Death Of A Childhood

Hey I remember that. . . what the hell happened to it?
September 30, 2007
CAUTION: Huge article ahead.

We've all been hit by the destruction of media in recent years. TV shows have to be edgy to be good, video games have to have explosions and large-pixeled women to be fun, movies have to have a superhero to be popular, music has to be about the joys of being unhappy to be intriguing. And yes, we all know that nostalgia is bittersweet. That's why we're here, after all. But we all have stories to tell. This is mine.

My earliest memories of entertainment were the Flash TV series from the early 90's, the Noozles and Atari (no, I'm not old, my parents just didn't keep up with video games). Let's start with the Flash series.

i r serious man. this are serious article.

Yup. It looks silly, and ironically enough, not very flashy. But when you're 5, you tend to overlook such flaws. I would watch it with my brother when it came on. It was so disappointing when it was canceled. If I saw it now, I'd probably hate it. I suppose it was canceled for a reason. Then again, that reason may have been because it was on CBS. AKA the elderly network. Still, I doubt it'd hold up well nearly 20 years later. I remember it being pretty dark. Likely riding on the popularity of the recent Batman movie. But sadly, that's about all I remember.

Look at this image and tell me you didn't giggle.

This was the peak of my childhood. I see a lot on this site about how good this show was, which makes me happy, because it was easily my favorite show growing up. Someday, I fully intend to buy the series. On VHS if I have to. Not only would I want any kids in my future to grow up with such a creative, fun cartoon, I want to see it all again for myself. As many of you know, the story goes thusly: A little girl named Sandy is sent a stuffed koala bear after her archaeologist father mysteriously disappears. Finding the bear cute, she gives it an eskimo kiss (noozle), and the bear comes to life. Once he's awakened, his sister appears. His sister demands he come back to their world with her, but he refuses and befriends Sandy. His sister loves him, so she is forced to stay with him and his new friend, much to her dismay. She's the more magical one of the two siblings, making the door to their dimension open at will, and possessing the ability to fly. Occasionally (every episode, rather), they take her to see their world, which, from what I remember, was simply brilliant. And at the end of the day, they return home and Sandy noozles the koala back to sleep while his sister goes elsewhere. Sadly, I don't think Nick Jr. ever showed all 26 episodes. It was also an anime. And anyone familiar with popular anime series should know that 26 is a lucky number of sorts. But I digress. This was THE show that I tuned into Nick Jr. for every morning. Sure, there were others like Eureka's Castle and David The Gnome, but Noozles always made me so happy.

Video game console or air conditioner? Why not both?

Technically my first console, but the one I was worst at. But gimme a break, I was barely out of the crib. Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and maybe another one. I'd turn it on, and have fun for 15 minutes before I got tired of dying. The switches were so heavy. I needed both hands just to flip one. Crazy how that thing was made.

