Gross Anatomy

I have probably already mentioned this before, but Jeremy Parish is one of my favorite video game writers/historians. I add “historian” to that description because his knowledge of video game history (particularly console/Japanese video game history) is deep.

Lately he’s been doing these “Anatomy of a Game” posts and recently he started examining The Legend of Zelda for the NES. He hasn’t finished the series yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying all of these articles.

The Legend of Zelda is probably the most important contributor to me becoming a “gamer”. I had played many games before then (I owned a ET cartridge for the Atari 2600, people) but I have vivid memories of hours spent playing Zelda. My exploration of Hyrule actually mirrored those formative years of growing up for me. We moved to a new city the year I turned twelve years old. I went from going to schools in the not-exactly-the-pinnacle-of-education Cleveland City School District to the relatively successful schools in the peaceful suburb of North Royalton. At the start of the seventh grade I didn’t have any friends and video games served to fill that vacancy for a while.

I was playing The Legend of Zelda and, quite honestly, I was pretty lost. Not making a lot of progress in the game nor in the game of life. I happened to bring my fold out map of Hyrule to school one day and a girl in my class noticed that I was studying it before class started. She took it from me and started drawing on it. Horrified, I asked her what she was doing. “Just helping you out,” she replied. She proceeded to mark out places where bombs would open new caves, bushes would reveal secret passageways and where I should go first. She didn’t reveal everything (I honestly don’t know how she had memorized as much of the map as she did), just like the game. Her hints and suggestions gently guided me on the path to discovering things for myself. My eyes had been opened to the possibilities.

I don’t know how many times I actually finished The Legend of Zelda, but I will never forget the sense of wonder I experienced exploring that world. Jeremy’s posts have definitely stirred those emotions almost twenty fives years later.

(You can see all his Anatomy of a Game links here.)

It worked every time

You used to blow into your NES cartridges to make them work (even though it was probably nothing more than the Placebo Effect). Now you can make some sweet music with your very own Custom Nintendo Super Mario 3 Harmonica!

Consoles I have known (cont’d)

I linked to the first article in this series a little while ago. Here’s the second part. (I loved the mention of The Amazon from the NES game Pro Wrestling. I hated getting my face eaten by that guy!)

Continuing his saga through the gaming systems that formed him, TODD LEVIN recounts the lessons found in his first Nintendo, particularly as taught by the highs and lows of Mike Tysonís Punch-Out.

Link. Another funny read.

A simple instruction manual

This month’s Round Table Discussion is a trip down memory lane — “A moment when you knew that games were to be a part of your life…” As soon as Corvus announced the topic I immediately knew what moment that would be for me. The moment is crystal clear. It happened one Saturday morning on my way to Boy Scouts.

I was twelve years old at the time (1987), and on Saturday mornings I attended our weekly Boy Scout meeting at my friend’s house. His dad was the Scoutmaster and I’d get a ride to the meeting with another buddy of mine. This particular Saturday (it was late October, if memory serves me) my friend handed me the manual to his new Nintendo game, Kung Fu.

I had already been playing video games for a couple years on my trusty Atari 2600, but that was the extent of my playing. I didn’t play it very often, just a game of Combat or Pitfall when I was bored. I was more into my G.I. Joe Headquarters than any video game. My friend had an ColecoVision and I knew what the new Nintendo system looked like, but I had never played it. Leafing through the pages of the Kung Fu manual that chilly morning, I was immediately sucked in. “Look at those graphics!” Amazing! “Oooh, I bet the Mr. X is tough to beat!” I had to play this game. All during the meeting, all I could think about was saving the girl and kicking butt, Kung Fu style! After the meeting, I called my mom and begged her to let me go over Lance’s house. That afternoon we played Kung Fu and Super Mario Brothers for hours. I don’t know if you can get Nintendo thumb from just a few hours of playing, but I’m pretty sure I did. Kung Fu was one of my favorite games on the NES and that single day cemented my love for video games.

Of course I set about making sure Santa knew that all I wanted for Christmas that year was a Nintendo Entertainment System. No G.I. Joe, no Transformers. Just Mario, Luigi, and any other 8-bit creations I could play. Santa came through, as he always does, and I haven’t stopped playing since.

Kung Fu
Where it all started

If you’re interested, you can download the Kung Fu manual here, from replacementdocs (which is where I got the image above).

Are you a Nintendo Geek?

Prove it.

I scored 1700, getting two wrong and getting a couple clues. I’m a “Nintendo Geek”. Darn skippy.

(via my buddy Grant. Destructoid has been added to the feed list!)

Retro Gaming, Nintendo style

My parents cleaned out their basement a couple months ago and brought over a load of my junk, including my old Nintendo Entertainment System and a few of my old games. I fired it up, played a little Super Mario Brothers and Zelda, while a tear of nostalgia welled up in my eye. I was saddened that my Super Nintendo was nowhere to be find, however. So this past week I splurged and picked up a used SNES from one of my local video game haunts. I also picked up Super Mario World and NBA Jams. So right now, in addition to all the new releases coming this month (Super November, to say the least) I’m also on somewhat of a nostalgia trip as well.

My gaming pedigree

One’s gaming experience, or as I like to call it, “gaming pedigree,” is often a source of pride for us old-school gamers. We use it to give creedence to our opinions and it gives us a sense of superiority over the casual gamer. So before I spout off any more gaming knowledge, I thought I’d share my gaming pedigree. I’ll list a handful of my favorite games here but look forward to top five lists in the future.

