Let’s talk about something that should be fun; Video games! Who doesn’t like video games!? I mean, besides all of those pro-censorship turds who hate my favored medium and want to censor it despite not actually playing the damned things themselves and wouldn’t play them anyway even if they were censored (i.e., Jack Thompson, Michael Atkinson, Anita Sarkeesian, etc.)? But whatever! Video games! Today, I want to talk about one game in particular…
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo. I bought this game many years ago… I don’t exactly know when, but I do know it was when EB Games still existed in this country. My copy was bought for about $6 (quite bargain when you look at prices online!), and even back then it wasn’t in the best of shape; both the front and back labels were heavily worn, the contacts were very dirty, the cartridge itself had become discolored, and - most damningly of all - the battery back-up had died, meaning there was no way I could save my progress. It was heavily worn and dirty… I surprised it still worked.
Eventually, I decided I was going to fix it up a little and learned about the battery trouble. Unfortunately, it called for a solding iron, which I had no experience with at the time and a new battery. The instructions I had followed also decided I should use the original prongs that were holding the battery in place. A big mistake, since the original prongs suck and are pretty much welded onto the old battery, meaning that using it for a new battery is… not recommended. Long story short, the prongs snapped, leaving two metal things that I couldn’t get out and, due to me not knowing how to properly handle a soldering iron, this happened:
See that hole in the gray cart? That hideous pock of brown-tinted melted plastic and a wee bit of solder? That’s from a soldering iron accident that happened while I attempted to (unsuccessfully) replace the battery. So, not only did I fail to replace the battery in my copy of Link to the Past, but now I had permanently damaged the cart. Haunted by my failure, I shelved the game and hung my head in shame, refusing to even touch the game again for years to come.
Since then, I’ve since learned of a better technique for replacing batteries in these old games, and that when doing such, it’s best to just replace the battery holder altogether. This battery holder in particular is ideal; it doesn’t require you to modify the cart itself to fit AND when the replacement battery eventually dies, I’ll be able to easily replace it without any soldering. So, it’s win-win.
Something funny about seeing a Nintendo product using something from Sony…
Having successfully replaced the batteries in a number of my other games, I eventually decided I would going to try and fix my copy of Zelda again. Getting the metal prongs out was a pain, as it required both a solder pump and some tweezers… and even then it took an hour to open the holes, but I finally did it! I was able to replace the battery successfully and for the first time ever, I could finally play Link the to Past without fear of losing my progress! As I type this, I’m actually nearing the endgame… fun game, it is. After playing Skyward Sword, I almost forgot what it was like to play a Zelda game that was actually good (okay, so Skyward Sword wasn’t that bad, and I’ll even concede it had a few good ideas, but it’s so bogged down with amateur mistakes and a borderline patronizing partner… fuck Fi).
Anyway, this is beside the point. After deciding I was going to fix my copy of Link to the Past, After cleaning the cart and replacing the battery, I realized I needed to do something about the cartridge. There was no way I could fix that hole without it looking like ass (and I’d probably just make it look even worse), I began to take to the internet, hoping to find a replacement shell (I could’ve cannibalized a sports game and used its shell, but I really hate the idea of destroying games, no matter how forgettable they may be). It took a little searching, but lo and behold! I found a place: Retro Quest. The site seems to specialize in making reproductions of homebrew games and translated games that never saw release in the States (such as Mother 3 and Terranigma). They also sell authentic licensed SNES games. I’ll have to head back there some time and browse their inventory.
Anyway, the site also sold empty SNES shells. Interestingly, these shells are newly made and don’t require screws (they can snap shut), thus sparing your copy of Madden NFL ‘95 or whatever from a damning fate… have I mentioned I don’t like seeing games get destroyed? Regardless of what game it may be? Anyway, what really caught my eye was that they sell in a number of different colors. I chose to go with gold; Zelda games have come in gold carts before, and even games like Wind Waker and Skyward Sword heavily utilized the color gold in their boxart (though I felt Nintendo missed the chance the give Skyward Sword a gold case… it was the 25th anniversary and if NSMBWii can have red cases…). I took this not only as a chance to fix up my copy of LttP, but also to give it the proper “Zelda” treatment it rightfully deserved. The site even provides a picture of what the gold cart looks like, so how does the cart I ordered compare?
Annoyingly, my replacement cart is more of a copper hue than what was advertised. I guess it’s still a Zelda treatment of sorts, but… compare my cart to gold cart editions of other Zelda titles and one can’t help but feel a little let down and bothered. Part of me feels like I may as well have ordered the standard gray cart. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, these replica shells are all also based on later-day SNES carts, which have a large indentation below the label, compared to the older design, which was more boxy. I actually did know about that, since I had contacted Retro Quest and asked them about it before ordering. While I would’ve preferred the older boxy design (simply because the original cart came in such a design), I can live with the “ramp” design.
