So… this happened. After 16+ years, I finally own a copy of Superman for the Nintendo 64, commonly referred to as Superman 64.
I wrote a piece for Retroware back in 2014, talking about this game. I had never played it or owned it… and yet Superman 64 and I had history. As a FuncoLand manager back in 1999, I sold this game to customers. I had to listen to the complaints and deal with the anger as customers demanded refunds. Before the game came out, I thought it was going to be big. Pre-release customer response was so positive that I asked for plenty of copies for my store; unfortunately, many of those copies remained unsold when I moved on in 2000.
Owning and playing Superman 64, after all these years, was something that I felt that I had to do. Whenever I would visit Game Depot, I would see the game on the shelf. I would look at it, and even pick it up every now and again… but when it came time to check out, I would always put the game down. I could almost hear the anger in James Rolfe’s voice echo in my head whenever I was close to buying it. I would hear the anger from my loyal customers at FuncoLand, who were genuinely upset that they bought a lousy game.
I finally pulled the trigger on Superman 64 during a visit to Game Depot this week, combining it with some other Nintendo 64 games that I was adding to my Retro Library. A young customer in the store was talking about how bad the game was as I was cashing out. The store owner looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, “Are you really sure about this?” I shared my FuncoLand story with him, and everyone got a laugh as I recalled the tale. Before long, I was on my way home with a new pile of Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo games in a bag, waiting to be played… and Superman 64 was one of them.
I didn’t play Superman 64 first. I tried other games, like Perfect Dark, Rush 2, NBA Jam 99, and even Knife Edge: Nose Gunner. I don’t know why I put it off, but I did. Maybe I was scared to try it. Maybe I wanted the negative hype to remain just a little while longer before finally taking my medicine and playing the game that so many people claim to despise. The time eventually came when I couldn’t procrastinate any more. It was time.
At first, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I mean, I saw the rings. I know what I was supposed to do, but Superman wasn’t moving. He was just kind of floating there while the timer inexorably ticked down to zero. Was the Man of Steel spiting me? Was it a sign? Maybe the game was so bad that my controller refused to work? Finally, after 50 seconds had passed, I figured out that the B button was Superman’s accelerator. At this point, I was destined to fail. Sure enough, time ran out, and I tried again.
The second time was much different. I deftly guided Superman through the rings. I missed a couple, but made it to the last ring with 30 seconds to spare. This wasn’t so bad! I treated this first level like a racing game, and the play controls made sense to me… even if the reason why I was guiding Superman through rings was still unclear. Is that why people hated this game? It had to have been the reason, because if it was the play controls, then I must be some kind of mutant for picking this up and “getting it” in two tries.
Next came the car level. This sucked– I can’t argue with the complainers here. There’s not enough time to figure out what the heck you’re doing the first time you make it, and you’re quickly whisked back to the rings upon failing. I didn’t mind going back to the rings, though. I made it through the rings with ease every time after, with no misses.
After four tries on the car level, I managed to make it to the next set of rings. This was a bit more difficult than the first set, but I completed the stage on my first try. Maintaining a steady and manageable speed was the key to success, although I did miss a couple of rings along the way. The errors were mine, though; I was too fast for some tight turns, which set me up to miss those rings. If I had been a bit less hasty, it would’ve been a flawless run.
The next car level, where Superman had to carry a police car to safety, is where I kept screwing up… and where I stopped playing, for now. I’m still unclear on the play controls for these stages, so I’ll need to study up a bit more before going back to play the game again.
What I can say with confidence is that Superman 64 is not the worst game that I’ve ever played. It’s not even close. Sure, it’s not what I’d expect from a Superman video game… but flying through the rings was not that hard, the play controls for flying were competent, and I will go back and spend more time with the game in the not-too-distant future. It’s a flawed game, for sure. The graphics are nothing special, and the sound is average at best. Flying Superman through rings and having him pick up cars (because reasons) aren’t very superhero-like things to do. The car stages could have better setup and a bit more time to allow for execution.
Would I have spent $60+ on Superman 64 in 1999, knowing what I know now? I don’t think so. I can see why my customers back in 1999 were disappointed.
