Nintendo Nostalgia – A Retro Retrospective

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There comes a time in everyone’s life when they realize things are different than they used to be. Whether it is a gradual shift as we move into higher education, jobs, careers and relationships or more of a slap in the face one day, it is universal. It is with that thought in my head that I realize: I’m definitely getting older and my thoughts and opinions have changed drastically over the past five years alone. Despite this, I’m happy to be my current age and to have experienced many of the great Nintendo IPs from the beginning.

I came to this conclusion when, over the past few months, I’ve learned that The Legend of ZeldaKid Icarus and Double Dragon – among others – are now at least 30 years old. Playing these games as a youth, while certainly fun, was never something I saw myself thinking about as an adult. As I’ve grown and matured, they’ve stayed with me in one capacity or another and have become retro, almost nostalgic.

Nowadays, when I have the time for it, I still love to play Zelda. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m still a huge Castlevania fan, which should not surprise anyone at all.

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The first scene of a classic!

Following the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996, none of my peers thought about those older games. Whenever I would mention my Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo or Game Boy to my friends or
others in my age group, they would mock me and scoff at my lack of a modern gaming system.

“When are you going to join the 20th century, man?” my old buddy, Joe, would say. “I can’t believe you still like those stupid, old games, anyway.” He was acting goofy, providing some levity to the afternoon. His joke was funny, in context. Others, who said similar things, however, were far more serious about it than Joe had been.

This response — the insolence of youth — narrows down to only one thing: the foolish belief that anything old has no value. To truly believe there is no value in older technology, games, content, books or otherwise is not only a foolish notion, but an ignorant one. But, that’s a conversation for another time. The funniest part of it all is that with the notable exceptions of the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, I never did upgrade beyond a Super Nintendo. The first time I played Super Mario 64 all the way through was on my old, teal original 3DS. I’ve been meaning to dive back into that one on my XL.

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Watch out for the eyeball creatures!

But enough of that! Today, we’re here to talk about Nintendo! Not reflect upon the downfall of society past, present and future. Let’s have some fun and keep things light! Nostalgia is overrated, anyway. Or, as Alex Lifeson of the band RUSH would say, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah-dee Blah!”

Growing up in the original NES generation was fun, but seemed to have evaporated sometime between the end of the Super NES’s life and the release of the Nintendo 64. Then, something interesting happened around the year 2006-2007. Suddenly, I began seeing so-called retro consoles all over the place: at flea markets, electronics aisles in big box stores and even at our local gaming shops. It was interesting. Then, so many websites popped up, extolling the virtue of “classic” and “retro.” I began talking to some of my former peers and learned many of them not only had entire collections of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games, but were now avid fans and collectors.

Nintendo unveiled its Wii Virtual Console and that brought retro gaming back into the public eye. The popularity of this service has led to its presence on every Nintendo console since. Even Sony and Microsoft are getting in on the nostalgia game, with releases of arcade ports and retro game collections. While the Rare Retrospective was certainly nice, however, I would much rather prefer a way to play Battletoads again on a Nintendo Console.

2219621-nes_battletoadsI was quite the pro at Battletoads. I beat it fourteen times. I’ve been meaning to play it again. I’ve been saying that for five years, though, so we’ll see what 2017 brings into my gaming queue. At the moment, I have more games than time to play them.

Battletoads seemed unique for its time, an apt parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which themselves were a parody of Daredevil comics. I’ve always found anthropomorphic characters interesting: Bucky O’Hare, the four Ninja Turtles and Fox McCloud all seemed great when first I heard of them.

Then again, viewing those same characters through a different perspective shows that Star Fox the TMNT have become a bizarre, convoluted mess that is geared toward younger kids and I don’t want to talk about Bucky O’Hare. It is unreasonable to be upset by these realizations. The truth of the matter is simply that they are products of their time and any new iteration of them is not being made for me or my generation. I accept and embrace that and believe others should, too.

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We all knew this was coming

Nostalgia is weird. I think we’ve all heard the phrase, “through rose colored glasses” referencing something we enjoyed from our past. Time and perspective certainly make fools of us all, I suppose. Some things hold up well for me: take Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, for instance. I can go back to those episodes and re-watch them over and over. The acting is (mostly) good, the effects are practical and the stories are usually compelling. Babylon 5, however, is a different story. While I loved the plot, characters and themes, the visual effects make it very much a product of its time, due to the use of nascent CGI FX. I can see myself re-watching it at some point, but it is highly unlikely.I cannot honestly say I would watch it again for any reason other than nostalgia. So, when I sat down to play some of my older Nintendo games, imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying most of them just as much today as I did as a kid.

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SMB 3 – a Classic

A few did not stand up to my self-described ‘time test,’ but many of them did, to my surprise. The original Super Mario Bros. and its three sequels, are certainly great fun. Games like Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Run wouldn’t exist if people weren’t interested in those older Super Mario Bros. games.

Dwelling in the past, being nostalgic, or simply just enjoying older/retro things is perfectly fine, so long as it isn’t taken to an extreme. Collecting has its value. Enjoying the games for what they are has its value. Retro gaming is – to me at least – a hobby more than anything and can be picked up and put away as I deem fit.

No longer is there a stigma attached to the hobby, thanks to my generation’s love of everything retro. I find that fascinating. To be part of the hobby for the fun of it, rather than for the nostalgia is a nice touch.

The games I always enjoyed have returned to the spotlight. Now, some of them are prohibitively expensive. Then, in late 2016, Nintendo released the NES Classic Mini, a miniaturized version of the original system, pre-loaded with 30 classic games. Eventually, I may find and play one, but it is unlikely because the system is officially dead now. My original NES broke in 2010 and I’ve never found the time or funds to replace it, unfortunately.

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This thing was more elusive than Bigfoot!

That isn’t a problem, though. Several other options are available: there do seem to be a few other prospects. Retron has several different multi-cartridge units available, Yobo makes the FC Twin and the Raspberry Pi seems to be coming into prominence in the Do It Yourself gaming scene these days.

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The AVS, available from Retro USB

Another option is the AVS from Retro USB, which appears to be the most promising NES Clone on the market these days. The system has full HD capability, does away with the ancient NES power brick and plays most original cartridges (what, according to Nintendo Power Magazine, Nintendo once called ‘Game Paks,’ in an attempt to give them a separate identity from other gaming cartridges of the time).

Per the product page at Retro USB, the AVS also features firm ware updates and an online scoreboard. Why don’t I already own one of these? Perhaps one day.

Nintendo is pretty weird about its legacy content. After a successful run with the virtual console on the Wii and Wii U, it appears the Switch may not have one at all. Additionally, a Super Nintendo Mini is also on the horizon. Apparently, it’s slated for a 2017 holiday release and will include the unreleased Star Fox 2, which I’m looking forward to playing … if I can find one, that is. Until then, I’ll continue to play these games when I can and look forward to seeing what the nostalgia looks like for later generations.

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About David Buck

David BuckDavid Buck is an author, musician and media professional based in Colorado. He likes to write about interesting music, video games and science fiction.