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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

February 2, 2011

Growing Up On Nintendo - Part Two, The Super NES

The Super Nintendo system was a great step forward in the video game history books, taking gaming to places we never thought possible considering the humble beginnings from whence we came.  Since the systems pre-dating the original NES looked so bush league in comparison, when the NES took things forward gamers were treated to attractive graphics and more lush environments.  The SNES changed that even further with what was called Mode-7 graphics.

Mode-7 allowed for things to rotate.  Doesn't sound like much, does it?  Nowadays, games like CoD allow you to turn your head and see the world spin around you - but back in the early 90s, this was a huge innovation.  Add to that the fact that developers, both at Nintendo and from 3rd party companies, were starting to really get creative with their storylines and game interactions, and you can see why so many classic titles that are talked about with reverence came from this system.

The first title, shipped with the SNES when I purchased it, was "Super Mario World."  Look at that price over there, in the Amazon box.  $299.99.  No joke.  That is for a brand-spanking new copy of a game that came out in 1991.  See, this is what I'm on about:  Here is a classic example of a game being so cherished that the actual RETAIL price has more than quadrupled since it released 20 YEARS AGO!!!  What else need be said?  The game is truly revolutionary as far as the Mario series is concerned, and while the more recent "Super Mario Galaxy" titles are much deeper in terms of level development and controller use, SMW remains one of the very best 2D side-scrolling game titles ever created.

The biggest challenger to the 2D side-scrolling title was also a series made by Nintendo, towards the end of the system's lifespan.  "Donkey Kong Country," released Holiday 1994, showed just how detailed a videogame could be.  It came out when the next generation of gaming systems were getting poised to be released, with only a year left in the system's expected retail span, but it was early enough to spawn two sequels, which lead directly to the most recent release in the series coming out in Holiday 2010 with "Donkey Kong Country Returns."  As you can see, a new copy of the original title sells for less than the copy of "Super Mario World," but not by much when considering how much they originally sold for.  Again, it is because this is a title which spawned a ton of followers, allowing the SNES to get a bit more life out of itself before being shoved over by what was for many a step backward with the N64.  Yes, the N64 had better graphics and larger games, but there was a problem with the system and we'll get to that another time.

The SNES had a slight problem in the marketing of their game titles.  It seemed as though a few developers couldn't quite wrap their heads around the 'super' in the title.  This is a new "Castlevania" game, let's slap 'super' on the title, so people know it's all better than the last one and stuff.  Great.  One title, however, deserved the exact moniker they gave it, and it even lived up to the 'super' tacked on to the name.  That title was "Super Metroid."  Now, it is true that the original "Metroid" introduced us to the first really strong female avatar in a videogame back on the NES, but there were a few things that the first game didn't have that were fixed for this semi-sequel.  Number one, the ability to save the game at multiple locations was absent from the original title; number two is that we didn't know Samus, our lead character, was in fact a woman.  Other than that, and the main reason I call this game a semi-sequel, this title was a prettier re-hash of the original title, but the thing is it worked!  It was "Metroid" on a grander scale, or so it felt, and with the ability to really improve upon your character as you progressed through the multiple zones of Planet Zebes (which was present in the first game, but much less than in this title) it became pretty much the first science fiction based RPG out there.

But, of course, I had to go and mention RPGs, and the RPG at the top of the SNES list has to be the hands-down best 2D RPG ever made, "The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past."  Again, you see the price of the original title new in box listed as $300 over there in the Amazon box.  I know that people who really know gaming will argue that "Chrono Trigger" was bigger, more immersive, and maybe even longer - however, I stand by my words and simply state that I personally have played through this title so many times that I can't even begin to count.  The Amazon selling price alone backs up my opinion.  This title took RPGs to the most accessible level they have ever been, with graphics pleasing the eye and a story that remains classic to the series.  Many titles have followed this one in the course of the Zelda series, but this one stands out, for reasons we'll get to in the next post.  Suffice it to say right now that without this title, Zelda games wouldn't have become the driving force they are now for today's newest Nintendo's systems, the Wii and the 3DS.

There have certainly been other titles worthy of mention here in this post, some of which may never be played on a next generation system.  Titles like "The Secret Of Mana," "EarthBound," or "Soul Blazer."  One title in particular, that lives on in my heart as being the best of a particular series that has gone on to multiple incarnations, is "Final Fantasy 3," but the discussion of that title is going to wait until the third part of this posting series, What Has Kept These Titles Alive For A Quarter-Century?  For now, I leave you with some links to these classic titles.  If you have a SNES hiding away in a closet somewhere, grab these up.  The batteries will give you about four years of quality retro gaming, and you'll thank me for the suggestion.  Until next time, Gamerscore ho!

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