My Days At VGXPO 2006

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When the PhillyClassic decided to go on a grander scale and become America's Videogame Expo (VGX,) they had a lot of expectations to meet. Last year, when it was held at the Fort Washington Expo Center, as part of a huge expo hosted by NBC 10, it was a bit on the disappointing side. But this year, the VGX returned to its original location of the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, PA.

Learning from the mistakes made last year, VGX started off by offering access to the game room non stop. Starting on Friday night and continuing to the end of the show on Sunday, both the classic gaming arcade and the BYOC LAN Party were open. I was able to check out a couple of the classics that I haven't played unemulated in years. And unlike the last few events, it was great to see a bunch of new titles. When I saw an actual working arcade version of Paperboy, I was shocked.

The real event started on Saturday morning, when the full expo floor was open to the public. As always, there were tons of classic game vendors on site to sell titles for all systems from Pong consoles all the way to the Xbox 360. I was almost at the point of purchasing myself a Colecovision, but decided to save my money. I was going to end up with a classic game console in the end, and I can thank AtariAge for that.

AtariAge always has a huge display, and this year it was larger than before. They teamed up with the new Atari who has committed to returning to the glory days before the Tramiel family destroyed the name. Not only did they show a bunch of new homebrew titles (including a new version of Ladybug which improved greatly on the Coleco vaporware version,) but they also featured prototype systems courtesy of Atarimuseum.com, including the unique Cosmos holographic system.

While on the subject with the Atari Museum, its founder Curt Vendel, has started a new venture that was on display called Awesome Arcades, which sells arcade sized cabinets with a collection of games built in. The unit I tested was the Personal Arcade Machine (P.A.M., ironically a codename for the Atari 5200,) a cabaret sized arcade machine. The control and video quality was very good, but at times it seems like some of the games didn't run at full speed. The machines can be located at www.awecades.com.

In addition, Atari gave out 100 of their Flashback 2 plug and play game consoles. While the Flashback 2 has 40 games built into the console, it is also known that the system can be backed with a cartridge port, turning it into a true working Atari 2600! I hope to find this out myself, because thanks to AtariAge, I won a Flashback 2 of my own! Thanks guys!

And as far as thanks go, I want to also send thanks out to the guys at X-Strike Studios. We talked about my review of Project Snake, and they had their other titles on display as well. I ended up picking up their first major title, River City Rumble, a parody of the Technos NES/GBA classic River City Ransom. Again, these guys show that people can make video game movies that are actually pretty good. (You hear me, Uwe Boll?)

And speaking of X-Strike, they also had a midnight showing of Project Snake for those brave enough to stay awake. The only problem was that the film crashed halfway through, but when you're running a movie on a PlayStation2, it was bound to happen. Hey guys, if this was going to happen, I would have let you use my Xbox 360.

Of course, competitions were a part of the show, and this year they added many more. Tournaments in Halo 2, Guitar Hero, Smash Brothers Melee, and Fight Night Round 3 were held all day Saturday and Sunday. Then of course there is the annual Nintendo World Championships tournament, which was played on a single NES cart that ran Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris under a 10 minute time limit. I'm still surprised that no one ran away with the cart, since it is still valued at over six grand!

Finally, VGX partnered with the Game Developers Conference and allowed people to talk about how to get involved in the game industry. I was even invited to be a guest speaker about how to get involved in the gaming press, but as I consider myself a poor public speaker, I decided to pass on the offer. But as I look back, I wish I did speak out on the matter. Perhaps next year?

This year's VGX is a vast improvement over last year. Offering the 24 hour game room and LAN party meant there was something to do for everyone, and the show floor had a lot to display. I'm already looking forward to next year's event, and if they do a panel discussion about writing in the industry, I'll be more than happy to take part in it.

CURRENTLY PLAYING: GEARS OF WAR!!!!!!!! (XBOX 360)

WAITING FOR: I've been waiting for Gears of War for so long I don't know what I want next!

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