I can barely remember the touch and smell of my first consoles, but what I can remember is how difficult they were to get my head around. The Commodore 64 was an unintelligible box of keys and whirrs where I would get my ass handed to me by Terminator 2: Judgement Day, every time.
The Master System II was a haven filled with Sonics and Alex Kidds, and really fun for the most part, but I was super young and games were super hard, man. Sometimes I couldn't even get past that bloody underwater stage in Miracle World because of that bastard creature that's walled in, past the center of the stage. You know the guy.
But after pulling apart the Commodore to see what was inside, and accidentally pouring milk into my Master System, my parental unit was still trusting enough to gift me the console that would set me off on flights of fancy through some of gaming's most magical worlds.
Happy 25th Birthday, Super NES
We all know the N64 and how magical that little box was, and how vital a piece of kit the NES was to the industry. But where does the SNES, or Super Famicom, sit in between these two titans of tele-visual entertainment? In the month of the SNES's 25th birthday, come with me as I look back on a few things that made it so damn special.
The Power of Pixels
In 1991, the gap between console gaming and the power of arcade machines was waning. SEGA's Genesis managed to get mouths watering with its successful bridging of the markets with releases such as Ghouls 'n Ghosts and Golden Axe. But Nintendo, in their old idiosyncratic way, was busy cooking up something game changing. Something that would do away with need for emulation.
Coming from the NES to the SNES, you can instantly see a gulf in the sheer depth of color displayed in the latter's games. The SNES's 16-bit graphics hit like a veritable shower of colors, because artists used each and every pixel to paint a different color on the landscape, allowing them the freedom to run riot on lush locations found in the SNES's classic RPGs.
"Mode 7", and its pseudo-3D magic, brought with it a style unprecedented and scale previously unheard of in console games. With its ability to render depth of view changes and huge sprite rotations, like that badass effect where the camera would whip around contestants before a race starts in Super Mario Kart, it set itself miles apart from its competition.
A Library To Kill
Not only is the SNES's iconic pixel art style heavily homaged in the latest and greatest titles to come from the mind of indie developers, the SNES's back-catalog is a pedant's dream for locating where console gaming trends began.
Games like Super Metroid and Super Castlevania VI would aid dividends in giving speed to Axiom Verge, Ori and the Blind Forest, Song of the Deep and Cave Story, to name but a few Metroidvania titles.
And Squaresoft's (now Square Enix) RPGs Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy, and Capcom's Breath of Fire would go on to become legend, or to see their own iconic status waver, yet still firmly establishing their roots in gamers's hearts for time to come.
The Legend of Zelda managed to see its best incarnation in A Link to the Past, with its parallel world madness, Mario returned with a launch title so immense, it was only bested by that other Mario launch title on the N64, and he even teamed up with Squaresoft to make the super seminal Super Mario RPG.
Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox set standards in video game design, F-Zero was simply sublime, Killer Instinct was so addictive it gave you blisters (true story). Man, what a library.
A Sweet Memory
I still remember the feeling when the package arrived containing my SNES and a Super Mario All-Stars & Super Metroid bundle. It was the summer holidays and I had to wait all day until my mom came home before I could tear into it.
Whether you're playing Street Fighter II Turbo at a childhood friend's 9th birthday party, or reminiscing whilst playing Earthbound for the first time in way over a decade with buddies, the SNES was unique, powerful, brilliant and simply just great.
Here's to you, pal. Thanks for Super Metroid!