Epic Experiences with the Nintendo Entertainment System

NES-Console-Set

For Christmas a few generous friends gifted my family a Wii U and we’ve been having a great time with it! We’ve been playing the current line up of new games such as, “Smash Bros,” “Mario Kart” and “3D World,” which are all fantastic, but I was also eager to jump into some of the CLASSIC games from the NES era thanks to the Virtual Console. The NES was the first console I owned (yes, I’m that old) and its crazy game library is what instilled the love of gaming that I have to this day. Having spent my holiday playing games I adored as a kid such as “Super Mario Bros.” and “Duck Hunt,” as well as sharing these games with my son was incredible!

The trip down memory lane got me thinking through some of my favorite gaming experiences on the NES. While there were literally hundreds of memories made, four specific games immediately came to mind. I’ve previously written about my favorite video games of all time which included a few NES titles (which you can read here),  so for this entry I decided to go with with games I haven’t written about yet. And while these four aren’t necessarily my “all time favorites,” they’re still games that help define the NES era for me.

Here we go nerds…

1. MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH OUT

Punch Out

I absolutely love this game! I recently replayed it on my 3DS and I still stinking love this game! For me, “Punch-Out” wasn’t about the controls or the game play (though both were great), I love this game because of the characters.  Fighters such as Glass Joe, Bald Bull, Von Kaiser, King Hippo, and the rest were, and still are, iconic in video game history. They were all wonderfully weird, quirky and each had their own attack pattern you had to figure out to defeat them. This was long before the internet or even strategy guides (hard to imagine right? I told you I’m old), so your only tool was trial and error. How did you figured out the timing of the body blow to stop Bald Bull’s rampage? You lost to him 1,000 times while trying different approaches until something finally worked, that’s how! And somehow, you loved every frustrating minute of it.

Old school NES games were hard, like – really hard! This is difficult to grasp now that the first 5 hours of most games is an extended tutorial that holds your hand like you would a baby. But back then, if you did somehow make it to the end boss Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream if you got the original version), they were so hard that it wasn’t even fair. Although it did make you determined to eventually beat him, but I have to admit that this game has given me life long anger issues towards Iron Mike. I still can’t see a picture of him without feeling an intense nerd rage from losing to him hundreds upon hundreds of times. I’m sure that with years of intense therapy I will be able to one day forgive, but until then – you’re a jerk Mike Tyson!

2. FRIDAY THE 13TH

Friday 13th

This game sucks. I’ve often seen it on lists of the worst NES games of all time. So why would I list it as one of my fondest memories? Simple – this was the first game that scared the living crap out of me. Sure, years later I freaked out as we all did when those dogs jumped through the window in the original “Resident Evil,” but it wasn’t my first gaming jump scare. This stupid game was.

I don’t even remember why I bought it. I was young, in kindergarten or so, and I remember getting it at my local “Thrifty’s” (Now Rite Aid for you young ones). I think I was trying to impress an older cousin or something. For all I know I was distracted by the ice cream and pointed to the wrong game. Regardless, I ended up taking the digital adventures of Jason home. As was my usual custom, I read through the manual before playing. Mind you, I had never seen a “Friday the 13th” movie nor really knew what they were about. In the manual I’m reading phrases such as, “there’s a secret cave where the severed head of Jason’s mom lives,” and “save all the children before Jason kills them all and your friends,” and I started getting that scared/nervous feeling in my tummy.

I nervously put it in to play. I don’t remember much, just fragments really. I remember being in a boat or a canoe and Jason swimming after me. At one point I remember Jason chasing  after me on land. My final memory is being in a cabin at night and Jason popping out of nowhere like a ninja. I didn’t scream or make a sound, but I was terrified! I calmly set down the controller and never played “Friday the 13th” again. I never even got far enough into this game to realize that it sucks. And for that, I shake my fist at you Jason.

FRiday 13th2

3. RAMPAGE

Rampage

I loved the old school “man in suit” Godzilla movies as a kid and “Rampage” was like playing through one of those delightfully cheesy cinematic experiences. You picked a monster and you destroyed city after city. There was no deep back story or attempt to understand the motivation behind why they were on a rampage (see what I did there). Its genius is in its simplicity. Plus, it was a ton of fun! Punching buildings until they collapsed. Fighting off the army. Punching a train in the face. Eating people trying to escape. This was a 10 year old dream game come true!

And while I do love “Rampage,” it is simultaneously one of my most disappointing gaming experiences. You cause destruction across the US and the end game is to destroy all 50 states, which was no easy nor short task. I was determined to do so and as one state after another fell I grew more and more excited at what I imagined would be the epic ending awaiting me. For as long as this game way, there would have to be an hours long ending that constantly reaffirmed what a great gamer I was, right? Finally, it happened – I beat the last city and with it it the last state fell. Here was the moment I’d been waiting for.  My epic reward flashed on the screen…

Rampage Ending

…and that was it. The giant ticker tape parade that I had envisioned was not to be. Instead all I got was a word. ONE WORD! If you’re imagining a high pitched young voice now screaming, “THAT WAS IT?!?!?!?!” then you’ve captured the scene in my living room perfectly. After all I had gone through, I expected something, anything more. At least a full sentence or something. Man, the magnitude of this bummer still stings to this day.

4. CONTRA

NES-Contra-Custom-Cover

 

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Select Start

There are many things in this world I have forgotten and will eventually forget. But the legendary “Konami Code” will never be one of them. It’s burned into my very soul. I don’t even remember how I first learned of the Konami Code. Growing up in a pre-Google world, there was no way to look up tips or wikis for this or any game. I’m guessing someone on the playground told me about it, but I’m not fully sure. Therefore, I choose to believe that the heavens opened and the voice of the Lord spoke the code directly to me. Seems plausible, right?

And boy, did I need this code. Contra wasn’t merely a tough game – it was nearly impossible! You and your brother or fellow soldier (I never did learn their relation. At one point I thought that they were the “Double Dragon” brothers after having joined the military) were attempting to stop Red Falcon, aliens and general bad guy villainy. And in your attempt to do so, you died more times than Tom Cruise did in that movie no one saw. The Konami Code was your savior – it gave you a bunch of extra lives which made it possible to actually advance through, and maybe even beat “Contra.”

Contra is a great classic game, but the code is what stands out as one of my fondest memories because it was the first time I had experienced the concept of a secret cheat or an easter egg. It excited me to know that games could potentially hide little tricks and secrets such as this and was the catalyst for many hours of exploration in video games and eagerly comparing notes with friends on the school yard about what we had found. “Contra” and the code showed me that there could be much hidden beneath the surface of many games, and I loved the adventure of searching.

Now that you’re read through some of my favorite NES memories, I want to know what some of yours were. What game was frustratingly tough? What was your favorite “so bad it was so good” game? Are you still playing “Marble Madness” non-stop? SOUND OFF in the comments below.

This has been a NERD ALERT!

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