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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My history as a Video Gamer part 1 - NES Era

I  got an email request recently asking about my history as a gamer and I think that now would be a good time for me to share my story.  Like most kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I have had lots of exposure to video games in many different forms.  My history is quite extensive too.  My history is too long to do in one post, so I will have to break it up into several posts.  In this post, I will explore the NES days

Above is a picture of Mountain View, California as it is today as of 2010.  It was in Mountain View where I was born.  Memories I have of those years are very faint at best (though I do have some pictures and videos of those years) considering that I ended up moving to Illinois when I was about 2 years old.  Though sometimes I do get that home style feeling when visiting northern and central California (especially the Sacramento area).  Interestingly, I haven't been to Mountainview in many years.  Probably would not mind going there again someday seeing how much it has changed since I moved, though my family rarely takes trips to that part of California so I don't see myself going there again any time soon.

My video game history in the 1980s (NES and Atarti Era)


I don't recall owning an Atari, but I did get my first game system when I was 7, the classic Nintendo. However, I do remember when I was about 4 years old, I used to visit my grandpa on my Mom's side (Joe Shackelford) in Rancho Cordova, California (he used to live there before moving to Washington State in 2004 and later passing away during the summer of 2005) and I remember getting to know one of his neighbor's kids and playing video games with him sometimes.  Back then, my dad was in the Navy (mostly stationed in Illinois, though he was stationed in Mountain View for a while, where I was born), and remember he got deployed to Japan for a few months and me and my mother flew out to California from Chicago (yes I used to live in the Chicago area long before moving to the Seattle area back in 1994) and staying with him for several months (it was a long time ago, so I don't remember all of the details).  Can't remember if he had an atari or sega master system, but he had at least one of the 2 game systems.  I also faintly remember Aunt Linda (one of my Aunts) used to have an Atari system at her apartment (she lives in the Sacramento area too and had a son too, though I can't remember his name since he moved out when I was still young) and play some games on that.  Around the time I turned 7, the classic NES was already becoming popular with fellow kids and friends in my neighborhood and remember playing nintendo games with some of them (such as Super Mario Bros and Contra).  Eventually, I got my own Nintendo and got games like Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and others.  That game system definitely brings back memories.  I still remember playing games like Mario Bros 1 and 3, Mega Mans 2-4, Contra, Duck Tales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Teenage Ninja Turtles 2 (The Arcade Game), and even Battletoads (took a long time for me to beat that game too).  I kind of got addicted to video games during those years too as I could spend long hours playging some of the games I had and often even visited friends and playing Nintendo at their houses too (most notably playing Mega Man 2 at this kid named Stephen's house).  Also was friends with Michael Blocker and he had games like Contra, Super Mario 2, and Mike Tyson's Puch out and used to play those games from time to time as well.  I remember some of the kids gave me a hard time for being hooked on video games too, and at least one kid spreaded false rumors about me plaing Mega Man 3 while he was gone at his house, though I faintly remember that day and have no memory of going there while he was gone (hey even if I did I probably didn't know better back then considering that I was probably only 8 or 9 years old at the time).

