RETRO ROCKS: From music to gaming, what’s old is new again

by Scott Ledingham on Sep 15, 2021

RETRO ROCKS: From music to gaming, what’s old is new again
Marc Saltzman, Special to Toronto Sun
Publishing date:
Sep 12, 2021  

Perhaps it’s because things aren’t so rosy these days — a global pandemic, financial hardships, election vitriol, societal inequities, and climate change, just to name a few current issues — Canadians are looking to the past for a little slice of solace.

Anything “retro” is hot, and this includes nostalgia for legacy media and vintage tech.

Whether it’s record players from the ‘70s, arcade cabinets from the ‘80s, or flip-phones from the ‘90s, what’s old is new again.

And today’s take on these classic designs often include modern conveniences under the hood, like wirelessly streaming your vinyl collection to a pair of Bluetooth speakers.

Here’s a look at what’s trending (er, again).

Game on (and on and on)

If you long for the days when video games were simple — not requiring more than a joystick and a button (or no button at all, in the case of Pac-Man and Frogger) — several companies sell replica arcade cabinets for your home. Arcade 1Up, for example, has Bandai Namco Legacy Edition ($599.99), a 12-in-one cabinet featuring Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, and 8 other Bandai classics.

The original graphics, sounds and controls will be immediately familiar to seasoned gamers.

With the iconic yellow Pac-Man brandishing the outside, this cabinet is three-quarters the size of the original stand-up machine, but a riser brings it to full height.

And no quarters are needed.

Also new from Arcade 1Up: The Simpsons Arcade Machine ($799.95), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time ($829.95), and X-Men 4 Player Arcade Machine ($829.95).

If you prefer an arcade cabinet that lets you download additional games, iiRcade (available in Canada this fall for $899.99) includes 11 preloaded titles – including the laserdisc classic, Dragon’s Lair, and the beat ‘em up classic Double Dragon – and additional games can be purchased between $2.99 and $24.99 apiece (all in USD). More than 200 games are available now.

Featuring a 19-inch HD display, 100 watts of stereo sound, and authentic 2-player controllers, the Wi-Fi-enabled iiRcade offers a convertible design: it can be used as a tabletop or bartop because of its included stand.

Calling all pinball wizards For some flipper fun in 2021, AtGames’ Legends Pinball ($999.99) is billed as the “world’s first connected pinball” table, that allows for online multiplayer matches, where each player can both chat and watch others turn in real-time.

Legends Pinball may look like it has real flippers, bumpers, ramps and a silver ball, but it’s essentially a pinball simulation on a giant 32-inch HD LCD playfield.

The benefit? It includes 22 built-in arcade pinball games you can toggle between at any time, plus it’s expandable to install new games.

Unlike Tommy from the 1975 flick of the same name (based on music from The Who), you can pause, rewind and save your progress.

Arcade1Up also sells virtual pinball machines, each one featuring 10 games. Examples include Marvel Pinball and Star Wars Pinball ($849.99 each), both with a 24-inch LCD playfield, eight-inch LCD score screen, authentic flipper feedback, and real plunger and buttons.

Similar to its arcade machines, these tables are a three-quarters scale compared to the originals.

And how about playing pinball in virtual reality? Available for Oculus Quest, Steam VR and PlayStation VR (PSVR), Zen Studios’ Star Wars Pinball VR ($28.99) has eight different virtual tables, including a pair of never-before-seen ones: The Mandalorian and Star Wars Classic Collectibles.

Along with all the tables, including remastered favourites from past (non-VR) versions of Star Wars Pinball, this game includes a fully customizable “Fan Cave” to house your virtual pinball table (and items you earn); an optional “Total Immersion” mode (experience everything at table level); 360-degree minigames (with iconic Star Wars set pieces), and a cantina jukebox (with John Williams music).

Music matters

Turntables never really went out of style, but there are now several options to appreciate the wonderful warmth of analog audio. The House of Marley’s Stir It Up Wireless ($249.99) turntable provides a sleek design using solid bamboo, exclusive REGRIND silicone, and REWIND fabric (which includes recycled plastic), and recyclable aluminum.

It can wirelessly connect to any Bluetooth speaker or soundbar (sold separately) and includes a built-in switch pre-amp for compatibility with wired speakers and AV receivers (via optional RCA output). Plus, Stir It Up Wireless includes a USB port for PC recording and a headphone jack for private listening of your 33 or 45 RPM records. There’s also the JAM Vintage Retro Bluetooth Speaker ($69.99) from HoMedics.

Available in several colours, you can hear clear and surprising powerful audio from these classic-looking speakers — perhaps inspired by cars from the ‘50s — and with battery life that lasts up to 16 hours between charges.

If a call comes in, it turns into a speakerphone and pauses your music before ringing. Pair two of these speakers for stereo sound, or use the auxiliary port if you don’t have a Bluetooth device nearby.

Phone it in

Finally, flip phones are back — but now with a foldable display.

The just-launched Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G is small enough to slip into your jeans or clutch purse when folded. It includes a cover screen to view notifications and messages and an integrated Samsung Pay which allows you to make purchases by waving the device over a contactless terminal.

When you want more real estate, however — perhaps to view a YouTube video or browse the web — the Z Flip3 opens to reveal a gorgeous 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED display with a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

Or fold it halfway for hands-free video calling, propped up in an “L” shape, to place on a table or desk.

The 128GB model ($1,259 full price) is available in Phantom Black, Lavender, Cream and Green, while the 256GB option ($1,329 full price) is in Phantom Black.