Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Classics Never Die

Mario, Small Style

I've got a new article on MSN. It's about videogames. Check it out!

I got my first videogame system for Chanukah 1985... or maybe 1986.. or quite possibly some other Chanukah in the mid 80s. Anyways, regardless of the date, that first system was original Nintendo, complete with two controllers, a light gun, and the game Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt. I was a little kid. Like pre-multiplication tables little.

I remember that for the longest time, My mom and i (she was obsessed with the game too) thought that when Mario collected a "flower," he would simply change outfits. When my mom accidentally hit the B button and a fireball came out, we were shocked.

My older cousin, Jeff, became like a god to me when he beat the game before my eyes, running through levels and ducking into warp zones I never knew existed. A few years later, I called him late one night on the phone to ask him how to beat the final boss in Super Mario Bros. 2, Wart. "Catch the vegetables and throw them in his mouth," Jeff said. Of course! He's a genius!! I thought. He was my first role model. And while beating videogames may not be a skill admired in the adult world, it was something I strove to accomplish.

The Mario games were always my faves. I never was a Sonic guy or Mega Man kid. Somehow, I just identified with a plumber's quest to save a princess from an evil dinosaur. I think it's because, at the time, I wore Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls very similar to Mario's.

Over the years, different games stole my heart. I got new systems with wildly better graphics. I'll never tire of blowing up my friends in Goldeneye 007, red-shelling the face off someone in Mario Kart, or connecting on that deep pass in Madden.

But in college, my Junior year, it wasn't my Nintendo 64 that I brought with me. It was that original Nintendo, still in working order. I thought that its inferior graphics and simple gameplay would be less of a distraction to my studies.

Boy I was wrong.

Turned out, my old Nintendo was a bigger hit than the Playstation owned by the kids down the hall. Duck Hunt was a great way to meet girls. Many had played it as a kid, and even ones that hadn't soon became addicted to brutally gunning down those innocent pixelated ducks. I'd watch these sweet, nice girls turn into duckicidal lunatics before my eyes. I'm sure I could have written a paper for Sociology class about the effect of weapon use on the feminine psyche, but instead I just developed the pick up line, "Hey Baby, Wanna come to my dorm room and shoot some ducks?"

Duck Hunt
Duck Hunt Drives The Chicks Wild

My Senior Year, my roommate and I discovered Tecmo Super Bowl, the greatest sports game ever made for the Nintendo. The game only cosmetically resembled the game of American Football. But we'd play for hours straight, zig zagging down the field to avoid the awkwardly slow computer defenders. Because my Nintendo was old, some games wouldn't work unless I used Galoob's Game Genie, a device designed to cheat at videogames. We never used the published cheat codes, but sometimes entered random codes just to see if they would do anything. One code ended the game after the opening kickoff. Another code caused the halftime show to go berserk. "What's this next one going to do?" my roomate asked, "Give us four Dan Marinos?" Weirdly, that's almost exactly what it did. Every player on the Dolphins was suddenly Marino. Of course, we never wrote those codes down.

Tecmo Bowl
Note: No Real NFL Team Has Pink End Zones

Often, it was the weird quirks that kept us coming back to these games. In Super Mario Bros, we could dance at the top of a vine by pressing "up." We could bankrupt the computer players in Monopoly by trading them a mortgaged monopoly for all their money and all their properties. In Major League Baseball, we could go into the audience with a player and walk around. And the baseball, sometimes, would inexplicably levitate slowly towards the sky. In Wheel Of Fortune, Junior Edition, every puzzle was ridiculously easy-- things like "Mickey Mouse" and "Fourth Of July"... except one answer-- "Diacritical Mark," which even my roommate and I, two college students at a prestigious university, had to look up. And of course, in Contra, we enjoyed causing the other player grief by moving too fast and causing the screen to scroll, which erased the ground beneath the other player and caused him to fall to his doom. And I'm clearly not the only one who feels these things add to the fun factor. This guy's got a whole page full of cool glitches.

These are weird things that don't exist in so-called superior games today, but it made us love those old games even more. Sometimes, screwups are beloved. Like Silly Putty for example. Someone's mistake making rubber gave us one of mankind's greatest materials.

Maybe that's why I and so many others still enjoy playing these old games. They're like us. Flawed. Screwy. Terrifically ugly. But they, like us, are fun and full of heart. Except the Nintendo version of "Where's Waldo." Who came up with that one? Lame...

Worst Game Ever
Not As Fun As It Looks

I'd love to hear about your favorite classic videogames, and the glitches you came to enjoy. Leave a comment below.

P.S. I am apparently a character in the classic game Streets Of Rage:

Adam, Streets Of Rage Style
My Hobby--Bonsai?

If You Enjoyed My MSN Article, You May Enjoy This Facebook Group (Facebook Membership Required)


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And finally... Taco Bell Lion Improv!!! So cheesy. But fun! I wrote "I like Taquitos" and the audience seemed perplexed. But then the other lion saved the joke and the audience roared. Roared.. get it? Err... just check it out.


Hunter's Sister said...

Great post, I especially love the glitch part. Remember when we were about to beat Mario 3 for the first time, and we only had to hit Bowser one more time, and then all of a sudden the game froze?! We had to call Nintendo Power to find out if there was anything we could do, and they told us we were in a time warp and that we would have to start the game over. In retrospect, I wonder if that was just their way of saying the game was f-ed up. Anyway, great MSN article!

Adam said...

haha, i do remember that! that sucked!!

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scguild said...

Hi Adam,

As a fan of classic and indie video games, I really enjoyed your piece on MSN. I'm curious if you play any of the many retro titles available on Xbox 360? If you'd like to try them out, I can get you started as you're a member of the press/freelancer. Please drop me a line at mark dot van dot lommel at edelman dot com. Microsoft just released the Konami classic "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" on Xbox Live Arcade, which is arguably one of the best 2D side scrollers of all time.

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