A few years ago a clever, witty, and shockingly beautiful Nintendo Life writer had to spend a few boring days trawling numerous websites searching for a brand new and eye-wateringly expensive wafer-thin HDTV with which to replace their ageing and sadly then only semi-functional slightly less wafer-thin HDTV. This new triumph of technology and installment-based payment plans was even more HD than previous, lesser, HDs, and everyone in the house was very happy with this newest iteration of the rectangular entertainment window.
Everyone except me, Ms. What-do-you-mean-1994-was-27-years-ago?, that is.
This new TV — the same as just about all new TVs for sale these days — had finally ditched any and all non-HDMI inputs, meaning anything older than an Xbox 360 just wasn't going to work, and I have a lot of consoles older than an Xbox 360. With no practical reason to keep these magical boxes of silicon and plastic sitting under the television and nowhere else to store them inside the house, I carefully wrapped my old consoles up in a cocoon of thick plastic bags and stored them in the garage before trudging back inside and begrudgingly trying to adapt my old ways to the 'new' millennium. I wept at the price of fancy image upscalers. I bought myself one of those teeny-tiny official PSOne screens so I could play Vagrant Story in a quiet corner of the living room, hissing at anyone who passed by about the good old days. I embraced handhelds, miniaturised reissues of Nintendo hardware, and the Retro Freak.
I carefully wrapped my old consoles up in a cocoon of thick plastic bags and stored them in the garage before trudging back inside
But in spite of all my sincere efforts, it never felt the same, and I knew it. There was only one thing for it: I had to clear out a shelf somewhere in the house, buy a really old CRT TV to plonk on it, and do this properly. One eBay purchase and 2-3 business days later and all that was left to do was venture back into the garage to retrieve the beloved hardware I'd left in there.
I don't go in the garage often or for very long because it's full of spiders and as far as I'm concerned spiders belong on the receiving end of a Resident Evil flamethrower and nowhere else, but I assumed everything would be just fine. After all, amongst all the old paint tins and forgotten screwdrivers there was a small rusted bottle of sewing machine oil on one home-made shelf that's been in there so long it probably predates sewing machines themselves. If that can survive for as long as it has in the garage, then surely my plastic-wrapped consoles would be just fine.
A small rusted bottle...
It was cold and damp in the garage. No, not damp — wet. There were puddles of water on the concrete floor and heavy drips of water falling from what I now realised was a pretty shabby roof; a miserable combination of the extreme cold and heavy snowfall. The sorry state of this ramshackle building wasn't something I'd noticed before — nothing really happens to a few plastic plant pots and the broken remains of an antique fishing rod if they get wet when you're not looking. Old consoles, already operating decades past their prime, is another matter entirely.
I took my consoles back inside, wondering with a heavy heart if sending a flaming longboat down the local river was a bit much for a retro funeral
The plastic defences I had so glibly assumed were safe and secure when I put them away now looked flimsy, dusty, and had enough water sitting on them it needed pouring away before I took my consoles back inside, wondering with a heavy heart if sending a flaming longboat down the local river was a bit much for a retro funeral. The bags made their precious cargo feel a grim "oh no" sort of wet-cold, and as I opened them up I realised there was a very simple reason for that: my consoles were wet and cold. A soggy Japanese Nintendo 64 lay on the floor next to a moist Super Famicom and an import Saturn that appeared to be covered in a fine coating of a disgusting substance; something that seemed to imply the word "spores" would be involved in there somewhere.
I'll be honest with you: as I took in the damp and dirty devastation that lay before me I thought about giving up and binning the lot. Doing that had to be better than plugging them all in one by one, waiting for them to load up a treasured favourite... and watching them all fail. Luckily for me the same sensible adult thinking that got me into this mouldy mess just so happened to be the same sensible adult thinking that insisted I should at least check for sure - at least I'd have tried to save them if nothing else. So, armed with enough kitchen towel to mummify an elephant and every spray, cleaner, and can of compressed air in the house, I set about scrubbing everything clean, wiping surfaces dry, and poking cotton buds into plastic vents. After much work my consoles and cables were finally dry and free of dust, things I hoped were dust, and a vile film of grime I hope I never see again. The plastic shells were definitely more discoloured than they had been when they went in, but that's a job for another day.
All that was left was to turn them on.
They worked! They all worked. First time, somehow. And not "they just about turn on after much swearing and crying" work either, but the "we're back in business" sort of work!
I'm still not quite sure I believe it myself, and I can feel my arms ache a little after the extensive Virtua Cop "test" session I just had. My games look fantastic, and even though my consoles look like an idiot left them virtually unprotected in a leaky garage for far too long, I've learned some valuable lessons: Garages are for cars and rusty old bottles of sewing machine oil; it's always worth making space in your home for an old TV; and I'm not as clever I as think I am.
Console Storage Tips Born From Bitter Experience and The Benefit Of Hindsight:
- Not the garage. NEVER THE GARAGE. GARAGE? NO.
- Avoid anywhere subject to absent-minded neglect and extreme seasonal temperature changes such as — and I'm just pulling one random example out of thin air here — a garage. Even a sealed and dry environment can drip with condensation in the cold and cause mould to grow on things mould should never grow on.
- If you do need to put things in long-term storage use thick plastic boxes with a proper click-seal lid, like the one I inexplicably stored a Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles guide book and a tangle of useless old cables in. But not my SNES.
- And that's because it's cheaper in the long run to buy good quality spider-free storage boxes than it is to replace or feverishly clean several distressingly moist and no longer manufactured consoles.
- Further reading: Feature: Your Beloved Games Console Is Slowly But Surely Dying