Countdown to 40: NEStalgic Memories
In November of 1990, the JCPenney catalog arrived at my grandmother’s house in Chicopee, MA. At the time, I was living with her while I was going to school, majoring in music performance. My grandmother had a habit every year of asking for my holiday wishlist when the catalog would arrive, and every year before that, it was a tough decision. In 1990, though, it wasn’t.
See, I was still using my Commodore 64 for video games at the time, and it was growing long in the tooth. My space bar was broken, I had played the games a ton, and I’d been spoiled by my time playing the Nintendo Entertainment System while visiting friends just outside of Worcester, MA for the last couple of years. We had long sessions of R.B.I. Baseball during overly hot days, and during the week, we all gathered at one friend’s home and attacked games like Top Gun, Track & Field II, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, and others. The NES also had some arcade conversions for it, which were right up my alley. Friends in high school had NES systems, too. I helped my best friend tackle Castlevania II a few weeks before my high school graduation in 1990, and we spent a few lengthy sessions playing Tetris together.
A week after the catalog arrived, I handed my grandmother a piece of paper with one item on it:
“That’s it?” she asked
“Yeah. This is really all I could ask for. I know it’s expensive, but…”
And then I went into presentation mode. I explained about how the computer I was using was past its prime, and what the benefits of having an NES would be. She smiled when she saw that Jeopardy! was an available game, but listened intently as I made my case.
On December 25th, 1990, I became a member of the NES Club. Super Mario Bros. 3, Super C, and (of course) Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition were in boxes next to the big one. My life, in terms of video games, changed at that moment. In the months and years that followed, I went on to buy and rent various games. I rented Mega Man II in January of 1991 based on a recommendation and became a fan instantly. I bought Arch-Rivals on sale and proceeded to seek out the coin-op whenever I visited arcades afterwards. I would buy notebooks and Post-It notes and record my progress and gaming activity, writing about games I’d beaten or jotting down high scores.
I have a lot of great NES memories. Pinbot and High Speed were two of my favorite pinball machines at my local arcade, and it was neat having NES versions to play at home. After R.B.I. Baseball, I began to discover other great baseball games, like Baseball Simulator 1.000, Basewars, and Bad News Baseball– which is my favorite NES baseball game. Other sports games were a blast, like Tecmo Super Bowl, Blades of Steel, and Super Spike V’Ball. After repeatedly getting foiled in the final stages in Ninja Gaiden, I felt vindicated by actually beating Ninja Gaiden II. Racing games like Cobra Triangle and R.C. Pro-Am were blasts to play. There were plenty of shooters, game show games, adventure games, RPGs, and arcade conversions to pick from.
It’s been more than 10 years since I last played an NES. I made a dumb decision to part with my NES in 1999, when the Dreamcast came out. I’d amassed a large collection of games by then, and had even started to write reviews on some of them, but I wanted the Dreamcast badly and couldn’t afford it without a bit of help. FuncoLand stores were still gladly accepting NES games and systems at the time, so I made out pretty well with my trade-ins and never paid a penny out of pocket for my Dreamcast purchases on September 9th, 1999. The flip side of that, of course, was that the Dreamcast was ill-fated and I wound up trading that in towards a PlayStation 2 in February of 2001.
I’ve missed the NES ever since. I still have a bin of instruction manuals for various NES games here. I watch YouTube video of NES game footage. I listen to streaming NES game music. I talk about it a lot on my Twitter feed. I’ve even put it at the top of another wishlist– this one for my upcoming 40th birthday– with a SEGA Genesis console right behind it. Perhaps there’s a lot of other nostalgia behind it, such as linking memories of positive life experiences to the NES era. My high school graduation, my first car, my first time living on my own, and other experiences all took place during that period. My first reviews were about NES games, and that led to pursuing writing for nearly a decade.
I will always consider the Nintendo Entertainment System to be my favorite console of all time, and I’ll always be thankful for the hours of fun that it’s given me.