With PlayExpo not a too distant memory, Retro Revival was the next big show for me on the calendar. With a drive that was a bit longer than I expected (who put Wolverhampton slightly further north of Birmingham than I thought in my mind?! 🙂 pulling up to the Wolverhampton Race Course was a welcomed relief for me and my bladder.
I only attended on Saturday so these views are purely based on that experience. But my what an experience. I have to admit to walking in and being underwhelmed initially. With PlayExpo’s grand warehouse scale still etched in my memory, the more intimate nature was a bit of a shock at first. This was a grower, much like that new album you bought and thought it’d be the best thing since sliced bread but took a good few listens to start showing it’s true colours. Within 10 minutes of browsing the grand scale became clear, this was going to take a few hours to get a good look at everything and then a load more to soak it up.
Stretched out from reception was a good few stalls selling retro gear, a great wall of (china?) TVs directly ahead playing various games on various systems (Xenon 2 Megablast made it’s point to my ears immediately!) then a row of computers & consoles made up of Jaguar’s, Amiga’s, Amstrad CPCs etc (hello Duncan!). The first display of many. All proudly displayed and ready for us willing visitors to play and compete on.
To keep this as brief as possible this will be the highlights for me from a personal perspective – everyone will have their own favourite bits of course.
The Retro Computer Museum was in attendance showing off it’s lovely collection. C64 GS, Atari Jaguar with a wonderful Logitech rotary controller playing Tempest 2000, Philips Videopac, Sega SG1000 & SG1000 II, Magnavox Odyssey and so many more. Impressive. In fact it’s probably easier to list those gaming machines not on display throughout the show!
Amibay were obviously giving a massive slice of Commodore but none more impressive than the beautiful C64 SX – the fabled portable C64. Running the recent Cannabalt conversion, the small b&w CRT style screen was a sight to behold.
I really wanted to have a go on the big behemoth of an arcade machine, the mighty Virtuality VR machine. I’ve only ever seen this on TV before. While the queues certainly weren’t long for this I’m just too impatient. Impressive bit of kit from the outside and I’m sure as a 90s experience it’s pretty engrossing.
Moving into the main arena this really was the busiest part of the show all day. Around 60 arcade machines spanning from Space Invaders & Defence up to Ridge Racer & SF2 (and maybe further forward than that) and a decent smaller selection of pinball machines made everyones 80s & 90s arcade at the seaside dreams come true. Getting on the machines wasn’t too hard and you were rewarded for your wait.
Along one full side of the arena was row upon row of computers & consoles set-up to be played. Simply stunning selection from Sinclair’s through to much rarer beasts from Sega, Enterprise (who?), MGT’s Sam Coupe, Binatone and all manner of others. Like I said earlier it’s a less exhaustive list to mention those not on display. A highlight for me was Nintendo’s Virtual Boy with a number of games to play. Along the opposite side the traders were setup with the Retro Gaming Roundup boys plonked in the middle along with Psytronik Software, of which showing off their Specadore concept. If your tipple was of Grandstand and Tomy & style electronic tabletop games (Astro Wars et al), there was a healthy amount on show all ready to be prodded and poked. No stone unturned I’d say. Even a couple of Apple Pippins! Never seen one before then 2 of them show up.
This by no means is everything, as such competitions & tournaments were being run by Retro Lords (from a personal perspective they were a bit too loud throughout the venue) which was pulling in nice amounts of audience to take part along with Mario Kart and Halo making multiplayer appearances.
Of course it’s be criminal not to mention the talks going on from developers. Oliver Brothers (or at least one of them), Ocean Q&A session, Sandy White and Alistair Brimble I caught sight of. Really interesting and worthy of their own reviews! A fantastic addition.
But what of the atmosphere, I hear you holla? Now I liked the friendly atmosphere of PlayExpo on the retro side, but this was on steroids compared. Vibrant, friendly and just a good relaxed feel. Everyone mingling whoever they were (bumped into and spoke to Mike Montgomery of Bitmap Brothers more than anyone I think!) and enjoying the show with all its wares. People competing against each other on arcades, consoles and computers. Traders willing to help and do a deal. Simply put, unbeatable atmosphere.
Us Retro Asylum folk spent the days together with a number of our listeners and auditionees (is that a word?!) and had a few little competitions between us. Great to meet everyone and put names to faces, then generally chew the cud and put the retro world to rights.
All in all, Revival should proudly stamp itself on the retro communities calendar on a yearly basis and also be extremely happy with what they acheived on this weekend in history. Chris and crew, I and the rest of the Retro Asylum along with pretty much everyone who attended, salute you and your hard work.
When’s the next one?! And here’s a link to my pictures from the day. Revival Photos