Do I think that Superman 64 is one of the worst games ever made? Nope. Not yet, anyway. I actually had fun flying through the rings, and even felt a bit of tension racing against the clock. I’m not the biggest fan of the car stages, but I admittedly am not familiar with the play controls and am sure that I will improve with experience. I’ll see if the game gets worse as I progress farther, but what I’ve seen so far hasn’t been as terrible as games like Pit Fighter for the SNES or Super Bombad Racing for the PS2 were for me.
Much like E.T. for the Atari VCS, the negativity that comes with Superman 64 is too far overboard. It’s odd how this negativity is like some kind of legend, that seems to grow as the years go by. People who haven’t played these games just run with the narrative that they’re the worst games ever made, simply because some influential people on the Internet say that they are.
I wouldn’t dare try to convince you to buy Superman 64, but I do challenge you to at least consider the notion that the game isn’t as bad as you might have been led to believe.
This announcement came out of nowhere, like a cloaked TIE Fighter. After (finally) seeing The Force Awakens recently, I’m psyched to see the final result here. Zen Studios has always done great justice to the licenses and intellectual properties that it’s been able to work with… and this pair of tables looks to be no exception.
The trailer sets the stage for The Force Awakens table. The scene above Jakku with the Millennium Falcon trying to shed pursuing TIE Fighters is gorgeous. It’s also good at distracting viewers from the pinball action taking place on the table below. As with Zen’s previous tables based on the films, this table will take players through the main events from The Force Awakens through playable scenes and missions. I always thought this table design to be an interesting way to revisit the films. I’m very curious to see how the “table-transforming environment” works. How many of the film’s settings will the table contain? I also notice what appears to be a pretty epic ramp shot located in the upper left quadrant of the table. The ball travels quite a ways before it looks to get dropped onto a smaller F-I-N-N rollover area.
What the trailer doesn’t show is the second table, titled Might of the First Order. The Star Wars Pinball website has some screens from the table, which appears to take place on a Star Destroyer. The upper (main) playfield has several ramp shots to master, a scoop in the upper middle, a spinner target (and capture hole), and more. The lower playfield has a series of drop targets, as well as a pinball that looks like it must be struck in order to move around between the targets. The website mentions a “special ball-lock system” for the lower playfield, so I’m curious as to how that will work.
The good news is that we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out how these tables look, sound, and play. The Force Awakens Pack is due to be released next week (the week of January 12th, 2016) for most platforms (iOS, Android, Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Mac) for $5. So fire up those Zen Pinball machines and get that last-minute practice in; it’ll take more than using the Force to earn your place on those leaderboards!
If you’re looking to compare scores on PlayStation 4, feel free to send me a Friend Request via my GameGuyPete PSN ID.
Here’s the first video for 2016, Episode 24A. It is the first part of a two-part episode that features the unwrapping and opening of factory-sealed video games. This first part showcases PlayStation games, mostly from 1999. (NFL GameDay 2005 was released in 2004.)
I am a fan of opening factory-sealed games from the 1990s and 2000s. I know that some collectors may frown over the idea of opening sealed games, but my thought process is that I buy games in order to play them… not just to display them. There’s also something special to peeling the wrapper (and ID label) from a game, knowing that I’m the first person (outside of manufacturing) to check out the disc, read the manual, and eventually pop the game into the console that it was made for.
It was really neat getting a chance to look at the manuals and their associated registration cards after unwrapping these new games for this video. In a piece that I wrote for Retroware last summer, I looked back with fondness on a tradition that I used to have whenever I used to buy a new game– I would open up new games that I bought at my local mall while having a bite to eat, and I would always take time to check out the instruction manual. Shooting this video reminded me of those days, minus the McDonald’s meal that often used to accompany this tradition. I spent more time reading the manuals than I did reading the back of the box or disc case while at the mall, but the sentiment during those days and during this video was the same: I was happily familiarizing myself with the game I had just bought, and that got me even more hyped to play the game.
