Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why I Rule For Owning a Vectrex

The Vectrex was an ill-fated yet supremely awesome gaming console from the early 80's. There has never been and likely will never be another system like it. The timing of the Vectrex proved unfortunate in that it was released the same year the video game market crashed (1983). GCE, the company that manufactured the Vectrex and the vast majority of its games, was one of many casualties of the crash. So that makes Vectrex a somewhat rare system, and a prized part of a video game collection.

Aside from its rarity, the novelty of the Vectrex makes it a highly valued collectable. It's the only gaming console to ever feature its own vector graphics monitor. It's the first portable console I know of, in that the entire system is a self-contained unit. It features a unique controller that folds into the system itself. It has a fantastic game built into the system, which will boot if no cartridge is inserted in the slot on the right side of the machine. The original games came packed with colored overlays that added some needed color to the otherwise black and white vector graphics screen. It's just a super slick piece of 1980's technology that died before its time....or did it?

The Vectrex has a lively homebrew community, which is producing new Vectrex games even today, nearly 30 years after the last official Vectrex games were released. Many of these games really push the Vectrex to the limit, exploring the depths of everything this system can and cannot do.

So enough about how great the system is, I need to tell you how I got mine. Before my wife and I lost our jobs, we used to go thrifting just because. We did fun things like check all the tape decks for cassettes. We got a few interesting mix tapes and even a taped letter home that may or may not have ever been sent. I sometimes came across Atari or Nintendo games, as well as other interesting vintage electronics. We were at D.I., one of the truly great thrift stores in Mesa, AZ and I saw a Vectrex on a cart of electronics that had just been put out. The controller was still folded up in the machine, and I think they thought it was a weird old TV. I asked the dude at checkout how much it was going for because it didn't have a price tag. He let it through the register for fifteen bucks. After paying the man I ran out into the parking lot like I stole it. I didn't want him to change his mind. A Vectrex in good condition can easily fetch $150 to $200 on ebay. So yeah, I made off like a bandit with my Vectrex. Someday my kids will take this thing on Antique Roadshow.

So I've owned my Vectrex for a couple years now, and haven't picked up any games for it because they can be hard to come by and guys charge through the nose for 'em on ebay, especially if they're complete with box and overlay. I always meant to get a multicart, which were easy to come by before I got my Vectrex, but the main dude who was making them (Sean Kelly) left the market right before I got my machine. I'm proud to say that I finally tracked down a great multicart from a guy in the UK. Check out his site here and buy stuff from him. He's a nice guy who put out a quality product. I'll be reviewing the multicart itself as well as all its games in the coming days. Be excited.

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