Good morning 1UP Infinite readers! If you're having a sense of deja vu from our EVO post last weekend, then yes, you have been in this place before and we are higher on the street. Why? Because it's our time to go to Long Island Retro Gaming Expo!
Pardoning the (very clever) Initial D pun, this year marks the return of the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo and our first time attending the event. Not only that, but it is also my personal first as well. Leading up to the event, I was aware that the Expo hosted some of the rarest and most cherished in gaming history. What's more, most of these are hands-on, allowing old and young fans the opportunity to get a taste of gaming before the "smart era."
As the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo is a "local" convention, getting there was nowhere near as much of a headache as traveling to Vegas was. It was actually quite scenic, especially when you're traveling via bus. Upon arriving on the first day, I understood the severity of the situation. New York's humidity welcomed me like a warm blanket as did everyone else standing in line. While I was concerned that it would fill the venue hall quickly, upon entry there was enough space to move about.
- First Arcade And Gaming Timeline
- Second Arcade, Console & PC Freeplay, and Gaming Museum
- Vendors And Mystery Game Tournaments
- Tekken 7 Tournament & Controller Oddities
First Arcade And Gaming Timeline
I'll get the obvious out of the way. Having an expo in an aviator museum is one of the coolest choices of a venue I've ever experienced for an event like this. Convention halls? Party venues? Nope, how about a giant airplane hovering over your head as the sounds of pinballs, rhythm games, and arcade games surround you? That was my first impression when I made my first stop; Arcade Room 1.
The first stop for most attendees is the first Arcade located directly left of admissions. There were many pinball games on free play which meant that it always had a group of people playing considering its popularity. Directly across were various rhythm games including two Jubeat machines, a Sound Voltex 4 machine, and a Beat Stream machine. Rows of candy cabinets housed several classics including Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Project Justice, and many shmups. There were even some rare outliers including the original Fighting Layer and EN-Eins.
For many conventions, this would already be a solid "game room," but this is Long Island Retro Gaming Expo, with emphasis on Retro Gaming. Directly upstairs from the first Arcade room lies what I'd consider one of the two major attractions, the console gaming timeline. Beginning with the Pong machine from the late seventies and ending with the PlayStation 3 in 2006, almost every console in between was on display in chronological order.
This included several rare consoles such as the Atari Lynx and the CD-I, the latter most notoriously known for being incredibly hard to maintain. These consoles were also available for free play, as seen in some of the photos where I had the opportunity to do so. Whatever wasn't playable, such as the Game & Watch, was kept up for display. If there was a "first stop" I'd recommend, it'd be this one. The games were already pre-set including some unique ones, like Donkey Kong on the Colecovision.
There were many games I've played during the Timeline that I haven't played on original hardware since I was a kid. Games like Blazing Star on the Neo Geo, infamously known for its announcer ("BONUS! BONUS!") and Jet Set Radio on the Sega Dreamcast when it was localized as Jet Grind Radio, Sonic CD on the Sega CD, and even Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance on the PS2. Whoever curated this list of games on display knew what would draw in the crowds. Especially with the lack of a save feature, having games that are "pick-up-and-play" while also maintaining the classics, like Super Mario 64.
In the distance, there was the first High Score attack of the day, featuring Kirby Super Star's "Gourmet Race." The goal isn't exactly a "speedrun" but rather "who can score the highest." As such, the competitors were moving not for speed but for optimization. My personal experience was that I always sucked at this mini game. King DeDeDe cheats, a lot. For players to complete these efficiently, they must obtain as much food as possible while ALSO winning the race.
Second Arcade, Console & PC Freeplay, Gaming Museum
Throughout the day, there were more high score attacks, but what caught my eye was a special After Burner cabinet complete with the fighter jet joystick. It was a very weird machine, but it brought new insight to playing this Sega classic as opposed to playing it on a stick and button set-up. Speaking of "sticks and buttons," I quickly found "Arcade 2" directly next to the cabinet. It was a dimly lit room with rows of machines on adjacent lanes, much like I'd expect a classic arcade to look at. This wasn't "Barcade," but this was an authentic representation of how arcades would have looked in the 80s.
There were even more games featured here than anything I've seen up to this point, including the very first coin-operated game, Computer Space as shown on the left. Having the chance to play the origins of arcade gaming as players know it is one that I couldn't pass up. Unfortunately, while it didn't date particularly well, playing like an Asteroids game, I can appreciate how far gaming has come since over 40 years ago.
Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Pac-Man, Cruis'n Exotica. Punch-Out, Ms. Pac-Man, NFL Blitz, Nibbler, Root Beer Tapper. Naming all of the games that came to mind is starting to sound like a Pokemon rap but there were at least twenty more games on display than what I mentioned. Also unfortunate was that some of the games weren't working at the time I visited the arcade but the staff was routinely running maintenance on the machines. It's something that must be done considering the sheer volume of attendees.
Back downstairs there were the console free-play setups. Continuing the games I hadn't played in years since childhood was the original Soul Calibur and Power Stone on the Dreamcast. The former had an X-Arcade fight stick, a modern solution to playing fighting games on older hardware such as the Sega Dreamcast. Further in the room was an entire racing game set-up, including modern classics like Burnout 3 on the PS2 and Twisted Metal Black...on a racing wheel set-up!