Another thing I should note is that the replacement also has a bit of a rough texture to it in comparison to the original cart. After giving the replacement a thorough cleaning with some soap, water, and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, it was noticeably less rough to touch, but still rougher than the original cart. I think part of that may have had to do with the “gold” color job; it seems Retro Quest uses gray plastic to make the carts, then goes over it with some “gold” paint (seriously, this is not fucking gold). I mean, I guess that’s the only real way to go over it, since I’d wager gold-colored plastic is probably super pricey, if it even exists. I’m kind of naive like that. I do think they should’ve sanded it over a little more for a smoother finish (and use a paint color that’s actually colored gold… I’m still a little annoyed by that), but the roughness isn’t too bad…
As for the quality of the plastic itself. it does feel a little lighter than the original cart, but not by a great deal. And aside from the color scheme, it does look very authentic. The grooves and markings don’t appear any different from the originals, with the exception of the back; authentic carts have an engraved Nintendo emblem on the back, but the reproductions just have a blank oval. I’m guessing it was either done as a cost-cutting measure or for integrity purposes. Probably both. Despite the fact that it doesn’t require a screwdriver to open, I do like how they even included markings in the corners that strongly resemble the original screws (not big on them also being painted “gold,” though). There are minor imperfections on the cart, but they required a keen eye to see and even then weren’t that big of a deal.
So… the reproduction carts are fairly solid and I like how they’re available in a number of colors (including blue, red, orange, black, and
gold copper), though anyone looking to buy their own cart should be aware that they might not have as smooth a finish (especially if you buy a colored cart). That roughness is why I can only wholly recommend them if you have any games with a damaged cartridge shell or if you want give your game a little more color and don’t mind if it feels a little rough. Also, be prepared to wait, especially if you requested a paint job; I had to wait a whopping three and a half weeks for mine to arrive. I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait for a regular gray cart, but… that’s an awful lot of time. So don’t expect it be show up in your mailbox right away.
All of this said, I give my reproduction cart a 6/10 (if it was actually a proper gold color, it would’ve been at least a 7). Good for replacing any damaged shells you have, that’s for sure.
Actually, I haven’t talked about the labels yet, have I? While Retro Quest apparently does make reproduction labels, I bought mine from elsewhere; Retro Game Cases. These guys seem to specialize in game cases and replacement labels. I don’t have any of their cases (though they look fantastic!), but I did get a few labels from them - aside from LttP, I also got labels for my copy of Paper Mario, as the labels were in bad shape and had a huge Blockbuster sticker over it (sadly, I can’t find a good picture of that, but it was pretty bad). It’s also important to note that they sell those rear labels that you see on the back of carts, too, and they’re available in 2-packs and 5-packs. I like that.
So, the label quality… well, when they arrived, they were already pre-cut, saving me the trouble of pulling out my boxcutter, and they look pretty darn professional. They had a nice glossy finish and the paper used was definitely high quality stuff. All I had to do was peel and place. As for how convincing they look? I’d say they about %95 identical to the originals; the finish, while glossy, doesn’t quite sheen like the original labels and the colors look slightly different. Go take a look at those two LttP carts again; notice how the repro’s colors aren’t exact? The colors are richer (especially noticeable on the shield), and the Zelda text doesn’t have the fine white outlines on the letters like the original… wonder what’s up with that?
Other things to note is the gold background is a little more subdued on the reproduction label, it also doesn’t reflect light as well. The SNES logo on the side is much more noticeable, and the Seal of Quality is easer to read, although it’s a wee bit blurry. Not a lot, but it’s very slight. The back labels look pretty authentic, but the gray background is a bit darker than the originals, which does make the text a bit easier to read. Oh, and one more thing to make note of is that these reproduction labels actually are marked as such - it’s hard to see with these pics (and indeed, it’s a little hard to see on the actual labels), but beneath the tiny text on the left hand side of the Zelda label (center bottom on the Paper Mario label), you can see the words “REPRODUCTION LABEL,” which the seller states is done specifically for integrity purposes on the used gaming market or something. I don’t know, but I don’t really care since the text is tactfully placed and doesn’t detract from the rest of the label. the back labels also have this text on them, as well, and is also tactfully placed so it won’t detract from their general quality.
If I was to score them, I’d give the labels a 9/10 - they aren’t perfect replicas, but they’re still very ideal replacements for anyone looking to spruce up their collection. Hopefully, they won’t fall off anytime soon, but given the quality, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
Now if you excuse me, I’ve got a game to beat. Just two more dungeons to go!