Road Trip
A classic gaming odyssey

A special report by the Scribe for Zophar's Domain

Part 1:  Contact! (01/08/2000)

    Don't you just hate paying those obscene prices on eBay for your favorite classic computer games?
    Would you pay less for more if you could?
    Of course you would ... wouldn't you?

    As many of you may or may not know, one of the many side projects that has arisen out of my involvement on the emuscene is something that I call the MegaVault.  It is my effort to collect originals of every single title in existence for three of Sega's four classic 1990s home video consoles - the Genesis/MegaDrive (G/MD), the 32X, and the Sega/Mega CD.  As a result, I have gotten to know many of the folks and businesses that cater in used videogames here in my home state of Arkansas (U.S.) - half-buried classified ads, dial-a-trade call-ins, pawn shops, flea markets, videogame resale stores, and the like.  Late last year, I was in the process of buying out a local videostore chain of their entire stock of Sega games.  "Is that all?" the clerk asked as he rang up my three-digit ticket.
    "All for now," I answered.  "Tell me - do you have or can you get any 32X or Sega CD games?
    The clerk shook his head.  "No," he answered, "but I know a place that does.  They've got old videogame stuff of all kind floor to ceiling, and I know they've got lots of Sega stuff.  They're down in Hot Springs, if you're willing to drive that far."
    Indeed I was!  The following week, I cleared my schedule and went down to Hot Springs.  You know what I found?  Classic gaming paradise.

Central Station Marketplace - Hwy 7 South, Hot Springs, AR (U.S.)    The Central Station Marketplace belongs to that subgenre of American business known as the "flea market."  The concept is simple enough - one big building, usually an old storage building or failed retail outlet (or mall) subdivided into a number of booths of various sizes.  These booths are rented out to various people, who then fill them with whatever resaleable merchandise that they want to push.  Central Station is one of the better large flea markets in southern Arkansas, located on Highway 7 south just a short drive down from the Oaklawn Race Track.  It is located inside an abandoned department store, and within you can find just about anything from old radio tubes to the latest collectable Barbies straight from Mattel.  I've been a regular customer to flea markets for some time now, and pretty much knew what to expect.  Fortunately, the video store clerk had given me detailed instructions as to where to go in the mall, so I wasted no time in homing in on my destination - a mid-sized booth known as the Game Room.
    Aaaaaahhhhh ... nirvana ....
    The images you are about to see are from my third and most recent trip, which I made earlier today.  I went to square away some details about a planned visit to the Game Room's warehouse, where they have considerably more than is shown here.  Among my goals this time was the location of two games - Double Switch for the Saturn (a request for the Snake) and Shining Force CD (for Eidolon).  While I didn't find them today, I will have another opportunity to search again once my date with the warehouse visit arrives.  That will be in two weeks, and I will be taking my camera at that time as well, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, and be sure to remember to use your "View Image" option in your browser anytime you want an enlarged view.  I hope that the level of detail is enough to whet your appetites.
    Of course, if you see anything in the pictures that, well, umm, might interest you, then you better start making those lists.

