13/05/2019

๐Ÿ Kingdom of Carts Vs. Germany "The Battle Of Britt(ain) Faye" ๐Ÿ #Retrogaming

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Having been to Paris on several occasions (possible Faye’s favourite place in the world) and drunk deep from the well of gaming there, we decided it was time for a change and planned a trip to Cologne and Berlin over the space of a week.

Yes, the country is historically and culturally rich, almost every street corner has a story behind it and you could get lost for days, constantly learning more and more about this hub of Europe….but will I find a copy of Arx Fatalis on the Xbox for a fistful of Euros?
Before leaving for the trip, Faye and I came up with a little game to play whilst we were away, who could get the coolest gaming item for ten Euros or less, the game was ON.

Landing in Cologne around Lunchtime on Monday, we walked out of our hotel, took a left to the banks of the Rhine and instantly (and quite accidentally!) happened across the Cologne market. We weren’t sure if it was a weekly deal or if it was a one-off bank holiday thang, the important thing was….it was there. Probably around a mile long, it was rich with comics, knick-knacks, food, local Kolsch, clothes…and hopefully video games.

It was as I wandered betwixt the stalls, bratwurst in one hand (the first of many), Kolsch (the first of VERY many) in the other that my peepers spotted a few N64 games laid out. Most of which we had but there was one that caught my eye…Donkey Kong 64. I have never played the game (still haven’t, thanks to a dodgy N64 power pack which I need to replace, thanks for reminding me)  The guy was asking for twelve Euros but I knocked him down to ten (about £8.50) and snapped it up. I was ahead in the Kingdom of Carts game! Feeling pretty sure that Faye wouldn’t find anything that would beat my little pickup (especially within an hour of being in Cologne), I relaxed and continued meandering through the marketplace.
As I was distracted by German Garfield and Asterix annuals, I noticed Faye had gone ahead, catching up to her, I could see that her girly-gaming-gogglers (‘eyes’ – ED) had spied a large stall of games, scanning over the table, everything looked either generic, quite over-priced…or both (pinch me)  with the exception of a game on the Atari 2600 entitled, ‘Super Ferrari’ which I managed to pick up for six Euros after a touch of haggling. After doing some research, it appears that Super Ferrari is the German release of the game ‘Enduro’ with some extra licensing, picking up German exclusives, we later realised, was the key to game shopping in Germany.

Finding nothing else gaming-related in the market, we did other holiday-ish things and didn’t don our ceremonial game-hunting suits of bronze armour until the following day.
Tuesday morning, revitalised and ready for some serious gaming action, we headed for the first port of call, a retro game store called ‘RetroSpiel’ (it literally translates to Retro Game, good.) which was on the edge of the main area of Cologne.

The owner, Chris, was an absolutely amazing and very accommodating guy whom I fully intend to contact for an interview in the coming weeks as he was quite the font of knowledge for the local gaming scene, having been a collector himself as well as owning and running RetroSpiel for five years. One of the questions I had for Chris was how he had come across the sheer volume of awesome hardware he had for sale, usually in the stores we frequent in Europe, there is a lot of software available but only a few of the more standard consoles, RetroSpiel however, had several Mega CDs in different versions as well as some consoles and computers I hadn’t seen before, combine this with boxes of accessories and a tasty import section and it was quite impressive, filling the two rooms of the store. 
Apparently, in the Mega Drive days, there were a few import shops and quite a thriving gaming scene in Cologne, Chris mentioned that people are still finding troves of gaming gold in their attics years after the import scene had all but disappeared and so his store had a very healthy selection of both hardware and software. 

We bought a load of games from him (sadly limited by the space available in our cases) and spent a good two and a half hours browsing and catching up on the history of the store. As we were about to pay for our goodies, Faye spotted a box of Atari 2600 games with fiercely Germanic titles, this led onto one of my favourite parts of the holiday for me whereby Chris informed us that the German translations of older games are notoriously ‘sheisse’ and either glaringly literal or make no sense. Cue the moment where he held up an Atari 2600 game with the artwork of a hand-drawn clown dancing in front of a disinterest-looking policeman with the title, ‘A Strange Old Man Frighten Off a Policeman’ Brilliant.

*kid walks into a gaming store in the ’80s with his mum*
“Aw…mum, can I have a game, please, please, please?”
“Oh, go on then, you little tinker, what do you want? Centipede? Galaga? Yars Revenge?”
“No….I want ‘A Strange Old Man Frightens off a Policeman’
“Ah…that old classic”
Leaving Retro Spiel, we headed back towards our hotel, passing a shop that was a sort of German That’s Entertainment / HMV. They had a small gaming section and so Faye picked up Virtual Pinball on the Mega Drive and I picked up Fear 3 on the PS3  but in what appeared to be a German exclusive steel book that came bundled with a Blu-ray copy of The Exorcist, saucy!

It was a day or two and a hundred Kolsch and cocktails later when the gaming action picked up again (we spent an entire evening in a fantastic Jazz bar with a load of old blokes playing some seriously amazing songs) and we went to a gaming museum in Berlin. The museum was awesome with a surprisingly fair souvenir section which we hoofed a load of cash into before wandering around reading up on the rich history in there, playing The Painstation (Faye lost and got electrocuted, natch) and working our way through the interactive exhibitions as well as the well-presented (and, more importantly  well-maintained) arcade. The place was well worth a visit and I could easily have dedicated an entire article to it.
After leaving the heady heights of the museum we headed across to Freeman Games, a store we had mentioned to Chris at Retro Spiel but he wasn’t familiar with it. Filled with the promise of unknown possibilities, we walked in….and our faces fell.

It was, as the Persians say, “expensive”. The most basic Mega Drive games began at twenty Euros and even the budget Commodore 64 cassettes, in rough condition were eight Euros each. Usually in these circumstances, with enough time we can dig out a bargain or two but these prices were simply eye-watering. Well above premium eBay costs, the best part was having to climb step-ladders to have a shufty at the Mega Drive and Atari games which were housed near the ceiling. Eventually, we left with a single Atari 2600 game called ‘Paris Attack’ which again appeared to be a German exclusive.
Aside from a brief sojourn to a closed game store called ‘Game Over’ (fitting), that was the end of our Cologne / Berlin gaming odyssey. 

It was a great pair of cities that I’d happily return to again filled with great food, drinks and places, it’s also spotless, which is cool as I detest littering.

Only one question remains…who won the inaugural Kingdom of Carts game? 

Me, with my eight quid copy of Donkey Kong 64…or Faye with her three quid ‘A Strange Old Man Frightens off a Policeman’?

I’ll let you all decide.

See you in Manchester this weekend!
Britt


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