Retro Revival 2013 - Official Video Retro Revival 2013 - TV's in entrance foyer Retro Revival 2013 - the first room Retro Revival 2013 - Sega SG-1000 The Amstrad Mega PC, in Megadrive mode Handheld and Table-top videogames Collection of classic consoles from The Centre for Computing History Fix It Felix Jnr arcade cabinet Selection of arcade cabinets at Revival 2013 Bob Wakelin, Chris Wilkins, and Jim Bagley enjoying the retro vibe Pac-Manic Miner-Man custom cabinet Bob Wakelin, former artist for Ocean Sandy White talks about Ant Attack at Retro Revival 2013 Allister Brimble talks about 'The Amiga Works' at Retro Revival 2013 The Nintendo 64 and extras won at Retro Revival 2013 Whitely on the decks (er, Gameboys) at Retro Revival 2013 Selection of driving games at Revival 2013 Selection of gun games at Revival 2013 Crowds having fun at Retro Revival 2013

RETRO REVIVAL 2013

One of the main reasons for setting up Norwich Retro Gamers was to try and create a more social presence of my retro gaming passion. I had fond memories of the Atari User Club that we used to have in Norwich and even up to around 2004 we had a Sinclair User Group (although I sadly never visited it). After all, retro gaming can be a solitarily past time and I knew there we others like me out there (well maybe not like me, but at least ones that shared my interest in classic games).

We have, for a few years now, had the Norwich Retro Arcade at Fusion in The Forum, Norwich. Although this has grown over the years - an article will cover the 2015 one, I promise - it never went back any further than the NES and Master System. I yearned for something more fulfilling to cover my gaming experiences all the way back to the early 80's. I had been aware that there were a couple of retro themed 'shows' hosted in the UK, both Play Expo and the Retro Ball. These were much larger affairs, with a selection of arcade cabinets and video game systems. Unfortunately they were also held far away from our Norwich base and without transport they seemed a distant dream. But a chance conversation in early 2013 meant my dream was about to come true.

During a chat with my good friend Simon Gould, he mentioned that he was thinking of going to Retro Revival and I happen to mention that I had been wanting to go myself. After asking for a cheeky lift, it was just a case of getting my ticket and I was in door. I was pretty excited.

As it was quite a drive from Norfolk, over to Wolverhampton, Simon wanted to make an early start so it was easier for me to stay with him so we could all leave at the same time. He popped over on Friday evening and we had a few goes on the Mame cabinet. I packed a bag and we were off. But half way to Simon's I suddenly realised I hadn't brought my ticket. So around we turned and headed back to Norwich. Unfortunately when we got there I couldn't find the ticket. Aaarrgghhh, what had I done with it. Not a good start at all.

Eventually we gave up and I agreed to turn up and see what would happen. It was a long way to go just to be turned away at the door but I did have the ticket confirmation email on my phone so I just hoped that would be enough. And so it was that after a few hours of sleep we jumped in the car and headed up to Wolverhampton. It was nice to chat with Simon on the way as we had shared an interest in videogames through the mid-80's and well into the 90's before we lost contact. Although it was quite a drive we got there in good time and the priority was to get some breakfast. Conveniently there was a McDonalds nearby so we popped in and got some food in us, ready for a busy day enjoying some quality time at the Revival event at the Race Course at Wolverhampton.

After parking up we headed to the entrance. We got there a little early and the foyer of the building was a little chaotic. There were people milling around and a few staff with their red Revival t-shirts on. We were asked to wait outside and form a queue but before I did I asked the nearest member of staff about my 'lost' ticket. I was told to queue up so I was none the wiser on whether I would get in. After a few minutes of waiting around (and watching as the queue behind up increased quickly, a chap in front of me looked at me with a look of recognition asked if I was 'Norwich Retro', which is my name on Facebook. It was none other than David Hayward, and his family, from Lowestoft. They were all sporting some nice 'Crash' t-shirts. It was nice to meet somebody that I had been 'friends' on Facebook.