Fisherman’s Bait 2 and Rising Zan were both slam-dunk purchases for me. Fisherman’s Bait 2 was the missing piece of the series in my library, while Rising Zan has always been associated with happy thoughts… either while working at FuncoLand or while watching the Game Informer team play the game for a Replay video a few years ago. Freestyle Boardin’ ’99 was more of a shot in the dark for me; despite memories of ads for it in video game magazines at the time and having a mild interest in the game, I never played or bought it. It’s going to be interesting to see if the game is what I think it is. Hopefully I’ll be better at this game than I have been at just about every other snowboarding game that I’ve tried.
Although the video ran a bit longer than I had hoped it would, I’m fairly happy with it. Knowing that I was only going to get one shot at unwrapping these games, I felt some pressure to get things right… but I stopped worrying about this before long.
As with all of my videos, there is no script or outline. Once I have my topic in mind, I just go where my creativity tells me to go… and, in this case, reading the backs of a couple of the game cases was an ad-lib decision. I thought those readings came off pretty well, as did the fun that I had reading (and reacting to) the game registration cards. I’m still blown away by the mentions of the Virtual Boy and the M2 on the Rising Zan registration card. I might see if I have other registration cards and maybe do a video on those for a future episode.
I did see, while watching the finished product, that I need to hold games and manuals higher so that the camera can see it all. Since I have no monitor while filming, I wind up having to trust that I have a fair understanding of what the iPad camera lens can pick up and where things should be situated. I need to keep improving this understanding.
I’m also aware of the lamp/light glare, both on the GxTV screen and on the game cases. I tried to shoot this video earlier in the day, when there was more natural light… but sun glare was far too strong and would have ruined the shoot. I was willing to accept the glare and was worried that, as the sun was setting, overall lighting would be too weak… but, thankfully, I don’t think that was the case. Wintertime and its accompanying low sun angle makes for challenging filming conditions, but I think that I’m doing okay.
Part two of this episode will be up in the next couple of days, featuring some Wii games. These aren’t quite as impactful, since they’re much more recent… but it will still be fun to unwrap these for the first time.
2015 certainly had its fair share of challenges, but I still managed to do well when it came to the 10 goals for the year that I had set when it started… so I have decided to set another 10 goals for 2016 and see if I can do even better when we get to this point next December.
1. Add a Dreamcast (and games) to my Retro Library: When I got my Wii back in November, I made sure that it had Gamecube disc compatibility so that I could make room for one more console to play in Retro Central. Knowing that there’s one spot left, I had to think about which console that I wanted… and the choice came down to either the Dreamcast or the Xbox. While the Xbox would be nice– since it will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2016 (along with the Gamecube)– I had to go with the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast is a fantastic platform that boasts quite a few arcade ports (NFL Blitz 2000, NBA Showtime, Hydro Thunder, Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis) to go with quality first-party offerings. I also have a stronger connection to the Dreamcast’s exclusives over Xbox exclusives. While I’d like to own an Xbox at some point as well, I can still play a fair number of Xbox games on my Xbox 360 (as long as I can forgive the emulation quirks). So… it’s a Dreamcast that I’ll have my eye on this year. We’ll see if I can find one that works, along with games that aren’t terribly scratched, within my budget for 2016.
2. Expand my Gamecube library: As I mentioned above, the Gamecube turns 15 years old in 2016… so this year feels like a good time to try and build my library of games for it. This task may not be an easy one; not only are Gamecube games dwindling in availability in retrogaming stores around here, but prices for games on the platform are starting to rise. Unfortunately, the games that I really want to buy and play are the ones that are pricey. Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Sonic Adventure 2 DX, and Tales of Symphonia are just a few games that I’ve had my eyes on but have been prohibitively expensive. I’ll be on the lookout for these games and more in 2016. Maybe I’ll get lucky and stumble across some at a thrift store? (Hey, I can dream.)
3. Boost my Wii game library to the century mark: Wii game prices are what PlayStation 2 game prices were a couple of years ago. It’s a console that many people have been letting go of, and demand is low… and I see 2016 as a continuation of a great period of time to add Wii games to my library. As of this writing, I’m right around 70 games… so adding another 30 may be a tall order (given the first two goals above, which will test my limited gaming budget), but with games so cheap right now at GameStop and elsewhere, I think that it’s a fair goal to shoot for. If successful, Wii would become the sixth platform that I own 100+ games for, joining the NES, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360.