Then Nicktoons were introduced, starting with the three originals.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, we have Doug. A very simple cartoon about a boy who's new to his neighborhood. Making new friends at his school and dealing with the stress of fitting in and adolescence. Most episodes have a sort of moral. Never heavy-handed, and more of a "things are only as bad as you make them out to be" sort. Doug usually finds himself in a situation where his fears are all that stand in his way. He typically outsmarts his own fear through imagination and willpower and realizes how silly his worries are. A really good show that never takes itself too seriously, never gets too preachy, but maintains a sense of wholesomeness. Then there's Ren & Stimpy. A show I admittedly never enjoyed. It didn't offend me, and I wasn't as grossed out by it as some. I just really hated it. John Kricfalusi's art style and sense of humor are not up my alley. He obviously hates making shows for kids, so why he approaches networks aimed towards kids, I may never know. It could be said that if not for Ren & Stimpy/Kricfalusi a lot of shows may not be where they are now, and that may be true. But in my opinion, Ren & Stimpy was just unnecessary. But I'm aware I'm pretty much alone in that. But enough of that. Essentially, the show revolved around a high-strung, volatile chihuahua and his moronic cat "friend". No two episodes indicated any instance of continuity, and usually threw the two of them into a different scenario each time. Sometimes they were beggars, other times they were housemates, and still other times, the setting wasn't even modern (not to say the setting was ever truly modern, as there was always a strong 1950's vibe), but in the future or medieval times. The show was well-known for its "close-ups". Which were hideous, realistically-drawn shots of random parts of a character's body, covered in hair, zits, parasites, scabs, etc. This was one reason why some people couldn't stomach the show. For me, I just hated the style. Simple as that. And speaking of bad style, lastly, there's Rugrats, the last of the three. Not a bad show. It was pretty imaginative. Not very funny, save for a few of the grandpa's moments and the name "Lipschitz", but creative, nonetheless. However, Klasky-Csupo may have the only art style I despise more than Kricfalusi's. But the show itself isn't bad. And I used to enjoy it quite a bit growing up. It attempts to delve into the minds of children, giving a pretty unique perspective on things. Adults love it because it reminds them of their children going through the same phases, and kids love it because it is so creative. Though I must admit, they focused so hard on making Angelica evil, it was sometimes actually physically difficult to watch the show without getting frustrated. I mean, Doug had Roger who played pranks and made fun of people, but Angelica was just EVIL. Perhaps some of it was the helplessness of it all. The protagonists can't even talk. But Angelica can. And does. Too much. And what's really
scary. . . there are actually kids like that in real life. *shudder*

Nickelodeon was all I watched for a long time. Noozles and Nicktoons helped seal that. At some point, I became fascinated by Ninja Turtles, but unlike so many others on this site, my love of the turtles didn't last long enough for me to talk in detail about it. But it's for the better. There must be 70 articles about Ninja Turtles on this site. Moving on, I watched several things like Muppet Babies, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, My Little Ponies, and others. But then, it happened. SNICK. I was too young to really get most of the shows like Roundhouse or Clarissa, but I LOVED Are You Afraid Of The Dark?. Around this time, Nickelodeon started to really get good. Shows like What Would You Do, Rocko's Modern Life, Weinerville, Legends Of The Hidden Temple, and many, MANY more started getting put on.

But more than that, I was starting to get into video games. No more Atari. NES and SNES. I got an NES for Christmas after showing interest in my brother's girlfriend's NES. My official first favorite game was Mario 2. The oddball of the series, but still my favorite. Mostly because it was so odd. Flying carpets, countless masked enemies, the ability to throw stuff, it was so fun.

Cherry bombs, magic potions, ribboned birds that projectile vomited eggs at you. This game had it all.

Zelda 2 and Dragon Warrior soon followed, but my brother enjoyed those more than I did. Too much thinking. Not enough hitting. I didn't care much for RPGs. But not long after I got my NES, my sister trumped me and bought an SNES. I sucked at Super Mario World. My sister, who has never been good at video games, beat it long before I did. When I started to finally master it, everyone began renting new games for it. Some good (Mario Kart and Street Fighter II, for example), others, not so much (American Gladiators reigns supreme in my mental list of bad games).

Screenshot from the game, but it looks more like a promotional photo for GLAAD.

My brother was a fan of RPGs at the time, and even though I never really played them, I'd watch him play and give tips as he did. So in a sense, we both enjoyed RPGs. He was just the mastermind. We rented a few games here and there, and eventually, we rented Zelda: A Link To The Past. Now, while I wasn't a fan of Zelda 2, I instantly fell in love with LttP. Haunting, eerie atmosphere; creative dungeons, amazing music, two huge worlds to explore with tons of secrets, and an excellent balance of action and puzzles. By this point, it was the greatest game I had ever played. It was just so epic.

See? EPIC!

Perhaps it was the game that cracked my shell towards RPGs. Because soon after, I began showing more interest in the genre. My brother rented Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, as we had heard that the Final Fantasy series was the best as far as RPGs went. The game was bashed heavily when it was released, but my brother and I had no idea, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Still, countless games later would reveal the true holy grail of our RPG experiences.