Soon we were making our way through to the entrance and as everybody was showing their tickets, I started getting nervous. But when I got to counter and started explaining my predicament, the guy at the computer looked up and said 'you're Norwich Retro'. It was Keiran Hawken, another Facebook friend. He smiled and told me not to worry and let me in. After my initial concerns, I was starting to feel a bit special. As we entered the the room, to the left of the foyer, I realised just how much of a big deal the place was. It was huge and we weren't even into the main hall yet. I knew I was going to have a great time (it was 'kid in a sweet shop' time again).

The first section featured a nice collection of consoles and computers from The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge. They had some rare machines that weren't released in the UK, such as the Atari 5200 (which was quite a beast - size wise at least), the Sega SG-1000 which was Sega's first foray into the console market and looked a bit like a smaller version of the Master System 1, the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) which was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) over here (and design-wise looks much better than our 'mini' betamax player), and the Amstrad Mega PC which was a rather nondescript Intel 386 based PC but when the front flap was slid across it exposed a cartridge slot and two controller ports to play Megadrive games (which I'm sure was only built to give the office staff at Amstrad something to do during their lunch breaks).

As we explored further into the first room we came across a selection of hand-held (actually more like table-top) video games. Here we had the awesome Astro Wars (which must have been many a kid's Christmas wish back then), as well as Astro Blaster, Merlin, and the ultimate 80's electronic game - Simon. To the right of this collection was another group of machine from The Centre for Computing History which included some extremely earlier consoles. Although these weren't plugged in, it was good to see them 'in the flesh'. We had Ralph Baer's original Magnavox Odyssey, Apple's Japanese version of the Pippin (the ATMARK), the World Of Wonder Action Max console (which is unique in that it needed to be hooked up to a VHS video player and the games, all light-gun, were 'streamed' from the tape - apparently you also had to attach a red light to the bottom corner of the tv screen which flashed when you had to shoot at anything), and the original Atari home Pong from 1975.

There were a few traders in this section as well and it was here that I bagged my first items. One chap was seller a collection of boxed Atari VCS cartridges quite cheaply so I grabbed a few. They were Megamania, Pressure Cooker, Starmaster, and Pitfall!. While I was waiting to pay a guy standing beside me took Pitfall! out of my hand and starting saying how good it was. I let him say his piece and then quickly grabbed it back, in case he tried to buy it!

Heading deeper into the building we entered another room which, as well as containing many more consoles, had the behemoth that is Virtuality's 1000CS which was up and running with Dactyl Nightmare (an impressive example of early VR powered by an Amiga 3000), also on display were some extremely slick looking arcade cabinets designed and built by Surface Tension (these guys produce possibly the most elegant coffee table arcade machines and higher end multi-media furniture).

Moving on we entering the main hall and suddenly my senses were overloaded by everything this large hall contained. To my left were traders and media companies and to my left were pinball tables and arcade cabinets stretched out towards the back of the hall. This was easily the most popular area (although that is not putting down the other parts of the event as they were all busy with eager visitors having a great time) but the shear size of this room meant that there was a lot going on and the cacophony of sound was just like the arcades of old.

The first machine that greeted me was also the most surprising because right there stood a cabinet which for somebody giving it a quick glance may have been mistaken for a Donkey Kong cabinet. It's colour, artwork, and control panel, were all reminiscent of Nintendo's classic cabinet. But this was a Fix It Felix Jnr cabinet which, as I have since discovered, was a custom build by Turnarcades (using the artwork from the original machine that Disney had commissioned for the Wreck It Ralph film, I presume) and the game was a ported by Jim Bagley (in his 2nd collaboration with Turnarcades - more to follow) from the flash version of the game. This was an impressive looking machine and really looked the part.

