I've always been aware of the movement to preserve classing gaming by crafty coders who have created emulators and ROMS for virtually every system and for every game, at least for those released over the past couple of decades. Personally, I've tinkered with an old Commodore 64 emulator that had me typing Load "program",8,1 to initialize one of my favorite classic games from yesteryear - Raid Over Bungeling Bay. Now before we enter in a debate about the legality or morality with emulators and ROMS, let me first say...that is not what I'm here to talk about.

Over the Christmas break, it seemed like every time I turned around I was being exposed to classic gaming in some regard, but I guess that is bound to happen when you're part of a family of gamers. Not a bad problem to have; in fact, it's rather cool. I get access to their toys without having to buy them, although of course I've made my contributions to their collections over the years. What I've discovered, or so it would seem, is there is a movement to extend the longevity of these games and their associated systems; and there is a ton of expended energy from every day gamers like you and me to preserve the original state of these games. And it would seem like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) is leading the charge and at the forefront of this revolution. That might just be my perception.

I have a son who is an avid collector of SNES games. He still has a functioning SNES that he plays regularly and is well on the way to building an impressive library of SNES games, some of which are surprisingly expensive to acquire, like Wild Guns, one of the newest additions to his collection. He turned me on to this website devoted to producing the cover art (original and custom) so collectors and whoever else might be interested can buy generic clear plastic cases and transform them into high quality looking covers perfect for displaying for all your fellow gamers to be envious of. The website is called The Cover Project. You can find it here, including support for more than a dozen gaming systems ranging from the Intellivision to the Atari Lynx (and of course all the modern consoles too). Here is a sample of their work.

On a recent visit, we went to an old school video game store located nearby that specializes in the sale of classic video game consoles and games. The store was more akin to a video game museum instead of a store, and had quite the collection of games ranging from Atari 2600 all the way up to the current generation of consoles. While browsing through the merchandise, the store had quite a few of these systems available that played old NES, SNES and Sega games (apparently they've been out for a few years, but I've never seen one in person). One console to play three different types of games covering a few different generations? Yes. At least that's what the box advertises.

Tap into the joy of your childhood with the RetroN 3 gaming system. Capable of playing Nintendo, SEGA Genesis and Super Nintendo cartridges, the RetroN 3 is the only system you can play thousands of classic games from these three systems.

Apparently you can buy it at places like Amazon for about $50 bucks, which is about $30 bucks cheaper than the place down the road from my house.

Now don't ask me if the system is legal, or if it is how they managed to pull off that magnificent feat, because frankly...I have no idea. All I can tell you is, it wasn't some backyard science project or manufactured out of old pieces and parts and stuffed in a modded case of some sort. The store had about a dozen of them, in the box and apparently you can even buy them over the Internet (as indicated above). The store had one up and running, connected to a nice flat panel current generation TV and it looked pretty good. Oh, sure...the graphics were still clunky and chunky, but if you're trying to satisfy that old school urge, this might be the system for you. Now, I'm not some secret promoter who gets a kickback for every unit that ships, I only bring it to your attention because I'm kind of fascinated with the fact a company would spend the money to produce such an item, and perhaps even more so, there are gamers out there who would set aside their powerful Xbox 360s, Playstation 3s and/or Wii Us to play games from the 80s and 90s...and spend money doing it.

This next item I'm about to mention, I CAN tell you all about...because our family now owns one; and you can too...courtesy of Think Geek.

It is truly a portable SNES handheld gaming device, complete with a little screen and controls, tucked away in a compact little package. Sure, it's bigger than a DS and the PSP, but it kind of has to be in order to receive the SNES cartridge. What makes it really cool, it has a TV output and a couple of controller ports...so you can essentially hook it up and use it like an original SNES. My other son got this for Christmas with a few of my favorite SNES games - Super Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Of course I had to step in (commandeer if you will, see yesterday's blog) and try it out first. As I piloted the land speeder over the harsh desert sands of Tatooine, I had an overwhelming sense of nostalgia come flooding over me. Nobody seemed to care about the Wii U, out from under the tree and newly unwrapped...sitting off to the side in its unopened box. No, everybody seemed far more entranced in playing old school SNES games...I included.

Of course there are other contraptions out there, some old and some new, that essentially do the same thing. But it seems like these items are gaining in popularity and availability. Seeing one in Think Geek was quite the surprise, since it is a popular supplier of geeky goods. I dare say these items have to be legit if they're being sold by such a reputable vendor...surely they have done the homework on the legality of such an item? I hope.

I'm not a huge fan of playing old games from the past...I like to keep my memory of them intact and sometimes playing them again tarnishes this image. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun browsing some of the cover art for games from my past at The Cover Project website and playing some of my favorite games from my youth on this portable SNES gadget. Certainly playing these games on an original system, or at least a system that uses original controllers, helps preserve the sanctity of my memories. It's also kind of neat showing the kids what gaming from the past was like, how awesome I am at games they consider collector's item and the fact that I seem to know so much about these games. Out of this World, yes...I've played it and beat it. No, it's not impossible (but it is very difficult)...

Next project...get Contra and see if I can still enter the Konami code and get my 30 extra men.

Ah, nostalgia. Such an amazing feeling.