Most memorable games from the NES days:
- Mega Man 2, 3 and 4.  I remember used to have a friend named, Stephen Santiago (lost touch with him after moving to Washington State) and I remember how I used to often have sleep overs at his house ang play video games like Mega Man 2 and 3 with him sometimes.  By the way, I did get the Mega Man Anniversary collection for the Xbox, which was fun to play through (as it features all of the classic mega man games, except for Mega Man and Bass, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10).  I remember I used to spend long hours playing through that game (sometimes spending several hours in one sitting playing the games from beginning to end).
- Super Mario bros.  You know you are a typical 1980s kid when you have played through classic Super Mario bros at least once or twice.  I remember getting hooked on this game too and would often spend long hours playing through the 8 worlds. I remember visiting friends and doing 2 player super mario bros with them from time to time (one person plays as Mario while others play as Luigi).  By the way, this was far cry from say New Super Mario bros Wii or Wii U where 2 or more players can play simultaneously.  Back then, players usually switched off between their characters die (which can mean long or short waits for the other player depending on how good the other player is).
- Super Mario bros 3.  This was definitely one of the better sequels in the series (besides Super Mario World and others).  The game is huge compared to the first game and features huge maps of each world.  By the way, good luck playing the game from end to end without using the whistles since back  then, there was no save feature, so if you wanted to play from end to end, you would either have to use the hidden whistles to get from one world to the other or if you are the diehard type, you could spend long hours playing the game from end to end too (definitely could take an entire day to play from end to end in my opinon considering that each world is long with several boss fights in between each world and each getting progressively harder than the previous ones).
- Contra and Super Contra.  Definitely 2 classics in the contra series.  By the way, who remembers the Komnai code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start)?  It is almost essential to know for players serious about beating the game considering that getting hit even once usually results in instant death for the players and you only get so many lives and continues before you have to start over from the beginning.
- Ninja Turtles 2 Arcade game.  I remember playing this game in the arcades before a version came out for the consoles too.  Forget the first ninja turtles game, Ninja Turtles 2 was definitely awesome.  Given the difficulty of the game, along with the fact that you only get 3 continues, most people probably won't make it to the final boss against shredder though there are some cheats players can exploit to get there.  Also, the game even has its classic villans for enemies and boss fights too, such as foot soldiers, mousers, krang, baxter, beabop and rocksteady, casey jones, and even shredder himself.  The game is also one of several arcade style ninja turtles games for consoles since developers would later develop Ninja Turtles 3, Ninja Turtles 4 Turtles in Time (for the Super Nintendo) and later Ninja Turtles Hyperstone Heist for the sega genesis.  I remember you can also either play the game on solo or team up with another player and work together to play through the game.  By the way, wouldn't it be awesome if a version of the games came out for Xbox One and utilized the 4 player system either locally or via Xbox Live?  That would be awesome.  They could even remake the games and give them arcade style graphics instead of the old 8 bit or 16 bit graphics too.
-  Mega Man 3.  This game was definitely a hit in the classic mega man series.  Set sometime after the events of Mega Man 2, Dr Wily is at it again and it is up to Mega Man to foil his plans once again (a theme that would happen again and again over time).  This game is also unique in several ways that in addition to fighting the usual 8 robot masters, you also have to fight a whole another set of robot masters from Mega Man 2 (in the form of the gamma robots that uses the abilities of their fallen comrades) in remixed versions of some of the levels you went through earlier.  It is also the first game in the series to introduce Protman too (back then he seems to be hostile to Mega Man, at least till the end).  It is also one of the few classic mega man games where the boss music changes between  the regular robot master bosses and later the wily castle bosses.  In many other games, the boss music either stays the same most of the time or doesn't change till the final boss.  It is also one of the last games in the series where capcom gets creative with Mega Man's final confrontation with Wily.  From Mega Man 4 onwards, the final boss (where Wily telports around the room) is more or less the same (barring capcoms creativity for Wily's first form).  I remember some kids used to bully me over this game and one kid spreaded false rumors about me going to his house while he was gone and playing mega man 3.  My memories from the incident are sketchy, but even if I did do that, I probably didn't know better back then (was probably about 8 years old at the time) and was probably set up too.
 - Battletoads  This game was definitely one of the most challenging games I have played on the NES, but definitely one of the more fun ones too.  You play as one or 2 super hero toads in their quest to save Pimple and their girlfriend Angelica from the evil Dark Queen in an adventure consisting of 12 huge levels full of enemies, obstacles to overcome and other challenges to get through along with the occasional boss fights along the way too.  By the way, if you thought level 3, the turbo tunnel was hard, that was just the beginning my friend as the game is 12 levels long with each level getting progressively tougher to play through than the previous ones, plus you do have several more similar levels such as surf city (where you are riding a surf board instead of a bike) and volkmire inferno (where you fly a plane through a fire filled level).  The final 3 levels get insanely hard too and you only get so many lives and 3 continues before it is game over.  I also like how the dark queen taunts the players on the way.  It took me many attempts to beat the game, but eventually I was able to get to the end and defeat the dark queen on the top of the tower of shadows, with help from game genie of course.  Good luck beating the game without game genie if you insist on not cheating.
- Castlevania Simons Quest as well as Castlevania 3.  I remember the earliest incarnations of the castlevania series.  Took along time to beat Simons Quest, but it was pretty fun to play through non the less and is one of the more different titles in the series.  Castlevania 3 was pretty fun to play through too considering that you can either play as Trevor, Alucard or their allies going up against Dracula and his cronies.  It is also the first Castlevania game to feature the "big battle" boss music too (which would eventually happen again in Circle of the Moon).  By the way, newer castlevania games (especially Symphony of the Night Style castlevania) games would give the series a huge boost.  So far my favorites are probably Dracula X, Symphony of the night, portrait of ruin, dawn of sorrows, order of ecclesia as well as Castlevania Harmony of Despair.
Other honorable mentions:
- Double Dragon
- Mike Tyson's punch out - I remember playing this game with Mario posing as the referee and you do several levels' worth of boxing matches with Mike Tyson himself being the end boss in the game.
- Duck tales and rescue rangers.  These were fun game based on their cartoon counter parts, both developed by capcom.  By the way, there seems to be a remake version of Ducktales for the xbox one.
- Adventure Island
- North and South - I remember me and my brother Brett would play this civil war themed game sometimes where one of us would play as the union soldiers and the other plays as the confederates.  Doing various battles and even doing these levels where you have to try and rob a train or steal an enemy flag.  Usually Brett would beat me, but it was still fun playing through sometimes.
- Superman.  This was a classic rpg game where you play as Superman in his quest to rid the world of its villans.  Never beat the game myself, but it was fun to play nonetheless.  Kind of hard to get to the end of the game if you don't know what you are doing.
- Bart vs Space Mutants - long before the simpsons game on the Xbox 360, there was Bart vs Space Mutants.  Only rented this game, but never actually beat the game (back then, you usually had to go to the local store like Blockbuster or even Ben Franklin if you wanted to rent games).  Not sure how people rent games now that Blockbuster and many other well know video stores have gone out of business.
- Super Mario 2 (this game was definitely an odd bunch in the series compared to the other super mario games)
- and many others

