Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Game Consoles Round-Up

Just for fun, I'm going to run down the list of every videogame system I've ever owned. I'm not doing this to brag, since I didn't own any systems that most people didn't (except for the Sega Saturn, which nobody else wanted to own), but because I wanted to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I have nothing really important or historical or critical to say about each console, so I'm just going to share my memories, opinions, and reactions about each one.

Going in chronological order:

Of course, the first gaming system in our home was some kind of Atari. I don't remember which one, since I was just about three or four, but it was probably the 2600, but I also remember getting another one that was probably the 5200. Anyway, classic gaming systems that were a lot of fun.  

Though not technically the first home videogame console (I believe that would be the Odyssey), the Atari was certainly the first one to achieve world-wide fame, and I credit it with the creation of the videogame industry as the phenomenon it is today.

Nolan Bushnell, Atari's founder, later went on to create the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain. Remember those?

I have no memory of the Collecovision other than that we had one. I remember the name and I remember the terrible controllers, but I have nothing else to say about it since I can't recall any of the games leaving much of an impression. Anyway, I was probably about four or five at the time. 

Commodore 64
This was ostensibly a computer, but nobody ever used it for anything other than games. Or, at least, nobody in my house did. Were there actually people who used their Commodore 64 as, say, a word processor? For all I know that's how Alice Walker wrote The Color Purple. 

Anyway, the C64 was a cool system that had a bunch of cool games, but it wasn't exactly user friendly. I remember that you'd put in the floppy disk (remember those?) and then have to type in some ridiculous command like "a:/12qws*232/wew@glk." I mean, seriously, there was no way for the designers to make that a little easier to remember? And then, as it was loading, you'd have to go into the kitchen and make a sandwich or watch a TV show or something until the game finally came up about twenty minutes later.

But... good stuff. Coleco later went on to even bigger success with the release of the Cabbage Patch Kids. And The Color Purple went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

The Nintendo Entertainment System
My brother and I pooled our allowances and Christmas money to buy this system, arguably the greatest and most important console in the history of videogames. We went to Toys R Us to buy it and then invited all of our friends over to play. We all crammed into our TV room and popped in Super Mario Brothers and... well... you know the rest because you probably played it too. If you hadn't experienced Super Mario Brothers for the first time on the NES, you probably had a similar experience where everything you knew up to that point was about to change, and the world was never going to be the same. I had played videogames before, but the first Nintendo was what made me a fan for the rest of my life.

Best... system... ever. Well, until the Super Nintendo, anyway.

Though not strictly a gaming system, I would be remiss in not mention our first real personal computer if only because those early games had such a huge impact on my gaming experience. I could write an entire blog post about PC Gaming, so I'll keep things brief by just mentioning that I think the first game I played on our IBM was Zork, a completely text based adventure that was still incredibly good fun. Later I moved on to Sierra's titles (like King's Quest, Space Quest, etc), which are still personal favorites of mine, even if they were full of cheap deaths and impossible puzzles.

Nowadays, PC gaming has became an institution in its own right that has somehow branched off from console gaming, if only because PCs are easy (if not cheap) to upgrade as new technology advances. Consoles become obsolete and extinct. I still remember the first upgrade I made to our PC. I bought an EGA videocard so I could play videogames in color. That was a good moment, let me tell you.

Sega Master System
The Sega Master System was well marketed and I was spoiled, so those are the only reasons I can think of for why my parents bought one. I certainly don't remember asking for one, and I can't even really remember playing it much. It was more powerful than the NES and was supposed to have better graphics, but it just wasn't as fun to play. To begin with, the controller just felt wrong. Nobody makes better controllers than Nintento, and their first controller was so perfect that the one on the Master System just felt... wrong. Instead of the cross-shaped d-pad, there was just a big, massive blob button that never felt accurate. So I never played it much. It didn't help that the games weren't all that great either.

But... thanks anyway, mom and dad. You meant well.

