Portland Retro Gaming Expo Day 1: Retrocade
Our report from Friday, October 19, 2018 from the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, the biggest retro gaming convention in North America.
For the first day of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo only the Arcade side of the convention floor was open to the public, containing tons of old consoles, arcade cabinets, and pinball tables. Those walking in will first come across tables set up in a giant H with everything from Apple II to Dreamcast and PlayStations hooked up to countless televisions. They even had a GameBoy vendor-like device that displayed it on a bigger screen and you would still use the GameBoy to control it. Anyone playing could take their current game back to the middle section and look through a ledger to request a new game to swap it with.
Games such as Bomberman, Metroid Prime, Crash Team Racing, Spyro, Mortak Kombat, Virtua Fighter, Crazy Taxi, Jungle Beat Bongos, Yoshi’s Island, Halo 2, SoulCalibur, Sonic, Puzzle Fighter, and many more were some that caught my eye as I passed by. Then, you have rows of arcade machines and pinball machines, from recent releases to very old and simple cabinets taking up a lot of space beyond the consoles. There was even an Arcade Service Area where some were working away on fixing and installing the complicated mess pinball and arcade cabinet boards can be.
More tables set up in a U-shape had GameCubes with Super Smash Bros. Melee or Mario Kart Double Dash playable. Each GameCube was hooked up to its television using the EON GCHD adapter and the image quality looked pretty good on the many small HDTVs set up. Nobody I watched complained about a loss of frames or input lag while pummeling each other as Fox McCloud in Melee so they seem pretty reliable. They even had their own little booth up against one of the walls along with some other smaller vendors with various retro hardware and software. The selections weren’t the largest, though I did peruse some Dreamcast titles including sealed copies of Rez and Shenmue. I also noticed a non-Greatest Hits version of Final Fantasy Tactics for $20. I decided to put it back and check again later but by the time I did it was gone. The main hall of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo should have more selections, and there is even an auction going on during the weekend as well.
Next to the set of Gamecube tables was another set of tables hosting original Xboxs with a large Battlefront II LAN party going on which is probably what I played the most of during the first day of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. Slipping back into the class based warfare I remembered how only the first few shots of the assault class’s rifle is accurate while the rest start to spread out wildly. Human players are very hard to hit as they shift constantly and the shots you make often need to be led in front of where someone will be making it a guessing game of if they’re going to continue on that path or roll to the side or walk backwards or stop entirely. Still, it was a lot of fun, especially when I decimated an opposing team 35-4 after getting to use Boba Fett. As someone who really did not care for the more recent Battlefront II and spent all my time with the original playing against bots this LAN party was a lot of fun. Battlefront II was later swapped out for Halo 2 and Classic Capture the Flag on Coagulation, aka Blood Gulch. This was also fun, though adjusting to using the sniper for much longer ranges than I’m used to in Halo 5 or Reach took some time.
A “Gamer’s Lounge” had a bunch of bean bags and also two couches opposite each other, each facing a television with a retro console. One one side was an Atari 2600 with Joust, on the other an NES emulator with Duck Tales. Both ended up being the first time I’ve played either game.
There was another small section for upcoming indie games, two of which I did play the demo of. The first was The World Next Door by Rose City Games, a “narrative-driven action-adventure game.” The demo was quite short but a good introduction to the setup. The story follows a young girl as she takes part in a once-in-a-generation transfer to a world of magic and fantasy, though she unfortunately ends up trapped in that world. Characters in this different world look like mixes between humans and mystical beasts, though the ones she befriends are the usual angsty teens you would expect. The character art is quite good, and presented as simple portraits during conversations that allow them greater detail than if they were in constant motion.
Battles are handled by a match-three system where icons/colors on the ground can be swapped and linked to cast offensive and defensive spells. The more you connect the more powerful the spell. Connect green icons to heal, blue icons to do a swipe attack, red icons to shoot flames, and so on. Conversations allow the player to express their reactions through both on-screen dialogue options and accompanying emoticon-like faces. Your reputation will have a greater emphasis in the full game as the demo was very short and only introduced you to the basics as well as two or three fights before ending. What I played was promising, especially if they continually expand on the match-three mechanics. Rose City Games plans to release The World Next Door in early 2019 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Another indie game on display was Gato Roboto, a “CatMechtroidvania” that is a simple black and white Metroid-style game in which you find upgrades that allow you to progress further into the game map. As a cat occupying a robot suit, you may also jump out of that suit in order to explore underwater or through small openings your suit is too large to fit through. The simple art style reminded me of a black and white GameBoy and it controlled very well on a gamepad. The demo allowed you to explore the beginning area and get a few upgrades before ending. Throughout you’ll receive commentary from your injured owner and get to fight a mouse in a mech suit of its own. The humor is obvious but charming and the formula is familiar but its always interesting to see a new spin on the Metroid style of game. This will also be coming to PC and Nintendo Switch sometime in 2019.
Today was also the opening day for the Tetris World Championship which began with a Dr. Mario tournament and ended with sixteen players facing off in a Tetris speedrun that ended with contestant Joseph winning a Retro-Portable by Retro Bit. The real tournament begins tomorrow morning at 10:00 A.M. Pacific with qualifiers.
Epic Gaming was running their own tournament at the same time, this one focused on Mario Kart Double Dash and placed sixteen players in teams of two to play through four races in order to determine the best Double Dash players. As usual with Mario Kart, it was chaotic and fun to watch a favorite couple lose due a blue shell or a combination of bad turns and attack combos from others.
The first day of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo was fun, though obviously only a prologue to the full convention tomorrow and part of Sunday. The Video Game Museum from The Video Game History Foundation that focuses on the NES will certainly be a highlight, as well as the mysterious Intellivision keynote. The mood throughout the expo has been very friendly. Everyone I interacted with was kind and welcoming, dropping in and out of games to allow others waiting to participate. There were even some cosplayers such as a D.va, John Marston, Princess Leia, and Link and Zelda combo. I’m glad I decided to check out what the expo had to offer even if it was limited, and am looking forward to the many new things tomorrow. You can check out all the images from Friday in the gallery below.