Meanwhile, our cable company adopted Cartoon Network in early 1995. This introduced me to several amazing cartoons, resulting in my all but shunning Nickelodeon. This was a simple time for Cartoon Network, as they were still coming into their own. I remember seeing Space Ghost: Coast To Coast one night, and thinking it was stupid. I didn't know who Space Ghost was or why he was talking to real people on a cartoon-based station, but I just ignored it. After all, a channel with cartoons 24/7 is what any child dreams of. I started taking a liking to a cartoon called G-Force on the network. It was an action show about a group of youths out to stop an alien menace from destroying civilization. Yes, it sounds like a million other shows, including the then-popular Power Rangers. But this show had something others of its kind didn't have: Cojones. Seriously. This show brought in characters, made you feel sorry for them, and killed them in the same episode. Not to mention it had some really horrifying moments. One in particular that always scared me was an episode in which a high level of radiation struck a small city, and the inhabitants all disappeared. When they go to the place to investigate, they examine a train and find the silhouettes of human bodies on all of the seats. That scene gave me the willies. But the show was also funny and had a good story. The characters got a bit melodramatic at times, but the show was pretty old, after all.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Then, from the batch of World Premier Toons (a bunch of cartoon shorts created by different people and premiered weekly), one was turned into a TV show. Dexter's Laboratory. Now, as far as creativity goes, this put anything Nickelodeon ever did to shame. The series started off kinda weak, I'll admit. The first World Premier Toon was great (Dexter and his sister just turn each other into an assortment of animals for 10 minutes). The one that followed wasn't too good (his sister eats a cookie that makes her enormous and she turns the city into a dollhouse). But it only got better and better. Mandark was introduced, giving the already unique characters a bit more depth and the dodgeball episode is easily one of the greatest pieces of animation ever created. The show was definitely going places.

Like it or not, you had to admire the hell out of this show.

Back in the realm of video games, after playing several games ranging from mediocre to astounding, my brother presented to me what would be our first true Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy III (or VI, if you want to get technical). Again, we were clueless about what was being said about this one. But unlike Mystic Quest, we had no idea what kind of magnificent power we were about to witness. The game is a masterpiece to anyone who gives it the time to enjoy it. This is due to the characters. The game is fun, sure. But the real driving force is wondering what will happen to each character. With 14 characters (12 of which actually have back stories), you're bound to connect with one. Everyone has their favorites. And along with having the most endearing cast in a video game, it has the most despicable villain in the history of the medium. Betrayal, genocide, and world domination (yes, he actually takes over the world BEFORE you fight him) are among his most reprehensible deeds. There are a few moments in the game that evoke really somber, almost heartbreaking, emotions. For a game of its time, that is a feat. Oh, and it features an opera. Yes. An opera. With syllabic noises in time with on-screen lyrics to simulate real singing.

A work of genius within a work of genius. Bravo, indeed.

This officially tore down the wall. I would start playing RPGs after this moment. Starting with simple ones, like Secret Of Evermore, Breath Of Fire, and Mario RPG. But there was one game I had heard about a year or so earlier in a magazine. Something about multiple endings? From the developers of Final Fantasy? But I could never remember the title. I still played some junk here and there, looking for decent games. RPGs were a rarity at that time. They were either out of stock or not carried. But I found a game with a familiar title one day. Couldn't remember where I heard it, but it was made by the same guys who did those other games I liked, so it's gotta be good, right? Heh.

