ll want with each one:

  • Power supply: These are somewhat complicated and get mixed up all the time, burning Genesis and SNES consoles to the ground for their interchangability with AC adaptors.  The Genesis 1 needs a 9v, 1.2 Amp adaptor, Genesis 2 uses a 10v, 0.85 Amp adaptor (yellow tip), and Genesis 3 uses a 10v, 0.3 Amp adaptor (usually says Majesco on the adaptor).  None of these tips or adaptors are all that rare and you should be able to assemble most of them at a RadioShack, just be careful to not overpower the amperage, which can burn out the console.
  • Video out cable: As previously stated, the Genesis 1 uses a standard single RCA RF output to a coaxial RF cable that hooks into the back of any TV.  You will need a special cable to use the RF adaptor on the Genesis 2 & 3, but on the first console any will do (even your NES or other console RF adaptors).  Genesis 2 & 3 use the same output cable that is typically composite video (yellow/white/red) but there are RF and S-Video cables that can be found after market.  None of these video cables are hard to find, so don’t worry if you need to get them separate.  They usually run around $10.
  • Controllers: Geniune 3-button and 6-button controllers that actually work can be a little hard to come by because Sega’s controllers aren’t all that durable.  Many times the buttons crap out on the controllers, rendering them all but useless.  Fortunately most aftermarket $10 controllers these days look and respond just like genuine Sega controllers, but it’s always best to get one or two with your console.

As always, there are a few accessories I’d like to headline:

  • Justifier light gun: It came packaged with Lethal Enforcers and with both a Genesis and Sega CD release along with this console version being the popular one, there are plenty to go around.  This gun is compatible with all Genesis/Sega CD light gun games and is almost necessary with titles like Snatcher and Ground Zero Texas on Sega CD.  Make sure it’s blue, the pink one is only for the second controller and requires the first one to work.  If you prefer odd designs instead, go with the Menacer light gun.
  • Power Base Converter: Since the Genesis uses the Z80 processor that was in the Master System as its sound chip, this attachment makes it possible to play Master System games on your Genesis.  With the gaining price of the Master System, this isn’t a bad investment if you can find it for $20-$30.

Most Genesis consoles on the market remain locked in the $20-$40 range, varying slightly with certain accessories or condition.  If someone tries to sell it to you for more, there are plenty on eBay at the reduced price.  Keep in mind the AC adaptor, controller, and video cables, while easy to find, will run you about $10 apiece, which means its smarter to find a complete set rather than doing it piece meal.  The Genesis can be enhanced by two add-ons: the Sega CD and the 32X, which both require a Genesis to work.

Sega CD

There were two models of this console as well, however unlike the Genesis you will definitely want the Model 2 Sega CD because the first model has a sliding tray that burns out easily and the bands are impossible to find and replace. 

Sega CD Model 1 with Genesis model 1

Sega CD Model 1 with Genesis model 1

Sega CD Model 2 with Genesis Model 2, the most common setup

Sega CD Model 2 with Genesis Model 2, the most common setup

You really only need two accessories if you have a Genesis 2, but here’s the list:

  • AC Adaptor: This one is the same for both models and identical to the Genesis model 1, 9v at 1.2 Amps, and has the same tip as the Genesis 1 AC power supply.  In fact many used consoles come with Genesis 1 AC adaptors because the Sega CD one was lost (it’ll say “for use with Genesis” on the adaptor). 
  • For Genesis 1 models, you will need the mixing cable that hooks into the headphone jack of the Genesis 1 and the back of either Sega CD, both are identical in hook-ups.  Then you will use the stereo AV outputs on a sound receiver while the TV is on mute to generate stereo sound.  Most users don’t much care about adding stereo sound, in which case just using the RF plug will still output the sound in mono to your television.  Given the high price tag (I can’t even put a price on it because I see them so rarely) this cable will most likely not be used and hooking a model 1 to a Sega CD is suggested if you care about stereo sound.  Genesis 1 owners using a Sega CD 2 console may want the extension piece, a plastic widener that evens out the length of the Genesis 1, for aesthetics but its not necessary.
  • Metal shielding plate: This came with the console and is the same no matter which of the two Genesis models or which of the two Sega CD models you have.  It screws into the bottom of the Genesis and hooks into the notches on the Sega CD for a more firm grip.  I am certain the console works fine without it, but I can’t speak to whether or not any damage can occur because I’ve always had one.
  • Backup RAM Cartridge: It may run you $50-$75, but a working RAM cart gives you an additional 2,000 blocks of storage alongside the 200 blocks that are built into the console.  You can freely transfer save games back and forth, but you can only load from the onboard console memory, so be sure to transfer or copy your save game over before starting.  Since the onboard memory only supports 1-3 save games at a time, JRPG fans and those that play titles like Snatcher and Jurassic Park will get frustrated fast deleting a save game right after completing a title.  I consider it a must buy for anyone getting serious about collecting Sega CD games.

