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No, Seriously, Check Your Boxes

Last week I talked about how old videogames have undergone a rather surprising amount of price appreciation. I ended with: “Anyway, if you still have a box full of old games in your own closet, now might be a good time to take stock.” I ended up taking my own advice… and guys…

To save you some math, that adds up to $1871. That’s basically a current-gen gaming PC with a RTX 3080 (on sale). Are these “real” prices? Well, Price Charting has links to sold eBay listings with specific prices listed, so… yeah. I ended up Googling why something like Valkyrie Profile is worth so much, and apparently there were only ever 100,000 (English) disks sold, of which it is assumed 70,000 remain functional. In that scenario, I would have assumed something like PaRappa the Rapper would have been worth more, especially the trouble I went through tracking it down 15 years ago.

Slightly out of frame on the PaRappa case? The $9.99 sticker from whatever family-owned game reseller I found it in. I should probably research how to remove that before listing.

Time will tell if I actually achieve any of these prices. I went ahead and ordered some packing supplies and am committed to actually listing at least the pictured games. There are actually 17 more not shown, but next eight combined are $362, and then it starts getting into the ~$20 range where I’m not sure it’s worth my time. Real shame that something like ICO or Tenchu is only worth $12.

Seeing the physical Xenogears disks did give me a slight twinge, but I am very much in a post-ownership mindset. In the case of Xenogears specifically, I actually own it legitimately on PS+ (should I ever re-subscribe) and have it illegitimately digitally backed up in other locations. It’s not worth “buying” for $112 just to keep it in a box another decade, especially given the high likelihood that my son and/or uncontrolled climate change will accidentally ruin it.

Old Game Appreciation

There was a Reddit post recently titled “I just sold my childhood for $600.” Bunch of photos of multiple old consoles, stacks of games, and so on. Nice vicarious nostalgia trip. Open up the comments section and the most upvoted replies are roasting the OP saying he got swindled, and that his collection was easily worth $3500 or more. Really?

For giggles, I went to Price Charting and looked up… Chrono Trigger:

Oh.

Now, some of those top numbers are clearly ridiculous collectors items that rich people buy and sell for money laundering dick-measuring reasons – the rarity of sealed copy of a 27-year old game becoming a thing in of itself. But… uh… guys. I sold my own childhood collection back in 2012 for $375. One of the items? Chrono Trigger with the box and instructions intact. Probably wouldn’t count as “Complete” since I taped the poster to my wall back in 1996, but still. Worth about $300 by itself today.

I’m not going to go through my full list, but for comedy purposes:

  • Chrono Trigger + box + instructions = $300
  • Secret of Mana = $54
  • Super Metroid + box + instructions = $120
  • Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past + instructions = $45
  • Final Fantasy 3 = $78
  • Super Nintendo console = $76

That’s $673 just on the SNES side. Granted, everything else not listed was less expensive. Nothing was worth much on the Genesis or regular Nintendo side. Did see that Super Smash Bros Melee (Gamecube) was $54, which is about what I paid for it back in college.

I’m not even saying that I regret selling those games when I did. That was almost 10 years ago, after all. If you look at the price graph, Chrono Trigger was selling for $42.50 at the time. Plus, I was starting a new phase of my life:

What brought all this up to me again is that I am moving to a new apartment this week. While rummaging around in long-forgotten closets, I came across my NES and SNES collections; the wave of nostalgia nearly rendered me unconscious. While I did act on the daydream of plugging the consoles back up in college one time, these pieces of electronics haven’t otherwise seen the light of day for almost a decade. Was I really going to pack them up and move them to a closet in the new place? Would my theoretical future child have the slightest bit of interest in daddy’s ancient consoles in 2020’s era of (mobile) games? Hell, would these things still even work?

Bit prescient there, eh? I wrote that in 2012. My son will turn 3 this year, so it will be closer to 2025 before he’s playing videogames, I reckon. But sorry, kiddo, you’ll have to play Chrono Trigger on an emulator and not a then-$900 cartridge.

Anyway, if you still have a box full of old games in your own closet, now might be a good time to take stock. Some of them have apparently appreciated very nicely. For some reason.

Undertale, Overrated

Yeah, I said it.

Undertale is a cult favorite and Kickstarter darling from 2015 featuring meme-ready characters, NES graphics, and unique game mechanics. Your character has fallen down a hole into the underworld and now must contend with anxious monsters who need your soul to escape their otherwise eternal confinement. Will you leave a traditional trail of bodies and tears on your way to the exit, or will you embrace the spirit of determination and the power of friendship to spare all that you meet?

The very ending(s) depend on it!

It’s possible that I played Undertale too late. The retro graphics did nothing for me, nor did the retro graphics + modern game twists, as I played LISA back in 2015 already. While I did not know exact plot details, I also knew Undertale had a True Pacifist route that led to the best ending – knowledge which prejudges one’s own behavior in the game. Finally, I had already played games that also shifted in narrative tone and 4th-wall breaking, like Nier: Automata. If Undertale was my first experience with any of these things, maybe I would have been more impressed.

My major issue with Undertale though is that it is… not fun. When fighting enemies, they attack you via 5-6 seconds of Bullet Hell in which you move a red heart around a predefined box. It’s an extremely novel concept, and the things Undertale is able to convey through this mechanism is commendable. But at no point is it fun to do. Doing a True Pacifist run means you must talk to enemies instead of attacking them, which consumes several “turns” which results in you doing multiple Bullet Hell levels for each randomly-encountered enemy. True Pacifist also means you never level up or get more HP, so the game just gets progressively harder. Finally, if you get dangerously low on HP, you have to spend your turn using a healing item instead of talking, which delays the end of the fight and can mean you catch more damage than you healed and otherwise wasted your time.

Did I mention that you need to purchase healing items, using money that you receive from successfully navigating monster neuroses, thus potentially trapping yourself into a losing battle of attrition? Indeed, the only way I was able to complete the game at all was from looking up the solution to a puzzle that gave me an item that sometimes gave me free healing items. Supposedly there is also some armor you can buy to trivialize fights if you die enough times too.

In any case, the Venn Diagram of people who enjoy the plot of Undertale and those who like Bullet Hell games are likely two circles on opposite ends of the Earth.

There were some genuinely funny moments in the game, don’t get me wrong. But all I could really think about while playing was that Undertale did not respect my time. Which seems strange considering the game is like 9 hours long. Or perhaps that is expected when you know that every random encounter represents a possible permanent loss of player power (e.g. healing items or money to purchase more) instead of, you know, your character growing stronger over time. Technically you do find better equipment along the way, but that is really a bare minimum to keep parity with ever-stronger foes when you are stuck with 20 HP and losing a quarter of it each time you touch something.

Ultimately, I am glad I finished Undertale’s True Pacifist route. I understand that there are a myriad of alternative endings, including one which requires you murdering everyone you meet, but I don’t see the point. I sure as shit ain’t spending another 5+ hours on the endeavor when I already disliked combat.

Will do, Flowey. Will do. In fact, it’s already done.