Other noteworthy memories:
Picture of my former house on Timber Lane when I was living in Lindenhurst in Illinois.  The area is more developed than it used to be and obviously has new owners (also I don't always remember the extra floor there), but that is where I used live back when I was in Illinois. By the way, back in the 1980's the house used to back up to a cornfield (with a farm in the distance) and the McDonalds Forest preserve was a short walk away, providing easy access for families who want to go on a hike there.  

- Back then, I was living in Lindenhurst, Illinois (situated about half way between Chicago and Milwalkee maybe about 5 miles south of the Wisconsin border).  Lots of fond memories there (even have home videos of those years).  I remember I used to take more trips to Wisconsin than I did going to various places in Illinois.  Of course, I was too young to drive back then, so I had to rely on my parents to take me places.  I also remember going on camping trips to places like Door County and Minoqua in Wisconsin.  Even went on a cabin trip to Ely Minnesota once (north of Duluth).  Interestingly, my family is  talking about going on a trip to Door County this fall.  Not clear if or when we will do such a trip, but it would mark my second time going to Wisconsin since moving to Washington (the first time occured back in the summer of 2000 when I visited my old friend, Matt Bleich and we went on a camping trip to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin).
- I remember having this toy red jeep that I would drive around along with Brett and Matt.
- I had some other friends like Megan Kasper, Michael Blocker (lost touch with him, though my mother is still friends with his mother, Debbie along with her older sister, Joni), Sara Koth (lost touch with her) and Stephen Santiago.  Sometimes I would go to friends houses and play nintendo with them too.
- I don't remember doing the Sega Master system back then, though I did eventually get the Sega Game gear, which does seem to have some the games from the sega master system.  Most if not all kids back then either had an atari or nintendo.    
- I definitely have lots of other fond memories from those years, such as going to several different elementary schools before getting mainstreamed at Millburn (before then, I also attended school at BJ Hooper in Lindenhurst, a school near Lake Villa and later a school in Antioch).  Was placed in an early childhood program too, so I was pretty much in some form of schooling from when I was about 3 years old through the end of my college years.
- Used to do block parties on 4th of july, Halloween parties at my old house, etc too.
- Remember going to Chuck e Cheeses for birthdays sometimes too (most notably when I turned 5 years old).  I also used to like this girl named Heidi too (though I ended up losing touch with her after moving to Washington State).
- It was also during my time in Illinois where I would break a bone on 3 different occasions.  First time I popped my shoulder after messing around on a one of those spider web poles you see in some playgrounds (did this thing that some kids would do where you would climb around the poles before sliding down, and that proved to be a mistake for me since I lost my grip and fell).  Ended up in a cast for a while then.  Also broke my pinkie finger once not too long after that (I think I tripped on something and broke it that way).  The third time it happened was when I was living on Mallard drive and fell backwards from a playground bridge.  Was taunting some kids (didn't know better) when I slipped and fell (definitely learned my lesson from that) and ended up in a cast for the whole summer.  Luckily I haven't broken any bones since then so far.
- Unlike present time where I live with 2 dogs (a golden retriever and a shih tzu), we did have a dog for a little while there, a springer spaniel named crocket (he looked like snoopy).  Unfortunately the dog had behavior problems and did not fit well in the family so we ended up giving him away.  It wouldn't be till 1997 till we got our second dog (Teddy the golden retriever).

Well that is all for this post.  Stay tuned for post number 2 (the 1990s').

Noteworthy moments in the 1990s': Sega Genesis Days, computer games (such as Xwing and Mech Warrior 2), Sega CD, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and Playstation.  Even moved about 4 times during those years too.