Everybody had a Gameboy. This was the most prolific, most popular, and best selling videogame system ever. Tetris on the original Gameboy is still about as good as gaming gets. They kept updating the Gameboy as technology advanced, going to color, getting better graphics, and finally a touch screen and other updates for the Nintendo DS. I had a Gameboy Advance, but that was the last one I bought. True story: I haven't recharged it in about two years and it still works. I have no idea how that's possible, but there you go. Coming some time next year, I think, is a 3D version of the Gameboy. No joke.

Sega tried to cash-in on the handheld market with the Gamegear and the Nomad (a handheld that played Genesis games!), but neither caught on. Same with the Atari Lynx and that handheld Turbographx thing. I've never known anybody who's had any of those. But everybody had a Gameboy.

Sega Genesis
True story: I still have a Sega Genesis in my closet. It's been in there for about five years. I don't own any games and I'm not even sure if it works, but it's there. I was helping somebody move years ago, and they had a Genesis in a big pile of stuff to toss, so I asked if I could keep it. Not sure why, since I immediately put it in my closet where it has been for all these years.

But that's the power of the Sega Genesis. Even just having it nearby is fun.

I actually still remember the first moment that I hooked up and played my Genesis. I had just plugged it in and popped in Altered Beast (the game that came with the system. Remember those?) when my mom came in the room. I can't remember her exact words, but I remember the snarky tone of her voice as she said something along the lines of, "Let me see what makes this thing so amazing that I had to spend all that money when you already have a Nintendo." Then Altered Beast started up, the graphics flashed, and the game talked! The character on screen said, "Rise from your grave!!" And my mom said, "Wow!" and watched me play for a bit. Genesis 1, mom zero.

Anyway, the Genesis was a badass system that is an all time classic. Love it. Sega later tried to lengthen the life of the system by released a CD Drive and the 32X add ons, but the less said about those two abominations the better. I didn't buy either.

Super Nintendo
I can't think of a videogame console with a better name. This was just like the first Nintendo... only super Considering how amazing and world-changing the NES was, that's saying a lot. I received the Super Nintendo as a Christmas present when I was 14 and it blew my mind. Super Mario Brothers 1-3 were amazing games, but Super Mario World (the pack-in game) was quite possibly the best videogame of all time, and I'm not exaggerating at all. If it's not the best of all time, it's definitely in my top five. Considering how it was the game that game with the console, it set the bar pretty high right out of the box.

That Christmas I also got Sim City, Pilotwings, and Final Fight, all of were awesome and make my heart swell with nostalgia just thinking about them. Honestly, I can't think of any thing that would please me more than to play Pilotwings again on a Super Nintendo. I guess I should buy a Wii so I can download those old games. It's kind of sad that I would contemplate buying a Wii just so I could download old Super Nintendo games, but that's how amazing the SNES really was.

Hands down, the best Nintendo console of all time, which makes it a strong contender for the best videogame console of all time.

Nintendo 64
The Nintendo 64 is notable for me because it was the first videogame console that I actually bought on my own. It was sometime around 1996 or 1997, and I was in college so it didn't seem right to ask my parents for a new videogame system. I decided to pick up the N64 over the Playstation because, well, Nintendo was king of the videogame world and, at that point, Sony was the company that made the Walkman. I had played some games on my buddy's Playstation and thought they were fun, but, come on, I had owned every Nintendo system by that point (excluding the Virtual Boy), and I wasn't about to miss out on this one. Also, Mario 64 looked amazing, and after playing a demo for it as a videogame store, I had to own it.

All in all, the Nintendo 64 was a bit of a misstep for Nintendo. There were a bunch of great games (like Mario 64, Goldeneye, and Diddy Kong Racing), but it just never really clicked the way the Super Nintendo did. It didn't help that Nintendo stuck with cartridges while everybody else was switching to the bigger, more powerful CD medium, so the N64's graphics never managed to dazzle people the way Sony's did. Also, it was one of the first 3-D based game systems, and even at the time the graphics looked muddy and the cameras never worked, making most of the games ugly and unplayable. But, still, it was a Nintendo console so that made it worth owning. I still own mine today, but I never play it because it just doesn't hold up.

