Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Why New Gamers Should Dust Off An Old Nintendo

I received my first Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988 when I was 5 years old. It was one of the most glorious days of my life. There it was, its rectangular physique, its grey and black colors… it was 8-bit heaven! I can still remember opening my brand new copy of Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and putting it into the machine, and playing for hours. This was cutting-edge stuff!

I recently took my Nintendo out of retirement and played through a few of my old games. Nostalgia aside, I quickly realized that there are a whole lot of experiences that old-school gamers had to deal with that the current generation of gamers will never have to worry about.

Remember when you would put a Nintendo game into the system, push the power button and be greeted by a flashing screen? Today it would warrant a call to Xbox or PS customer service, or a quick hop onto Google to search for the solution. When I had that problem, I had to figure out what to do by myself, or by asking a friend who hopefully had experienced the same problem.  The solution? Placing your shirt over the opening on the cartridge and blowing into it. It was a simple, magical fix and once it worked you felt like a genius! I had the same problem recently when attempting to play Back to the Future II & III, and used that tried and tested method. Even now, 23 years later, it still works, and I still felt a tiny sense of accomplishment.

So now that the game was working, it was time to get down to business. I don’t know how many of you have ever played BTTF2&3, but it is one of the hardest NES games I’ve ever played. Getting past the fact that it makes absolutely no sense – Marty McFly wears a grey t-shirt and dodges snails and boulder hurling denim-clad men – it’s also confusing game that has you travel back and forth through the present and future, with only subtle differences in the levels. When you eventually make your way to the right place and advance through the game, the feeling of achievement is unparalleled! Most current games pose only a moderate challenge even though they’re full of enemies with artificial intelligence, who can gauge what you’re doing and react accordingly. They hit you with a barrage of bullets, anticipating your next move. NES games would have you stuck for hours trying to dodge menial obstacles or enemies that travel on simple, linear paths, but – and ask any NES fan – these were some of the toughest things to do. Often, things like dodging Bowser’s fireballs, running through the bullet storms of Contra or navigating through the little jumping aliens in Bart vs. The Space Mutants would have us pulling our hair out in frustration. One wrong move and you’re dead.

This leads me to my next point, NO SAVE GAMES! Ask any player who has played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out: they’ll most likely tell you that it was one of the most tedious, frustrating experiences they’ve ever come across. You would play for hours, working through the ranks of boxers, and if you were extremely skilled – or extremely lucky – eventually you’d make it to the final against big Mike. What followed was generally you on the receiving end of a one-punch knockout from the champ, and you’d have to start from the beginning. Yup, right back to good ol’ Glass Joe.

Because I couldn’t save my progress, I would often leave my Nintendo on, paused, for a week so that I could come back and continue the game that I was playing. Shutting it off meant losing everything I had worked for, and unfortunately, I had to go to school, so playing all day wasn’t an option. And let’s not forget, the tiniest power surge would wipe out your game in a millisecond, leaving you staring in frustration at the start menu.

Despite all of these downfalls, and the constant modernization of games, I still get out my Nintendo now and then, which, I think, speaks to the longevity of the system. Even after countless upgrades and redesigns, the original NES is still one of the most highly regarded systems in gaming.  So if you’re looking for a real challenge, go grab your old Nintendo, dust it off and get playing.

2 Replies to “Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Why New Gamers Should Dust Off An Old Nintendo”

  1. Well done! Don't forget Battletoads, Blades of Steel (With the never fail “cut down the bottom and shoot into the corner of the net” trick and everyones favorite Double Dragon! I remember hours of fun “Spin kicking” and “Shoulder flipping” enemies! Save games would have made life MUCH easier! Thanks Mat! This is one article I am starting to look forward to on a weekly basis! You may even make my favorites bar! haha

    Keep 'em coming!

  2. Have you experienced the joy that is ColecoVision? Please don’t think that question means I lack appreciation for good ol’ NES! I was raised on a cocktail of NES, ColecoVision, and Sega Genesis, so I have great respect for NES. I just find ColecoVision was the forgotten middle child of the 80’s (middle child between Atari 2600 and NES). If you’re interested in ColecoVision, please check out my recent throw back to it ~

    I’m really surprised your NES still works. Props to you for keeping it and it’s cartridges in good enough shape that they still work!

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