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Old 09-26-2011, 06:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Awesome Sold Separately

After months of scrounging up money wherever you can find it, you've finally got that brand new game console home from the store. You've opened up the box, and after breathing in that new system smell (mmm, plasticky!), you dig into the package, pulling out all the components. There's the machine itself, the A/V connectors, the power supply, the pack-in game' that's everything you need to get started! Right?

Maybe not! Some consoles are 'playable' right out of the box, but your investment can't reach its full potential without a few extra purchases. This was especially true with the Atari 5200' this self-proclaimed 'supersystem' had its share of super problems. Many of those bugs were squashed in a later model, but Atari would not back down on the horrendous stock controller that players universally regarded as its most damning flaw.

Fortunately, those mushy joysticks weren't hardwired into the system. They could be replaced, and your best option by a mile was Wico's Command Control. This sublime stick was the Rolls Royce of early game controllers, with features you won't even find on today's analog pads. Do you want to adjust the calibration on the fly? You've got it. Would you like the stick to snap back on the X axis but hang loose on the Y? Go for it! Add a joystick that glides like a cloud and two sure-footed buttons and you've got a controller that elevates the 5200 gaming experience.

Let's jump ahead a few generations to the Playstation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. These systems seemed like the total package when they were first released, but halfway through their lifespans, the industry had made giant leaps forward, and all three machines were forced to catch up. Sony replaced the Playstation's digital gamepad with the iconic Dual Shock in 1998, but early adopters had to buy the new controller separately. They probably also gave some thought to picking up a high capacity memory card to replace the cramped ones offered by Sony, but trusting your game saves to a third-party card- no matter how spacious- was a gamble few were willing to take.

The few players who chose the Sega Saturn instead were nudged into a purchase of their own just two years after the system's troubled debut. When the pool of American games dried up for the Saturn, fans turned to Japan for their fix. The only problem was that US Saturn models weren't compatible with Japanese games. Modding the system addressed that problem, but there was still the matter of all those high-profile Capcom titles that required extra RAM' sometimes as much as four megabytes! (Wait, that was a big number once?)

The best solution for would-be importers was the Pro Action Replay, also known as a four-in-one cartridge. It not only opened up the Saturn to Japanese titles, but doubled its memory, pumped up its internal storage, and even worked as a cheat device. It was one stop shopping for the gaming iconoclast!

Then there's the Nintendo 64. The optimistically named fun machine got a memory expansion of its own in 1999, to give its later releases more punch. Unlike the Saturn's RAM cartridges, the Expansion Pack was officially released in the United States, and supported nearly sixty titles. Only two games, Donkey Kong 64 and Majora's Mask, required it, but with the system near the end of its lifespan and the Dreamcast on the horizon, Nintendo 64 owners were grateful for any boost to the system's capabilities, especially when it was easy to install and reasonably priced.

Gaming has never been a cheap hobby, and the initial purchase of a console usually isn't enough. However, those extra accessories can pay huge dividends in improving the gaming experience.

Some images are courtesy of GameTrailers and TheLogBook.
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