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On Loving Nintendo

October 26, 2011

I was browsing Reddit, when I came across a post in /r/nintendo asking if other members of the community if they ‘find being a Nintendo fan depressing‘ and then made the point of how he had to defend his decision to own a Wii over a 360 or a PS3 and how he caught flack from fans from those camps.

The following, was my response to his question:

———-

Never have I been ashamed or depressed in my Nintendo ownership. Nor do I intend too. Nintendo has its ups and downs in hardware, but it still reigns in the world of software.

As long as Mario, Link, Samus, Kirby, Fox and others continue to be made solely for a Nintendo hardware platform I will follow. It’s the same reason people get attached to specific authors, musicians and film directors. You as me who makes the best hardware, and that’s its own debate. You ask me who makes the best games, and I will tell you Nintendo every time.

Few companies have the track record of consistent hits and well-beloved franchises that Nintendo does. Sony and Microsoft can have their silly little guns and military machismo. Give me a sword, a horse and green tunic and floppy hat and I’m a happy man with a grin stretching from ear-to-ear. I play games for escape and fun and the vast majority of games on PS3 and Xbox aren’t really my cup of tea.

For what it is worth. My 360 and Wii are gathering dust at the moment (waiting for Skyward Sword to come out). But my 3DS sees nearly daily usage, though a lot of that stems from the Ambassador programs and reliving my childhood (again).

Nintendo has its faults and its issues. They always have. But as long as they churn out top-notch first party games, I will wear “Nintendo Fanboy” as a badge of honor because Modern Call of Honor: Halo Gears of Warfare Duty does not appeal to me in the slightest. Though Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect have recently scuttled into my list of franchises I like, but that’s why I have a PC.

I go where the games I like are. Nintendo has those games.

Friday Five: Super Nintendo Games

May 6, 2011
Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

So murf, what is up for this week’s Friday Five? Well good reader, I’ll be telling you about my five most favorite video games for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Having just had my 28th birthday this week, and seeing the games that will appear in the Smithsonian’s upcoming ‘Art of Video Games’ exhibit, I felt like taking a little trip down memory lane.

For those too young to be respectful of grandpa’s gaming systems, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES) was the direct successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System and was Nintendo’s second home console. I’ll be honest; I still consider it to have the best game library ever. If the SNES has the best library ever, then which games are my favorites? Let’s dig in and find out! As always, a friendly reminder that these are presented in no specific order. I would warn that there are likely spoilers ahead, but there’s a statute of limitations on these things in my opinion.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World

Super Mario World

Back when I was a young’un, our game consoles game with a game! Like that fancy new Wii toy does, but not those fancy Xbox and PS3s. You opened your SNES, plugged it in to the television tube box and you got to play a game right away. If it was a shiny new Nintendo console, you’d be certain it was a Mario game. But this wasn’t like any Mario you’d seen before. No. This was epic Mario. It had crazy levels, you could fly, you could ride a damn dinosaur! I had played the other Mario games, and Super Mario Bros. 3 is still the best, but this was Mario on a totally different scale. The jump to 16-bit meant a huge leap in graphics. The expanded disk size capacity meant more game. If you were a plucky game loving 9 year old boy, this was gift from the gaming gods. It stands as one my favorites because it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for gaming. It, like many other Mario games, was incredible fun. It took all the elements that had made the Mario franchise one of the best, and added some sprinkles on top.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Probably still to this day, one my absolute most favorite games of all time is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I remember reading about the upcoming SNES in an article in Nintendo Power magazine. At this age, I didn’t really understand the concept that despite seeing a screen shot, the game had not yet been released. So, imagine how excited I was when I saw ‘Zelda 3′ in a list of games. After getting my SNES, I wanted this new Zelda so badly, but I couldn’t because it didn’t exist yet. I was the first game I waited for with huge anticipation. Then, I finally got a copy of my own. Man, oh man. Hyrule looked amazing! The adventure was epic. The game play was solid. The music was fantastic. The new Dark World element was innovative and incredible.  This game was worth every moment I waited. I played through it with vigor and fortitude. I would get frustrated, but I persevered. I remember having my final showdown with Ganon. It took me so many tries to beat him. When I did, I felt so alive and invigorated. I felt this was the first time I truly conquered a game. From beginning to end, I felt that A Link to the Past was nothing short of perfect. It has aged graciously well, and I will continue to love this game for a very long time.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Just before the N64 appeared on the stage, juggernauts Nintendo and Squaresoft joined forces to create a game unlike any other. Take Square’s top-notch story telling and mastery of the RPG video game, and mix it with the colorful world of Nintendo’s mustached mascot Mario and you’ve got a recipe for delicious digital awesome-sauce in a can. Mario RPG weaves an epic story that starts out with the Bowser kidnaps Peach idea we’ve seen since Day 1 with Mario, but quickly expands to a world-wide adventure as Mario must retrieve the Seven Stars to restore Star Road, the place where dreams come true. In order to save the day from an army of anthropomorphic weapons lead by new-comer villain Smithy, Mario must team up with a little cloud person, a celestial being inhabiting a doll, his own arch-nemesis and the princess he perpetually saving. Its not the traditional Mario by any means, but it doesn’t strive to be. It is representative of two companies on top of their game, who cemented their reputation on the SNES. By any marker, it is probably the one game that best epitomizes the SNES, which was defined by Nintendo’s first party games as well as some of Sqauresoft’s best work ever and this dual company outing shines brightly. After this, Square left Nintendo behind for greener pastures on the PlayStation and at least, like Calvin & Hobbes, this relationship went out on a high note.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