As I progressed forward I had a chance to browse some of the traders tables and if I had the money I could of loaded a truck with all the desirable items that were on display. One of the best stocked traders was Rockrabilia, who I had bought a few things from on Ebay. As I eagerly scanning the items I was greeted by the chap behind the table who again recognised me as Norwich Retro. It was Tim Abbot and it was again good to meet another Facebook friend and have a chat about his retro goodies. Unfortunately I don't remember buying anything..sorry.

Opposite his stall was a selection of pinball tables and although these looked impressive, I was never a great fan of pinball. It was testament to the fondness of these tables that so many pinball wizards crowded around these machines and they were never left alone for long.

As I continued my tour, in front of the main stage where the Retro Lords were holding another gaming contest (Warlords on the Atari VCS if I remember), I then found myself walking past the first bank of arcade cabinets. Most were busy and there were some classics but I could hear a familiar sound, was that Mr Do! I could make out? Yes, so I quickly walked to the end of the row and around to the second bank. And there it was, one of my most favourite games, I had to wait a minute to get onto it but soon I was playing this great game on the original cabinet. It was lots of fun, even if the joystick was sticking a little bit to the right. I did pretty well and at the time I was top of the high score table. Nice!

Being in the arcade zone I thought it would be rude not to try a few more of the great games on offer so I tried my luck on Juno First, Puck Man, and the great looking Blaster (in it's original cabinet that was housed in a black cylinder and looked very sci-fi) which was immense fun. As I carried on around I spotted a few old chaps having a chat so I decided to grab a pic on the camera. It wasn't until I looked at the preview that I noticed that Jim Bagley had looked over with a wry smile on his face. I walked over to thank him for the unintentional picture and had a quick chat. He explained how he was a little sad that they didn't have his other arcade cabinet working (which was actually the first one he did with Turnarcades - Fix It Felix Jnr was the second one). Pac-Manic Miner-Man was the custom arcade machine which comprised of a Turnarcades large 'bar top' cabinet with artwork from the original Manic Miner game cover. The game inside was written by Jim and was a version of Matthew Smith's original Spectrum classic written on the Pac Man hardware. I have since seen it running and it is a very novel project. As Bob was still in deep conversation with Chris, I decided to head off and try to find Simon.

I found him near the Amibay tables, debating whether to fork out on a pimped out Spectrum +2. I could see he was on the verge of getting the old wallet out but he had a second thought and said, in his best terminator voice, I'll be back. We headed back to the main hall and as we reached Bob, he was now free so we had a chat with some others about the old days and how he went back to the offices after Ocean closed down and found much of his original artwork laying around with some of it on the floor and now covered in footprints. There was also the story behind the artwork for Mr Wimpy, which on the stall was much darker and a little scary with a nasty looking sausage with massive teeth and white zombie-like eyes about to take a bite out of him whilst an angry looking fried egg gazes on sternly from the background. Although it was accepted by Ocean, Wimpy didn't like it so it had to be redrawn to become the image that many of us now know as the short beef-eater character with a demented sausage and dazed egg. Not a patch on the original but maybe the original would have given young children nightmares! After flicking through the folders of his reproduction artwork, I managed to grab an A4 print of the Wizball artwork (which is probably my favourite) and it was just as well as it was the last one (sorry Simon). Bob kindly signed it and it now hangs in the retro collection room at home. He was also kind enough to pose for a photo. Cheers Bob!

Moving on we explored more of the arcade machines and I was relived to see my high score was still intact on Mr DO! Apart from the main two banks of cabinets, there were also clusters of other machines, so all the driving games were together, as was the gun games. I was a great fan of them so I walked on an we ended up in the bar for a cold drink, having retro fun was thirsty work.

Another of the big draws of the event were the various talks that were being done by some of the industry greats of the time. I think I missed a couple during the day as there was so much going on but I just about caught the announcement that Sandy White was about to start his talk about the trials and tribulations of his cult Spectrum game 'Ant Attack' which was celebrating 25 years. He was being interviewed by Paul Drury of Retro Gamer magazine fame and although I missed the start of it (I couldn't just quit part way through a game!) it was a very informative, funny, and at times, really heart-felt discussion.

