About midway through last year I made a discovery that changed the way I collect and play retro video games forever.
Living in Australia has always had it’s disadvantages when it comes to being a gamer. We quite often received titles late or not at all and our prices here were always higher than the US and Japan.
What I didn’t know however, and what blew my mind is that our games and game consoles, and games and game consoles released in the other PAL regions, were inferior ports locked at 50hz with letterboxing.
What this means is that our games run 17% slower, with atrocious bars both top and bottom crushing the image. Here is a video comparing the PAL and NTSC versions of Sonic The Hedgehog on the Mega Drive. The difference is quite dramatic.
Everything from the NES all the way up to the Wii suffered from this porting to some extent. Some later games were optimized or had a 60hz option, but the vast majority of retro titles were gimped by the PAL format and were locked at 50hz by either the console or the game itself.
My retro game collection wasn’t huge by any means, but I had a decent collection that up until that point I was pretty happy with. I immediately knew I had to make a change. I could either go into denial, or face the truth about the contents of my consoles, cartridges and disks.
After some consideration I decided that replacing my collection with NTSC versions would prove to be too expensive. With no option to find good prices at markets and thrift stores, I’d be forced to pay inflated ebay prices, and on top of that, international postage.
This lack of affordability and practicality lead me to something I am usually strongly against, piracy. Up until that point I had paid for everything, but faced with this situation I felt that piracy was the only logical option.
I came to the conclusion that in this situation it wasn’t technically piracy. How could I be stealing something if it was never made available to purchase in the first place?
Sure you can buy digital versions of some games via online services, or purchase a mini console filled with a limited selection of titles, but it isn’t the same as playing games on the original hardware, which is something that is incredibly important to me.
Pirating NTSC games that were never for sale here is justifiable, I’d even argue that I’m owed a decent copy of the game since I was sold an inferior one in the first place!
After some serious consideration, I decided to do two things. 1. Sell my retro gaming collection. 2. Replace it with Japanese Consoles and EverDrives.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ll discuss how I did it and why it was a great move in my next update.