This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend Replay Expo. Held in Norbreck Castle hotel in Blackpool, Replay is a two day video gaming event featuring both classic retro machines and games as well as the latest releases.
Walking in to the darkened main hall on Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by a wall of heat and arcade sounds, just like walking into a vast 1980′s arcade.
Down one wall was a line of original arcade cabinets with such classics as R-Type, Donkey Kong, Robotron and Operation Wolf, as well as some more obscure Japanese titles I’d never heard of. On the other side was pinball alley, lined with pinball machines and incorporating a “Pinball Through The Ages” mini exhibition in a side room. So far, so good.
The main floor was split between modern and classic.
X360s and PS3s were being used for various EGL competitions on the latest games (sorry, I didn’t pay much attention to this part and never actually found some of the competition rooms) and giving early access to Modern Warfare 3 a few days before the official release. There was a Kinect space, a two day Rock Band marathon challenge and a round table filled with XBox were running FFA Halo that you could drop in and out of as you wished.
On the retro side, row upon row of tables were lined with computers and consoles from the 80′s and 90′s. All the micros you’d remember were well represented, and some you probably wouldn’t remember too. A side hall held the Retro Tournament featuring competitive play on Sensible Soccer, Street Fighter 2 and more.
Commerically, Team 17 and Llamasoft had a stand demoing their games and handing out merchandise, and a couple of stalls along the back were selling gear from RetroGT, Attic Bug and Console Passion. AmigaKit, Individual Computers, Fignition and many more were represented in a traders’ hall outside. The Steel Series and Kick Energy girls were doing their bit too.
A number of talks from past and present industry figures were held outside the main hall, away from the noise. A Look Back at Newsfield, publishers of Crash and Zzap64; The Rise & Fall of Imagine Software; The Golden Age of Blackpool’s Arcades. There were others, but to be honest the schedule was hard to come by and I missed them.
So. Many. Highlights.
NeoGeo and MAME games played on a huge projection screen made me want to build a MAME box for the living room. Seeing Dingo for sale and meeting @Sokurah after beta testing it. Meeting the legend that is Jeff Minter and a couple more that I only knew off forums. Playing once again the arcade cabinets from the caravan park where I spent a lot of my childhood holidays, revisiting Grandstand Scramble and Astro Wars, and finally getting to play Starfox on the SNES. Getting to use a 1Ghz PPC AmigaOne (I think) and seeing Amiga OS4.0 in the flesh. Talking to Jens Schoenfeld about his Chameleon multi-emulator cartridge. Talking to the lovely Fignition people about their desire to get programming back into schools (a view I share). Seeing an actual cosplay competition. The crossing of lines at the charity party after the show on Saturday that we will never speak of again.
Click for more of my photos of Replay Expo 2011.
It was also reinforced that I do, truly, suck at video games. I managed to score zero on Space Panic, for example, and got nowhere near the high score tables on anything. Perhaps if I built that living room MAME console … next year, Replay, next year.
Replay Expo 2011 was, in short, in the parlance, tEh aWes0m3.