4. Catalog my video game library (again): While I did a respectable job of cataloging many of my Retro Library titles on iOS (thanks to the Pure Gaming suite of apps) in 2015, I did not catalog my Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 4 game libraries on iOS. My online/non-iOS catalog is also way out of date. So… this year, I will be working on this goal once again. First, I’ll be cataloging my library online using the Completionator website. Completionator marries the concepts of VGCollect and Backloggery to deliver what I consider to be an excellent cataloging resource that can also be used to track my progress in games that I am playing. Second, I’ll be looking for and using other iOS apps to try and catalog my entire library. I’ll still be updating and using the Pure Gaming apps, but I’m trying to find one universal app that will catalog everything. Hopefully I will do better with this goal in 2016 than I did in 2015.
5. Play and finish 12 games: Completionator will also be a valuable resource for tracking my progress on this goal. As some of you know, I’ve diagnosed myself with Gaming Attention Deficit Disorder, or GADD. GADD, of course, isn’t a real thing… but it’s the best way to describe my inability to play and finish games. With more than 1,500 games to choose from, it’s really easy to get distracted and move on to something else. This year, I’d like to play 12 games from start to finish. 12 seems like a small number (one per month), but it’s a start and hopefully will rebuild focus that I lost after I stopped reviewing games in 2013. I have some games in mind already, but they most likely won’t be JRPGs (due to their length). I might write about my progress for each game here, as well.
6. Earn and maintain 300 YouTube subscribers for my channel: As of this writing, my YouTube channel has 225 subscribers. Earning 75 more in 2016 would get that number to 300. Of course, there will likely be some lost subscriptions along the way, but I think that 300 is an achievable goal. I’m not shooting for the moon with my channel, but I do think that my concept is decent and that adding more content– such as archived PlayStation 4 streams or perhaps some more short-form videos– could help to earn some more views and subscriptions. This is the first time that I’ve attached any kind of goal to my video content creation, and progress toward that goal can only serve as stronger motivation to keep fine-tuning and (hopefully) improving my content.
7. Complete 25 pieces of writing: After seriously dropping the ball in 2015 when it came to writing, I came away disappointed when I gave myself a D+ grade for my writing goal. I do admit that I have prioritized video content creation over writing because it’s the preferred vehicle for content delivery right now… but that doesn’t mean that I should leave writing behind. Last year’s goal of “Keep on writing” was too vague; by putting a quota on the amount of work that I feel I should shoot for, I hold myself more accountable for getting things done. These don’t have to be 1,000+ word long-form pieces, but they do need to be gaming-related and more than just status updates. I’d like to do more focused stuff this year, perhaps singling out a game or series and sharing why I have ties to it.
8. #366FavoriteGames: I like to share photos of my Retro Library on Instagram, but the photos are often random and don’t have any kind of theme. This year, I’d like to change that by sharing one photo a day with the theme of sharing the 366 games which I own that are my favorite games. There won’t be a ranking system, but the Instagram caption/description for each day will shed some light on why I chose that particular game. Ideally, this will be one photo every day, but if I miss days (due to illness or other conflict), I’ll gradually make them up. Why 366 games? Well, 2016 is a leap year… so I’m going to go a step beyond.
9. Pete’s Karaoke Comeback: A long, long time ago, I used to be a karaoke nut. In fact, for 10 years (2001-2011), I ran my own karaoke shows. It remains my favorite job of all time. I met a ton of great people, helped new singers overcome their nerves, and built strong friendships. The first eight of those years were spent hosting shows here in Southern New England… and then I moved to Phoenix in late 2009 to try something new, and my karaoke career ended there when the company I worked for there dried up like so much desert rain. When I moved back here to Massachusetts in late 2011, I was so disappointed in how things had turned out that I had pretty much stopped going to karaoke shows. Now, in 2016, I feel that it’s time to get back into it– not as a karaoke host (since those jobs are still scarce), but as an active participant. I do love to sing, almost as much as I love to play video games. It’s a rush to be up in front of people, singing my heart out. I feel invincible up there, like I’m someone else for 5 minutes. I want that feeling in my life again, and I need to be the one to make that happen. It’ll be 5 years in 2016 since my last show as a karaoke host. It’s time to come to terms and move on, getting back into the crowd and occasionally letting my inner rock star come out.