So I played Chrono Trigger later that night, expecting something fun. And it was. It was a bit slow. I was used to games starting off with a bang (Final Fantasy III starts with you raiding a town with mechanical suits, Breath Of Fire starts with your village burning down, and this one starts with you going to the fair?). But there wasn't much to do here. But you never know. It might get better. So the story officially starts, and things get kinda weird. And WHAT THE F-! Did a frog just fall from the sky and stab a monster with his sword? Indeed. From that moment on, I was hooked. The story got deeper and so did the gameplay. It quickly became my favorite game because of the ingenuity involved. Two or three characters can team up to attack on one turn, you can go through time, no random enemies, attacks that affect a certain area (such as being able to hit two enemies that line themselves up, or a cluster of enemies in a blast radius of a bomb attack), the game was just glorious. Maybe not as moving as Final Fantasy III, but way more fun (which is saying something). And let's not forget the music that, while taking a back seat to FFIII's score, was nothing short of breathtaking. Unfortunately, I was still cutting my teeth on newbie-friendly RPGs, so I wasn't able to beat it in just a rental like with Mario RPG or Secret Of Evermore. But until I finally did, I'd never be satisfied.

This gorgeous screenshot sets the stage for the rest of the game.

While this was going on, my brother got a Playstation not long after it came out. The demo disc that came with it included Twisted Metal. One arena, two cars, but at least it had multiplayer. And thus, we played it. A lot. Several times daily. And I repeat, one arena, two cars. That's it. That was the power that game had. So imagine our (appropriately) twisted delight when we got the real thing. 12 cars, five arenas, more weapons, and a lot of free time. It was such a dark, grim game. A park in the winter with a creepy Christmas carol in the background, characters including the grim reaper himself, the devil, a ghost, and a psychotic clown in an ice cream truck, and scattered pedestrians to squish. However, disturbing as it was, it came together really well.

Then came Tekken, which was our second 3D fighter (Battle Arena Toshinden was our first. . . we were not amused). Though terribly simple, it had a certain charm about it. It was pretty fun. But then we played Tekken 2. Talk about leaps and bounds. The graphics were no longer hideous, there were more characters, and best of all, new moves! It was a wonderful game. My favorite character was Yoshimitsu. How can you not love an insane cyborg samurai with a Robin Hood complex? I mean, he'll kill himself. He'll commit hari kari in front of your opponent. Then meditate to recover all of his life. Then teleport behind you and fly through the air using his sword as a propeller. He's just so crazy, and fun to use. Plus, his level is a beautiful, tranquil forest. That always scores a few points in my book.

Okay, so he's a bit of a perv, too.

Not long after we played Tekken 2 for the first time, I started seeing these weird promos on Cartoon Network showing Moltar from Space Ghost Coast To Coast in CGI and him mumbling something about a satellite being launched or something. They were so vague, I didn't think much of it. But a couple of weeks later, they revealed their plans. A daily block of action cartoons called Toonami. I was intrigued at first. But then they sealed the deal by showing a snippet from the Tekken 2 intro in the promo, indicating a connection to video games. Cartoons. . . AND video games. . .? Life is so sweet. So I watched it when it premiered. My brother told me how much he loved Voltron as a kid, and since he was one of the reasons I started watching G-Force, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, I didn't care much for it. But oooh. Thundercats held my interest. And then some. I tuned in everyday to watch it. I was hooked.
Toonami continued to evolve, acquiring rights to other anime like Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z. Admittedly, I passed Sailor Moon off as a girly show with the depth of Power Rangers. And. . . well. . . it was. Didn't stop me from eventually getting hooked, though. But Dragonball Z was to me what Pokemon was to kids a year later. I was so hooked on that show, I would arrange my schedule around its time slot. When the season ended, I was at a loss. I was aimless. But there was still Sailor Moon and Reboot to keep me happy. To this day, the best Toonami line-up was Sailor Moon, Reboot, DBZ, and The Real Adventures Of Jonny Quest. Those were the golden days.

Your recommended daily dose of AWESOME!

Mid '97 to mid '98 was the second coming of my childhood's glory days. Noozles, Flash, Atari, Nickelodeon, those were all deceased in my eyes. For this portion of my life, everything was just as perfect as it was then. So many things factored in, so rather than go into detail of each one, I'll rattle off the most important moments.

Johnny Bravo, Cow & Chicken and new Dexter's Lab (even better than the old ones) all have a fond place in my heart. I had been waiting for Johnny to get a series for a while. His was my favorite World Premier Toon.