Updated (2/24/2005)

1984-1986

Atari 2600 – This is where it started for most of us. I still remember that frigid Christmas morning, seeing the wood-trimmed piece of hardware, thinking I ruled the world. I played the heck out of my 2600. Favorite games included Space Invaders, Missile Command, Pitfall, and many others. I think my favorite 2600 game was Kaboom! I played that game at every chance I got.

1986-1990

NES – Definitely a big change for me. Christmas of ’86 brought me the cherished Nintendo Entertainment System. I played my NES past “Nintendo Thumb”. It was more like Nintendo Raw, Cracked, Blistered Thumb. I don’t think I could imagine what path I was taking as I played countless Nintendo games. If you would have told me twenty years from then I would still be playing video games I would have said you’re nuts. But here I am, playing away on a my Gamecube.

Trying to choose favorite games would be foolish, there are so many, but a few of my favorites were Baseball Stars, Rygar, Bionic Commando, Contra, any Super Mario Brothers, many many more.

1988-Present

PC’s – While PC gaming has always taken a backseat to console gaming I still take time to get in as much PC gaming as I can. I started out on a whimpy 286, playing Sierra adventure games on my 4-color CGA monitor, but I also played my share of Commodore 64 (even though I never owned a C64), Apple IIe, TSR 80, and others. I played most of the D&D Forgotten Realms and DragonLance games. I played Doom before it was released, when all you could play was the first level, with no weapons or monsters. My favorite genre of PC games is either RPGs or RTS games. I love Blizzard games, played the Age of Empires series to death, and currently play Neocron. While MMORPG appeal to the most basic needs to me, I don’t play them as much as I wish I did.

1989

Game Boy – While I owned the Classic Game Boy I didn’t play it much. I played Tetris on the crapper a lot but I would much rather play on the TV so Game Boy didn’t have much of an impact on my gaming repertoire until much later in life. Tetris still logged hundreds of hours and my mom still plays my original Game Boy.

1991-1994

Super NES – Like many people, I consider the SNES to be the pinnacle of gaming. I hold dear my memories of playing my SNES. I actually remember when my friend rented an imported Super Famicom months before the SNES was released on the masses. We played F-Zero and Mode-7 owned me. I had a crap-load of SNES games. Some of my favorites included Act Raiser, the Final Fantasies, Final Fight, Street Fighter 2, NBA Jams, Super Mario World, the list goes on. Man I loved that machine. I am still waiting to find a good deal on a used SNES with a handful of games on eBay to relive those days. (Update: I purchased a SNES this past November, along with Super Mario World and NBA Jams SE. I am always on the look out for games to add to my collection)

1994-1996

I lived in Spain for two years as a Mormon Missionary, effectively cutting me off from gaming from May 1994 to May 1996. I did get a chance to play a Playstation in one area I lived in, but I didn’t do much gaming from 1994-1996.

1996-2002

Nintendo 64 – I was first in line to get my gaming on after returning from Spain. I got my N64 the day it was released, along with Mario 64, easily one of the greatest games ever. Words don’t do that game justice. I played a handful of games on my N64, but my interest sort of waned as my interest in a certain lady-friend grew. I paid more attention to her and less to the N64, and we were married in August ’97. The N64 came along for the ride down to Columbus but only got pulled out occasionally to play Killer Instinct. I missed out on most of the seminal N64 games, like Perfect Dark, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye (I played this a couple times) and others. I spent most of this time on the PC but my interest was sparked by the release of the Gamecube. My N64 was sacrificed as a trade for my Gamecube. I will own another N64 and go through some of the games I missed.

2002-Present

Gamecube – Ahhh, the Nintendo Gamecube. I hold the Gamecube near and dear to my heart. It was what made console gaming relevant for me again, easing me back into the gaming scene. So many good games for the little black box. My favorite Gamecube game is easily The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker. I think there is so much detail and beauty in that game that gets overlooked by the A.D.D.-generation. Scenes in the underwater Castle are breathtaking. Easily my number one game, EVER. Metroid Prime is top ten, as well. NCAA 2004 has consumed many hours of my time (I am a HUGE college football fan). There are countless others: Viewtiful Joe, Prince of Persia, NFS:Underground. The list goes on.

2003-Present

Game Boy Advanced SP – I don’t know why I waited so long to pick one of these up, but the GBA-SP is an amazing piece of hardware. I have a back log of good games, so it will take me a while to catch up but I am currently playing classics like Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Doom on the GBA takes me back to my old PC Doom days.

2004 and beyond

Don’t get the idea that I have only played Nintendo Systems. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve played all the Sega Systems (Man I was jealous of Altered Beast when the Genesis came out), I have played PS1/2, they don’t do much for me. I played the ill-fated Turbo-Grafx 16, the Neo-Geo, sheesh, I could go on but you get the point.

Who knows where I go from here. I am still contemplating the XBox angle. (Update: I picked up an XBox and have played the heck out of Halo 2. I also played the very disappointing Fable but traded that away a while ago because it SUCKED SO BAD. I’ve got other XBox games, I’ve just got so many games that I need to play) There are a handful of games that look good that I want to play and I can’t deny the allure of Halo 2. I’ve never been drawn to the PS2, I don’t know why, but I doubt I’ll ever pick one up. But if I can convince Greta of that XBox, mmhhmhmmm.