A Link to the Past (SNES)

An opening scroll of text. A flurry of images suggesting lore. A young man thrust into a world much larger than himself. Thus began the Legend of Zelda and my descent into video games proper from that point on. Sure I had dabbled with the NES incarnations of Legend of Zelda and Adventures of Link, but at the time I was simply too young to understand what they were beyond some green dude running around with a sword that shoots lasers when you have full hearts. When I got my hands on A Link to the Past at a respectable age of like… nine years old, suddenly those stupid mazes and creepy dungeon hands falling from the ceiling were pieces of a larger tapestry that I could look over for days in awe and wonder at the richness woven into it.

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Playing With Power

There’s something about a new console launch that gets me every time. The anticipation starts months before, of course, with vague PR whispers and dubious spec leaks. But before long we get that typical, enticing trickle of details. Tech specs, software in development, what the box looks like and, most fascinating to me as a Nintendo fan, what the controller looks like. And there’s a small window of time after we know the necessary details but before the thing is actually out where our brains are salivating at the pure potential of it all. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how it makes you feel, and if you don’t believe me, go back and talk to the kids who bought a Jaguar or a Virtual Boy or a 3DO at launch. They were riding high right up until they weren’t. But man, those heights.

With Switchmas™ fast approaching, I can’t help but he reminded of all the other console launches in my life. And of all of them, maybe none was so memorable to me as the Super Nintendo.

“We’re not buying you another Nintendo,” my dad said.

My parents had called an informal meeting after my 1991 Christmas list contained one item and one item alone. You guessed it, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

I was almost 10, and I tried not to cry.

“Okay.”

My dad must have sensed my obvious distress because his tone softened.

“It’s a lot of money, buddy, more than we spend on almost all the kids combined.”

I swallowed hard.

“But how can I get one?”

“Well,” my dad replied, “You can work and save your money and once you’ve saved enough we can go get one.”

The object of my affection. Still got it.

 

There was more to it, but that was the gist. I had walked into that meeting a boy but I walked out of it a … well, still a boy but more mature or something, and determined to save enough for a Super Nintendo or die trying. And before you scoff at the idea that this was less than a Herculean task for a ten year old, keep in mind that this was $200 in 1991 money, which put it closer to $400 today and the truly lucrative jobs were just not available to me. In a few years I would be babysitting and mowing lawns at $10 a yard but for now I was relegated to washing cars at $2 a pop and selling trinkets for commission through some scam out of Boy’s Life magazine. That’s a lot of cars and a lot of baubles.

But the thing was, I didn’t have another option. I could wait four years for a price cut or I could get to work now. So I got to work. Every Saturday I was out knocking doors, either to solicit car washes or pitch expensive chocolates and novelty mugs to my neighbors. Did I mention I grew up on a military base and most of these people didn’t have extra money to spend on junk like that? Nevertheless, with an optimism born of desperation, I persisted.

Slowly, painfully so to my ten and then eleven year old mind, the dollars began to add up. And then, one Saturday, we saw an ad in the paper. Kmart was having a sale on Super Nintendos for $179.99. I had $180.

“Mom, can we go?”

“Yes!”

I don’t think my parents were more excited than I was, but they were obviously proud. Hell, my dad tells people the story to this day.

The SNES was like a greatest hits machine. So much quality.

 

In any event, my mom and I piled into the car and sped down to Kmart. After speaking with the cashier in the electronics section, he let us in on a Super Nintendo that was an open box item, and for this purpose was marked down an additional 10%. I could cover almost all of it, including tax. It was the sweetest single purchase I’ve made before or since. I had toiled, and sweated, and sacrificed and later that day, playing Super Mario World, or even years down the line experiencing the magic of Final Fantasy VI, or Chrono Trigger, or Mega Man X, or Super Metroid, or a Link to the Past, or any number of games, I can look back and tie it all to the work  culminating in that moment.

Best. Console. Ever.

A Long Time Ago, On Far, Far and Away the Best Console…

A terrifying, vindictive government; a determined group of rebels and rabble rousers; a resistance built on hope. No, we’re not talking about the last ten days, we’re talking about Star Wars!

As a cultural phenomenon in the midst of a modern renaissance, Star Wars is everywhere today, but such wasn’t the case in 1992. And since my parents weren’t big fans at the time, the probability of me being able to watch the full trilogy was slim to none. How could a ten year old with mild interest keep track of the happenings in a galaxy long ago and far, far away? Enter Super Star Wars.

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Kain’t Fight This Feeling

My first brush with Final Fantasy IV (then Final Fantasy 2) was watching my friends, Jordan and Chris, play it at their house. I had come over in time to witness them infiltrating Baron Castle and defeating Kainazzo, (original English name so don’t @ me, bro) imposter king and Fiend of Water. This was my first brush with an RPG and the graphics, music and story quickly sucked me in. I continued to play bits and pieces with my friends but they weren’t allowed to loan games so I could never get fully invested in the story, which just killed me.  I could tell there was something special there, and I wanted in. Continue reading “Kain’t Fight This Feeling”

An Ode to an Age

“Oh cool,” I said. “A jacket.”

It was a blue and white windbreaker, to be specific and it was cool, just not what a newly-minted 11 year old was hoping for as his final birthday  present. I tried to hide my disappointment.

“Thanks Mom and Dad.”

“You’re welcome,” said my mom, smiling. “Isn’t it cool how it has so many pockets?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I replied, shoving my hands into the side pockets, trying to match her enthusiasm.

My fingers brushed against some crumpled paper and I pulled it out, thinking it was that white packing paper they use to fluff out display clothing. But it wasn’t that at all. It was $50.

“Whoa, fifty bucks?!”

My parents laughed.

“What do you want to get?”

Of course they knew the answer before they asked the question, so the next day we headed towards the Mission Viejo mall to scope out the now-defunct Babbages. Approximately twenty minutes later we walked out with a game that looked awesome but that I had never played before: Final Fight.


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Robocop 3: Walk, Kneel, Shoot, Repeat

I’m eleven years old, it’s summer, and via Blockbuster I’ve somehow convinced my mom to let me rent Robocop 3 for the SNES. This is a big deal in and of itself because failure to return a copy of Star Tropics for an inordinate amount of time the previous summer had resulted in some quasi-legal threats. Yeah. Anywho … why Robocop 3? I don’t know! I’ve never been a huge fan of the franchise to be honest. In the world of Robocop or Terminator the time travel always gave the edge to the T-800. Sorry, Murphy.

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