Where the Good Games Are
When I was twelve years old, I called a children's show on TV on Saturday morning because the nice woman and a talking hand puppet were giving away a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, including Donkey Kong Country. And they also put a green Game Boy on top. I guessed the lion was out of place in the picture puzzle and won. That was the best day of my life. Really. That was the best day of my life.
My Super Nintendo and I were inseparable. Not only did mere ownership make me a more popular kid at school and with my circle of friends, I loved and lived every single game I got my hands on. Every weekend, my mom and I would head to a different flea market to bring home treasure after treasure. At some point, I knew the shady vendors standing around - and they knew me.
Nintendo wasn't just some Japanese company that just happened to make video games for me, Nintendo was my religion. Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past or Starwing catapulted me into strange worlds that I still dream about today. I sat there and played. I played and I played and I played.
While today I put in The Witcher, Grand Theft Auto or Skyrim and ask myself again and again if I really don't have anything better or more meaningful to do right now than to escape into virtual adventures, for example earning money or looking for a wife or building a house, I didn't know this feeling back then.
And that's exactly why I envy myself today. I didn't just play Secret of Mana, Yoshi's Island or Chrono Trigger - I knew those games inside out. And by memorized, I mean that I really knew - and loved - every character, every pixel, every angle, every shortcut, every bug, every enemy.
If I got stuck, I didn't just put in the next game like I do today, I bought magazines that had tips and tricks and sometimes entire maps in them, or called the Nintendo hotline that helped lost kids like me. The Internet didn't exist. Just me and whatever else was in the way.
And when a game was over, that was far from the end. I played it again and again and again. Alone and with friends. And again. Platformers, racers, even role-playing games. When I'd squeezed out everything a cartridge had to offer, I'd put it into an Action Replay and cheat the thing into other dimensions.
At the beginning of Zelda, did I walk through the walls to see what the villagers would say if I showed up there before the first battle? Well, sure! Did I warp through the ancestral cave in Lufia and NeoTokyo in Terranigma? Absolutely! Did I have to play through Chrono Trigger for three days straight because I couldn't save my game file thanks to the unofficial adapter? Oh yeah! Do I regret even one second spent in front of that console? Absolutely not!
In fact, and this opinion has manifested itself more and more in recent years, the Super Nintendo is the best thing that ever happened to mankind. Everything that came before it was too bad graphically to really immerse yourself in the worlds, everything that came after it looked too good to really stimulate the imagination anymore.
And I'll even go one step further and say that the Super Nintendo's colorful pixel visuals and 16-bit sound are the absolute pinnacle of video game history. Because the technical limits of the console were the perfect framework for every developer to get the most creative optimum out of the games - if they could.
Today, I sit down in front of a Call of Duty, a The Last of Us, or an Assassin's Creed. And I don't have the feeling that I'm really playing a game, but that I'm being driven from one cutscene to the next. As if levels weren't levels anymore, but just an evil to tell a watered-down story that would have been too embarrassing for any movie distributor.
Every technical achievement of the past decades, whether from Sony or from Microsoft and even from Nintendo, are put into perspective when you're at a party and you put in Super Mario Kart. Or Super Bomberman 2, or Super Street Fighter II. Pixels become universes, sprites become characters, chiptunes become anthems. And then it's on.
I can't watch a game on the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, or Dreamcast today without honestly wondering how we ever really experienced this poorly resolved triangle orgy without laughing and throwing up. But put me in front of a Star Ocean, a Super Probotector or a Parodius and I promise you, your heart will beat faster, your hands will intuitively reach for the controller - and your adventure will begin in the next moment.
Like many others from my generation, I believed that the future of consoles, after the Super Nintendo, could only get more wholesome. Magazines like Nintendo Power, Game Informer and Edge pelted us with unbelievable information about the Nintendo 64. So I sold my Super Nintendo, and everything I loved, to have enough funds for my personal upgrade. Nintendo just knew how to seduce me. The hype was working.
I don't want to say I regret my time with the Nintendo 64. The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time and its sequel Majora's Mask, Banjo-Kazooie and Super Smash Bros. were experiences I wouldn't want to miss. But when I lie awake at night today, I think of my Super Nintendo. And everything it stood for.
For a few weeks now, I've been spending my free time in Facebook groups where consoles, games and accessories are traded and flogged. Sometimes for a lot, sometimes for very little. And yes, I'm on the verge of becoming someone who has witnessed enough new console generations and now says: Nope, this isn't getting any better.
Or maybe I'm just persuading myself just that. Maybe I'm in a full-blown midlife crisis right now, in which you find everything from the past better, transfigured, distorted, subjective. Maybe I, too, will soon become an old man leaning on the windowsill, yelling at kids because they don't know how great it was back then. Those little, no-good shits.
When I was twelve years old, I called a children's show on TV on Saturday mornings because the nice woman and a talking hand puppet were giving away a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, including Donkey Kong Country. And they also put a green Game Boy on top. I guessed the lion was out of place in the picture puzzle and won.
That was the best day of my life. Really. That was the best day of my life. And when I have too much time to think about life, death and everything between, I want nothing more than to be twelve years old again and to be able to dive into the colorful worlds of my Super Nintendo for the first time.
Thursday, January 5, 2023Share your thoughts