Nintendo 64. I got one for Christmas one year, and later obtained Goldeneye 007 for it. That was just a magical game. So simple, but so amazing. It gives me a warm feeling just thinking about playing it.

Final Fantasy VII, which was the first hardcore RPG I ever completed.

Final Fantasy Tactics. A brilliant strategy game with a story that reads like a history textbook run through Babelfish a few times.

Secret Of Mana. Fun by yourself, excellent with a friend. Essentially, you just run around beating the hell out of deformed rabbits and flowers while opening the occasional chest. But it had deeper moments. And the story got kinda sad towards the end.

Squaresoft. The guys who made the Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, Secret Of Mana, and many others. At this point in time, they were experimenting like crazy, even going off of their RPG roots to explore fighting and shooter games, as well as making tons of new RPGs. I admired these guys.

Electronic Gaming Monthly. The best gaming magazine EVER. I got my first issue in September, 1996. In the 90's, you either had Gamepro or EGM. I always thought Gamepro was the better of the two, so when my mom got me a subscription to EGM one day, I was upset, thinking she made a big mistake. But that first issue covered Mario 64 (it even came with a little strategy guide), previewed Twisted Metal 2, Final Fantasy VII, Breath Of Fire 3, and it had more of a dry wit than Gamepro. This was something completely different. And for years, I used it as my main source of keeping up with gaming.

My first issue, and the start of something that would greatly affect my future.

Happy Days. Yes. Happy Days. A very apt name for that point in my life. Sure, it came on Nick At Nite, but a television classic isn't shameful to watch. And if you don't like The Fonz, you can sit on it!

Legos. A staple in my entire childhood, really. From the time I watched Noozles to like. . . five years ago. I would sit and build for hours. But at this point in time, they started making some really cool sets. And I never made the things they instructed you to. I just combined pieces from each set into different creations. All while watching Toonami.

Lunchables. 'Nuff said.

Late '98 to mid '99 was a good time, but a little less magical. For one, Toonami started getting messed with. Shows were getting removed and replaced by mediocre shows like Ronin Warriors, but they did put Batman on there, so I forgive them. Then they started showing movies like the first three DBZ movies and Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, and those got me really pumped. Cartoon Network then revived Johnny Bravo after it apparently failed to grab ratings the first time. But its revival was a retelling of Frankenstein. It was empty. The art was different and ugly, new characters were introduced (and apparently writers, as well), and overall, the new version was terrible. I was one of those who wanted it to return, but not even television network executives should play god.

In exchange for this sin against humanity, three major things happened with the network. They got two new shows. Powerpuff Girls and Ed, Edd, n Eddy. Powerpuff Girls had been around for a while. Just not in a whole series. I didn't think it'd be very good, because the shorts were only okay. But the clips made it look interesting, so I was willing to give it a chance. Ed, Edd, n Eddy just looked stupid and weird. But I was curious what it'd be about. The promos looked so weird with them just running while the theme song played. But I was surprised by them both. Powerpuff Girls was pretty funny and even more, the action was surprisingly well-paced. And Ed, Edd, n Eddy was hysterical. The characters, the dialogue, the imagination, I really liked it more than I thought I would. I laughed 'til it hurt at a few episodes. But none of this could prepare me for the biggest thing to hit Cartoon Network in years.

Five hours. Of Toonami. Every Saturday. At midnight. Now, this was a monumental moment for me for a couple of reasons. One, my favorite cartoon block expanded to five hours. And for another, growing up, I was always a nocturnal type. I rarely went to bed early. So this was perfect for me. Staying up eating Salsa Verde Doritos with Sprite, Lunchables, watching DBZ, Sailor Moon, and Reboot; I essentially turned it into a weekday afternoon.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. At the end of October, 1999, I moved to a new neighborhood. One without a cable company that carried Cartoon Network. The move also marked both of my siblings moving out. From that point on, my childhood faded away.

