Once upon a time, while perusing craigslist, I came across an ad for a “Nitendo” for sale. It said it was still in the original box, came with several games still in their boxes, and the asking price was pretty good.
My own childhood Nintendo didn’t survive years of brutality, blowing, and the ultimate crashlanding into the yard sale heap. In my teenage years, I never imagined that one day, nostalgia for my youth would come back and bite me in the ass. I wanted Nintendo, again. I emailed the seller with a few questions.
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote back to me almost immediately. Her further descriptions were still not very elaborate, and her spelling still not very good, and she had no use for punctuation or uppercase letters. Needless to say, the purchase could have been awkward.
But it wasn’t, and tasha2hottie saved everything, even the original styrofoam packaging. It was as close as I was going to get to that first time experience of opening a new NES. Even the tag from Caldor was still on there. Here are some pictures and memories of the NES Power Set –
1988 was first time I saw a Nintendo. I sat breathlessly on the floor, watching my dad’s friend play Top Gun and Super Mario Bros. I had completely missed Atari, being too young, and though I had seen video games before in the arcade, I was usually intimidated by teenagers playing them. Seeing video games in the living room, on a television was exciting.
I watched Mario leap on the flag pole and slide down, and then trot towards the castle. It was amazing. I could hardly compare it to anything I had experienced, but cartoons were the greatest thing I could think of–and this was better “This is better than cartoons,” I announced. The friend laughed. I didn’t understand why. It really was. It was better than anything.
That December, the Nintendo Power Set was released, bundled with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet, the Zapper, and the Power Pad. By the time of the Power Set’s release, Nintendo was mainstream and affordable to everyone on the block, not just the rich family. It was still $149 dollars, nearly $300 in today’s dollars.
My parents warned me that even Santa had a snowball in hell’s chance of getting one, and not to be disappointed if Santa didn’t bring one at Christmas. A lot of kids believed that Santa’s elves made the toys, but I knew better than that–Santa actually shopped at Toys R Us after midnight, and just because he could fly and shit didn’t make him superhuman. So I cut him some slack. The Nintendo was hard to get.
But I wanted one bad. I didn’t want it because I wanted to brag about it in school. And I didn’t want it because it was expensive, or because it was the coolest. I wanted it because it seemed like a dream, something magical and possible, and yet beyond this world. 8-bit games look pedestrian now, but back then, they validated my beliefs that there were things beyond this world that were real.
Some magicians could do real magic. At Disneyworld, cartoon characters walked alongside humans. At the Power Plant, there was a real leprechaun. Santa shopped at Toys R Us. Michael Jackson could walk forwards and backwards at the same time. Video games existed. These were things that were really real, and knowing this, I felt safe. I felt confident. I felt forever.
Then one night, in what seemed like the middle of the night, my mother woke up me and my sister. She never woke us up for anything–not even New Years–but she was barely able to contain the excitement in her voice. “Dad got one,” she said. I didn’t have to ask what it was. I may have cut Santa some slack, but only because I knew my Dad could do it.
He had spent the evening secretly calling all the toy stores, even all the way out in West Virginia. And when a Toys R Us out there had one, he figured he could make it out there in 90 minutes before they closed. He went to another state to get the Nintendo–even Santa Claus, Kris Kringle himself, didn’t do that kind of thing.
Nintendo was a family affair; we all played it, even Mom, who seemed to like it most of all. We even watched the Fred Savage movie, The Wizard, together as a family. Then right after it ended, we popped Super Mario 3 in the NES to try that flying trick. The Nintendo wasn’t just a toy. It ranked somewhere in between the dog and the cat as a member of the family.
As much as video games are a part of my life, I didn’t grow up to become a gamer, and in fact, I never owned a Super Nintendo until last year. I never even played an N64, GameCube, or Wii until a few months ago. I wasn’t even that great at video games. I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros. I suppose I could, but I get too frustrated with that Princess being in another castle bullcrap.
And today, with the Wii, I’m still trying to figure out all this Princess Daisy, Princess Peach thing. Where is Princess Toadstool, and who the hell is Princess Daisy? I’ll tell you what else I’m trying to figure out–where did the AI get all those blue shells from in Mario Kart? I’m also trying to figure out how it thinks I threw the ball over there, when clearly I’m waving this wand RIGHT AT THE MIDDLE OF THE TV.
The most awesome part was it looked as though the Power Pad has never been used:
It looks factory-packed in there, nice and undisturbed, like a little baby snuggled in a cardboard box. I don’t want to take it out, it would never go back in. You’d have to have the patience of Mother Teresa to press out the air and re-fold the Power Pad back into this box, and I barely have the patience for WAVING THE WAND RIGHT AT MIDDLE OF THE STUPID TELEVISION.
Besides, I haven’t yet desired to relive my youth of pounding on the Power Pad. For you kiddies, the Power Pad was a bit like an early version of the Wii Fit. It “tracked” your movement to simulate running and jumping movements on screen. Except I’m sure now that it didn’t work at all. And yet, as a kid, I believed in it deeply, and so I pounded away. It was almost a evangelical experience, hammering my feet on the pads until I was exhausted and near collapse. By this point, I’d be breathless and coughing, but still wanting to play, so I’d cheat and pound my fists on the pads. But every kid knew that trick.
So check back for Part 2. In Part 2 of my big freaking NES post, I’ve got a lot of vintage advertisements and posters, and perhaps several paragraphs detailing my amusement over the fact that the word “relentless” appears several times on the original Tetris box.
You want relentless? I’ll tell you what’s relentless–the bitch that is the AI in Mario Kart Wii.
PS: There’s a peek of Part 2 on Surfing Pizza’s Facebook. It’s kinda like subscribing to Nintendo Power. Get Behind The Surfing Pizza Before You Get Behind The Post. Something like that.