Shockingly, my memory has returned and as it turns out, I was right all along. I did own Sega’s Master System before venturing into the world of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo’s first foray into the European games market took on a drastically different name and appearance to its native Japanese system. While the Asian market could enjoy a sleek red and white console, the unlucky Europeans were left with a rather ugly grey box. Luckily the consoles were judged by what they could do, rather than their appearance, otherwise Nintendo’s illustrious home console career might have been cut very short. At this point, another significant difference was forming; I was still really into my gaming, but my Brother wasn’t so much. He still liked to play games, but he wasn’t showing the same passion for it that I obviously had. I think it was both a good and bad thing. Almost every time we played games together, there would be an argument, so at least there would be far less opportunity for that. But at the same time, I probably didn’t realise at that moment, it was seriously curtailing my competitive spirit in the world of gaming.
Anyway, it feels like a sense of order has returned, so let’s continue. I seem to recall that the NES was a Christmas present from my parents, and of course, being a Nintendo system, my first game was a Mario one, but probably not the one you’re thinking. The title was in fact, Dr. Mario, and this puzzler was a break in the platforming tradition that had been the plumber’s environment to date. It had a Tetris feel to it, but only in the sense that you had to stop shapes from filling up to the top before it was game over. The goal of the game is to remove germs from the giant specimen jar by matching them up to the same colour pills as Dr. Mario throws them in through the top. As soon as you match up four germs and pill halves in a line (the order and ratio doesn’t matter), the germs disappear. It turned out to be quite easy to get into, as I remember playing it almost every time I would get home from school. I did end up playing the more traditionally set Mario titles, and I enjoyed them, but I must confess that I never understood the fuss generated by the series.
The other game I was given as a gift along with the console that Christmas was WWF (Now WWE) WrestleMania Challenge. I was really into the pro-wrestling at this point, so my parents had chosen very well with this title. It featured all of my favourites from the time like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Randy Savage etc. I’d also been watching the British wrestling every Saturday, so this just fed my love for all things gaming and all things wrestling. On to the game and what we had was an isometric view of the ring where battle would be done. You could pick any one of nine characters, with one of them being ‘yourself’ (no customisation back then) and then attempt to defeat all the others one by one. As you reduced the energy bar of your pixellated opponent, you would then be given access to your finishing move. The Ultimate Warrior would deliver his Gorilla Press while Andre The Giant would use his obvious weight advantage to squash you in the corner of the ring against the turnbuckle. It was simple to pick up and play, but with a good level of challenge at the time. Howeveer, like most children, I soon lost interest in WrestleMania Challenge and my next source of enjoyment came from another sporting title.
Blades of Steel isn’t a game about characters hacking at each other with swords. It is in fact, an Ice Hockey game and a damn good one at that, even today. What you have is a side on view of a hockey rink and your teams of five will attempt to outscore each other over the three periods of play. To spice up the play, as in real Ice Hockey, you have the opportunity to get into a fist fight with an opposing player. If this happens, the screen moves on to a close up view of the fighting players where
you would have to successfully hit the other player five times to knock him down with the loser of the fight being moved to the penalty box for a fixed amount of time. If I remember correctly, I was constantly trying to start fights in the game to get a man advantage, so I’d have more of a chance at winning. What helped me was how easy it was to start a fight in the first place, where I’d simply have to bump into the same player three times in a row. Though to be honest, I’m not sure it helped at all as the opposing goalie was always phenomenal at keeping me out. The options were quite limited by today’s standard in that you’d have a grand total of two game modes to choose from. You could play one off exhibition matches, or you could play a knockout style tournament to prove you were the best. The thing is though, when it all comes down to the bottom line, the lack of modes never mattered to me. Even noticing them now is just a hindsight thing. Blades of Steel is just plain arcade style fun.
Speaking of arcade style fun, R.C. Pro Am was a great little game. Isometric style racing against computer opponents was superb and I don’t think I could put the game down for long. You’d drive your radio controlled vehicle around an assortment of tracks with the aim of finishing in the top three. Finishing fourth would be a life losing scenario and you’d only get a limited number of those. You get the opportunity to collect power ups on your way round. It would consist of the standard fare such as speed boosts and point bonuses, although you could also find weapons on the track to use against your opponents too. Missiles and bombs would certainly make things interesting on the track. Like Blades of Steel, this was a fun little arcade game that you could jump right into.
And there we have it for the NES. It was a good little system to play and had loads of other games for me to play. I gave the three Mario platformers a go, although I don’t think I enjoyed the third one much. It might have felt a bit samey by that point, but I can’t remember too clearly the whys and wherefores. I know I quite enjoyed The Legend of Zelda, but I was wandering aimlessly through that game the majority of the time and didn’t come close to finishing it. In the end my poor NES developed the same technical issue that plagued the majority of the others. You’d slide your game cartridge into the front of the console, push it down to lock it in place, press the power button and…nothing. Well, nothing other than a flashing black and grey screen. It seemed that the cartridge and the console connectors weren’t talking to each other properly. The well known method to get a game working again, albeit temporarily, was to blow into the connector part of the cartridge to supposedly clear any dust that had gathered. That wasn’t really what had happened, but we accepted it because it seemed to work, at least until we changed to another game. It’s a shame really, since I really enjoyed my NES and I was happily playing games on both that, and my Master System. Still, they say all good things must come to an end, and that was the case with Nintendo’s first home system, and also with this episode of Retro Revisits. Next time, there’s going to be bits, maybe twice as many as we’ve had here. See you all soon.