From when I was little to the present there has always been a desire to
find some way to pass the time while traveling. One of the earliest
solutions was one which is still viable – books. The chief problem with
books, however, is that they lack a sort of interactive element and for me I
could only read so much at a time as a child. The first time I played Donkey
Kong on a pocket-sized Game ‘n’ Watch system, I knew I had found something
special. Things have only improved for the world of portable gaming since
Last July, I bought a Nintendo GameCube along with the titles Luigi’s Mansion and the oddly titled Super Monkey Ball. Then in August, I picked up the highly anticipated Super Mario Sunshine. It is, in a way, a nice little reminder of how I spent many hours during my childhood.
The first video game system that I ever played in the comfort of my parent’s home was the TI-94A, made by Texas Instruments. Now the only American company producing video game consoles is Microsoft, but at the time there was Texas Instruments. Now recognized more in the classroom as that which helps people pass Calculus, Texas Instruments made a lovely game console which had all of the popular games of that time period. I was playing them, along with my brother. The graphics were nothing compared to what one sees now, of course – but that didn’t matter to my brother and I. We were hooked, and played for hours at a time. Games such as Parseca, Defender, Dig-Dug, Pole Position – these were the things we were hoping to get on holidays and for our birthday.
Meanwhile, coin based machines also sought us out. When I went to Pizza Hut as a child, I have better memories of playing Ms. Pacman with my brother than eating the food. The dentist I used to go to had a Space Invaders machine in the waiting room, so even going to the dentist wasn’t that terrifying of an experience. Just about any time we went to the beach during the summer time we were at one point going into the arcade to play such games as Rampage and obscure games in which the entire goal was to cut down trees. I think a tree-cutting game would have a hard time selling in this day of Street Fighter 3 Alpha and House of the Dead II. I think my parents thought that the video games were all a total waste of time, but then again, they probably didn’t understand my fascination with G.I. Joe either. My father told me that when he was my age, he played with matchsticks as soldiers.
When all of my friends started getting Nintendos, I remember really wishing I had one. I had a friend who had even gotten an imported Japanese version of the console, the Famicom. At some point, between my brother and me, the pleading got to be enough that my parents came home to us with a Nintendo Entertainment System. We were thrilled, of course. It came with the game Super Mario Brothers, the exciting adventure of two Italian brothers trying to save a princess from the evil Bowser. We were hooked. I honestly don’t even remember if we were able to beat that game, but many were to follow.
One of the games that stands out the most from those that came after it was the history making saga, The Legend of Zelda. It was another tale of rescuing a princess from a horrendous foe, this one being Ganon. Oh, how many hours were spent pursuing the various pieces of that one part of the Triforce, how many hours being frustrated at not being able to solve a maze. At trying to go through a dungeon, and coming close to figuring the way through only to be killed by some wizard or the like. There is another great memory from childhood – beating The Legend of Zelda with my brother.
There were other Mario games that we got – pretty much as soon as they came out, too. The exception to that was the third game in the Mario series which I played a couple of years before it came out in the United States. This was thanks to my friend who had the Japanese console, for there they had released Super Mario Brothers 3 already. Of course, all of the text was in Japanese, but with a side-scrolling platform dialogue isn’t really the most important thing. There was another Zelda game which I found to be also quite wonderful, although in retrospect I didn’t quite like it as much as the original. Which is, in a way, like seeing the sequel to a film.
Then there was the Game Boy. This was a brilliant move on the part of Nintendo – a game console that you could actually carry around in your backpack, and only needed batteries to run on! There was even a Mario game for it. Later there were to be Zelda games as well. One of the best things was the cable one could use to connect two Game Boys to play competitive games. One of the best memories I have of my Bar Mitzvah is of going home to get the Game Boy so that I could play one of the gifts I received, a game imported from Japan that hadn’t yet come to the US. This was from my friend who had the imported system.
I watched as all of my friends got the Super Nintendo, and then later the Nintendo 64, but I did nothing. Rather, I didn’t buy a new game system, and my parents didn’t buy me one, though I really did want one. By this time I was already in my teens and I think their thought of it being a waste of time was pretty well now in the realm of making itself clear. The Nintendo 64 came out right when I started college, and so I was poor and hence could not afford one.
When the Nintendo GameCube was announced, I got fairly excited as they mentioned the Luigi’s Mansion game and it looked really incredible. Then when I saw screenshots for what was to be Super Mario Sunshine, and then the video clips, I was tremendously excited but still not sure about it. Then, out of nowhere, I was in a game store and asked the employee there to convince me to buy one. He did a reasonably good job of it, as I bought one.
Playing the games, particularly Super Mario Sunshine, has brought back a lot of memories of playing Nintendo when I was younger. I think that from that time period, I’ve gotten quite a bit more patient with the games. I used to give up quite easily, whereas now I am more persistent. (Sadly, this kind of persistence in video games is not doing much for my job searching.)
In a mere three months, I have the new Zelda to look for. With it, more fond memories from my childhood. Well, it also looks like an amazing game – I won’t deny it – but the connection to my past is also fairly important. I almost wonder how many of the people buying the GameCube are like that – remembering playing the old Nintendo, and bringing that back through the new one. It is certainly a happy memory to bring back.