I first played Chrono Trigger as the N64/PSX era was getting under way. Playing shortly before Final Fantasy VII came out. By this time, I had become a huge fan of RPG style games which had started with playing Super Mario RPG. Chrono Trigger took a lot of RPG conventions and turned them upside down. The not-so-random encounters where you actually battled on the very screen you encountered the enemies on. You could mix attacks with members of your party. What made Chrono Trigger truly amazing though, was its story. The game deals heavily with time travel. You gather party members from a variety of time periods, interfere with and fix issues in the time stream and go on an epic quest that spans from the age of caveman to a post-apocalyptic future. One of Chrono Trigger‘s defining aspects was the multiple endings. One you beat the game, you could restart the game with the same stats as when you last played. Thus allowing you to break the natural flow of the story, making it one of the earliest non-linear games. You could beat the game at different points and see new endings that changed based upon what tasks you had or hadn’t completed. This not only added to the replay value, a notoriously difficult thing for a long time investment RPG, but made it so the player felt they had more control over the story. The great character designs by Dragonball author Akira Toriyama didn’t hurt as well. Not to mention that Yasunori Mitsuda’s original score is probably the best one on the SNES, and one of the best in the history of gaming. Seriously, on Overclocked Remix, it is the game with the most remixes, just barely edging out against Final Fantasy VII.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid

Super Metroid

Then there’s the oddball on the list. I rented Super Metroid when it came out, but for the most part wasn’t really sure what I was doing so I returned it and never gave it thought. Fast forward a few years. I get a copy of Super Metroid on emulator. Now I have access to maps and other assorted bits and guides on where to go. Suddenly, with a little extra guidance, the world of Zebes is my new playground. This is an amazing game from start to finish. Every aspect of this game reeks of craftsmanship. I’m gonna go there and say it. This is not only the best entry in the Metroid series but also, in my opinion, the best game on the SNES. Exploring the caverns of Zebes is an exhilarating experience. The boss battles are challenging and exciting.  The visuals are stunning, the music is hauntingly atmospheric, and it tells a minimalistic story through a brief introduction cutscene but then only through game play. You get a full story arc that you can understand where the characters barely provide any exposition. The tense, heart-wrenching finale is one of the best and most memorable ever done in gaming. While not without its faults, Super Metroid is an amazing game that is crafted to near perfection. If I taught a class on the history of gaming, this is required material right here. If haven’t played it before and you’ve got the means to play this game (it’s on the Wii’s Virtual Console) I highly recommend playing it.

[The Friday Five is murf's weekly series on GeekLore. If you enjoyed this article, and want to see more geeky goodness from murf and others, please check out www.geeklore.net.]

My History with Gaming: The Legend of Zelda

November 18, 2010
The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda

If there is any one franchise in gaming that I will flock to without question, it is Zelda. Even at their worst (barring the CD-i games), no Zelda game has ever been horrible. Each one is enjoyable to some degree. To me, the quintessential Zelda is A Link to the Past, but that is its own entry into this series. This entry is about the original gold-cartridge goodness.

The brain-child of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, The Legend of Zelda places you in the role of Link in his quest to defeat Ganon, save Hyrule and rescue Princess Zelda. A fantastic journey of trials and tribulations await our hero. Persevering through a fantastically open world, and through a myriad of maze-like labyrinths brought forth one of gaming’s earliest epics.

I remember picking the game up from the local video rental shop, entranced by its gold cartridge. I started the game and heard that iconic tune for the first time. Soon, I was off to Hyrule on an adventure of getting really lost. I mean super lost. I’m talking ‘how the hell do I get out of the Lost Woods’ lost. For all my annoyance, I was entranced. Though that was probably the awesome music. I finally found my way to the first dungeon, and scurried my way through that as well. Soon enough, I had the first piece of the Triforce and my adventure continued. News flash: I got lost again.

If there’s one thing a lot of the NES games of that day lack, it is helping you. I remember trying Metroid. Talk about being blind. Being about 6 didn’t help much either. There was no internet, there wasn’t even a strategy guide at that point either. No NES Atlas, no nothing. Yet, for what little time I had at first with Zelda was a blast. I didn’t understand the point of the game. This wasn’t like Mario where I had a clear goal and a way to achieve it. I was in the dark and I was confused. That first though was enough. Eventually, The Legend of Zelda came to be in my ownership. It came that handy-dandy map and instruction manual to help me out too.

Zelda was the first game that I feel truly offered me a challenge that I enjoyed. More so than any other NES game that I didn’t beat (which was most of them), I WANTED to beat it. Through thick and thin I soldiered on. Then came the Dark Nuts and the adventure reached a frustrating conclusion thre. I don’t recall ever getting past Level 4 in my initial play through. Likely a mix of that plus other games to play stole me away from Hyrule, but I would occasionally return to try my luck again.

