The World According to John

Monday, September 19, 2005

Old Style Gaming Goodness: CGE Vectrex

I am a computer gadget hacker at heart; I love to tinker with both hardware and software. For me, the vintage 1984 CGE Vectrex is a “dream come true”. For those of you who don’t know what a Vectrex is, it is a video game system that incorporates its own vertically mounted 9” black and white vector graphics display. Vector graphics are found on old arcade cabinets like Asteroids, Battlezone and Tempest. They are graphics that are drawn with plotted lines unlike most of the more modern video games which raster graphics (same as your TV). These lines can have their intensity level set from high to low allowing the developer to get clean crisp and fast (in many cases 3D) line based in-game objects.

I purchased my used 20 year old Vectrex in 2004 from eBay for $175 (includes shipping). It came with 8 original game cartridges and one game built in. These games are wonderful but I knew that it would be hard to find additional games in cartridge form. I turned to the internet and discovered a thing called “VecFlash”. The VecFlash is a gutted Vectrex game cartridge that contains writable memory banks where Vectrex ROM images (copies of the original video game code) can be loaded via a serial PC link cable. This allows me to download any Vectrex ROM image from the internet and load it on the cartridge. Actually it holds many ROM images and generates a nice little front-end menu for me to select the games from. The coolest thing about this is that people are still writing new Vectrex games! Many of the newer games are many times better than the original games published by CGE.

The original table top Vectrex joystick is a little hard to use if you are used to using the newer video game hand-held game-pads so I found a guy on the internet that modifies old Sega Genesis game-pads to work with the Vectrex for $20 US.

I found another guy on the internet that makes a Voice and Sound card add-on that uses the 2nd joystick port! I also found a site that builds a cable that allows the vector graphics display to be attached directly to your PC, allowing you to run a program called VectorMame. You can use VectorMame to play the old arcade vector based games using a real vector monitor. As you can see, the possibilities are endless for a vintage game addict like me!

List of Favorite new Vectrex games: (Database)
Protector (Defender Clone)
YASI (Yet Another Space Invaders)
Patriot III (Missile Command Clone)
Tsunami (Tempest Clone)
Rockroids Remix (Asteroids Clone)
Wormhole (Gyruss clone)


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