Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Simpler Time Part 2: 1993-1995

“Twenty minutes, and then you have to go outside,” my mom said, as she turned the timer above stove to the twenty-minute mark. My brother and I race downstairs. I open the panel to the right of the CRT television screen. There are two metal dials and a plastic knob. I push the knob in and the screen crackles to life as white noise fills the room. I then move to the top dial and twist it, every channel that goes by makes a satisfying click. I set the channel to three...or four, I could never remember what channel had to be set to turn the NES on. As I fumbled with the television that my family has had since long before I was born, my brother, Paul, was readying the NES. He placed the game in, snapped it down, and hit the power button. The screen flashes red and then black, there is no noise. He hits the reset button, nothing. The power is cut and the white noise returns. I feel panic. I run to stairs and yell up to pause the timer. Paul removes the cartridge, blows into it, and snaps it back in. This time it works. This temporary problem was common with an older NES (not to mention one that was handled by children for many years ).
The game we were playing was Double Dragon, my favorite game to play at the time. I enjoyed it because my brother and I could play it cooperatively and you got to fight ninjas. A strong combination. I was never any good at Double Dragon and I always died first, but I always felt like I was helping and being able to play together was a blast. I don't remember the specific results of that play session, except that, as always, I did everything I could to stay alive as long as possible, so that Paul wouldn't have to waste his extra lives to revive me, which he would inevitably have to do.
I’ve shared this stream of consciousness scene because it is my very first memory of playing video games, and I imagine it must have occurred during this time period.
1993: 1993 was a big year that had a bunch of big hits. NBA Jam cemented the phrase “boom shakalaka” in our collective vocabulary. On the Super Nintendo, Star Fox and the Secret of Mana released to critical and commercial success. Nintendo also released The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the first handheld Zelda title.
Mega-Man X also released 1993, and brought a new art style and overall tone to the Mega-Man series. Mega Man X is praised for its intuitive introduction that teaches you how to play the game without too much hand holding as well as its meticulous level design.
By far the biggest title to release in 1993, a game that I would argue is either the second or the third most important game ever released, was Doom. The brainchild of John Carmack and John Remaera,  Doom featured fast-paced action, an energetic sound track, tons of enemy variety, giant levels packed with secrets, and a large arsenal of weapons. By 1994, there were more computers that had Doom installed than had a windows operating system. 
1994: Probably the greatest video game of all time, Shaq Fu, released in 1994 and forever changed the landscape of video games as a medium for art and entertainment. Oh, also, Donkey Kong County, Primal Rage, System Shock, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Doom 2, Sonic and Knuckles, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, Earth Bound, Killer Instinct, and Final Fantasy III all came out as wellSeriously though, the volume of quality titles that came out in 1994 is pretty amazing, even if they all have to take second place to Shaq Fu. I don’t have time to go through all of the titles I listed, but they are all classics that have garnered critical and commercial success.
1995: Although 1995 didn't have as many impressive games release as ‘93 and ’94, it did see the release of the Play Station 1. The PS1 became the first computer entertainment platform that sold over 100 million units and is the second highest selling console of all time (PS2 holds the top spot). The PS1 utilized CDs instead of cartridges, and SONY was able to court many third-party developers to their system. Releasing before the N64, the PS1 took the video game world by storm when it outsold both Nintendo and SEGA consoles. In fact, SEGA also launched the SEGA Saturn in 1995 and the system only sold a total of 9 million units in its entire lifespan.
This slice of the 90s may very well be the most important. Many of the games that came out in 1993-1994 are still held among the greatest of all time and the PS1 took the wold by storm and revolutionized the world of console gaming.

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