Down the Ballot

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nintendo Power Comes to North America

The back of the box of my NES
1985 was a big year for gamers in North America. For the last few years things had not been so good for the industry. The 1983 video game crash (Atari Shock) had sucked the market dry. It was the dark ages of video gamers. The golden age of the arcades was coming to an end. It could have all ended for video game enthusiasts, but Nintendo helped turn around the entire industry.



They released the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to North America in 1985. When they did that, the world changed...maybe forever. American gamers were treated to the world of the Mario Brothers, Zelda, Duck Hunt, Mega Man, Metroid. You could go on for several hours naming great games that soared to popularity on the NES. IGN named it the top video game console of all time in a 2009 ranking.

Nintendo created a major safeguard against another Atari Shock. They tightly regulated third party developers and the games they could release for use on the Nintendo. They also made sure to have quality first party, Nintendo only properties like Mario Brothers. 8-bit gaming was here to stay (at least until the 16-bit game systems were released). By 1995, the NES had sold over 60 million units world wide. By the late 90s and early 00s the NES had experienced a resurgence in popularity and collectors began buying the systems. Nintendo finally had to call it quits on technical support for the system in 2007. 30 years and the NES is still as popular as it was in 1985. Take a look on ebay, it still commends near shelf prices from 1985 when you have the box, manuals, zapper, game etc.


I own four myself; now that they are not being given support from the company, you have to do your own repairs. Thankfully, my main NES has held up much better than my Nintendo Wii. After 30 years it still works. Unlike the Wii. It stopped working after 5. As Mr. Scott said in Star Trek III, "The more they over-think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

So many memories; spending hours playing with friends and family with all the great games and all the not so great games. There was one I used my chore money to purchase at Incredible Universe. Going there was a pretty big deal. It was a huge warehouse store for all kinds of electronics. I purchased this game called Ghoul School.  It was developed by a company called Imagineering. They developed games for the entire length of the NES life in North America (85-95). The game was difficult and I never really understood until years later how to 'win' (if you could win). There was no plot that I could tell to it. Still, it provided hours of frustrating fun for us. Who could make it longer through the game before dying?

The Mario games were some of the best games we played. Mario/Duck Hunt was standard. Holding that orange zapper and hearing the click annoyed our parents, but Duck Hunt was a game even my dad could play. Mario 2 was a game I first remember playing at my cousins' house. It was odd. We would later find out as we got older that it was essentially a quick port, with changed characters of a Japanese game called:  Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. Don't ask me why, but the cheap fix for Super Mario 2 USA release was a hit. They eventually ported the USA version back to Japan.

Mario 3 was by far the best. I remember my uncle gifted me one for Christmas. We spent hours up in my room playing that game for the rest of winter break. It is still considered one of the all time great Nintendo games. It has repeatedly earned marks of 9/10 or 98/100 on various rating scales. What was so cool about the game was that it had a story, levels that you could skip if you wanted (there was choice in how to beat the game) and Mario had lots of new abilities. HE COULD FLY! Tanooki suit, super leaf and other new aspects really livened up the game.

Nintendo will have its legacy debated for years and years to come. They brought back the video game industry from near total collapse, gave consumers quality products in the NES and many games, and inspired a bunch of people to get into the video game industry. Some of those kids that were just playing Nintendo were passionate enough to take a chance and try making games of their own. Anything that can inspire that kind of creativity out of people in any day and age isn't something that just be brushed aside as a frivolous waste of time or money.

This adventure back to 1985 ended up being a little longer than I had thought, but the NES was worth it. 
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