Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Year Another HAAG Arcade Expo

Well, almost a month since my last post. Too much work lately interfering with my playtime and of course with my chit chat time here on the Gameroom too. I have finished several games in the past month both modern and retro and am just getting way too far behind in my little online gaming journal here so I am taking a break from work to drop a few words and pics about my visit this last weekend to the Houston Area Arcade Group's Arcade Expo.

This was the 10th installment of the annual event here in Houston, Texas and as always a good time was had by all. Over 200 arcade, pinball and console games all on free play, after the initial purchase of the tickets of course. $20 per day or $30 for both days. Entering the hotel and looking around I saw the usual oddball mix of folks with the occasional stormtrooper from the 501st Legion, X-wing pilot from the Rebel Legion, and ghostbuster from the Houston Area Ghostbusters thrown in for flavor. My favorite? The stormtroopers of course!

The first room room is where they have all the vendors, the REALLY old arcade games (e.g. bat and ball games, flipperless pinballs and shooting galleries), an XBox 360 hooked up to a Kinect and projected onto a giant screen, the tournament games, and a large collection of various old consoles and computers set up with individual monitors and games just waiting for you to sit down and play. I played a little Apple IIe, VIC-20, Odyssey 2, Intellivision - pretty good stuff.

As in previous events Atari Age had a nice presence at the show with several homebrew carts available to play - and maybe buy which is what I intended to do but completely forgot to go back and look into it.  Last year's homebrew cart that caught my eye was Halo 2600 - the Atari's version of the modern Xbox classic (that you can try online here).  This year's prize was Juno First.

Juno First is a pretty obscure arcade game released by Konami in 1983 but if you've never tried it you should pull it up on MAME because it's pretty cool - think Defender mixed with Beamrider. And this Atari 2600 port by Chris Walton of Glasgow, UK is an excellent translation. Assuming you don't have a copy of the cartridge you can download the game here and give it a go on Stella. The author himself posted the file for download so I'm assuming he won't mind.

As I walked into the main arcade I recalled the noise. But unlike Joystix which assails you with music to the point where you often can't even hear the game you are playing, the HAAG Expo hits a much happier balance between arcade sounds and 80's music pumping through the sound system. So although it is still very loud, I find the HAAG arcade sound levels to be much more tolerable and historically accurate than Joystix.

All my favorites from the last show were there again like Quantum, Track & Field and Varkon. As always I discovered a few new ones that I quite liked - this time the honor fell to Sega's pinball Apollo 13 and the Terminator 3 pinball. The unique thing about the Apollo 13 pin was the multiball when 13 pinballs flooded down on your flippers at once. It was pretty wild!

Oh, and it's not game-related but I came home with a bag full of goodies too. I won a VHS tape of the Doctor Who episode Warriors of the Deep (points off for starring Peter Davison instead of Tom Baker but still free is free), and I bought a big stack of comics for 25 cents each, a marquee for the old obscure arcade game Shark Attack for $5 and a little spinning/exploding death star toy for $1.

If you are in the Houston area this time next year I highly recommend you check out the Expo. Never hurts to plan ahead you know.  See you there!

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Fallguy40 said...

Too bad for me they didn't wait until Thanksgiving weekend.

MadPlanet said...

I doubt if they'll ever make it for that weekend so you're going to have to come in a week or two early one of these days and check it out Fallguy. It's not THAT far from OK.

Mik said...

Space Invaders... mmmh, it doesn't ring a bell...

Jokes aside, a friend of mine just bought one and I must admit the real thing is just amazing (emulators will never do justice).

So you and Vic were good friends, huh? Very interesting my friend :)

MadPlanet said...

Yeah I love emus but the real thing is always so much better (assuming the controls aren't old and broken!).

If I ever found a really good deal on a Space Invaders I would buy it too. Such a seminal classic it demands to be in any arcade collection.

Oh yeah me and Vic go way back. Then C64 for years after that and I ALMOST bit into the 128 apple but switched to the new bland generic taste of PC instead. So I never even got a taste of the Amiga. :(

Mik said...

Don't worry, I never saw an Amiga 'til 2006, but in five years I had time to appreciate any bit of it.

As for Space Invaders, you just have to check out our last week's party (I'm the guy with the red Duff shirt):

MadPlanet said...

Cool pics Mik! Wow is that your friends house you were talking about? Looks like he has quite a few cabs older and newer.

What the heck were you guys doing - pulling the hearts out your old DSs as a video game sacrifice to your new 3DSs?

Mik said...

Yeah, that's the infamous house with plenty of cabs :)

And, no, we just sacrificed a brand new, working 3DS, but the story behind this insane joke it's a little bit too long to fit here. I still keep the "A" button and the lower screen in my drawer :P

Space Invaders reached my friend's house six months ago; he cleaned up the cab and put a custom print of a starry sky and a Wood's lamp in the background. The final effect is amazing, to say least.

MadPlanet said...

I might get a 3DS but it will several years down the road when I can find a dirt cheap one on Craigslist. That's how I got my GameBoy Color/GBA/GBASP - all several years after the fact when I found a dirt cheap deal.

I like the pic where the guy has the joystick nub stuffed in his nose. Just not something one expects to see.