Reunited – Pokémon Gold

Have you ever lost a game? Not simply seeing the “Round Lost” or continue screen, but you could no longer find a game once in your possession. Anyone who played enough games as a kid or has amassed enough games as a collector will likely have had something similar happen to them. Pokémon Gold was one of my favorite Game Boy Color games and one that represented many cherished childhood memories. Somewhere over the course of moving from my parents house(and several other times), I had lost track of my copy of Pokémon Gold. I had looked through every nook and cranny where I had scattered my collection of games, but….just couldn’t find it. I had slowly just accepted the idea that I MUST have sold the game in one of the couple times I went through with downsizing my collection, but…I still had the box and manual from the game. However, if I had gone through and sold the game in an episode of foolishness…why would I have not bothered to sell the game as a complete-in-box(CIB) copy and made the extra cash for it?

It was just this past weekend that I was surprised with my original, childhood copy of Pokémon Gold. It turns out, a nephew had…”borrowed” the game years back and “forgot” to return it, assuming I wouldn’t have noticed or cared the game was missing. Along with it, I found myself with the copy of Pokémon FireRed for the Game Boy Advance that I had also assumed was long gone…it was a joyous reunion, nonetheless.

Then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl…?

It’s been eighty-four years just over twenty years now since I first played Pokémon Gold. The game was released in North America on October 15, 2000, nearly a full year after Gold & Silver had been released in Japan. I had come down with a severe case of Poké-mania a year or so prior, and had finally gotten a Game Boy Color and copy of Pokémon Red of my own earlier that year. I remember most of my time in the spring/summer of 2000 was spent reading through my prized issues of Nintendo Power, which usually contained a wealth of Pokémon-related news or game tips and getting hyped for the release of the next Pokémon game, along with another little Nintendo 64 game titled Perfect Dark…which I may have also mentioned once or twice on this blog.

I don’t recall the date when I got Pokémon Gold, but I remember it being only a few weeks after it was released, so I’d say it was probably the beginning of November. I had been extra-motivated to assist my parents around our home and managed to actually save, yes, NOT spend every cent of my allowance as I was determined to begin another journey through the Johto Region on my way to becoming a Pokémon master. I can still remember pretty clearly the day we went into town for my parents to pick up a few things. We stopped by the K-Mart store in town(yes, this WAS twenty-one years ago) and I was able to finally grab a copy of Pokémon Gold, a game I had wanted more than anything else in the world. Before we had left for town, I had realized that I had enough money saved up for a couple games…how awesome is that? Along with Pokémon Gold, I decided on the Spider-Man Game Boy Color game – the one based off the 90’s cartoon, one of my other favorites next to the Batman and Pokémon animated series’. After that, I still had just enough money to pick up an official Game Boy Color travel case so I could somewhat protect my precious handheld as well as carry around a few games. I remember the feeling of pride and satisfaction at being able to point to something that I paid for with my own hard-earned(?) cash as I attempted to plug in my little accessory light and play Pokémon Gold on the ride back home.

* I sadly don’t still have the Spider-Man game and I’m not entirely sure what happened to the travel case…one mystery at a time, I guess.

It does feel pretty nice having my original childhood copy of Pokémon Gold, especially after assuming I’d either lost or, for some reason, sold the game and wasn’t likely to see it again. The game has much sentimental value in being a game I felt such pride in being able to go into a store and buy myself, as well as something I loved playing in those early Junior High School days. It also has a monetary value, as the prices of older Nintendo, especially Pokémon games have been skyrocketing the past few years…so, it’s a double-win!

So, how about you? Have you ever lost track of an old game from your childhood and assumed it was lost forever, only to stumble across it years later? Let me know. Thanks for reading, fellow trainers!

Controller Repair Day

The past few weeks I’ve spent a fair amount of time going through my game collection, particularly those on cartridges. I have recently amassed a few dozen more games, most of which being Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, with a few N64 and Gamecube ones mixed in. For whatever the reason, I actually find the process of sorting, taking apart the cartridge cases, cleaning the connector pins and then reassembling oddly relaxing…I’m not sure why. I usually refer to this as “taking inventory” of my game collection. I’d like to say I have a more….complex system of management than simply writing down a list of games, grouped together by console, but…I don’t. I mentioned in last week’s blog post that I’d been toying with the idea of a spreadsheet or something similar to keep everything organized and could even keep tabs on what I’ve started playing, completed, or have yet to attempt, so that is perhaps something I’ll actually go through with in the next month or so.

One of my most recent….tasks(?) was a joystick replacement for one of my old Nintendo 64 controllers. If you’ve ever played any game on the N64, you’ll most likely know what I’m talking about when I state the analog joystick – as groundbreaking and intuitive as it may have seemed at the time, always felt a little stiff. They now feel more like an outdated piece of gaming history when compared to the smoother action and movement of modern joysticks. The thumbstick for my old gray controller had begun to get a little worn out and there was a slight catch in the ball joint of the joystick, which at best would merely click when pressing upward, or would become unresponsive altogether when playing a game(luckily, I still have my trusty atomic purple controller). I had ordered a replacement joystick from Amazon which was essentially a GameCube thumbstick in an N64 housing to allow easy replacement.

Making replacements and general maintenance for Nintendo 64 controllers is still relatively easy compared to something more complex like a Dualshock 4 controller or the DS Lite I’ve been tinkering with…
The replacement stick seems sturdy enough and has a lot smoother action than the original N64 analog sticks.

Rather than the original ball-joint setup, the replacement joystick is connected to the plastic ball within the housing somewhat similar to an old track-ball mouse. I was a little apprehensive when taking apart the controller and seeing a ribbon soldered to the circuit board coming from the joystick, but quickly realized this was simply the Z Button underneath. The process of replacing the joystick was pretty straightforward – detach the connector pin and swap thumbsticks. I spent a little extra time making sure I had securely connected the pin to the circuit board before sandwiching the controller back together.

The finished project. It even works afterwards!

When reassembling the controller, I noticed the replacement thumbstick fits a little more snug within the controller shell, leaving a slight bit of extra space between the two halves – maybe a couple milimeters. Holding the controller for a few moments, I was unable to tell the difference between the doctored controller and an another.

I was able to test out the new joystick in the controller shortly afterwards by playing some Mario Kart 64 and it feels much, much better. I had kind of forgotten just how stiff, and at times, restrictive the lateral movement could feel as I switched between different controllers to get a feel for the new thumbstick. The only other difference I was able to notice between the two sticks was the newer one is just noticeably shorter, but I think I prefer a lower-profile thumbstick that sits somewhere between the original one and the very short control sticks on handhelds like a PSP or 3DS. The improved controller feels a lot smoother and definitely feels more like the GameCube….you just have the infamous three-pronged shape of the N64 controller along with it. After seeing the improvement from swapping out the old, stiff thumbstick, I definitely want to buy a couple more and make the same replacement in my other two remaining N64 controllers.

I realize this week’s post turned out to be one part product review and one part “what I’ve been up to lately”, but I want to get in the habit of just writing and not having to force a post into a specific format. A shorter post this week also gives me that much more time to spend working on my contribution to NekoJonez’s upcoming Pokémon collaboration taking place on Feb. 27. Looking forward to talking about some Pokémon games!

The Amazon listing of the replacement joystick I used in case anyone is interested…

Thanks for reading!