Monday, February 25, 2013

My Gaming Timeline: Nintendo Entertainment System Gaming in the fetal years Sep 09, 2012 11:26PM PST

So, in order to pump this out by "Sunday," probably Monday by the time I'm done typing, I'm going much less ambitious than I initially planned, going over only the games I remember us having at home, and/or renting on the NES. I'll save the games I've played on for another daily blog, and Game Boy games will be a separate entry in this series.

Anyway, growing up having been born in 1990, my teachers and professors later on in life would joke about how we in my generation must wonder what cassette tapes and VCRs were, and I never understood why they thought my generation had that big of a gap between theirs. I knew what a VCR was, and that it played VHS tapes, usually Disney movies, like Lion King and The Power Rangers movie, or various Power Ranger episode collections if it was myself or my parents choosing for me. And, having used cassette tapes plenty in my youth to record songs from what at the time was 94.5 The Edge (Dallas' alternative radio station, now 102.1) with my CD player/radio/cassette player by having the radio going and hitting record on the cassette player part at the same time, I knew what those were too. So did everyone else I went to grade school with, and they still remember these things now.

Love this thing

Hell, my mom was a computer teacher, and I distinctly remember floppy disks and Apple IIe computers (and yes, we'll get to that in this blog series, I think I might put PC games in with my Arcade games blog).

More importantly though, while not everyone remembers the NES, most people I grew up with at least know of it or played it at a friend's house. Hell, that game cartridge VCR was all the rage in pretty much any day care I remember from when I was really little, and Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon were THE games in that setting, Double Dragon getting the most playtime from my memory, because everyone had Mario at home, but Dragon was beat-'em-up fun that not every kid had... except for the kid that was likely hooking up his NES to let him and everyone else have something fun to do while waiting on a ride, etc. 

Of course, the most common way to take Mario home was probably with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge, that gave you both the plumber's awesome side scroller, and let you shoot ducks with a gun, just like if you were at Cici's Pizza playing Area 51, just with fewer aliens and more annoyingly unkillable dogs. Hell, even without the game, something about the "shing" noise the Marty McFly holster accessory made was plenty of fun with a little imagination (and a lot of needing psychiatric help, probably, but fuck it, it was barely after the 80s, boys were meant to play with gun like men dammit!). You could also shoot at saucers, but I always preferred the bigger targets provided by the birds; it caused less rage.

Gotta love the Zapper

Other gaming peripherals my older brother owned (or my parents bought for him and we both played, whatever, I don't question things) were the Power Glove, which I always just thought was for entering codes, cause we barely ever used it for gaming, and I vaguely remember my brother expressing frustration with it (probably cause it was so bad! Oh shut up, you know you'd make that reference too), the Game Genie, which I don't think I actually ever saw used, and its V-shape confused me, and finally, the NES Advantage, an arcade style joystick/button pad we used in lieu of the brick controllers the sideways game toaster came with. I think I used it the most, based on the logic that it had more buttons, so it must be better.

Who has the Advantage? The four year old with more buttons than you!

Aside from Mario though, most of the rest of my older brother's library was sports titles I've never seen on consoles since, including 10 Yard Fight, a football game that barely even tries resembling the actual game of football, Double Dribble, a basketball game, and Baseball Simulator 1,000. 

10 Yard Fight is memorable for often being the most fun I had with a friend playing NES, cause it was two player in a way you could both play at the same time (defense/offense), and its simplicity is a large part of what made it so fun. There wasn't any complicated playbook, just get the ball to the endzone without getting tackled. 

Whoever is playing this knows what they're doing; I did not

Double Dribble was a little like NBA Jam in that it featured 3-on-3, rather than 5-on-5 gameplay, and if you could dunk the ball, you'd get a flashy close-up video of the dunk (which happened annoyingly often, more annoying if you were losing). Granted, because I was often the one getting humiliated, I mostly remember this game for its free throw portion, which I now realize is a menu, and not a minigame like I thought as a kid. Hey, I just figured the higher baskets were worth more points, how the hell should I know? In fairness to me, this was when I was an awesome shot at basketball, cause every time I got home from being stuck in a computer lab until 6pm, while my mom was doing unpaid overtime, helping other teachers with their computer issues, my life pretty much revolved around shooting baskets in our driveway. 

I always chose "Time" cause it gave you the most points...?

