A year ago I was attending my first ever classic gaming expo, named PhillyClassic. From the time since then, the event had evolved to a larger scale, and eventually became known as America's Videogame Expo, or VGXpo for short. (I will hereafter refer to it simply as VGX.)
For the first time, VGX has taken place in three locations. Last August it was held in Dallas and in Washington, DC, but just last week it took place in the same city it originated, Philadelphia as part of a consumer fair hosted by NBC 10.
When I arrived at the Fort Washington Expo Center, I didn't think I was at the right event hall. Nothing seemed right at first, but halfway through, things started to look up as I was able to encounter a classic Track and Field arcade machine. Right from that moment I remembered the sheer torture I had to endure when playing that game. Sure I play it through MAME on my computer, but there I can use a cheat and run fast just by holding a button down, rather than pounding the two run buttons rapidly.
Going further back into the hall, I finally located what I was looking for, the classic game arcade. Sure I was able to see all the classics I grew up with: Dig Dug, Asteroids, Centipede, Berzerk, Zaxxon, Joust, and both Defenders were there, but in the far back was something I longed to see, an extremely rare cockpit version of Sinistar.
Sinistar was a game that used to give me nightmares as a child. Quotes of "Beware I Live" and "Run Coward" haunted me as a giant head chased me around. Sadly when I played the cockpit version, the voice was nonexistent. Still it was quite an experience to sit in a cockpit again. The only other cockpit title I was able to play that recently was Star Wars at E3.
Of course, VGX was not just about arcade games. Consoles were in full force as well. The premiere Atari fansite, AtariAge, had plenty of new software up for sale. One of their better 2600 titles available was a simple platformer with a funny name: Man Goes Down. That best describes the plot, controlling a man as he falls from platform to platform, collecting fruit and various items while avoiding a complete fall.
However one of the most unique features about MGD is the use of a new technology called AtariVox. Plugged into the right controller jack, the AtariVox outputs into a set of computer speakers and enables speech, a feat done only twice via cart on the 2600, as well as storing high scores. A 2600 version of Boulder Dash was also on display, which looked promising.
On other consoles, AtariAge had a share of releases as well. A remake of the arcade game Total Carnage was on display for the Jaguar, and on the Colecovision there were remakes of both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, as well as Konami's version of The Goonies.
On the current console front, rhythm game makers RedOctane were on site. In addition to showing off their dance game In the Groove, as well as their award winning Ignition Pads, RedOctane demoed their latest game, Guitar Hero.
I had a chance to experience Guitar Hero at E3, and I knew the game would turn out to be a hit. From the huge crowds that gathered around RedOctane's booth, there was no doubt about it. I even talked with their rep, and he told me that every copy they had sold out, and they were taking orders to be shipped out in a fresh batch. I recently had a review copy sent to me, so expect a review in the near future.
VGX is also known for many competitions. In addition to a Halo 2 tournament, and a raffle drawing to win an Xbox 360, I took part in a unique competition. This one involved the Holy Grail of NES carts: the 1990 Nintendo World Championships. Being the most sought after NES cart on the market, it recently sold on eBay for over $6,000! The timed competition consisted of three stages: 1) Collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros. 2) Finish the first stage of Rad Racer. 3) Get as high a score as you can in Tetris before time runs out. The sad news was for me to qualify for the finals I needed to place in the top six. And I came in seventh!
The father of videogaming, Ralph Baer, was in attendance as well. Being the creator of the original "Brown Box," which eventually became known as the Odyssey, Baer was on hand to receive VGX's first ever Lifetime Achievement award. Renowned game columnist Bill Kunkel was also present to sign autographs.
But by far the best thing that I had a chance to witness was not a game, but rather a fan film. X-Strike Studios, a New York state based group of game fans, unveiled their latest fan based parody based on one of my favorite games, Metal Gear Solid.
Entitled Project Snake: Low Budget Espionage, I consider it a hilarious cross between Metal Gear and the Zucker parodies (Airplane, Naked Gun, Top Secret). From the near completed sneak preview, the production quality is definitely like the title says: low budget. But what makes up for the budget is the hilarious acting.
While maintaining the key plotlines of Metal Gear Solid, the characters are so over the top, it's hard to watch without laughing. One scene I remembered real well was when Snake ran into a disguised Meryl in the holding cells, and when Snake orders for Meryl to shoot, he is constantly heckling her, and yelling right at the camera in an exaggerated manner.
As she is shooting, we see all these strange versions of genome soldiers that seem to come out of a shooting gallery. Their reactions are priceless, and I really must know if Rory O'Boyle (the actor who played Snake) took voice acting lessons from David Hayter? The similarity between the two is simply uncanny.
Another great scene was when Snake tells the DARKA chief that he had a couple run ins with Metal Gear, and then it cuts to a scene where a nerdy looking Snake is dissed by two girls who are fawning over a Metal Gear model. It's humor like this that makes the movie, and after seeing disasters in the past like Wing Commander and House of the Dead (I could add DOOM into the mix, but I kinda liked it), I'm glad to see that there is a movie based on a game that doesn't suck, especially since it's a parody.
I will be following more on Project Snake as it nears completion this winter, as well as provide a review on the finished product. Needless to say, I believe that X-Strike has a major hit on their hands, and I think that Uwe Boll really needs to pay attention before he butchers another game!
Sadly, VGX is now a memory, but I have a lot to look forward to in the future: Project Snake, Guitar Hero, and tons of new 2600 ROMs to try out. All of this will hopefully lead up to the next VGX.
CURRENTLY PLAYING: Guitar Hero (PS2), Quake IV (PC)
ON DECK: Madden 06 (Xbox 360), Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360)
WAITING FOR: Xbox 360, SIRIUS S50 (why is it constantly being delayed?)