10. Maintain my 4.0 GPA and complete my 60-credit requisite to apply for substitute teaching: I was thrilled to have found out just after Christmas that the hurdles that came between me and going back to college to resume my education were cleared away. The next semester begins on January 25th, 2016, and I’ll be taking on another full-time (12 credits) course load. Maintaining my 4.0 GPA remains my goal, but I’m also on track after two more semesters to have enough credits under my belt to apply for substitute teaching jobs locally. While I do want to finish my degree, time is running short… as is my financial aid eligibility. By securing some substitute teaching work, I can start to make some money and afford to pay for continued classes while also gaining valuable experience and a bit of financial autonomy. By this time in 2016, I want to be creating my resume to submit to local school districts and actively looking for opportunities… but I need to work through two more semesters of classes to accomplish this.
So there they are, my 10 goals for 2016. Of course, there are other things that I hope to accomplish in the coming year, but these 10 things are what I’ll be grading myself on in one year’s time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support this past year, whether it’s been through checking out this site, my YouTube channel, the Consoleation Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (yes, that’s still a thing), and everything else in-between. Knowing that people are checking out my work is what drives me as a content creator. I also sincerely hope that all of you have an amazing 2016. May you achieve all of your goals, find success and happiness in all that you do, and enjoy the year as much as possible.
As we prepare to say goodbye to this year, it’s time to take a look back at the goals for 2015 that I set for myself 11 months ago and see how well I did in achieving them:
Add a Wii (and Wii games) to my library: A+
I picked up a Wii in late November and have been putting a decent library of games together for it– including a couple of sealed games that I got for Christmas this year. I’ve been having an absolute blast with the console since I got it; the only downside has been having to buy Virtual Console games for it again that I had bought years ago when I first had the Wii. That said, I’m enjoying Wii Sports (and Wii Sports Resort) as much as I ever did… and I’m playing quite a few games that I haven’t tried before. I’ll be enjoying my Wii even more in 2016 and beyond.
Expand my SEGA CD library: B
While I did pick up a few games for the SEGA CD this year– including Wing Commander, Midnight Raiders, and a couple of sports games– I didn’t get the games that I was really gunning for. Time Gal, Revenge of the Ninja, Road Avenger, and Silpheed still remain on my want list. This goal might be a carryover for 2016.
Boost my original PlayStation game library past 200 titles: A+
As of this writing, I now own more than 360 PlayStation games. I was at 185 when I first set this goal back in January. So… yeah, I far exceeded this goal. Visits to Retro Games Plus, Game Depot, Game Hunters, and Video Game Castle helped to boost my collection. I got great deals from all of these places, as well as at RetroWorld Expo back in October. I added some really great PlayStation games this past year, including Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Xenogears, Vagrant Story, both Wild Arms games, both Parasite Eve games, Ghost in the Shell, Return Fire, and more. For celebrating the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation’s release in the United States, I did it in style by expanding my library. Mission more than accomplished.
Catalog my games library: B-
While I used the Pure Gaming iOS apps to catalog many of my retro games (from NES to PS2), platforms like SEGA CD, Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 4 still need to be completed– and these need different apps to catalog everything. I’m still struggling to find the best overall app to catalog everything. I did find a new site called Completionator, which combines elements of VGCollect and Backloggery to create a versatile and useful platform for cataloging a game library… but there isn’t (yet?) a mobile app, so I have to use my laptop to enter everything. This goal will probably carry over to 2016, and I hope I do a better job of getting this goal accomplished.
Decide what to do with my “orphan” NES manuals: A+
I brought them to RetroWorld Expo in October and sold many of them, which helped to subsidize my purchases of games both during the event and during a trip to Retro Games Plus a few days later. It was not only financially worthwhile to do this, but it was also nice to find new homes for these manuals… the new owners will use them more than I ever did. This was a complete success.
