Another year, another Portland Retro Gaming Expo. The con’s been getting bigger year after year, with it starting to significantly fill up the space given at the Oregon Convention Center. The consequence is there being a few things I didn’t see, a couple typos I saw on a few signs, and a bit of confusion of where everything was. At least them introducing a quiet room to recharge and relax was a godsend on one of the days.
I tagged along most of it with friend of the site and playing card aficionado Weasel, who now tweets about his daily decks of cards on Twitter. Hell, even in a goodwill gesture I had given him a deck of cards that had the wheel from Wheel of Fortune on the back that I had gotten from a game show convention many years back.
At this stage, I have most of what I want, and anything else available is a bit too much out of my price range. However, PRGE is more than just a bunch of vendors selling their wares. I saw some cool people, got to check out a panel or two, even played some classic video games.
This is probably the least I’ve spent at PRGE to date. Nothing over $5. Most of my purchases were on Sunday, which I always figured is the “fire sale” days since some of the booths are based outside of Portland and the less they have to take back with them, the better. It helped I also checked many stores in their bargain sections where the most forgotten games are there for a buck.
But there was also a general goal I was going for this year, which I’ll explain momentarily. So let’s get into it.
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Xbox)
SWAT: Global Strike Team (Xbox)
One thing I’ve been slowly doing is trying to get what is considered the “best” version of a certain game. When it comes to stuff from the early to mid 2000s, 9 times out of 10 that’s on the original Xbox. The Xbox versions of multiplatform games often looked nicer, ran smoother, and came with features not available on any other platform. So these cheapo purchases were the start of this game plan.
Big Red One is a game I got way way back on the PS2 around 2005-06, and it was a decent little title in the Call of Duty series. They basically tried to be more like Band of Brothers, though with it coming out the same year as Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, it came off as a mediocre copycat.
Big Red One is Treyarch’s debut to the Call of Duty franchise. Technically, it’s also Grey Matter’s last, as the studio would be dissolved and have members shifted over to Treyarch after both companies had games canceled on them by Activision in 2005 – Treyarch’s Dead Rush and Grey Matter’s Trinity: The Shatter Effect. Since the actual Call of Duty 2 was a PC and Xbox 360 exclusive, plus there still being lots of people with PS2s and Xboxes, Activision pushed development of this game out in less than a year. Treyarch would do that again with Call of Duty 3 the following year. While both of those are not god-tier games in the series, they’re not as awful as other installments.
SWAT: Global Strike Team was Sierra trying to make some of their dormant franchises relevant in the then-new console space. The game is a mix between a tactical shooter and a more traditional action game. It was made by Argonaut Software, the company best known for using Nintendo’s Super FX chip to bring us Starfox and Stunt Race FX. And a lot of licensed junk afterwards, which this came out around that time. It’s been mostly forgotten by everyone, but it’s probably a decent little time-waster.
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (Gamecube, $5)
This game is the most expensive game I’d paid for at the whole con. Which is saying something, really.
While my car combat game experience begins and ends at Twisted Metal, I had heard about this lesser-known gem from various websites and gamers, saying it was a fun, yet oddball kind of game. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t exist much these days except maybe as a Steam Early Access title.
It came to all three platforms – the Xbox got it first, followed by Gamecube and PS2 a year later – but I had heard that the GC version was the “best” version of the three, so I opted to grab that as opposed to the original Xbox version. This happens sometimes: Dead to Rights ended up getting a “balance” update when it got ported to the Gamecube and PS2 after the Xbox original was considered too tough by some.
Since the “best version” of a game is rarely on the Gamecube, this means my collection on that system will consist mostly of Nintendo first-party games and whatever exclusive games there are, barring some exceptions. Unless they were utilizing the hardware to its fullest, like Capcom’s Killer7 and Resident Evil 4, it was barely better than the PS2 version in some cases. It’s a shame, but Nintendo was basically the oft-forgotten middle child during the GC/PS2/Xbox era.