Games of My Youth: Part III - SNES

We're now at the halway point of "Games of My Youth." With longer lists and more vivid memories, they will hopefully be more enjoyable to read.


The Super Nintendo is highly acclaimed by gamers. Many believe it to be the greatest video game console of all-time. Released in 1991, the SNES sold just short of 50 million units in its lifespan!

The SNES was the third system I received during my childhood. The system is responsible for introducing me to RPG’s; fortunately for me, I developed an interest in the genre in the mid-90’s, a time I proclaim to be the ‘Golden Age of RPGs.’


Acquisition:

I had an uncle that I didn’t talk to very much. His name was Gene, and he happened to own a Super Nintendo. He let my grandmother borrow it while I was staying with her; instead of leaving it at her house, she let me take it with home with me when I left.

Technically, the system didn’t belong to me, so my parents were hesitant to ever buy me games for the system. Instead, they preferred to just rent me them on the weekends. After a couple of years of having it in my possession, though, we agreed that it was essentially mine, and they started purchasing games for me as gifts.

I think years and year later I eventually gave it back to him when he came asking for it, but that was after I had moved on to other systems, so it didn’t really matter.


Memorable Games:


Earthbound
Nothing epitomizes the term ‘hit or miss’ more than Earthbound does. You either loved it or you hated it. I, for one, loved it. The quirky and witty humor outshadowed the archaic, early Dragon Warrior-esque battle system. The setting of the game was in the 1990’s, something that I had never seen from an RPG before. This is my favorite RPG ever... possibly even my favorite SNES game... heck, I'd even take it a step further and say it may very well be my favorite game of all-time!




Random Memory:
The whole reason I gave this game a chance in the first place was because of its enormous case. While at my local video store, Premiere Video, I saw this massive box sitting on the shelf. The back of it featured some nifty-looking clay figures, and it generated enough interest for me to justify giving it a try.


Final Fantasy 3 (technically 6, I guess)
Final Fantasy 3 is heralded as one of the greatest RPGs of all-time, and with good reason. Virtually every element of the game -- graphics, sound, gameplay, story, you name it -- was polished and above-average. It remains, to this day, one of Square’s greatest achievements.





Random Memory:
If I remember correctly, Final Fantasy 3 was my very first RPG. What would have happened if my first RPG had not been (arguably) one of the best of all-time? I'm curious as to whether a poor initial experience could have drastically altered my stance towards RPGs.




Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
There’s a simple subtitle I like to add to this game: "the most underrated RPG ever." It had companions called ‘capsule monsters,’ which basically were Pokemon that you could collect. It implemented action RPG elements, lending it a Zelda-esque feel. The battle system featured the equivalent of limit breaks, as well as huge, detailed sprites (remember those Sinisters!?). A lot of humor was thrown into the dialogue, which prevented conversations from getting boring. Tne entire game -- including the message scroll speed, the battles, etc -- had a really quick pace to it. The story, while somewhat generic overall, was solid and touching at times. Relative to the juggernaut RPGs of its time, this seems to be relatively unknown. It is, without a doubt, one of the best games that ever graced the SNES.

Random Memory:
My inspiration to rent this game came from a 1996 issue of EGM Two. They featured the game on the cover, and provided a walkthrough of the first half of the game. Without that, I don't know how far I would have got. Some of the puzzles in this game are really difficult.




Breath of Fire 2
Breath of Fire 2 was simply an amazing game (despite the horrible translation). It was actually a pretty tough game, too; in my book, a challenge is always a good thing. The game offered some neat mini-games, including hunting and fishing; these were dwarfed by the coolest feature of all, though: the ability to build a town of your own! By recruiting random NPC’s throughout the world, you were able to customize your town with different shops and services.



Random Memory:
Again, the power of magazines at work. Nintendo Power’s ‘ask an expert’ section featured this game, along with the question ‘what’s the best party?’ I had no idea what the term ‘party’ meant, and so it had me intrigued. I decided to check this game out as a result of the Nintendo Power entry.