Manage my free time better: C-
I still had lots of periods in 2015 when I spent more time laying in bed than being productive, in terms of playing games, writing, or shooting videos. There were times when I couldn’t muster the motivation to do much of anything, and then a combination of being very sick for most of July and then working a retail job from September to November ate into available productivity time. My health still continues to be a struggle from time to time, but I recognize that I need to do a better job of taking advantage of spare time when I have it… and turning that time into something other than lazing around.
Be more physically active: B-
When the weather cooperated, I tried to take advantage by going for walks once per day. The first quarter of 2015 saw huge amounts and constant barrages of snow… so it was tough to do much walking (or other exercise) until April. I averaged about 4,000 steps per day this year… which was about 1,000 under my target. I did have knee and ankle troubles a couple of times this year for about a week each, which also ate into my walking/workout time. I’m hoping to improve on this in 2016, and am taking time this week to look into a local YMCA membership.
Continue with college success: Incomplete
The Spring semester of 2015 was my fifth semester of classes overall, and my fifth straight semester with a 4.0 GPA. I didn’t go to school for the Fall of 2015 semester, due to circumstances beyond my control… which is why I’m grading this goal as Incomplete. I’m hoping to go back for the Spring 2016 semester and continue working towards completing the first part of my Elementary Education program– and towards achieving the 60 credits required to be considered as a substitute teacher candidate. Teaching is what I want to do, and I’m hoping that I can do so.
Resume and maintain my Retro Unscripted video project: B+
Back in March, I decided that I would transition away from the Retro Unscripted brand and build the Consoleation brand instead. Since then, I’ve produced 23 official episodes of Consoleation on my YouTube channel and a total of 55 videos. Some of the videos take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s streaming capabilities, and a few of the more recent ones were actually streamed live on YouTube. Some of the content could have been better, and a couple of the videos were more for promoting events or crowdfunding efforts… but it was still a productive period overall. I couldn’t give myself a higher grade because there were weeks that I didn’t create new content, and that’s hard to excuse given that I don’t write scripts, edit, or do any post-production.
Keep on writing: D+
I didn’t write a lot in 2015. I did have a few decent original pieces, including ones about pinball, a look back at the launch of the PlayStation, GxTV memories and performance observations, my Review a Great Game Day submission about Bad News Baseball, and others… but I didn’t produce as consistently as I wanted to. I am being hard on myself here, but I feel like I’ve put writing behind video creation in terms of productivity priority even though I think I’m better in written form than I am on camera. I am not sure how to fix this. How do I motivate myself to write more? Should I even bother? Is it a big deal? What I do know is that, as a goal for 2015, I didn’t do a good enough job of working to achieve that goal. That earns the low grade that I’ve given myself here.
Tallying up the grades, it seems like 2015 was a pretty successful year, in terms of the goals that I set for myself. There were definitely areas that needed improvement, and the year definitely threw a lot of challenges at me that I wasn’t ready for… but I also have quite a bit to be proud of and even more that I’ll look back on fondly as I turn the calendar on January 1st.
Next week, I’ll be posting my list of 10 goals for 2016… and, hopefully, I’ll have even more success in trying to achieve them. As always, thanks for reading… and enjoy the rest of your holiday season!
Before I go, for those who might have missed the latest episode of Consoleation, I invite you to check it out below. It was a fun– though emotional, at times– story to share, as I recall how I got my first Nintendo Entertainment System on Christmas Day of 1990… that’s now 25 years ago!
After what’s been a lengthy absence, I’m happy to share that there will be new content coming here to Consoleation next week (between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), as it’s time to share some goals and things that I want to shoot for in 2016. I enjoyed doing this last year, and have been giving it some serious thought during my hiatus.
With a new year rapidly approaching, it allows for a clean slate– and that’s really what I need, as a content creator. To say that most of the last three months of 2015 were incredibly challenging would be a gross understatement… but I think (with fingers crossed) that I’m ready and able to get back to being more active again.
In the meantime, please accept my sincerest wishes for a safe and happy holiday season, wherever you are.
I didn’t have any experience with the NES 30 years ago. In fact, I didn’t even know what an NES was.
