The Early Years
Introduced to video games by my uncle at a very early age, I’d spend countless hours punching LOAD “*”,8,1 into his Commodore and playing endless hours of Choplifter, Donald Duck’s Playground, Beach-Head, and Summer Games. Soon it was off to his Mattel Intellivision and playing The Dreadnought Factor, Shark! Shark! (God what an amazing game), and Baseball. When it got too cold to play games in the basement, it was off upstairs to play some Atari 2600 (a system now sitting next to my TV as I write this). Just as back then, I still play Keystone Kapers, Jungle Hunt (I maintain the cannibal is quite possibly the hardest boss ever), Boxing, Pole Position (An Epic commercial for its time), and Pete Rose Baseball (Easily my best baseball game experience until the mid to late 90s).
It wasn’t long (actually it took a really long time) before I realized I was playing systems and games manufactured before I was even born. PC gaming with nearly all early Apogee titles, as well as other titles like Fairy Godmother, Navy SEAL, and Ninja Gaiden II (I won’t even mention the Tetris knockoff, NYET), on the family 286 wasn’t cutting it either. Though I can’t put my finger on the exact date, sometime in the early 90s I came into possession of a TurboGrafX-16. I remember my dad came home out of the blue and there it was along with Keith Courage in Alpha Zones and Bomberman (I stand firm the TG16 version is the greatest incarnation).
With my first proper console to call my own, I spent every birthday and Christmas hoping to get more games. Though my collection never expanded beyond about 10 games, Darkwing Duck on the TG16 was the first proper game I can remember actually completing. Complete with memories of trips to Toys R Us to buy more games, that was my first true warm fuzzy moment with video games. To this day, buying a video game just doesn’t seem right without having to take a slip from a sleeve below a video game box cover and giving it to a CSR in a cage at the front of the store and waiting for them to get your game.
Unfortunately, within a short time of my receiving the system (or possibly before I even received the system), NEC discontinued support and the games dried up. I speculate it was picked up second hand, but I still love it just the same. With that, my parents came through in the year of what I want to say was 1993 one Christmas morning with gifts of a generic 35mm camera (which lasted many years before breaking) and a Sega Game Gear. This marked the first time I had a system that was fairly current. I took that thing everywhere, going as far to own about 4 sets of battery packs, that magnifying attachment to make the screen ‘bigger’, the suitcase, the tote bag, a link cable I never used, and more games than I can name. I got countless amounts of game play out of that thing and at times crave to play it again (if only I knew where it was). My one regret? I never got the Lion King game…damn that game looked cool.
I also picked up a Game Boy along the way. Honestly, I prefered the Game Gear. That’s not to say I didn’t get play with the GB but I never had many games for it. When Pokemon Blue and Red came out though, things changed. I was a total Pokemaniac and I maintain that my lineup could (and did) take down anyone. On my birthday, I managed to get a Color edition later (my original got weird lines on the screen after one too many drops) with Pokemon Silver, but by then the system was dying off (as far as I was concerned) and I was content with some knock-off game cart that had about 100 games and wouldn’t let you save.
While everyone else was sitting at home playing their Genesis or SNES, I only got to play when at a friend’s place or we went to the mall and I was dropped off at a Toys R Us or Sears where I could play Super Mario World, Kid Chameleon, NBA Live 95, or that horrible split-screen casino level from Sonic 2 until the 5 minute limit expired and I had to give up my spot to the kid waiting behind me. While I’d begged for a SNES, my pleas went unheard. I was content to go over to my friend, Andrew’s, place after school and play with him and whatever game he was able to get on rental from Blockbuster. Highlights include perfecting every finishing and special move in Mortal Kombat I and II, beating Donkey Kong Country co-operatively, getting my first taste of Super Punch Out, being introduced to the pure awesomeness of Metal Warriors, and being ridiculously disappointed with Rise of the Robots (especially when I was FINALLY allowed to be Player 1 only to discover I could only play as that crappy humanoid robot while Andrew got to be big-ass crane robots with crushing power).
Soon I was totally engrossed the growing mech that was the Genesis system. Continuously adding peripherals like the 32X and Sega CD like Lego Blocks were my type of thing! It was around that time that my parents got a Price Club (now Costco) membership and I was often left in the video game section while they went off and bought bulk Biscotti. Every time I was dropped off, I recall hoping that the systems were running Sewer Shark or Tomcat Alley and not that damn Ecco the Dolphin. Sure I guess Ecco was a good game, but I was a kid at the time and playing as a dolphin doing seemingly nothing was boring.
Having logged more time playing SNES and the Franken-Genesis in stores, than many friends at their home, I was hopeful for my next birthday. As I unwrapped the last present, to my initial dismay, I saw that I didn’t get one of the big two consoles, but a GeoSafari and 2 expansion card packs instead. I’d played the game many times before when my parents took me to the local Mastermind and thought it was awesome. My parents had thought that the Genesis would be too violent a system for me (thanks Mortal Kombat) and decided this would be better. In hindsight, I’m grateful. That GeoSafari taught me so much random information about previous world leaders, famous historical events, countless geographic locations, and various biological wonders. Loved the system and to this day have fond memories of it.