Baseball Simulator 1000, I remember mostly because I've always liked batting in videogames, which is why I hate playing defense in them, and this is the first game to teach me that about myself. But also, for some reason, given the pose of the guy on the box and cartridge seeming to suggest to my 4/5 year old brain he was surfing in outer space above ballparks that were also in outer space, I wanted me some awesome space game action. Judge all you want, I still want a baseball game to be set in space.

The Silver Surfer: Pinch Hitter Extraordinaire

Other games at the house were Anticipation, a videogame version of a game show I'd never heard of, and The Chessmaster, which is exactly the chess simulator it sounds like. I honestly found both kind of boring, Anticipation because I didn't really get what was going on; I mean my four-year-old brain understood the concept of playing charades, just not the concept of it being fun on a TV screen with random Monopoly shapes; and The Chessmaster because I've always been bad at chess and found it boring, though I've never been as averse to it as playing cards, which people always tried to teach me growing up, and I always refused. At least I know how to play chess, if not win.

In hindsight, he's just a hobo with blue hair, but for $10 behind a dumpster, he can do a few "magic tricks"

I got roped into Anticipation usually because it became the family night game when no one felt like setting up Monopoly, and The Chessmaster had a wizard on it, so liking magic at the time, having seen the Mickey Mouse portion of Fantasia a lot (though never the rest of the movie), I kept thinking there had to be a mop manipulation minigame somewhere after the boring chess part.

That said, at least boring was always better than infuriating, which is all I got out of Top Gun. Hell, I thought it was a plane landing simulator, and had no idea until recently there was an actual game where you could shoot something in that awful cartridge. I believe AVGN covered this just fine, so I'll leave it there.

I feel your pain, Mr. Jim.. Mmmm, Mr. Jim's

Finally, the last two games I can remember playing on the actual NES system were Track and Field, and Videomation. 

Track and Field was another game that used a peripheral, in this case the Power Pad. This, from my memory, we never had at home, but I do know a friend of the family, or a neighbor having it; I also remember EGM's Seanbaby describing the gameplay, which in the track part consisted of "running" by hitting Power Pad circles with your feet as "tap, tap, tap tap tap tap dammit!" My experience was more: tap-why-tap-isn't-anything-tap-ok-tap-he's-tap-moving-tap-backwards-tap? I think the neighbors actually did have it figured out, and must have thought I was pretty stupid, but either way, the light gun is the only NES peripheral I remember doing what it was supposed to for me.

A screenshot of DDR before it worked, or involved dancing

And Videomation was a game I knew was awesome, because my favorite animals growing up were wild cats, cheetahs being my favorite of those favorites (also, dinosaurs and for some reason ostriges.. I was a strange child), and this game had a tiger coming out of the fucking TV! It was such an awesome MS Paint simulator that ... wait. Oh, go fuck yourself tiger. I hope the misleading wizard on The Chessmaster's box art makes a coat out of you, and sells it to some mean witch.

I never liked you, misleading tiger. Let's not be friends.

Other NES titles I've played were played outside the NES. As I said, I'll save what I've played online for another blog, but I did later in life play a Game Boy Advance version of Zelda II, and played Rygar and Metroid as unlockables in their newer installments as unlockables.

Rygar I barely remember, because I only got past the first level I think. I remember its reboot being decent, and there being a cult following for the disc-on-chain spinning gladiator, but I never really got into it, only giving the PS2 game a rental.

The original Metroid is just a troll of a game with its enemy placement, especially ones that glitchily follow you through doors. Even with the Gamecube's D-Pad and comfortable controls, it was definitely one of the harder games I've ever played. Eventually, I gave up trying to remember what code I saved at, and just entered the Justin Bailey code to skip to the end. It was fun though, and it definitely set the groundwork, general layout, design, concept, atmosphere, and everything else for the Metroid series. As a matter of fact, very little about the core gameplay of Metroid games has changed from its first installment, at least in its 2D iterations, in my opinion.

That's a hell of a lot more than I can say for Zelda II, which could have been a great mix of side scroller and RPG if you didn't go all the way back to the start every time you died. Metroid was maddening, this BS was impossible, and not worth its asking price on the GBA. Luckily, I just rented it.

And those are my memories of the Nintendo Entertainment System and its games. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and stay tuned for more gaming memories to come.

So THAT'S how it was supposed to fit; now I remember; man, was that a pain in the ass to try shoving in

- What do you guys think of this first installment of my retrospective?

- What do you remember playing in the age of gaming where every problem could be fixed with a blow job?

- How was your weekend?


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