Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Day 9

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On the ninth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

A 9-in-1 Game Cart!

My father was born and raised in Costa Rica (hence why I’m half Costa Rican), but I was pretty young for the first family vacations back “home”.  Near the end of the NES era, a bunch of family members on my mother’s side as well as my immediate family celebrated Christmas in Costa Rica.  There were lots of subtle differences to American culture there, but none more interesting to me than imported knock-offs.  If you were to enter little toy shops in and around central hub city San Jose, you could expect to see items cheaply made and imported from Asia.  I still remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures I picked up (all 4 for about $15) that had Chinese all over the box and looked a bit off-center with its paint job.  They all broke by the end of the trip.  There were also video games, of course, and I couldn’t help but check them all out.

For like $50 there was an NES that was painted all silver, more boxy (I later discovered it was the Famicom design) and had controllers and a zapper permanently wired into them.  Not only that, when you turned it on it had 101 games built-in, which I didn’t pick up because I had an NES already and this console wouldn’t work with cartridges.  What I also saw was a slew of “x-in-1” cartridges that contained some of the console’s best games all together.  It was old school pirating at its best – take a bunch of smaller older games and thanks to new technology put them all into a single cartridge and sell them in foreign countries.  I remember buying one for my NES, probably a 76-in-1, that I could have sworn had 76 individual titles but I later discovered there were only like seven games repeating on a list with different names.  I also bought a Game Gear 9-in-1 (pictured above) for my buddy, which was amazing because it contained Sonic the Hedgehog and a handful of arcade ports.  I wasn’t really trying to be kind, but it was like $20 and I used to love borrowing his Game Gear, now I gave him a reason to be forthcoming with it. 

This trend would continue in gaming moving forward to as recently as this generation with Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and several others.  In addition, I still see 30-in-1 Genesis systems and 50-in-1 Atari systems for roughly $30 at Walgreens, which are now legal items that these respective companies have approved.  As is the case with most collections, they were as much a double-edged sword then as they are now.  You have so much selection that you barely spend any time with a single game and never accomplish much other than beating the first level of each title before the system eventually dies.  Costa Rica gave me lots of great memories and views, but it was also my first glimpse at how bad small countries got it in the video game market.  No wonder the Master System and Genesis were so big in Brazil.  Any one out there have some crazy unlicensed all-in-one pirate games?

<- Go back to the eighth day                                Go on to the tenth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

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