Dear God, am I old.
I still remember Wario's slime-dripping smile from the Super Mario Land 2 commercial.
I still remember rushing home on Friday to watch the weekly episode of the Legend of Zelda.
I still remember having a crush on that redhead from The Wizard
I still remember the Nintendo Cereal System.
I still remember opening up my first NES on Christmas Day in 1989 and erupting in a euphoric screaming fit that, to this day, has never truly subsided.
But before all that, I remember the very first day I got hooked on that wonderful little grayscale box.
I was over a friend's house. "Friend", in this case, being "person in your relative age group that your mother sticks you with in the hopes she can get five minutes' peace to talk to someone her age for once". I hardly remember who the person was anymore. It doesn't really matter, anyway. All that mattered was that the place had the two things you found in Heaven- a projection TV, and an NES.
Even at the tender age of 6, I was not unfamiliar with video games. I played with KinderComp
and the Sesame Street crew on my family's old Atari 800XL. My brother's old 2600 introduced me to Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Pitfall Harry, even Journey, to a very pixelated extent.
I thought I knew what video games were then, and at that point, I was mildly hooked. But then, I saw this:
It had music. It had colors. It had speed. It had characters the size of my pre-pre-pubescent forearm. It had violence
. And not the kind where you blew up some vague ship-looking shape and left its pilot to his fate. No, when I punched and kicked the expressionless faces of these mooks, they went down
. It was the single most awesome thing I had ever seen in my life. And this was no small feat, since I already owned a My Pet Monster
. It's not like I was very good at the game either. To this day, I still don't know what the fourth floor looks like. Who cares? Punch! Punch! Kick! Punch! Holy crap I can actually jump over that guy! This guy could kick Pitfall's ass! By the time my mom finally managed to pull me out the door about an hour later, an addict was born.
Granted, Super Mario Bros. was there too, and it was every bit as mind-bendingly glorious. But every gamer today owes something to the venerable plumber, and nostalgia for that masterpiece is nothing terribly new.
Kung Fu (or Kung-Fu Master for the purists) was influental in the development of Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Final Fight, and pretty much any other game that pits you up against hordes of palette-swapped goons to pound into jelly to save your girlfriend/president/entire student body. Plus, I found out later that the little black-and-white avatar that began my life as an asskicker-by-proxy was actually supposed to be Jackie Chan. How much cooler can you get? It's like finding out the girl you dated in your freshman year of high school went on to be a Playmate. Pure retroactive awesomeness.
To this day, I still feel grateful that this was the era I grew up in, when Mike Tyson was still in Punch-Out, we had no idea that Super Mario Bros. 2 wasn't THE Super Mario Bros. 2, and owning a copy of Nintendo Power
made you the smartest gamer on your block. Yes, nostalgia paints everything rosy, but there's nothing short of the White Album that's worth reminiscing about quite like the NES. It's simply indescribable if you didn't grow up with it- and if you didn't, I don't know how to break it to you
So, that's the story. Naturally, this was six months before the Christmas that sealed my socially-awkward fate for good. I still think I got the better end of the deal. So, here's to you, little black and white pixel. You're the closest I'll ever be to Jackie Chan. And that's enough.