Feature: The seven console conundrum

By Neil Merrett

Shenmue 2 on Dreamcast – released 2001, Sega

Monday – August 31, 2015…. around 11:30

It was only a matter of time.

The certainty of a childhood home must end for us all. At 31, mine has had a good innings.

The family were moving to be bigger, better.  It was now time to be adult. With that comes hard choices.

“The black one is the Sega right,” she asks.

“Yeah, that’s the megadrive,” I respond.

She asks the question this time slightly wearily, holding up two dusty, once silver/grey controllers that have long since jaundiced in colour.  “Ok, so what are these great big clunky things for?”

“Those are for the Dreamcast,” I answer, perhaps a little too defensive for something rarely used – if at all – during the last decade.

Yet within its dusty shell, the faded little console still held the potential to realise an 11 year-old dream to just disappear for an entire week to explore the once state of the art open world of Shenmue 2.

One day it would happen. I would finally explore it’s stylised Hong Kong portways, getting a job, struggling to cover rent, heading to arcades to play retro hits like Space Harrier, solving mysteries and overcoming infrequent danger with unconvincing Kung fu – where else but in videogames do such challenges exist?

But within the chaos of moving home, the dream remains unfulfilled – at least for a little longer.  Perhaps never.  Space in the new house is now scarce, a commodity.  No more than a half dozen other consoles can in good conscience survive the purge.

The Dreamcast, once Sega’s once vaunted saviour was saved, but in the single remaining box of a lifetime of withheld gaming paraphernalia that remains – there was no room for the Nintendo 64.

I had miscalculated.  The console’s future was perilous.

But it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

For years I had dreamed that with maturity, loosely defined financial security and professional success, would come my own home,  an adult home.  It would no doubt be spacious enough for a wooden panelled sanctuary of video consoles ready to go at a flick of a switch, all set up through a labyrinthine array of wires connected via scart adapter to my snazzy, powerful TV – an adult tv for less than adult pursuits.

The room may never be realised, but it remains as nice a dream now as it was then.  Whether it comes in ten years – if at all – each of those dusty plastic boxes I collected felt important.  But for what?

Their graphics have aged, oftentimes, the gameplay fails to retain appeal after up to 20 years of irrelevance, and the friends who I once shared each gaming experience with have moved on to new consoles – new lives.

Without plugging them in. These machines are memories. Their charms more evident in the experience of getting through them than the stilted FMV or text screens that once passed for plotting in videogaming.

Shemue 2 may always remain undiscovered – it’s promise of a once state of the art, open world experience untarnished by reality of playing it or having to make comparisons to unthinkably advanced successors such as Grand Theft Auto 5 with its mountaintop yoga sessions and online heists.

Yet in it’s place lies an as yet unboxed PS4, waiting to be opened late December as some sort of reward, hopefully for doing something adult and mature, maybe for just surviving the year.

With that console comes new dreams; of my young nephews trying to convince me that advanced photo realism and physics developed for the new Pro-Evo or Fifa are infinitely more complex, wonderful and engrossing than Sensible Soccer on Amiga.

Or of new friendships forged through wasted hours of Mario 3D World and Rocket League.  

So what need is there for an N64 in an age of e-shops, emulators and hacked consoles?

Reality is ahead of me in the form of a half empty black bin bag and an adult decision to be taken.  At least one console has to go and who plays Goldeneye anymore?

So the choice is made.  

I carefully wrap the console in clothes for safe transport to the tiny flat I now call home and where occasional adult choices await.  

The difficult decisions can wait for another day.  Maybe they will never be resolved. But then I never did get round to Diddy Kong Racing.

Doodles courtesy of @MegaAlligator

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