I embarked on a failed venture recently. One of my favorite sites is Home of the Underdogs. HOTU is a site that, for the most part, houses Abandonware (their “about” page tries to elaborate on what exactly HOTU does, but gets somewhat confusing and insists that it’s not just Abandonware). Abandonware is software that either is no longer sold or manufactured by the publisher for various reasons: it didn’t sell well, the game is dated, or the publisher has gone out of business. Abandonware is illegal, but it’s rarely enforced, since the publisher usually doesn’t care (they state on the site that they will pull down anything offensive to publishers or developers).

They had to pull down all ISDA members works, since that organization tends to enforce the copyright laws no matter what. This got me thinking: I should download all of these games, since this whole site might be gone someday. Great idea: just slap them all on a CD – lots of these games are like 23K (good old CGA).

Well, HOTU is organized such that mass downloading is difficult – you have to go like 3 pages deep to get to a download link. And they have a rather gestapo like set of rules concerning banning of multiple downloads (they don’t allow it, basically), so Net Vampire comes in real handy. Still, it could be done with a bit of work. So I started to download all of them.

Problems arose when I realized it took me a couple of hours to get through the “A”‘s. HOTU has close to 2,000 games to download. Still, with some work it could be done. Then after queuing up through the letter “C” and letting it run overnight, I awoke the next morning to realize that I had downloaded some 800MB of stuff. Ugh – this was gonna take a lot of CD’s. Then I realized that I had no idea what most of these games were called – “a-spid.zip” could mean anything, so I devised a batch file with the help of Excel to generate directories for all of the games, so “a-spid.zip” goes in the Amazing Spiderman, The directory. Great – more work, but at least now I would know what the games were called.

Then the crushing blow hit me. HOTU is a very well organized site. For each game they have reviews and commentary. They have their database searchable by year, developer, publisher, etc. Having all of the games named and downloaded is nice and all, but without all of this information on the HOTU website, I’ll probably never know which games I’m even interested in fiddling with – this isn’t like NES emulation where you can just fire up a ROM image – these are vintage PC games requiring sometimes installation, configuration and tweaking – MoSlo, a system slowing utility, is sometimes required to run them. Merely downloading them en masse is a waste of time, and a big one at that. This is time I could be Quaking!

So I called off my quest (I had gotten through the “E”‘s) and deleted most of what I downloaded, except for the games I know I’m interested in. Oh well, at least I can play Dark Seed again.

Oh, and here’s something interesting. Majesco Sales is a bizarre little company. I’m not sure if they code their own games or just port them for other companies, or both. The Dreamcast versions of Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear are obviously ports, but I’m not sure if the DC versions of Q-Bert or Frogger 2 were done in-house (for Hasbro). I do know that their Game Boy Color versions of Pong and Frogger were done in-house (though technically adaptations of previous games, so Majesco doesn’t exactly do original games).

Anywho, in addition to games, they like to make game systems. What I mean by that is they like to remake old systems. If you walk into a Wal-Mart and see a tiny Sega Genesis in a blueish box for $19.99 with the name “Genesis 3” on it, Majesco made that. They got the rights to it from Sega. They also made Frogger for the Genesis in 1998, officially the last new Genesis game ever made (part of that “Frogger on every console” idea – it was also on the SNES).

I had heard a while back that they were looking to re-introduce the Sega Game Gear and the Sega Saturn. The Saturn would cost around $50, and Majesco would be making new games for it (kinda having a console to itself there). Well, later I heard that both ideas had fallen though. Last week, though, Toys ‘R Us started selling Majesco’s remade Game Gear. You can get it from their web site (handled by amazon.com) as well. Looks like they re-released The Lion King as well. I see several other Game Gear games on amazon, but they’re listed as not available.

I still own a Game Gear –  the special blue one (don’t know why blue was special) that had The Lion King with it. It was cool, but it ate batteries for lunch. Plus, Sega ditched it shortly after for the Sega Nomad, a portable Genesis. That tanked when the Genesis died out (never really took off). Then Sega started to develop for the Neo Geo Pocket Color when Nintendo stated that they would not allow Sega to manufacture cables or code games to interface the GBC with the Dreamcast. As we all know, however, the NGPC also but the dust when the company SNK folded, leaving the lone Sonic game the only Sega entry on a non-Sega console. Now the speculation has always been that Sega would give in and make portable games on the GBC, if they were still interested at all. With the reintroduction of the Game Gear, however, I’m curious if Sega will develop new stuff for it instead. Sure, it has old Sega Master System hardware and will pale in comparison to Game Boy Advance, but at least Sega wouldn’t have to work for Nintendo (unless Nintendo buys Sega, hehe).

At any rate, go pick up a Game Gear for $29.99 and find you some games. Any Toys ‘R Us or Wal-Mart in the country has a bin somewhere with GG games for $5 each. While you’re in Wal-Mart, go to the handheld games section (in the Toy Department) and pick up Mattel’s Classic Football, a remake of the old Football game – right down to the 70’s logo.