For my 13th birthday, in 1987, my mother picked up a game system I never knew nor heard of. It just mysteriously appeared. For I had unwrapped a game console that would forever change the way I perceived video games. That gift was the Nintendo Entertainment System. At first I didn't like the controllers because there was no joystick. In a joystick's place was this "thing" that controlled on-screen movement of a playable character or other image. Then again when the only games you have are Gyromite and Duck Hunt the controllers really didn't get a chance to show their worth until a while later.
Mom and I were living with my grandparents, her parents, and the town had barely 2,000 people. Mom had got the system from the only video rental store in town at that time on a payment plan. And with every payment she made I got a ticket to rent a game. So the controllers eventually got to prove how good they really were. This is when I would come across games I would eventually declare as the best on the system. These games include Gradius, Castlevania, and most of the initial issue titles. As much as others enjoy it I am really not a huge Donkey Kong fan but the NES really got a spot-on port of that one. Really well done.
It took us (Mom and I) month after month to locate a single copy of Super Mario Brothers. That game was very hard to come by. But...I wasn't too worried because I had come across a different game one time while paying a visit to the hometown's Wal-Mart. As luck would have it I was planning to spend the weekend with my Grandmother in my hometown and my NES was back at the other grandparents' house. But, this visit scored me what I am assuming was an initial release of the adventure game everyone would talk about decades later as well as spawn a huge franchise with a large fan base following. Zelda had made it to store shelves.
I had to sit for an entire weekend admiring a game I had no way of playing. I took the game out of the box, read the instructions front to back, read the back of the box, rinse and repeat, over and over. Mom could not have come to pick me up any sooner. But, once back to my NES I didn't hesitate one second. I made a bee line to the system which was setup in the room we were sleeping in. On went the TV, in went Zelda. I started my adventure not realizing just how involved this game would become.
At school I could hear others talking about the game I picked up over the weekend. Some were getting stuck in areas I had not reached yet. One couldn't find the first dungeon. Mom and I paid a visit to one of her friends who's son was a friend in school. He also had Zelda and we spent a few hours on that game trying to get through dungeon after dungeon. What was really happening was that the NES and Zelda had triggered video gamers to socialize about the games being played, how to beat this or that boss, and getting unstuck in troublesome levels. This was before Nintendo Power so the only thing left was pretty much word of mouth.
Once Mom and I moved back to my hometown there was a change in schools and atmosphere for sure but there was one thing that didn't change...the talk about the NES and its games. Call me weird or crazy, or both, but there was nothing I wanted to do more than stay at home and play Nintendo games. After school I would come home and spend time on it before doing my homework. On the weekend, if I wasn't sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, or doing something for my grandmother, or visiting my other grandparents (I love them dearly so don't get that wrong...I just don't know how else to word it), I was on the NES playing games.
The little console had revitalized video gaming on a massive scale. I still have one here that works without issues. Well...there are times it will do the screen flashing thing but that doesn't bother me. I just clean the carts and keep trying. I rarely blow on them.
For what it's worth I really owe a lot to the NES. The game play was addictive because once you had that latest game in your hand nothing else mattered except beating that game. If you got stuck you turned to a game magazine or call the hotlines at 99 cents a minute, give or take a few cents. You see, I was so involved with the NES that I didn't go out of the house much. I had no need to. I sat, in my room, playing video games. At the same time the NES was keeping me off the streets and out of trouble in a lot of ways. I might have gotten into trouble sometimes for not always doing my homework but I wasn't being arrested for being intoxicated or under the influence in public like some of my high school friends were. I didn't have a girlfriend because, now that I think about it, I was already married...to the video games. As crazy as that sounds that's pretty much how I was.
I still play the NES on a regular basis. As much as I love my Atari stuff the NES is the only non-Atari console that has a large place in my heart. It is a well balanced system with lots, and I mean LOTS, of games. If you've never had one before for one reason or another pick one up. Before you do, however, do your homework first and ask around about what games you should lookout for. Whatever you do don't compare the system and its games with modern stuff. The system and games have already proved their worth years ago...they should simply be enjoyed as they are.
To think that any gamer who lived and experienced the NES during its production run spent countless hours if not months or more on a single game just to beat it. With a few exceptions like Zelda had there really was not much of a way to save the game progress. You started and endured the challenges. Later the idea of writing down a password to save game progress was seen in most NES games like Metroid and Kid Icarus but if you got one character wrong, guess what...you had to start over again.
The real value of the NES is the overall package. The games, the system, the controller options, and I have never seen ALL of the NES games. There are sooo many that I would most likely need another lifetime to try them all. So...NES...solid entertainment that will challenge you. I would love to hear favorite games of other NES gamers so be sure to post those in the comments section below. Thank you for reading and I will return with more thoughts running in my head. Well...that might be a bit scary.