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The ultimate in classic Nintendo gaming

I’ve been a gamer for what boils down to be my entire life. The system that I hold dearest to my heart is the (now classic) Nintendo, or the NES. It was the first system I owned and the one I spent most my childhood playing. To say I was not a TV child would be a lie, but hey, at this point in life I’m pretty happy how things have turned out. I’ve lived through most of major video games eras and have see nmore games come and go than I care to talk about, but the ones I always want to play are NES games.

nes.jpgI still have my original NES console and somehow along the way gained a second. They both work and I have a good collection of controllers and the standard issue zapper gun. My collection of original NES game carts is not the biggest but I like to think of it as maybe slightly impressive…it’s about 30 games or so. Some are classics, like “Punch-Out,” some are the exact opposite, like “Wolverine.” I’ve spent good amount of time and money buying original NES games when I happen to find them. I really don’t seek them out, but if I see them at the store I’ll usually pick them up.

I will no longer have to search for game carts…but more on that later.

For quite some time I’ve also been building a good collection of emulators and emulator games, called ROMs. These ROMs are files that contain the original NES games, which can then be played with a special emulator program on the computer. This is not a clone of the game; it is the game – taken straight from the original game cart. The graphics are the same, the sound…everything. For longest time it was the only way you could play NES games without scouring eBay and dingy video game stores looking for original carts. Playing on the computer is fun and all, but it obviously is not on your TV and you can’t exactly sit on the floor and play like you could when you were a kid.

When I first started think of a more elaborate emulator system, I came across RetroZone, a company (one guy) that makes gadgets for gaming, namely a USB adapter for original NES controllers. It would thus allow you to use original controllers on your computer as a normal joystick. I considered getting one of those, but realized that’s really not what I was after. It mattered more how I experienced the game than how the hardware felt in my hand. So I kept looking for a solution.

powerpaksmall.jpgIt just so happened that RetroZone not only makes the handy USB adapters, it makes the PowerPak. The PowerPak is an ingenious little device that has come about thanks to some modern technology, namely flash memory cards. The PowerPak comes in original cart form with one major difference, a slot in the front where a compact flash memory card goes…and this is a normal CF card that you would use with your digital camera, convenient, no?

What this allows you to do is put your game ROM files on the flash card, put the flash card in the PowerPak cart, put the cart into your original NES console and play it on your TV with all the original hardware just as you would if you had the original game cart. In short, you can play hundreds of games with one cart. The PowerPak has a directory system on it just as you would find on your computer. All you do is browse the folders for the game you want and start to play – as easy as that.

Is it worth the investment?

Most people would say “No,” but video games are one of my vices so I’ll say “Yes.” I’ll say yes because the cost of the PowerPak is far less than the cost actually buying each original game cart separately – even when using eBay. Trust me, I’ve looked. I’ll also vote for Yes because it’s convenient…all the games in one cartridge. The convenience is by far the biggest draw for the PowerPak. And since the PowerPak plays normal game ROM files, it means you can play import titles, homebrew titles, and other games you never got to play back in the day.

usb-nes-controller.jpgIf you’re a classic gamer or more so, a classic NES gamer, you owe it to yourself to get the PowerPak and turn your collection into the NES collection you want and deserve. Now you can argue the whole original vs. emulation debate all you want, but when it comes down to it, it’s the games and the fun you have playing. As long as the game plays, looks, and sounds like you remember, then it’s all good.

But if you’re going to go this extra mile, or even just continue to play NES games with emulators, there’s a lot of tools you’ll need to make sure you get the best quality ROMs and even just the correct ROMs. I was surprised to find that over half of my own ROM collection was made up of half-assed ROMs or even just bad ROMs entirely. While computer-based emulators may forgive these things, the PowerPak does not. If the ROM is incomplete or has bad information written to it, it won’t play. Check out the forum for more on this topic.

So while most people are air guitaring and rock banding, I’ll be favoring my “new” NES collection for a little while, and I’ll be doing my best to (re)hook everyone else along the way. Game on.

8 Comments

  1. Brian Brian November 15, 2007

    If you want to learn more about the technical side of the PowerPak and old NES game carts in general, check out this link to Vintage Computing:
    http://tinyurl.com/yqgegg

  2. thee thee November 16, 2007

    Holy Shit! That thing is a $135!!!

    That’s quite the premium to pay consinder all it allows you to do in plug your controller into a NES vs a computer.

  3. Brian Brian November 16, 2007

    It’s all about the experience of playing. I want to be able to play on my TV from the comfort of my couch, not hunched over my computer screen.

    Plus I’d like to use the extras, like the zapper gun and whatever other type NES device I may want/find.

    And I want to be able to play these games with friends. And this goes back to the TV…it’s no fun playing with people when they have to crowd around a tiny monitor. And more than 2 people? Forget about it.

    And lastly, in defense, the console is made to play the games and that’s all. My PC with emulators tends to work most of the time, but all in all things differ from PC to PC and emulator to emulator. This eliminates that worry all together.

    It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. But then again, I don’t think spending lots of money on a TV for every room of my house makes a lot sense either. TVs bring you joy, old video games brings me mine.

  4. Mrs Thee Mrs Thee November 16, 2007

    Whatever Thee… you spent $50 on that stupid USB cannon…. do you even know where it is? At least Brian uses this thing…

  5. Brian Brian November 16, 2007

    A USB cannon? That sounds fun! Is it this thing?
    http://tinyurl.com/ybkt4f

    I saw at Microcenter they have R/C helicopters for like $30 or so…totally on my Christmas list. Maybe two, one for home, one for the office…hehehehe

    And if he paid $50 then he got ripped off ;)

  6. Brian Brian April 3, 2008

    I don’t feel I need to justify this wonderful purchase anymore, and I’ll admit I haven’t played my NES in a while, but on a pure dollars-to-dollars comparison, here is a nice list of NES vs. Wii Virtual Console.

    http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/416

    The price difference really isn’t that much for NES games, but either price shows that the PowerPak is well worth the price and quite a value.

    The only sticking point of VC titles or ROMs like I have versus actual carts is resale value. Of course, if you don’t view your NES collection as an investment intended to be sold (like me) then it doesn’t make much difference.

  7. johney johney November 7, 2008

    this is just a awesome addon wich blasts new life into the nes,
    i would feel like to use the powerpak to play inport games on my nes,but also to play pirated versions like smw,dkc,dkl and dkc2 on it,and maybe who ever knows which games we could get in the near futhur.
    and i was thinking if it was possible to even convert mp3,s and mpeg4 files into the propper nes format,to run it on a nes by using all nes hardware tricks and porformances.
    and thank the update feature, more mappers cut be added for more and better compatebility,s.

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