Interviews

Retro Replay arcade — A MegaBites interview

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While the modern-day arcade scene may pale in comparison to the innovation, sights, sounds (and cigarette smoke) of the coin-op scene’s glory days, a rising number of new locations are proudly waving the flag for arcade heritage. One of these venues is Norwich’s Retro Replay — the UK’s newest retro arcade. MegaBites spoke to Retro Replay’s owner, Glen McDonald, to get the lowdown on this newest of old-school gaming havens.

During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, there were arguably few experiences in gaming that could match the thrill and atmosphere of the arcade. The sights, the sounds and the heated competition for high scores under darkened light were near-impossible to replicate elsewhere — and still are. Arcades were the epicentre of gaming culture, a forum to battle for scoreboard supremacy, an arena to experience the very latest in video game technologies and experiences. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the launch of the Retro Replay arcade. Opened in September of this year, Retro Replay  is situated over two floors, in Norwich’s Castle Quarter shopping centre. Lit only by a combination of blue and purple neon, visitors are tempted inside by the inviting glow of cabinets including Virtua Fighter, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaxian, Lethal Enforcers and Ridge Racer — to name but a few. Meanwhile, the arcade’s ground floor is home to rows of retro consoles consoles, cocktail-style cabinets and bean bags sat beneath vast screen projections of Mario Kart.

For the price of a £10 day pass, visitors are free to play any game of their choice against a backdrop of chiptunes, frantic button-bashing, the cheers of gaming triumph and the groans of lives lost.

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The person responsible for this fun-filled oasis is its owner, 24-year-old Glen McDonald, who switched his day job as an account to launch Retro Replay, and share his collection of cabinets and passion for arcade gaming with the public. MegaBites spoke to Glen to find out more about the venue.

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Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Memories

Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 1)

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Saturday 29th October 1988, a time when 8-bit was at its pinnacle, a time of the Famicom, a time of Mario – a time that was dominated by three awe-inspiring syllables, Nin-ten-do. Saturday 29th October 1988 – Super Mario Bros 3 was only seven days old, and a Nintendo console could be found in one in three Japanese homes. Saturday 29th October 1988 was the day that all of that would change – the day that saw the release of the Sega Mega Drive.

It would be two years before Nintendo would respond with the release of the Super Famicom – a machine that boasted a superior palette of 32,768 colors, advanced audio, increased RAM and pseudo-3D rotating graphics. On paper at least, the ensuing console war could arguably have turned into a one-horse race.

For years, the Sega Mega Drive simply had no viable (or at least affordable) response to the raw graphical capabilities of its Nintendo counterpart. Sure, hardware innovations such as the SVP chip, the Mega CD and 32X all brought advanced graphical capabilities to the humble Mega Drive base unit – but at a significant financial cost.

Little did we all know, that under the Mega Drive’s sleek exterior sat dormant hardware capabilities with the power of equaling, and possibly surpassing the SNES’s graphical wow factor. Even now, some 30 years after the console’s release, the Mega Drive is still revealing its true potential – all thanks to modern day programmers, coders, composers and artists such as the TiTAN demo group. Continue reading “Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 1)”

Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Retrospectives

The Mega Drive Unleashed – Bad Apple

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Believe it or not, this screenshot is taken from an animated demo sequence on the Sega Mega Drive. Entitled Bad Apple, and based on the Japanese indy vertical-shooter Touhou, this demo is arguably one of the strongest examples of full-motion video and near CD quality music on the Mega Drive. That’s right, the Mega Drive! In the latest addition to the Mega Drive Unleashed series, MegaBites catches up with Stephane Dallongeville – the man behind not only Bad Apple’s 16-bit Sega conversion, but also a rather special Mega Drive port of a SNES Super FX chip classic.

More on the ‘enemy’ later… First, here’s Bad Apple:

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Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Retrospectives

The Mega Drive Unleashed: Titan Demo Group

TitanIn the great console wars of the early 90s, no fight came as heavyweight as that between Sega and Nintendo. It was Sonic vs Mario, Mega Drive vs Super Nintendo, Mode 7 vs… err… the SVP chip, perhaps? Although the Mega Drive may have struggled to find an answer to the SNES’s graphical capabilities – not that it had a need to – it has recently become apparent that Sega’s 16-bit battler was a far more powerful machine than initially anticipated. In the first in a series of related posts, MegaBites uncovers the modern day pioneers who have discovered new hidden potential beneath the Mega Drive’s shiny back bonnet. First in line is Titan Group, with their incredible 16-bit demo Overdrive.

Through a fusion of fantastic graphical, audio and coding techniques, Overdrive combines a series of effects designed to push the Sega Mega Drive beyond its intended abilities. However, Overdrive is no game, nor is it a product of the 90s; it is a new breed of Mega Drive ROM – a demo to showcase Sega’s console not only as a games machine, but also as an art form. How is this possible you might ask? Take a look for yourself and read on…

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