In 1985, I was still very much an arcade rat. I was making weekly pilgrimages to the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, in order to hang out in the arcades there. When I wasn’t at an arcade, my video game experiences were fueled by VIC-20 ports. I went on to get a Commodore 64 in 1986, and didn’t get an NES until 1990.
My first NES experiences were through friends. Most notably, my friend Chris (whom I visited out near Worcester, MA every summer during high school) and his friends introduced me to the NES back in 1988. I played games like RBI Baseball, Track & Field, Top Gun, Contra, and Ninja Gaiden while I visited, and I was green with envy when it came time for me to go back home. Another friend of mine, Kevin, also had an NES; he lived closer to me and we rented games for his console pretty often. I watched him beat Batman and Castlevania II, and we played Vindicators and Tecmo Bowl together.
While I had plenty of VIC-20 and Commodore 64 games to play, there was something about NES games that seemed to be better. Maybe it was the controller. Maybe it was the immediacy of cartridges, which was cooler than waiting a couple of minutes for games to load off of my VIC-20 cassette drive or my 1541 Disk Drive for my C64. Maybe it was Nintendo’s own games, which I couldn’t play on my C64– titles like Super Mario Bros. and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!— that made me long for my own system.
When the JCPenney Christmas catalog arrived at my paternal grandmother’s house during the Fall of 1990, I decided that an NES console was going to be my big holiday wish that year. When my grandmother saw me eyeing the console on page 461, she asked me about it and why I wanted it. I put together a presentation of sorts, running down reasons why the NES was better than my Commodore 64. I talked about how much I played games for it while visited friends like Chris and Kevin, and how much better that I thought the games were. She said that she’d consider it, and the next few weeks were spent anxiously waiting.
I didn’t sleep well at all after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. When I awoke the next morning, there were four gifts under the tree. I tried to be reserved about it, but I was more excited inside than I had been in years. The first gift was an NES Action Set. It was exactly what I had wanted. I was finally going to be on the same page with my friends, and I could play NES games on my own instead of waiting to visit someone else. The second gift was a Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition game for the NES; this gift was meaningful because my grandmother and I used to watch Jeopardy! every weeknight… and now I could play my own game and test my trivia knowledge. The third gift was Super C; after talking about my experience playing Contra, it was really cool that my grandmother remembered it when gift-hunting. The final gift was Super Mario Bros. 3… one of the best games of all time and one game that I never expected to own, let alone see under the tree on this day.
This Christmas will mark 25 years since I got my NES. My interest in console video games grew for many years after, stretching beyond Nintendo to include SEGA, Sony, and Microsoft… but the NES has always had a special place in my heart. The games still appeal to me to this very day. The feel of the NES controller in my hands remains natural. Many of the games trigger happy memories when I play them; I can recall reading magazine articles about them or my first experiences with them.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the NES will resonate with me until my dying day is because it came from my grandmother, whom I will always love as a second mother. I lost her to cancer back in 1996, and still struggle with the loss today. She gave me asylum from the difficulties of life when I needed it. She provided for me when my mom– who did all she could as a single parent of three– struggled. She appreciated my love of video games from a young age, with the proviso that I worked hard in school. Perhaps my motivations weren’t what they should have been, but my grades were at least in part due to my grandmother’s influence. Playing games like Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary or PGA Tour Golf II (for the Genesis) always reminded me of time that my grandmother and I spent together, watching game shows or golf on television.
As I reflect on the 30th anniversary of the NES release here in the United States, I think about many things. I think about my friends in high school, who gave me the chance to play games for it when I couldn’t afford to get one myself. I think about renting games with my friend Kevin, and how I used to refer to his issues of Nintendo Power in order to help him beat those games in a weekend. I think about an all-nighter I pulled at another friend’s house, trying (and failing) to beat Ninja Gaiden– a game that I still haven’t beaten to this very day. I think about the joy and excitement I felt on that Christmas morning in 1990, when I finally had an NES of my own.
I might have been a bit late to the NES party, but the console and its games have given me a lifetime’s worth of memories… and I consider it to be my favorite console of all time.