    Sega CDX

    Sega CDX

These days a Sega CD is quite a bit cheaper than it was once before, probably about $30-$60, and in many cases you can get a combo console for only a slightly higher $40-$70 tag because a lone Genesis is hard to unload (there really are a ton on the used market).  If you like super rare alternatives, there is a portable CD player combo console known as the CDX that will run you more than $100 but is a nice compact way to have an official Sega product that combines the Genesis and Sega CD with stereo composite output (same AC adaptor as Genesis 2).  JVC also licensed a combo console called the X’Eye, which is even more expensive and rare (usually $150-$200) and uses completely different hook-ups.  I know the AC adaptor is a 9.5v, 1.5 Amp with a common tip but my memory from the short time I owned one is slipping and it either has a proprietary AV cable or just has composite video ports in the back and you just use any old cable, like with a DVD player.  I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, but I haven’t seen one in over a decade.  Note that both the CDX and the X’Eye are incompatible with the final add-on, the 32x.

Sega 32x

Okay, for everyone who’s tired off all the different model numbers and iterations, the 32x is simple: there’s only one model and works with almost any model (incompatible with Genesis 3, CDX, and X’Eye).  On the other hand, the things you need to make it work are important and the net doesn’t have much info on this console so here’s officially what you will need for a working version (and you will see a TON of “console only” auctions on eBay and in used game stores, avoid anything that isn’t complete because it very likely hasn’t been tested):

  • AC Adaptor: This is easy, it’s the same tip and power specs as the Genesis 2, so get a replacement adaptor for like $10 or steal one from any Genesis 2 that isn’t hooked up to your 32x.  The spec is 10v, 0.85 Amp, but I’ve also heard that 9v-10v work fine and around 1 amp is also acceptible.  I wouldn’t really trust that too much for reliability’s sake, but if that console doesn’t burn hot it’s probably safe.  When the 32x gets too little power you’ll see the colors bleed and a weird underwater look to the games, this is due to the lack of power, and it will of course get very hot if overpowered, which is a fire hazard.
  • Patch cable: On the Genesis 2, it’s a simple dual-sided video cable that allows you to take the video out of the Genesis 2 and route it into the 32x for graphical processing.  It is the most common thing not included in a 32x and replacement cables run about $30, the cost of a whole console complete.  I have an example on the video, but just make sure it comes with your 32x.  If you have a Genesis 1, the patch cable needs an additional add-on cable that adapts the video patch cable to the Genesis 1 interface.  This attachment is super rare, almost never inclued in even complete 32x consoles, and will cost you a bunch if you find it.
  • Spacer: For the Genesis 2, this is an optional piece that holds the 32x firmly to the console so it doesn’t wiggle while on.  Almost always on the console because few know it can be removed.
  • Spacer Clamps: This is again for the Genesis 1 and claimed to remove radio frequency and holds the 32x firmly in place like the spacer does with the Genesis 2.  I never got those things to work properly back in 1993, the clamps damaged the plastic casing of my Genesis, and they prevented the console from making a proper connection.  I wouldn’t recommend using them in the rare event they come with your used purchase.