Another Random Memory:
When you're walking around, you see all four members of your party following each other around; using the shoulder buttons, you're able to switch who you want to lead the party. This actually factors into the gameplay, because while on the world map, you can trigger special abilities by pressing "Y" with some of your characters. For example, this huge cattle-looking fellow named "Rand" can roll into a ball, allowing you to avoid random battles.

A monkey named "Sten" is another character that joins your group. He has a special ability, too: he can extend his arm and grab on to poles and pull himself (and the group) across. Where am I going with this? Well, at one point in the game you need Sten to advance past a certain point on the world map. The problem was that I had no idea special abilities existed. As a result, my progress was completely halted. For the remainder of my rental period, I couldn't advance. Again, another "Sonic 3 - Carnival Night" (or "Jurassic Park - Visitor's Center," if you've been reading this series) moment!



Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger was a group effort involving some of the biggest names in the video gaming industry. The result was nothing short of spectacular. With crisp graphics, heavenly sound and rockin' gameplay, this was an unforgettable gaming experience for many (including myself).



Random Memory:
When I think of this game I think of my buddy, who basically threw his life away to drugs. Prior to that, him and I were gamer buddies. I stayed over at his house one night, and we decided to rent this game and play all night. I vividly remember sitting outside the castle in the forest at the beginning of the game, building up tech points so that we’d learn new combos.


Super Mario RPG
Mario entered the realm of RPG’s with this title back in 1996. The transition was successful, as the game turned out to be awesome. The game had humor, some cool mini-games/side-quests, and was thoroughly enjoyable. I can remember my numerous, unsuccessful attempts at 100+ Super Jumps’ it just wasn’t going to happen.





Random Memory:
I mentioned earlier that this game was released in 1996; in the same year, Mark Morrison released a hit single known as "Return of the Mack." Whenever I hear that song, I think of the first boss of Mario RPG -- a sword-riding pumpkin-head by the name of "Mack."

Another Random Memory:
My cousin had rented this game a couple months after it came out. He brought it over to my house to show me how awesome it was. He left later that night, but forgot something -- the game! I took this opportunity to start my own file, and played it for hours that night. I was hooked. He took it back the next day, but I knew exactly what I wanted for my upcoming birthday.

One Last Random Memory:
I try and limit the memories to one per-game, but.. I think all three of these are worth sharing.

Remember that buddy I mentioned under Chrono, that messed up his life with drugs?
Lets call him "Dave." Well, back in the late 90's, I was in a 5th/6th grade combination class. That is, half of us were in 5th grade, half of us were in 6th. He was a year older than me and I had never met him before that class. I remember one day we were lined up by the door, ready to go somewhere; I was talking to a friend about this new great game I got, Super Mario RPG. I was explaining the concept of Super Jumping, when someone overheard our conversation. That someone was Dave, who I soon discovered had as much enthusiasm towards the game as I did. We got to talking, and he eventually invited me over to show off my (alleged) Super Jumping skills.

This game was honestly responsible for the start of my friendship with Dave. He was probably my best friend for a five year span or so.


Super Mario World
What always impresses me about Nintendo is their ability to release quality titles right at launch. As well as being one of the first games to be released on the system, Super Mario World was also one of the best. The vibrant colors, fun levels, loads of secrets and introduction of Yoshi made it an incredible game.



Random Memory:
When the SNES was released, my parents rented one for us to try out. I still remember my entire family gathered in the living room, all staring it awe at the gem that was Super Mario World. When I think back about video games and my childhood, this is the game I think of most often. That is, it has the most memories attached to it.


Super Mario Kart
Ah... the roots of Mario Kart, a series that is still going strong today. Simple gameplay, but loads of fun! Sure, competing against the computer in the various cup championships was a lot of fun, but the real enjoyment came when you got a friend to join in along with you.




Random Memory:

One more story involving Dave: as you probably know, the game stored your personal-best times on courses while in Time Trial mode. Dave was boasting non-stop about his un-breakable record on one of the ghost tracks with his favorite kart driver, Koopa Troopa. I was ready to shut him up. I probably played that track 20 times straight, getting closer and closer to that seemingly unreachable time. Then, suddenly, it happened -- a nearly flawless run. Dave's reign on top was over, I now had the top score!