Sega Saturn
The second console I ever bought for myself, and the first I bought used. I was in college when Ebay first started, and I got really hooked really quickly. Back in the day, Ebay was actually a place where you could find awesome stuff for next to nothing. Now Ebay is basically just an online version of Wall Mart, but back then I bought a Sega Saturn for about thirty bucks. I really enjoyed my Saturn and got a lot of use out of it, but it's still hard to argue that I didn't pay about thirty bucks too much.

The Saturn was Sega's third major console, and their first standalone system to use CDs instead of carts. It was also one of the first American systems to have online capabilities, but nobody ever used that. One thing I appreciated was how the Saturn had a built in memory system, so you could save your game progress without having to buy an external memory card. This later became the norm now that every console has a built in hard drive, but at the time it was a first. Basically, the only real problem with the Saturn is that nobody released games for it. Rumors were that it was really hard to program for. Also, the system specs didn't allow it to render 3D graphics as well as the Playstation, and the world was moving on from 2D side scrollers.

But... I liked my Saturn, even if I really only owned maybe five or so games for it. As soon as I bought it on Ebay, it was already starting to become obsolete.

After the death of the Saturn and my eventual realization that the Nintendo 64 kind of sucked, I finally broke down and bought a Playstation... on Ebay, of course. And, of course, the rest is history. The original PSX was one of the best consoles ever, with an absolutely amazing library of games. This console had some of my all time favorite games, including Resident Evil 2, Gran Turismo (1 and 2), Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy VII through IX. Just classic stuff.

I missed Nintendo and Sega, but Sony hit a homerun with their first home videogame console. I did end up buying about three of them because they kept breaking, but it was worth it because the games were so great.

Ah, the Sega Dreamcast. After buying my previous two consoles used on ebay, The Dreamcast was the first system I bought new in the stores, on launch day no less. The hype building up to this system's launch was incredible, and I got sucked in and went to the mall on the first day it went on sale (9/9/1999) and bought what the lady at Babbages (remember them?) claimed was the last system they had in stock. I also picked up Soul Calibur, which is still the best console fighting game ever in my opinion. I also got a free Dreamcast T-shirt, which I still own and occasionally wear, which means this shirt somehow survived about ten years longer than the Dreamcast did. Whenever I wear the shirt (which just says "Dreamcast" next to the console's logo), no one has ever made any comments about it at all. Am I really the only person who has fond memories of the Dreamcast? If I saw some guy on the streets wearing a Dreamcast shirt, I'd knock people over just so I could go tell him how awesome it is.

Anyway, the Dreamcast never really got on, due to some truly terrible business decisions early in the life of the system. Also, as soon as it was released, Sony revealed the Playstation 2, which was probably the most hyped console in modern videogame history. But I loved the Dreamcast and still play mine every now and again. It was the first console to really render great 3D graphics, in my opinion, and it even had a built in modem that allowed players to get on SegaNet, which was the precursor to such services as Xbox Live.

Oh, and the system that I bought on launch day is the only one I've ever owned, and it still works as perfectly now as it did when I first brought it home. That's pretty amazing right there.

Playstation 2
I'm pretty sure I bought this one on ebay too. Not because I wasn't excited to own it, but because when it launched, it was about a million dollars. It turned out to be worth every penny, of course, but I didn't know that at the time. Anyway, I was happy with my Dreamcast, but then it suffered the same fate as the Sega Saturn, so I had to switch to Sony again if I wanted to play any new games. Also, the fact that the PS2 was backwards compatible with PS1 games made the games library that much more impressive. And it was most people's first DVD movie player, just like the PS3 was most people's first Blu Ray player.