And that’s it, that’s the 32x.  There aren’t many games for it and the few good ones will run you more than $10 apiece, but I use it mostly because there are Sega CD 32x games that require it to work and drastically improve the visual quality of the game (like in Night Trap, Corpse Killer, and Fahrenheit).  Recently the 32x went from being a $50-$80 item and dropped into the $30-$50 range for complete consoles, which isn’t that bad of a deal.  Since any Genesis cart will work attached to the 32x, you can basically just attach it and forget about it.

Written by spydersvenom

December 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Buying Guide: Turbografx-16

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There was this brief period of time when the store shelves of Toys R Us had Nintendo games, Sega Genesis games, and Turbografx-16 games.  After the Super Nintendo ushered in a whole mess of games in the holiday season of 1992 (the console premiered in 1991 but it had significant presence the following year) and the Turbografx-16 consoles moved to that dreaded area in the middle of the aisle.  Before you knew it they were stacking up boxed consoles at discounted $99.99 price tags (the console originally was either $199.99 or $149.99, although I forget which) and in 1993 it was down to $49.99 with free games and all at once disappeared.  Due to the fact that NEC’s “in between” console only moved at that exremely low price point, most people that owned the console kept it, which makes for a bit of scarcity on today’s market.  Fortunately I have this buying guide here to assist you and aside from games, there really isn’t a lot to the accessories or hook-up of a TG-16.

You will want to make sure your console has:

  • An AC adaptor that has specifically the following specs: 10.5 Volts at 730 mAh (miliamps).  With such a low amperage you will easily burn your little rare console out putting anything much stronger, not to mention it can affect gameplay and act as a fire hazard.  The plug itself has a tip that is very common, but be sure to get a console that has the official NEC AC Adaptor (shown off in the video) or get a replacement that meets those specs exactly.
  • A TurboPad controller.  Sounds odd but this is often harder to find than the system itself.  I’ve seen the controllers go for as much as $30 at used game stores and even higher online.  Sure, a PC Engine controller will work fine as will a few 3rd party knock-offs and alternative controllers, but it just looks nicer to have the matching gamepad.  If you buy a console without a controller, you had better get a good deal on it.
  • There is an official RF switch for the TG-16 and for some reason it’s the accessory that all consoles seem to have (like the kids of this country held on to that piece because the screw attachment looked important), but it’s the only one of these accessories you can safely buy a console without.  It uses the exact same connection as an NES RF switch, the Genesis 1 RF switch, and several others and because it uses no power, can be interchanged within the consoles no problem.  Just make sure it has a single RCA plug into the console and you’re good to go.  Even if you want an official TG-16 one, it’s only going to run you $5-$10 and it isn’t rare.

Now, like many other consoles you may think it smart to pick up a second controller, which to a certain extent isn’t a bad idea so that you have a replacement, but the Turbografx-16 did not have more than one controller port and for the most part does not have 2-player games.  There are a few exceptions – Bomberman supports up to 5 controllers with the multi-tap accessory – but the Turbografx is mostly for loners because it’s almost solely a single player experience.  You may be interested in some of the following:

