This year I returned to PLAY Expo; a retro gaming event based in Manchester. It’s a long drive for me (roughly 3 hours each way depending on traffic), but I thought it would be worth it after last year. Especially as I’ve gained a number of friends on social media who live around there.
Crafters and Sellers
As a lover of retro gaming and collecting, I was immediately drawn to the game sellers in hope of finding a few good deals (getting in early on day one provides a great advantage). Last year the prices were reasonable, but for some reason this time they were mostly more expensive than eBay including the shipping. I was hoping for them to be the same price as eBay minus the shipping fee at the very most. Only one store offered prices which I would consider reasonable, it was just unfortunate that they didn’t have much variety.
Looking at NES, SNES, N64 and Mega Drive, a lot of games were in fairly poor condition considering their price. Most of the Mega Drive games I looked at had damaged dirty boxes and were missing manuals. Last year I was really impressed of how great the condition of games were for the price, often around £2-£8 cheaper than eBay minimum.
As a whole, there seemed to be less retro game sellers this year and more novelty item shops instead. I can understand that this offers more variety (I enjoyed the action figure stands), but there appeared to be a lot of fake Lego minifigures for sale and items such as Funko POP! Vinly figures and board games that you can purchase for the same price or cheaper online.
It wasn’t all bad. Tavington Crafts made a return this year with her excellent crafting skills (I will own a Majora’s Mask cushion one day!!!) and I discovered Paul who makes fantastic custom mini arcade units (expect an interview on this site soon). There were also a few other creative individuals scattered around to offer something more unique to what you’d casually find online.
Arcades, Consoles and Pinball Tables
Moving onto the arcade units there was a good selection of classics such as Pac-Man, Frogger, Space Invaders, Street Fighter 2, Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Space Harrier and many more! They didn’t have the awesome OutRun and AfterBurner units you could sit in this year, but the stand-up versions were still available to play.
Each game was free to play, the queues were small and everyone there seemed to have a good attitude for playing and sharing. On Street Fighter 2 there was a “winner stays on” rule put in place by a guy who was kicking everyone’s butt. I was a little nervous playing (I only wanted a few quick 2 player matches with my friend), but got roped into it anyway. To my amazement I actually won! I was then forced into a re-match where I narrowly beat him again. The feeling was amazing, very similar to old times. I thought I’d be rusty and pretty rubbish at Street Fighter after all this time, but he informed me I was the first person to beat him all day!
I got to enjoy the majority of games I was interested in and the same went for the pinball machines too (I loved the Batman one). There was also a large number of games consoles and PCs setup for LAN matches of Quake, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, split-screen multiplayer for GoldenEye, Mario Kart, and so much more. I like the approach the event had for themes such as Mario, Sonic, Batman, Tomb Raider and Star Wars, where you get to experience games from different generations of 8-bit and beyond.
Indie Developers, Raging Justice and Dark Souls 3
There was an impressive line-up of Indie developers and an exclusive first play of Dark Souls 3 for fans of the series. I was really excited to see the return of Raging Justice by Makin’ Games; a side-scrolling beat-em-up inspired by Final Fight and Streets of Rage.
There have been numerous improvements to it over the year such as a new intro sequence, a new character to play as, improved hit detection and unlockable special moves via levelling up. I was told that beyond the playable demo there have also been new enemies added, animations, levels and more. It was great to speak with the developer Nick and artist Jay and experience how passionate they are about delivering a quality game that honours those past beloved arcade and 16-bit titles.
The launch of Raging Justice is expected to be early next year on Xbox One and PC, but Nick also intends to release on mobiles, PS4 and more soon after.
Celebrities and Film Props
The film props this time consisted of just one vehicle that I think was from Mad Max and a photo opportunity on a mock Darth Vader chair or next to a Jurassic Park/World Velociraptor. This paled in comparison to last year’s Transformer Cars, the DeLorean from Back to the Future and the Game of Thrones Chair for photos. It was good to see David Prowse (the man inside the suit of Darth Vader), but overall it felt they didn’t give much focus to this part of the event. I guess it makes sense as it’s a game expo, but it was still a nice touch last time.
Conferences and Talks
There were various talks going on through the day from developers, YouTubers and Cosplayers, but these seemed drowned out from all the background noise of the event. The side stage near the entrance was the best, but I couldn’t hear what was being said in most of the others (especially the one on the far left amongst the arcade machines). It’s good that the event includes and encourages these as an addition and variety for the event, but hopefully next year the sound will be improved (or I’ll get a hearing aid!).
PLAY Expo 2015
Overall, my experience of PLAY Expo 2015 was positive. It’s exciting to get hands-on with indie titles in development and speak with the people who made it. It’s fun to take nostalgic trips down memory lane and play old arcade games or enjoy those you didn’t come across in your youth. There is plenty there for everyone; gamers, collectors, cosplayers, and even those who are interested in making games themselves.
Whilst the games for sale was a little disappointing, I still have hope for next year. It’s all part of collecting; you never know what you’ll find and you can come across some bargains (I did find Mickey Mania complete for £5! So it wasn’t all bad).
I look forward to what will be on offer in 2016. Personally I’d like to see more sellers and arcade machines. I’d love to play more light-gun games like Virtua Cop, House of the Dead and Time Crisis. It would be really cool to play Cadillacs and Dinosaurs too as I’ve heard good things about it.