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Genesis Around the World: Córdoba, Argentina

Explorers heading out into unknown countries sometimes return with completely unexpected riches. Masses and heaps of valuable goods that make you feel like in heaven. On closer inspection, these riches often turn out to be fake, more glitter than gold, more strange oddities than worthwhile commodities. However, in the hands of an admirer, these more often turn out to be of items of true value and beauty as well. If you are an Explorer looking for Genesis Games, then Argentina definitely is such a country!

The Genesis had been a massive success in South America, and especially in Brazil, in a certain amount this popularity holds up even until today. While not quite the same, a similar thing can be said about Argentina. Nowadays, the Playstation 2 is for many Argentines the number one home console, but the Genesis almost certainly comes in a close second. Walk through the streets of Córdoba, the second largest city in Argentina (with its 1,500,000 inhabitants), and you see what I mean: If one would say PS2 games are sold at every street corner, Genesis carts are at least sold on every third! The most amazing thing for a traveler from Europe or the U.S. might be not only the high amount or availability of games, but the novelty and oddness of some items: A soccer game titled Copa Mundial 2006, or a game cartridge bearing the name Harry Potter 2? In Argentina, Sonic’s sun did never set!

The masses of stores selling cartridges for the Sega Genesis is almost unbelievable. Games are sold anywhere, from a small booth in the central bus station to the largest shopping centers. Some vendors have hundreds of cartridges stacked waist-high in glass cases – others keep merely a dozen games in a small, dusty cardboard box kept under the counter. However, even if it might not be apparent at first, you can find Sega games in almost every computer store or where you see the Sega logo if you ask for cartuchos de Sega (Sega cartridges; don’t ask for Genesis or Mega Drive, or most likely you will only receive blank stares).

WHAT actually is available is an entire different matter. The games you’ll find are mostly bootlegged or pirated copies, and the most popular games on sale are almost entirely multi-game cartridges. But there is the odd surprise: occasionally you find one or two originals underneath the heaps of bootlegs, for example a Japanese original of Sonic 2 at the bottom of a cardboard box. Needless to say, those are rare exceptions – one could almost believe these originals got there merely by accident. What all of these stores have in abundance though are strange ports and other “new” games. It WILL be awfully weird at first, but after a while you get used to the sight of titles like Super Mario Advance, Donkey Kong or Aladdin 2.

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There is, however, one big downside: You only get the cartridges! No manual, no box, nada! The game you buy will almost certainly be an unlicensed copy or port. Not only the multi-player carts, but also most of the single games carry photo copied or ink-printed labels, sometimes even handwritten ones. Other surprises await you as well: A label for Bare Knuckle, for example, might show off Street Fighter characters, others are simply taken from film posters (complete with cast credits) or from a screen shot! Don’t wonder too much if you see the words “Press Start” printed on a cartridge. The label for one and the same game might even vary from store to store! If you want to be sure, ask the store owner if you could see the game in action. Those who have a Genesis on display will gladly pop in a game for you most of the time. This is also a good advice if you’d like to check out a ported game first: Metal Gear Solid for example, turned out to be the Game Crack Down, only with a new title screen that says Metal Gear and Russian screen texts.

The greatest upside is definitely the cost of the games. Prices normally range from somewhere between ten to twenty-five pesos (two to five Euros or two fifty to six U.S. dollars), depending on what you buy (older games usually are the cheapest, multi-game carts the most expensive items) and where you buy it (the closest to a crowded central area, the higher the cost).

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So, should you go buy Genesis games in Argentina? It depends on what kind of gamer you are. If you are a collector of original games and set high value on owning original box art, shopping here is definitely not for you! There are a handful of genuine originals, but they are very rare, and seem to be entirely from before 1993, the pre-lockout era; games from after that time will almost certainly be pirated. You will have to dig through tons of hacks, bootlegs and multi-game carts as well. But if you want to go through that trouble, you will be glad to know that these originals usually are the cheapest of the lot, being that they are both a) old, and b) single games. If you are looking to cheaply expand your library, actually want some “new” games for your Genesis, or have a knack for really strange and weird stuff, then you’ll believe you’ve found paradise!

I strongly advise not to start buying games at the first store you find. Take your time, and browse through the items. The selection of games often changes every other week, so it pays to return to the same store several times. If you speak Spanish, talk to the store clerks. Most of them are really friendly and will gladly talk to you about the games. And if you ask them for a specific title – original or hack – they might be able to find it for you! For example, a store owner was able to produce a copy of Lion King 2 after I asked him for it, even though I haven’t seen that game around here in the previous two months! But should you tell them that in your country the Genesis is both out of production and out of fashion, they will laugh and not believe you

Even if you don’t want to buy anything, browsing for games in Argentina is definitely worth it. The salesmen are friendly, the selection is enormous, and you will definitely see the most extraordinary cartridges you would never have expected to exist on the Genesis!

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