  • The TurboStick (also in the video) is basically the Advantage of the TG-16, it is a joystick controller.  It’s quite useful because many games on the this console are arcade ports that benefit from this controller and it’s also quite durable.  Not sure quite what they run, but if you can pick one up for under $20, I say go for it.
  • A PC-Engine adaptor.  This will run you some serious scratch, like $100-$300 serious, but it’s well worth it (and grab anything that costs less than triple digits if it works) because there’s a vast library of games in Japan that we never saw here.  Unlike the PC-Engine, which was region locked only for Japan, the Turbografx-16 can play games of any region but you need the adaptor to adjust the pin connections of the two consoles.  Another subsequent option is just picking up a PC Engine for imports, which most do, and runs you much less ($50-$100).
  • If you’re really into spending tons of money, you can try to hunt down the 6 button controller that only came out in Japan and is solely for the PC Engine version of Street Fighter II, which also was only in Japan.  While the game itself will only cost you about $15-$30 used, the controller is more in the $50-$100 range and the game still doesn’t look as good as the SNES version.  Still, it’s fun to show off (and no, I don’t have the game or the controller).
  • A CD add-on, the Turbografx-16 CD system, is an amazing addition to your console that adds a vast library of JRPGs, FMV titles, and even rare exclusives (including Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) to your collection.  Before you get too excited, the add-on with all the parts you need will usually run you more than $200 and the TurboDuo, a combo system that was only in the US for a short while, will run you upwards of $300-$500.  Not only that, many of the great games are Japan only (again, no region lock) or rare so they will cost you $50-$100+ each, but in most cases this is the only way to play them.  Oh, did I also mention you need several different RAM carts that are required to play many of these games (there were 3 different ones and not all of them are interchangable) that are also a few hundred to collect?  Turbografx-16 CD is not a cheap endeavor, but how else are you going to play Ys IV?  Note: Rondo of Blood was recently re-released on Virtual Console and a port was on Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, but for a long time it was only on TG16 CD and there’s almost no chance other titles will ever get re-released.

I guess the only other question is how much are you looking to spend for the console?  I recommend anyone who can find a tested, working unit that includes my three main items above for $50 or less should take it and be happy.  Depending on location and market this can be as much as double in some areas, but eBay successfully keeps the price under triple digits.  Games will typically be around $10-$30 depending on popularity and rarity, but there are a few heavy hitters (like Magical Chase, which was rare in the US but quite common in Japan).  Before embarking on the TG-16 adventure, you may also want to consider that many of these titles and even a few CD games were re-released on Virtual Console and PSN for the much better price of $6-$8 apiece.  Watch the video below to see what you need to look for in a console.

Written by spydersvenom

December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Buying Guide: Sega Master System

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Oh the Master System, the red-headed step child of the 8-bit era.  Not only were Sega products unknown to American markets – Japan had seen several iterations of the Sega Mark consoles, the Master System known as the Mark III – but it released alongside the NES in America and had nothing to show for it.  The two biggest problems with the Master System today is that it’s relatively expensive for a working consoles itself, there are ways to play many of these games on the Game Gear or Genesis (with the Power Base Converter), and not too many good games (many arcade games also got ported to Genesis with better quality).  For those that aren’t aware, Nintendo also had developers and publishers locked into license agreements that didn’t allow games to be released on another console and basically had the Master System in checkmate in the US.  Still, I have the console and love some of the games/ports that are available on it (like Ghostbusters) and plenty of collector’s are curious what the console looks like.  Aside from the video provided below, make sure the consoles you get have the following:

  • An AC adaptor that is 9V and 1.0 Amp.  You will be tempted to use a Genesis or a NES AC adaptor, especially because they have the same plug input, but the amperage is larger than the Master System requires and could burn out your console.  With this console selling for $50+ used and the fact that they are somewhat rare, best not chance it.
  • This console requires an RF modulator that has a single RCA output, which is identical to the NES, Turbografx-16, and Genesis 1 RF modulator and unlike the AC adaptor you can use this with your Master System interchangably.  In fact, I use the same modulator for all 3 consoles without issues. 
  • At least one controller.  The controller inputs are identical to the Genesis and Atari 2600/VCS controller ports although the d-pad and 2-button setup will have varying degrees with non-Master System controllers.  I just hunted down a console with two controllers and I was ready t0 go (although there are few 2-player games).

You can expect to pay between $50-$100 for a console depending on accessories, condition, and geographic location.  Since the console is scarce there’s no good way to pinpoint an ideal price point so I revert back to the age old “pay what you think it’s worth” rule. 

