The start of the affair: Romance of the Three Kingdoms NES

[Editor’s note: Dagerr takes a look back at Romance of the Three Kingdoms for the original NES for his Monthly Musing. — CTZ]

When I was around 10-years-old, I sold the bulk of my baseball collection for a NES. I got Castlevania, Duck Hunt, and Super Mario Bros. and I came to know that life was grand.

I played many other games on other systems, but the NES is where I found the game that I consider to be the main influence to my views on gaming today. (Gaming isn’t the monstrous waste of time that mainstream media wants us to believe it is.)

Romance of the Three Kingdoms blew my childhood mind.

From the perspective we all have now, it may seem nothing more than a complex strategy game that combines long-term strategies with short-term battlefield victories. At the time, my mind didn’t work like that. I just liked games for games sake. I wasn’t thinking that I would stretch my mind through number-crunching statistics on combat units while simultaneously thinking of which general my baby daughter will marry when she comes of age. I think I just liked the picture on the box. That is old-school “choosing your breakfast cereal by the cartoon character on the front” style right there. I was 10-years-old, give me a break.

But for me, this was the first game that I had real interactive gaming fun with my friends. Not the kind of fun where you say, “Watch this!” and you make a series of awesome moves with your controller from the edge of your seat, with your hands, tongue, and whole body helping you in your level ascension while your friend watches from their stale position on the right side of the couch. Sure RotTK was turn-based strategy, but when you weren’t the active player, you plotted with the others against the computer controlled armies, planning on taking over the world when the time was right. I don’t remember much of the actual gameplay of RotTK, but I do remember some couch diplomacy (I love PA) in the form of a summer-long pact to eliminate the CPU. I think the fact I remember nothing of the game, but I remember my friends vividly, is a good indicator of how games affected me, and what they did for me.

^^^ You would do this, to take over THIS:

The Stats Screen….even now I don’t comprehend how I could have understood this at 10-years-old:

I had two gamer friends when I was young, Scott and Jamie. We traded games and talked about games and played games for hours and hours, going from game to game.

But Romance of the Three Kingdoms had staying power, we played for a WHOLE summer vacation. This level of gaming debauchery was enabled by the other (relatively new) feature of RotTK: A save file.

Every weekday Scott would ride his bike down to my house, wearing the same clothes he was yesterday. Jamie would stroll on over to my house after seeing Scott ride by his place, Scott being a visual indicator that gaming was about to be had. We would gather around the NES and my TV, and load the game up … innovation!

We would play all day, plotting the demise of the enemy generals, through force or by diplomacy. We would raid my cupboards in the afternoon, and when my dad came home from work, he would see the three of us sitting there on the couch, milkshakes in hand, wearing throw pillows on our heads like hats, a trio of Tricorn-totting strategists.

To this day I prefer gaming with my friends over playing single player games. I know that summer with RotTK is the main reason why. I’m 34 now, over 20 years after this game changed my world. Because of my affair with gaming, I have become a pragmatic highly socialable person that is not afraid of technology, and I work hard to bring that to my growing family. I have two daughters of my own, and my oldest one was recently taught the joys of making headwear from couch pillows while playing videogames with her dad. When she says “Rock please” (Rock Band) or “Get stars, please” (Super Mario Galaxy) I can’t resist, no matter how bad my day has gone up until then.

Life is grand, and gaming is a strong aspect of that grand life. =)