Do you have any good games for the Super Nintendo?    Let's start with the south wall of the Game Room booth, right next to the entrance.  Note the video poker machine - Hot Springs (horse racing) and West Memphis (greyhounds) are the only two places in Arkansas where gambling is legally permitted.  NeoGeo fans will have little trouble identifying the big black box so prominent on the top shelf.  Right behind it is a boxed Jaguar - who could mistake those eyes?  Those eyes ... THOSE EYES ... AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!  Of course the one on the next shelf down is far easier to see - the one sitting right next to the boxed Odyssey 200, just a few feet away from a boxed Sega Master System.  I'm sure that Sega fans have already spotted that, as well as the two boxed 32Xs and the two boxed Genesis Mark 1s on the top shelf - right below the boxed Atari VCS.  Oh, and is that a boxed Super NES sitting beside them?  And what's this on the lower shelves?  Games?  You bet - PlayStation (old oversize boxes), Saturn (right below them, two shelves), and a whole rack of Atari VCS carts.  The man at the counter is looking over a "small" sample of the hundreds of SNES carts that the Game Room has in stock.  See the magazine rack beside him?  Now you know from where I'm getting my old gaming mags.  There are also a fair assortment of used white-cased CDs in the glass case behind the couple - you know, the ones that belong to a certain 128-bit Sega console?
Just a minute - I wanna hear how the Hogs are doin'...     Moving the camera to the southwest corner reveals even more goodies.  Yes, those are two bins full of lone Genesis carts, and they have tons more "out in the warehouse."  The folks at the counter are looking over a similar bin full of SNES carts.  Looking back up at the shelves for a moment, it seems as if I made a mistake earlier.  There are not one, but TWO boxed SMS consoles back there.  On the top shelf, we can now see four boxed classic NES systems (cough, cough), including a sport pack variant.  A little farther down the top shelf are some boxed late-model SNES consoles, along with the SNES version of Batter-Up (in the plain white box).  Below are various accessories and cleaning tools for various consoles, as well as old retail "flip racks" advertising SNES titles.  In the glass case below the shelfs and to the right of the couple are two bins of used N64 carts.  Behind the counter, with his back to the counter, is Mike Barker, one of the co-owners of the Game Room.  We will be seeing more of him as our panorama of the Game Room continues.
Westward ho!    Okay, now it's time for the west wall.  Yes, that's a PlayStation arcade stick on the table, and that's nothing but PlayStation stuff in the right glass case.  That's a PlayStation steering wheel sitting on top - these guys have joysticks, light guns, and other kinds of alternate and unusual controllers for most major classic consoles out the royal wazoo.  Along the right edge of the picture is the first of two "spinner" racks full of boxed (and complete) Genesis games.  They have lots more, both boxed and loose, along with manuals, accessories, and spare consoles "out in the warehouse," of course.  More of the back wall behind the glass counters can be seen, as we now spot such vintage items as a boxed Sega CD (model 2), along with your pick from all three versions of the Genesis.  Ooohh, is that a Sega Saturn in the box?  You mean the one just above the boxed Genesis TeeV Golf club and right below that one white box that says ... uh ... um ... wow!  I've never seen one of those in that kind of box before.  And what's that right above the PlayStation "flip rack?"  Hmmm, they look a lot like Genesis cases, but they're too wide.  Perhaps a bit of a zoom-in would help?
So you wanna buy NeoGeo?    "Ooooooohhhhhhhh ... aaaaaaahhhhhhh ..." intones the NeoGeo emufans.  Yes.  There they are - in original packaging, complete and with their original instructions.  Actual NeoGeo carts.  I didn't see any NeoCDs, nor did I have time to ask, but I'll keep my eyes open during my future warehouse visit.  I wouldn't be surprised what I find there at this point.  Stacked on top of the NeoGeo games is that Genesis TeeV Golf club, and on top of that are a couple of mint-in-package 3DO controller pads.   Ooohh, and look to the left of the picture - boxed 3-button Sega Genesis arcade sticks!  Never leave home without 'em, and never play Street Fighter 2 without 'em, either.  Right?  Right!
This is where I struck some serious paydirt ....    Now we pan around to the northwest corner, where the Genesis spinner racks can be plainly seen.  I found a complete-in-box copy of Shining Force in there - one of the few Genny RPGs that I didn't have at that point - and you want to know something?  I paid less than half of what the thing has been known to fetch on eBay.  "You bastard!" scream the vintage game buyers, to which I can only grin in thrifty satisfaction.  Just behind the spinner racks are the shelves holding 3DO and Sega CD boxed games - a few in plain-vanilla standard CD jewel cases, but most in original packaging with instructions.  There was a large supply of 32X games here on my last visit, but they seem to have disappeared this time.  No matter, they don't have the one I need (World Series Baseball 32X).  Much to my surprise, though, I found instead a rare store promo copy of the first issue of Lunar: The Silver Star for Sega CD - you know, the yellow-lettered, non-embossed original release but with the PROMO USE ONLY stamps?  Too late - it's mine now ... bwuhahahahahahahaha!  No, I'm not going to tell you what I paid for it, but it wasn't US$65, that's for sure.  It was less ... a LOT less, in fact.  I wonder what other Sega CD classics I'm going to find in the warehouse?  Oh well, let's worry about that later.  Next to the 3DO/Sega CD shelves are ones containing nothing but unboxed NES carts - some with slipcovers, but most without.  Stacked on top of these two shelving units are such relics as a couple of boxed Intellivision systems, another Odyssey variant, and that deluxe boxed GameBoy set.  Do the blessings ever end?  No, we've still got more to go!
