The scene is Christmas. The year is 1991. A 5 and 7 year old dance excitedly around a small tree as their mom hands them a large, grey wrapped present. Warmly clad in 90s attire, they tear at the wrapping to reveal a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System complete with Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. The two children screech with delight. They had played a Nintendo at daycare, you see, so they knew the depth of this treasure. The mom hands out two smaller gifts, one to each squealing girl, who then rip them open in unison. Both packages contain NES games; one is revealed to be the The Little Mermaid, the other is Barbie. They stand proud on that cold December night, armed with games and a thirst to play. For that 5 year old, the thirst has never been quenched.
As you might have guessed, that 5 year old was me. Is me! I am still that 5 year old. Sort of. You know what I mean. Nintendo has been my jam, my one true love, for nearly my entire life. I still have that NES! It even still works since I replaced the PIN connector inside of it. It sits proudly on display along with my SNES, GameCube, N64, Wii, Wii U, Gameboy, Gameboy SP, and my variety of DS systems.
When I tell people that we had Mario, Barbie, and The Little Mermaid for our NES they usually laugh and remark on the "girlie" games. The truth is that The Little Mermaid was a solid adventure title with plenty of challenges and level diversity. The day that we finally defeated Ursula was a proud one, and I honestly think it's the first game that I ever finished. Barbie, on the other hand, is the game of demons and monsters. Whoever designed it didn't like children and wanted to watch them suffer. It was a platformer with timed puzzles and was hard. as hell. We never did beat that one! I'll never forget the shopping mall level with its random bits of flying clothing that would pelt you to death. Sometimes I think about going back and giving it one last chance, and then I think, "Not today."
I remember playing a lot of Duck Hunt. Somewhere, somehow, we acquired two additional Zappers. Two of them sit on my shelf and the third is in a box. I can still hear the twangy clack of the trigger pull and see the dog giggling. I also have fond memories of my grandma playing it with us. She'd sit very still on the couch, hike her glasses up to her forehead and press the butt of the Zapper up to her eye and take careful aim. She was no slouch!
When we got our hands on Super Mario Bros. 3 we abandoned all other games. My sister and I played it straight into the ground but never actually beat it. I know the first three worlds well, and if we were having a particularly good day then we would grace worlds 4 and 5 with our presence! But, those were rare occurrences. Being the younger child I always had to be Luigi. I hated that for the longest time, but eventually grew to develop a kindred connection with the green dressed brother. Nowadays whenever I play Mario games with other people I'm player 1 because I own the console, and consequently I'm Mario. I like him just fine, but I do miss being Player 2.
With the release of virtual consoles for the Wii, Wii U, 3DS, and the re-releases of NES games on the GBA, it's certainly not difficult to get old school kicks fulfilled and satisfied. I have all of the NES/SNES Mario games on GBA and a few of them on my Wii and it's great. Really! But, nothing beats the fuzzy *ponk* of turning on an old tube TV, sitting on the floor, blowing hard into a cartridge, and holding my breath in hopes that the little red power button on the Nintendo won't simply flash on and off. Even the hard, angular controller digging into my palms is comforting, combined with the squeaking twist of indestructible plastic as I push harder in an attempt to jump higher and go faster. Excuse me, I have some games to go and play.
What are your NES stories?