After popping into the bar area to grab a cold coke and chill for a moment, we did another tour of the event. I think the event had reached it peak for attendance and there were people everywhere, enjoying machines that they had as kids (or maybe the ones that they had always wanted), pouring over the stalls from the various traders hoping to take something a bit special home with them, or just milling around and taking into the great atmosphere. I ended up in the main hall and after checking having another go on Mr DO! (as somebody had beat my record - couldn't beat them though), I spotted Simon was having a go on the Virtual Boy. The machine had always intrigued me and although it was one of Nintendo's rare failures, I had always wanted to have a go on one. Of course there were the stories of them inducing headaches and sickness but I thought a quick go wouldn't hurt (and Simon didn't seem to be suffering too much). I can't remember which game was playing but it seemed like fun and the 3D effect wasn't bad considering how old the technology was but I could understand how the red graphics to get to you after a longer session.

I also caught Allister Brimble's presentation for his new album 'The Amiga Works' which contained recreations of some of his best Amiga music such as Alien Breed, Project X, and Super Frog. He played the original Amiga audio and then the reworked version of some of the Alien Breed tracks and I have to say they were fantastic. He was also kind enough to pose for a photo at the end of the session. Really nice guy, thanks Allister.

Our day was drawing to a close and we were thinking of leaving but we heard the announcement that the raffle was being drawn in the main hall so we headed over to see if we would get lucky (knowing my success with prizes in the past I didn't expect much). The first few tickets where called, for things like t-shirts, games, and some hardware. Each time I looked at my tickets and, well nothing. Then they got to a boxed N64, four games, a memory card, and an extra controller. I scanned down my tickets and almost missed it but there it was, my number! Wow, I had really never won anything in my life but here it was, winner! So I walked up to claim my prize, in front of the gathered crowd. My smile must have been from wall to wall. I was asked to make a speech but in my rather shy and dazed state all I could say was 'i'll treat it like it was my own child', ah well it didn't get many claps but it was best I could do at short notice.

After packing the various goodies in the car, we headed back into the bar as there was a concert by Whitely, who was able to create some great dance music by using a lowly Nintendo Gameboy as a controller. We stayed for about a hour or so but as it was getting late and Simon had another mammoth drive back, we left and stopped off at the McD again for a top-up before driving back to Norfolk. We got back home in the early hours of Sunday morning (after a few detours due to some road works being performed on Spaghetti Junction). We were tired but still buzzing from an remarkable day out.

My first experience of Retro Revival had been everything that I hoped it would be and a lot more as well. I had got to meet some great people that I had only ever spoken to on Facebook, play on some rare and amazing hardware, picked up a few more things for my collection, and of course come away a winner. There were two things that I knew when I got home, one was that retro gaming was popular and A LOT of people are still really into it, and secondly, I had to go back again.

I hope you enjoyed my story and also the images, if you are in any of them, give me a shout!

Oh, and here is a few more pics from the event.

Simon on the Virtual Boy, Retro Revival 2013 Rockrabilia at Retro Revival 2013 Pong cabinet replica at Retro Revival 2013 The Fruitcade by Video Game Carnival, Retro Revival 2013 Colecovision and VCS adaptor, Retro Revival 2013 Retro Computer Museum collection at Retro Revival 2013

Related links

The British IBM - Great band from Cambridge with a retro vibe in their music.

Surface Tension - Company specialising in elegant 'coffee table' arcade furniture.

Turnarcades - Suppliers of custom arcade machines, upright, bartop, bespoke, awesome.

UK Video Arcade Collectors - Dedicated team whose members supplied many cabinets.

The Amigaworks - Website for Allisters 'The Amiga Works' album. Buy it now!

Sandy White - Sandy's own page about all things Ant Attack.

Video Game Carnival - You thought games were fun, these guys know fun.

Centre for Computing History - Website of this amazing organisation from Cambridge

Retro Computer Museum - The other supplier of machines at Retro Revival 2013.

 

Article by Gary - December 2014