How do I switch this over to the SNES?    It's time to see the north wall of the Game Room.  Here we see the gentleman who was looking over SNES carts a little earlier getting ready to review his picks on the store's testbed setup.  "Try before you buy?"  No problem for loose carts or open boxes, but absolutely nothing doing on shrinkwrapped or sealed titles.  Store policy, you know - but there's plenty enough loose carts and CDs for most contingencies.  Back to the subject, though - the Game Room has six vintage consoles routed to a common TV - Atari VCS, NES, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, and N64 - and can easily hook up others per customer demand.  To his left is a shelving unit that is solid boxed SNES games from base to top, and above the gentleman are various boxed and shrink-wrapped consoles and accessories.  Yes, more boxed Sega Saturns are to be seen - the console was actually kinda popular down here during its day - and one might also take note of the somewhat rare boxed NES Challenge Set.  A rather rare boxed version of Sega's standalong game Pods is also in evidence, as well as a hint of yet another glass cabinet to explore.  Yes, there are more shrink-wrapped consoles behind the glass, as well as cleaning kits for just about every kind of major cartridge-based vintage gaming system you could imagine.
    Guess what?  We're almost done!
Just let me know if you need any help, sir.  Okay, thanks.    Here is the first of two pictures covering the entire east wall of the Game Room.  As you can see, our customer has his game up and running on the store's testbed SNES unit.  Mike Barker, store co-owner, is busy cleaning a console, ready to help his customer at a moment's notice.  Hmmm ... I wonder if Zophar would give an award to the ZD user who can correctly guess which game the customer is reviewing?  Anyway, take a gander behind those cleaning carts.  That's right - an old Commodore video monitor.  They make great dedicated videogame console screens, don't they?  Lots and lots more goodies are in evidence, such as that boxed 3DO system, those Dragon Ball Z Goku dolls, the bin full of plush Nintendo characters, and lots more NES and SNES stuff (these guys dabble in Pokemon trading, too), and even ... yes, by gum!  Game Gear stuff!  Oh, man, wait until the MEKA crowd get a load of what these folks have.  The blue glass display case has various and sundry accessories for classic game consoles, and hanging on the overhead rack are those blasted NES footpad thingeys ... I forget what they're called, and I really don't care, because they were a bitch.  Mike Barker has so many of them that, as he jokes, "We use them for insulation."  Don't blame him - it's just as good a use as any.
Can I help you, sir?    Well, we're finally back where we started - the entrance to the Game Room - and here's the last picture for your viewing pleasure.  I was going to take more, but the memory card on the camera could only hold 10 pics at its highest resolution.  Anyway, you can see Mike Barker getting ready to help a new customer who has just walked in through the booth's only door.  The lady on the phone behind the cash register is Becky Barker, Mike's wife and the other co-owner.  She's a real sweetheart, and she's only too happy to do business with you - after all, they've got a whole warehouse of vintage gaming gear to move, right?  Between them on the back wall are even more classic console games and supplies, and in front of them is a green shelving unit full of codebooks and back-issues of popular gaming mags.  I found my third true treasure in here - the highly prized Phantasy Star 2 Official Hint Book from Sega.  It was used and the cover was worn, but it was still quite serviceable.  Oh, and did I mention that the price was right, too?  Speaking of which, you see those two white bags on the table, between the box of Genesis carts and the PlayStation arcade stick?  Those are mine.  Both of 'em

    Needless to say, I made out like a bandit at the Game Room ... and you can, too.  I will be going back in two weeks for my anticpated "warehouse visit," but there's nothing to stop you from calling Mike and Becky and arranging your own private sales.  They'll be glad to hear from you, and sell you anything they have in stock.  You will pay a bit for the rare stuff, of course, but nothing like those silly and overinflated eBay prices - assuming that I or others haven't bought it already.  To learn more, just give them a call anytime between 10 AM and 5 PM Central Standard Time on Saturdays at (501) 321-0767 ....
    ... and be sure to tell them that the Sega guy sent you.

Next time, the Scribe visits the legendary Game Room warehouse, and we learn more from Mike and Becky Barker about their unique business.

Road Trip: A Classic Gaming Odyssey by Sam Pettus (aka "the Scribe")
Copyright © 2000 Zophar's Domain, all rights reserved.