Written by spydersvenom

December 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Buying Guide: The Nintendo Entertainment System

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We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Most of us that are over 30 and grew up gaming had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) at one point or another in our collection, so it’s not that common to have a reseller screw you over with a used console.  Still, I think it’s best to know exactly what you need to look for in your NES so here’s the official list of items that should be included in a used console:

  • NES Console: The big grey box is quite resilient to damage, so don’t fret a crack, scratch, or defect if you just want to play games.  On the other hand the internal components are more brittle than you would assume from tech that premiered in the mid 80s, so you’ll want to be a little careful.  If the console rattles or the springs in the cartridge slot seem sticky or off, make sure to thoroughly test the console (or get a return policy) before taking it home.  With the replacement of 72 pin connectors (the connection spot on the console for cartridges that would get bent up and cause the infamous blinking effect), many botched jobs try to get sold off in “as is” condition with the damage being everything from simple re-attachment to complete destruction of key components.
  • AC Adaptor: This is more important than it may seem because the NES ran a voltage and amperage that was common for the time but not among most other game consoles.  My official AC was 9V at 1.3 Amp (Important: this info only pertains to US NES consoles), which is probably your best bet and shouldn’t cost more than $10 to replace.  On the other hand as long as you can find the exact specs (I understand that near specs will probably work just fine, but I’m playing it safe) and a plug that works at places like RadioShack or MicroCenter, you should be good.  Many online retailers offer 3rd party AC adaptors as well, which all will probably be fine as long as they are within spec and a Google search doesn’t respond with endless burnout or damage complaints on message boards.
  • RF Adaptor: Better known as “the grey box that screws into the TV” in my house, this was an RF adaptor for coaxial analog connections on the back of almost every TV in the 1980s.  It’s a common and reliable way to hook your console up to your TV although I personally prefer using RCA cables for a more shielded (but still analog) signal.  My video below demonstrates both ways to hook these up.  If your NES has to come without a specific cable, this is the cheapest.
  • Nintendo Controller: Since 3rd parties weren’t that popular back then and Nintendo kept a close seal on the market, you’ll probably find that official NES controllers are all most people have for sale.  Avoid the 3rd party knockoffs from nowadays, they’re just trying to make a quick buck and $5 is about all I’ll spend on a controller in great shape.  Since they can get expensive when you desperately need them, I recommend securing two controllers with your console purchase.

These are the required components when purchasing an NES, which should run you about $40-$50 in most areas and potentially up to $70 used in cities, but I wouldn’t recommend paying much more.  If you desire the NES Model 2 (vertical game loading and dogbone controllers), those start at about $100 and can run you up to $200 in some areas.  If you require boxes, instructions, good condition, and certain packs (like Power Pad or Zapper pack), you can expect to pay whatever the buyer is asking (expect around $100 if not more depending on condition and accessories).  For those just looking for a working console, here are a few other suggestions when looking for a console:

  •  Look for one that has been refurbished with a new 72-pin connector to assure you don’t have that blinking problem.  It’s an easy fix and many reputable locations and online retailers will do it automatically, but usually with a $20-$30 premium attached.  I still feel this is worth it because the connectors will run you $10-$20 online and installation requires basic electronics skills (no soldering) and the risk of damaging your NES.  Consoles with this refurbishment will most likely retail between $50-$100 depending on other factors.
  • Zapper: I love light gun games and many of the classics (which I will soon cover) got their start on the NES.  Not only that, but they’re dirt cheap for the most part because the Zapper (and other light guns) will not work on non-tube televisions (almost every HDTV on the market) so the demand has dropped to all time lows.  If you still have a tube TV, though, there’s no reason not to pick this up for Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley alone.
  • NES Max or Advantage: These are purely for those that need a little help with the button mashing of old games or want that arcade feel when playing titles like Gauntlet or Donkey Kong.  The Max is a controller with turbo buttons so that games like Mega Man require that you only hold down a button and shoot a million bullets at once, although the analog d-pad is quite annoying.  For the Advantage you get a tough joystick and big candy-like red buttons that look and feel similar to an arcade, which is always ideal for the purists.  There are several other add-on peripherals for the console, which I’ve covered here, but none that I feel are “must haves”.

Alright, you’re ready now to go hunt down an NES, take this buying guide and supplemental video below and happy hunting!  Please note that all prices and market values change on an hourly basis, so the numbers of what a console should cost here may not hold up even a year from now.

Written by spydersvenom

December 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

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