Eventually though, my subscription to Nintendo Power netted me the almighty NES Atlas. With renewed vigor, I set forth and conquered Quest 1. I even took my stab at Quest 2, but I didn’t make it. I beat Quest 1, and I felt good about myself. I rose to the occasion. I gave in the short term, but never in the long term. Ganon got the ass-whooping he deserved. Zelda made me face up to what seemed an insurmountable challenge, and eventually reach the summit. It gave me a sense of tenacity and accomplishment. I don’t remember much in the way of specifics of my attempts, but I remember that each new level brought a sense of foreboding, toil and triumph. It made me feel good about myself, and that with effort I could achieve almost anything. Every so often I go back to this first outing, if only to relive the adventure for a short while. At least until I get to the Dark Nuts.

The Short and Sweet of It

The Game: The Legend of Zelda
Platform: NES
Why it was important: In a fantastical land, I learned to face up to my challenges and triumph over adversity.

My History with Gaming: Introduction and Super Mario Bros.

September 15, 2010

This is going to be a fun series of posts for me because it will allow me to chat about a topic close to my heart: video games. The interactive medium was first introduced to me by friends I can now no longer remember with the NES. This cool device that plugged into the TV and allowed me to embark on awesome adventures. In this series I will discuss games of great significance in my life for a variety of reasons; loves, hates, introductions, enjoyment and more. This is not a list of favorite games, or games I think are the best. Rather, there are games that I now see in retrospect as important to my life in some manner. I’m not sure if the order of these will follow any particular method. I’ll probably just write which on which one strikes my mood at the time. This list will span just over 2 decades, starting with my earliest games to some of my more recent ones.

Just to set things up ahead of time, I’m going to list for you the systems I’ve had at my disposal for the last two-and-some-change decades in (by my best guess) the order I had them.

  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Gameboy
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Personal Computer
  • Nintendo 64
  • Gameboy Color
  • Playstation
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Dreamcast
  • Gamecube
  • Playstation 2
  • Xbox
  • Nintendo DS
  • Wii
  • Xbox 360

With that out of the way, let us begin.

Super Mario Bros.

I will start these lengthy diatribes with the beginning, the first game I owned. The one that game packaged with my NES that at the tender age of 5 started a relationship that I hope to one day share with my own brood. This game of course is Super Mario Brothers. It was Christmas of 1988 and amongst the gifts littered under the tree was a grey box that I would soon plug into the TV, attach a controller and take my first joyous steps into the Mushroom Kingdom. I then heard a tune that I would continue to hum for the rest of life. With World 1-1 before me, I jumped on a shambling fungus, grew big eating a mushroom, jumped over some pipes, went down some pipes, got the power to shoot fireballs, jumped over pits, fell down pits, become invincible, found a hidden one-up, learned to run, jumped on to a flag pole, went into a castle and watched some fireworks. Little did I realize that in a few short minutes of enjoying my time with a Brooklyn plumber that I would lay the groundwork for my primary media consumption habit for the rest of my life. Of course, what 5 year old would ever realize what their primary media consumption habit is going to be.

I wasn’t any good but that didn’t matter. It was fun and the game I found myself playing was highly enjoyable. Over the next months I would endure and push ahead in my adventure. I would discuss the game with friends at school. I’d learn cool tricks about warp zones, or tips on beating certain levels. If you owned an NES, you had this game. To this day I look back fondly on the joy and wonderment I derived from this simple game. I may never have that same feeling again in my life. Back then, it wasn’t about beating the game, or facing the challenge or even showing off. The only thing that mattered was playing the game. Dying didn’t matter, even though beating a stage was always a plus. I never beat the game in my youth. World 8 always gave me grief. I would eventually beat it later when it was released for the Gameboy Color. Finally, the princess was not in another castle. However, in my initial play time with Super Mario Bros. it was about having fun. I feel as though I lost sight of that at some point in games. Mario in any incarnation always reminds me that fun is the primary objective in gaming.

It could have been any game. It could have been something less notable. However, for my generation it was many people’s introduction to gaming. Just as Mario started me out then, Mario is still the jumping board for many young gamers. I’m glad it was Mario. If it was something else, the wonderment may not have stuck. I may have picked up something else. Hard to say. Mario and I have gotten along swimmingly for the last 20 years, and I don’t see that relationship ending anytime soon. I’ll never tire of beating Bowser into submission. It was my first game. It may not be my favorite, or even fall into a list that I would compile of the best games ever. However, its impact on my life is profound. To this day I will hum that little tune, and when I do I remember the good times in 1988 and I smile.

Thus ends the commencing entry in My History with Gaming. I’ve plotted out what is ahead and I will tell this: you’ve not seen the last of Mario. The Mario series appears to make up such pivotal parts of my gaming history that he can’t be ignored.

The Short and Sweet of It

The Game: Super Mario Bros.
Platform: NES
Why it is important: It was my first video game, and started a life long hobby.

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