The true fun in this story comes from what happened afterwards, though.
Out of rage of losing, Ben frantically reset the over and over. He then half-removed the cart, and repeated the reseting process. I knew his intent the whole time: it was a lame attempt to clear the game's stored records. He eventually succeeded, and the slate was wiped clean.

According to the game's on-board memory, neither of us were record-holders. I know in my gaming heart who the true champion of that Ghost Track is, though. ;P (Despite what these stories may suggest, Dave was actually a really cool guy -- I hope these don't give the wrong impression.)




Sim City
When it was released, Sim City was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was a nice change of pace; instead of testing your dexterity, it challenged your ability to think. Alright, maybe that's taking it too far, because its not as if the gameplay was mind-bending or anything. Still, the point stands: it was a unique experience. The only downside of playing this game was that I never owned it. As a result of only being able to play it during rentals, my ability to expand my city was pretty limited, preventing me from ever reaching a megalopolis. I love hearing the opening theme on this game, as it brings back loads of memories.



Random Memory:
My older cousin was a pro at this game. My younger cousin and I marveled at his ability to manipulate his citizens. I remember him leaving it on overnight one time, as he was in a position where he was making money by the minute; smooth and easy flyin', like auto-pilot. When we woke up, we couldn’t believe our eyes: his city have been demolished by a fire!




The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Ah, yet another classic SNES title. This time, it’s Zelda! The thing that surprises me about this game is that it actually only had an afternoon’s worth of gameplay, but the fact that it was so non-linear resulted it in lasting much, much longer on your first playthrough’s. I don’t see how someone could dislike this game, its just too fun!




Random Memory:
Back before I "owned" an SNES, a local grocery store had a coloring contest. The winning entry received a Super Nintendo along with a copy of A Link to the Past. Never in my life had I wanted to win a contest more than this one. Despite there only being about a dozen entries, I lost. I was distraught.


Mega Man X
If you were an SNES gamer and had owned an NES, you probably noticed a trend: the games you knew-and-loved on the NES had 16-bit successors that brought the enjoyment of a certain game franchise to a whole new level. Mega Man X is a perfect example of this. Mega Man now had additional moves added to his repertoire, the ability to upgrade his suit and a graphics overhaul. The result was fantastic!


Random Memory:
Mega Man X is yet another example of my cousin getting me interested in a game. With both of us being big NES Mega Man fans, we both loved it instantaneously. When he rented it, I went to his house and played for a while, and then went home. Later that night, I received at least four phone calls of him updating me on his progress of the game. "Hey, I just beat Elephant Man!" I remember being annoyed; in hindsight, though, it's funny to look back on.


Mortal Kombat
There's really no doubt in my mind that "Street Fighter" was the better fighting series, but that doesn't really matter. Why? Because Mortal Kombat had that added appeal of being so gory, that's why. When I played this game, I was usually Johnny Cage, namely because he was such a cool guy. My second choice was usually Sub-Zero, because freezing people was as easy as it was awesome. The fatalities were pretty cool, too... but as far as I know, the only one I was ever able to pull off was Scorpion's. I think it was something absurdly simply, like "Up + Y."

Random Memory:
My neighbor at the time, Ty, stayed over one night. Him and I spent the night "camping out..." I use that phrase loosely, because we sat in our family RV, hooked up the SNES and gamed all night. The game we played until our fingers bled? None other than Mortal Kombat.


Closing thoughts:

As evidenced by the length of this edition of "‘Games of my Youth," the SNES was arguably my favorite console of my childhood. The sheer amount of quality games for it is jaw-dropping. Its hard to believe that even with this long list, there were still a lot of near-miss omissions (Donkey Kong Country, Secret of Mana, Super Metroid, etc).

The SNES is, without a doubt in my mind, Nintendo’s greatest accomplishment.