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Nostalgia and the Super Nintendo

With FFXIV launching tomorrow, I haven’t had much desire to play other MMOs. I’ve spent a little time working on Book 7 in LotRO but knowing that I’ll soon be have a new “main game” somehow makes the experience feel empty. With the blogosphere raging over the great nostalgia debate of 2010 (also known as the summer slump), I’ve been thinking about my own gaming past and, inevitably, I found myself thinking of the SNES.

The Super Nintendo was the system I cut my teeth on. Well, I was around for the late days of the Atari and enjoyed my share of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt (remember having to blow on games to get them to work?), but the SNES came out right as I got old enough to really consider myself a “gamer.” Since my dad was a fisherman, I spent a lot of time playing Bassin’s Black Bass and Bass Pro. I knew nothing about the intricacies of fishing, but I loved participating in tournaments.  That might have been where I began but I played lots more. Super Mario World was another old favorite. Remember the giant bullet? The goal post stage marker?

Later on I discovered Earthworm Jim. Those games will always stick with me. Before then, I’d never really seen humor done well in a video game before that. I think I laughed out loud the first time I saw a cow hanging from a crane waiting to be shot down. Everything about that game made it memorable, from the imaginative levels and enemies, to the cartoon sound effects.

The two that I’ve really been wanting to visit though are the original Donkey Kong Country and Super Metroid. Two examples of platforming done right.

Donkey Kong really epitomizes what the SNES was for me. Levels were simple but challenging. You had to rely on timing if you wanted to get by. Enemies were distinctly bad but in a non-threatening, cartoon kind of way. To kill things you’d either jump on their heads or throw barrels at them. As a kid living with a single father, having Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong team up was especially neat. I think I thought that if my dad and I were monkeys, that’s who we’d be. I especially loved the mine cart levels. All you had to do was jump but, jeez, your timing had to be spot on or you’d crash every time.

And then there was Super Metroid. It was the first game I ever remember beating. Back then, I think I had it down to just under three hours on a playthrough (and I played through it probably five or six times). Pretty different from nowadays. For being a game so short in comparison to today’s games, it had a lot of depth. You’d explore levels, beat lots of aliens with unique strengths and weaknesses, and upgrade your varia suit with new weapons and abilities. By the end when you’d face off against Mother Brain you were a badass. Then, old Brainy would just about kill you and make you even more of a badass.

A monkey riding a rhino killing beavers. Jungle beavers. Thank you, Nintendo.

I could go on but you probably don’t want to hear it all.

I spent the better part of tonight playing some of these again on the PC. I even plugged in an old gamepad so I could play them proper. While games have certainly come a long way, these old favorites are still just as fun as they were years back. What really got me though was just how different our take on gaming was back then. Platformer games had the thinnest veil of a story, an excuse to get you playing really. So much was innocent, too. It wasn’t about headshots or kill counts. It was about collecting coins, and rings, and extra lives. Bad guys were bad but they still seemed kind of snuggly– you wouldn’t expect them to actually hurt you anyways.

While I love where games are at today, tonight really reminded me of why I play games in the first place. High definition graphics and deep systems are nice, but, really, we could lose all that and I’d still be a gamer. Back then, I played because the enemies, levels, and challenges made me smile. It could be as simple as a timed button press, but if that press moved the screen just a little bit more to the right, gave me a funny noise or animation, or gave me some special power or attack, I was happy. That’s the kind of experience that made a gamer out of me. Games today do that in their own special way, but it was nice to get back to my 32-bit roots.

When it comes to MMOs, I think it’s the same thing. Games today do a lot of what their forebears did, they’re just different. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or “not as good” as those of yesteryear. And, just like with the Super Nintendo, as much as the vets look back on those old days and reminisce, not many would actually go back if they could. They play today’s games because, well, they’re today’s games. For consoles and MMOs alike, I think we can all agree that there are things to love past, present, and future.

How about you? Any golden oldies you’re especially fond of?

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  1. /AFK: NES Edition « Bio Break

    […] Systemic Babble revels in nostalgia as he lists his favorite NES games.  Meanwhile, Game By Night takes us into the SNES generation. […]

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