So by now, you're wondering. . . what's my point? Where does the title of the article come from? Well, after moving, the rapid decline in media was unnerving. Everything I knew was dying. I played Final Fantasy VIII and it was very disappointing. Nickelodeon was a graveyard of terrible cartoons animated by none other than Klasky-Csupo. And when we finally got Cartoon Network, I found Midnight Run was reduced to a mere one-hour block every weeknight. So much had changed. It was so sad.

The first movie I ever went to theatres to see was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I expected something unlike what the world had ever seen. And. . . it was dull. It had good effects, massive budget, great cast, even a guy named Cid, for good measure (for those who don't know, it's a recurring theme in Final Fantasy games to have a character named Cid). But it wasn't Final Fantasy. It was all fake science dialogue with a few explosions sprinkled in. There was no magic. No swords. No airships. No Moogles. No Chocobos. As a stand-along CGI action flick, it's decent. But with the Final Fantasy name slapped on, it only disappoints.

Hey, wait a second. This isn't Final Fantasy. OH MY GOD A SANDWORM!

What could possibly make things worse? Well, while it took some time for that to get an answer, it finally did. Where '97 to '98 were the golden years of my childhood, '04 to now have been nightmarish. Let's take a look at some of those glorious things from that era and compare it to now, shall we?

Johnny Bravo, as mentioned earlier, got the Frankenstein treatment, but still stayed on longer the second time than the first time. Dexter went out with a bang, ending with one of the greatest finales ever. However, they gave it the Frankenstein treatment, as well. Effectively ruining any good memories of it. Cow & Chicken at least died a swift, but honorable death.

Nintendo 64 died and the Gamecube took its place. Not only as the next console, but as Nintendo's least popular, least successful console. Here's hoping the Wii does better. Oh, and Goldeneye developer Rare left to make games for Microsoft. Thing is, all of the good workers they had left with the merger at Microsoft.

Squaresoft has ruined Final Fantasy for everyone. They release countless remakes each year and focus on nothing else except Kingdom Hearts. This means no more installments of Chrono Trigger. No sequels to Secret of Mana that are any good. No more experiments. And in return, they've lost my respect.

EGM has become awful. The writers are boring, the issues are thin, the articles are trite and irrelevant, and possibly worst of all, they're too gimmicky nowadays. What was once the greatest gaming magazine on newsstands has now been reduced to garbage. They only like games that are mainstream cash cows. Sure, those games are successful for a reason, but I really mean they ONLY like the mainstream cash cows. Everything else can rot where they're concerned.

There are at least five things that disgust me about this cover.[/align]

Happy Days is more or less best known for spawning the derogatory phrase "Jump the shark". And Nick At Nite shows Roseanne marathons. Now THAT is shameful.

Lunchables has stopped making the waffle sticks that were my favorites so long ago.

Legos are the only thing that haven't completely been soiled by time. Though, they have gone a bit overboard with the collaborations with Star Wars. But they still put out good products, so it's fine.

And have you seen Cartoon Network lately? It's a mess. Toonami especially. And they've started showing live action movies and shows. WHAT?! It is CARTOON Network! GAH! Adult Swim took over Midnight Run, and while I enjoy it, most of their original shows are too weird to enjoy. And those are the only shows they seem to care about, as they promote them every commercial break.

Ten years ago, I was 11 years old, watching Toonami and playing Final Fantasy games. Today, there is another 11 year old somewhere doing the exact same thing, but he's doing it wrong. At least in my mind. It gives me a headache knowing that those joys, those simple pleasures, will never be felt again. I guess that's the potency of nostalgia. And the reason we're all here. I no longer need a magazine. Or a network to watch anime. Or a video store. I can do everything without having to wait, and without money. But the feeling I got when I played a five year-old game for the first time or when I saw previews for new episodes of an anime that was canceled a decade earlier in Japan is unrivaled by anything I've felt in recent years. Let's try to pass on simple childhoods to the children in our lives. Whether they're ours or our nieces or our nephews or even our grandchildren. Because there really is something to be said for the magic of simplicity.

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