What was more impressive than that was a Daytona USA 2001 with a Mad Catz racing wheel set-up. Directly next to it was Sega Rally Championship on the Saturn, also with a proprietary Sega Saturn wheel. It wasn't the most comfortable I've played, but it was history I was playing and that meant more to me than "comfort." Rounding out the racing set-up was Gran Turismo 2 on the Dreamcast. Rather, it was the Bleem! version, which was one of the first instances of commercial homebrew allowing players to play PlayStation games ported on the Dreamcast. Only a handful was released, obviously due to Sony threatening legal action, but the copies still float around collectors.
That's not to mention the mini gaming museum, which I feel is the second main attraction of the Expo. Rare Japanese consoles and historical units were both playable and locked behind cases owing to their rarity. One of the major ones that I was excited to see up close was the black PlayStation 1 that came bundled with an app called Net Yaroze. This was Sony's attempt at encouraging indie developers to create their own games and share it with others via an online service...in the mid-90s!
Other consoles included dev-kits and multimedia systems including the PSX (Not that PSX) and the Panasonic Gamecube DVD player Frankenstein creation. Not too far of a walk was the PC and Mac set-ups, which included generational computers including the iconic egg-shaped Mac I recall seeing in computer labs as a kid. There's so much to do and so little space to talk about it, but Long Island Retro Expo is one of those events where you have to experience it, especially as a fan of gaming.
Vendors And Mystery Games
The second day was more of the same but multiplied by at least five. What was missing from the first day were the vendors and for good reason as its inclusion added a different layer of roaming around the Expo. What was once an empty space that was off limits turned into a bazaar of gaming items for sale. Everything from the Atari to the PSX and PS4 was placed on display from various local stores, including of course Vide Games New York and Brooklyn Video Games.
In the end, claustrophobia kicked in and I wanted everywhere to be but there, but I did manage to come out with a special spoil. While I personally believe the retro market is a dice roll, sometimes it lands on a critical 20. The Namco neGcon is one of the most interesting controllers for the PlayStation and gaming in general, using the gyro function to emulate a steering wheel.
Fans of Namco racing games, including R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 swears by the controller but it was released in 1998 for a semi-limited release. It's pretty rare to see one complete in a box and it's even rarer to see one for cheap. I was able to buy one for $40. This was my biggest "steal" of the weekend. It even came with the original receipt FROM 1998.
Day 2 also highlighted several tournaments that began on Day 1 and would continue throughout Saturday. I entered two of them, the first one being an N64 Mystery Tournament. You get called a number, pull a ticket out of a Super Mario question-mark box, and hope for the best. Except, my "best" was the original Mario Party subjected to a sudden death "Mushroom Mix-Up" mini-game. I had no chance.
What I did have a chance in was the Tekken 7 tournament later that evening. Before that, I got a chance to watch actual good players play Harmful Park and Crash Team Racing via a score challenge today. Every time I'd walk past that section of the expo, there was always a new game played for the highest score. Again, efficiency over speediness, and it all looked stressful to me. Still, it was fun to take a breather and watch for a few minutes!
Tekken 7 Tournament & Controller Oddities
Then it was time, for the tournament. I've spoken about the NYC Tekken tournaments in the past but I failed to mention the Long Island Tekken Community. Mid-Tier Summit Gaming has been the cornerstone for the, well, corner of NYC since early in Tekken 7's lifespan. Some of the city's killers are from this small extension of land and some would come for this tournament as staff as well as competitors. Due to the nature of the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo, it was a healthy mix of players who have had experience and those who enjoy the game on an entry-level.
The tournament would also be the testing grounds for a controller I picked up over EVO weekend called the Snack Box Micro, developed by Junkfood Custom Arcades. This little guy is a part of a type of "fightstick" that uses all buttons instead of a lever + buttons. Generally called by the community as a "stickless" or a "cheatbox" depending on who you ask, the swap from a lever to buttons gives players the best precision made humanely possible in fighting games.
It comes with a very steep price, as the gateway to getting used to a stickless is one of the most unique cases of "riding a bike" I have ever experienced. Muscle memory was kicking my butt and it became a battle of me vs the Snack Box. The Snack Box won, but my opponents who beat me were also part of the equation. Hopefully, by tomorrow I'm able to solve it. That's right, there's going to be a follow-up continuation to the tournament because the NYC Tekken Monthly is indeed tomorrow. Expect similar coverage to the one I made two months ago, tomorrow!
Overall, there were surprisingly a ton of things to do at Long Island Retro Gaming Expo as the venue itself was deceptively larger than it appeared. Thankfully there were signs and trail markers to guide people where to go as it was very much possible to get lost. Everything joined together in itself via a loop and once you figured out the layout, it was easy to take shortcuts to avoid the crowded areas. With that said, considering the sheer volume of attendees, I'm impressed with how the staff managed to keep things orderly.
Fans of gaming, despite the name, both old and new and retro and modern, will enjoy this Expo. There are tournaments that feature fighting games and there are events like PAX that celebrate gaming towards the future. This community-run event showed the passion for rare, obscure, and consoles we hadn't played since childhood. The number of dads and moms showing their kids a Famicom or a CD-I for the first time is endearing, especially during times when we need a bit of joy in our lives. Until next year, LI Retro! It was a Blast City cabinet! (Sorry)