Anyway, what is there to say about the Playstation 2? Everybody owned one. Everybody probably still owns one. Up until just a couple years ago, people were still making games for it, giving it what I'm guessing is the longest lifespan of any home console since the original Atari. Great system. So far, this is the last Sony console I've owned. Like before, I'd love to get the Playstation 3, but it costs about a million dollars.

I had no interest in Microsoft's Xbox. My friend Justin had one and I thought it was ok, but I didn't need it. And then Halo 2 came out, and I had to have it. And that was pretty much the only game I ever really played all that much on the Xbox, but that's enough. Halo 2 was one of the best games ever, and it made up for the fact that the Xbox had a terrible controller and a fairly uninspired library of games, at least in comparison to the PS2.

I actually just threw my Xbox away while I was cleaning my apartment just two or three days ago. I had tried to sell it once, but nobody wanted it. So I left it out by my apartment's garbage dumpster. Not sure what happened to it, but I hope it found a good home. Sad ending, but there you go.

Nintendo Gamecube
I got suckered in again and bought another Nintendo system. I can't say I have too many regrets, since you have to buy a Nintendo console if you want to play games made by Nintendo, and theirs are always the best ever. So long as they keep putting Mario and Zelda on their consoles, people will keep buying them, even if those consoles aren't all that great. The Gamecube was actually a great system that was more powerful than the Playstation 2 and the X-Box, but Nintendo again went and shot themselves in the foot by putting games on some weird proprietary minidisk instead of DVDs. At that point, everybody just wanted a console that also played movies. But as a game machine, it was killer.

But nobody put out any games for it except for Nintendo. The PS2 was just too big, and now that the videogame race was between three companies instead of just two, somebody had to come in third place. Sorry, Nintendo. The Gamecube was a step above the N64, but it just didn't do it for most people. There wasn't even a great Mario game!

This was the last Nintendo console I've owned. I've played the Wii and it is very fun, but after being burned by the Gamecube and the N64, I didn't have any real desire to own another Nintendo console, especially not one that makes you wave a wand around at your screen. Again, very fun, but it's just not for me.

Xbox 360
I just bought my 360 about six months ago. You can read my initial review and opinions here, but I'll just sum things up by saying this is the best videogame console I've ever owned. Strong words, I know, but it's the most fun I've had playing games since I had my Super Nintendo. So... maybe it's actually the second best videogame system I've ever owned, but it probably tops the list if only because it's also a movie player, goes online, and does about a billion other things.

Great system with a great library of games. Go buy one.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

The Super-Nintendo write-up went missing!

The first system we ever had was the Atari 2600. It's probably still in the basement at home somewhere. Though...maybe not. I can't remember a game for the Atari that wasn't complete shit apart from Pong and Space Invaders.

Like you, I've got no interest in the Wii.

I'll tell you...Mario 64 and Diddy Kong Racing might be two of the best games of all time. Those alone were reasons to own the N-64.

Donald said...

Oh crap. I fixed it.

Donald said...

Diddy Kong Racing was special for me because... at one point... I was better at that game than I've ever been at anything else during the course of my entire life. I could beat TT on every track by a huge margin. Nobody could touch me.

Years later I bought an N64 and Diddy Kong dirt cheap on ebay so I could play it again... and it just wasn't the same. I was really bad.

Somebody should make a movie about this.

Donald said...

"King of (diddy) Kong"

television lady said...

i hate the wii and everything it stands for but allowed it in the house once matt told me we could get all the old scrolling (mario) games. Castlevania included.
i am in full agreement that super mario world is the best game, ever. i never got past some of those special worlds though, the ones with names like TUBULAR and MONDO? those were frickin' hard!

i will float your diddy kong movie idea to connections i have in the business.

ViableNutria797 said...

Im sorry but the xbox 360 i have is pretty much self aware that it doesnt want to play any games.But overall its a good console.but still i prefer SEGA over MICRO$OFT.

ViableNutria797 said...

Gran Turismo 1 & 2, and Final Fantasy 8 could be the best games out there for The Playstation.. At least thats what I Think...