Console Stories: Super Nintendo

Retrospective on the SNES

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Welcome to a new feature on pennilessdads where we reminisce about consoles previously or currently owned. What memories are connected to this hardware and why is – or isn’t – it a significant chapter in the world of games? We start in the early-to-mid-nineties with the Super Nintendo.

Up until 1994, it had all been about SEGA and Sonic. That changed when I watched someone playing Super Mario World and Super Mario Kart. Those two games introduced me to the Mushroom Kingdom and from then on a lifetime of saving princesses from turtles. I actually have two previous memories of Nintendo. The first was watching (did a lot of watching back then it seems – if only streaming was a thing) some kid play Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt on a busted NES. Then at the SNES launch demoing Pilotwings. Neither of those experiences hooked me like this. So very early on I put a SNES on my birthday wishlist. Then something cool happened.

While retailers are careful in this day and age to cover their backs in the fine print, there was a bit more exploitation to be had back then. My mum had found a deal at a shop which had a great deal on a SNES bundled with Super Mario Allstars. She told me she planned to get the deal on the last day it was on to give her chance to save up. When this magical day arrived, a retail miracle occurred. Another deal on the console activated – stacking with the previous one. This meant we got the Super Scope and the six game pack in bundled in. My eight year old self did not note the price but I remember it was a bargain. Looking back it was later in the console’s life and should be expected. Little me thought all his Christmases had come at once. 

So, the age of Nintendo had begun for our family. The Mario Allstars compilation saw many, many hours of play whilst – after an initial flurry of excitement – the scope collected dust. Two more games over the next year or so would capture my imagination. 

After dragging me towards Nintendo initially, I finally got my hands on Super Mario World. I remember seeing it for about £14 at the second hand market in our town centre. It was unboxed but this was nuts. All games were £40 and preowned games hadn’t reached us yet. I gambled and unpacked every inch of that game. Nintendo was now a company I would keep tabs on and follow. This led me to find out about a game called Donkey Kong Country.

On television there was a show about games called Bad Influence. It was very 90s but was the primary way I could find out about new games. The PlayStation and Saturn were shown off, blowing away the likes of me. This was my first experience of ‘next gen’ and I almost lost focus onto them. However, the beauty of Donkey Kong Country kept me hooked on my SNES for a while longer. The game looked amazing and brimmed with authority and confidence from the moment you clicked the power switch on. Opening with a majestic fanfare before literally blasting OG Donkey Kong (and its theme song) out of the window. That was my Christmas present that year and I can’t remember turning it off. 

A few other memories stick out, I used to have a friend with a SNES and we would play games like Power Rangers and Star Fox. It was towards the end of the 16 bit generation though and the CD-based consoles were looming. Towards the SNES’ twilight a late flurry of great games bookended its lifetime. Yoshi’s Island, Diddy Kong’s Quest and Killer Instinct all entertained before Nintendo had to adjust its role in the console hierarchy as a certain Sony console entered the market. 

It was a console I kept hold of though. Many of the next generation’s would be bought and sold but the SNES found a way of staying around. After the launch of Nintendo 64, I for some reason picked up the SNES Mario Kart and gave the console a renaissance. Friday nights became competitive marathons of the game which are still referenced in my friendship circle today. With the new consoles out I found myself picking up more and more of the SNES back catalogue: Street Racer (which includes a proto-Rocket League mode), Mortal Kombat, Mario Paint and Sparkster. The SNES eventually gave up the ghost. We tried to switch it on somewhere towards the end of the 20th Century but it had packed in. Every game we had on it was amazing to play – something subsequent Nintendo consoles haven’t consistently achieved. 

Netflix

Castlevania the (albeit brief) Netflix series is fantastic. My interest in the franchise has been tepid to put a label on it but last weekend I took a leap of faith (drops breadcrumb) and decided to watch episode 1. This is the kind of thoughtful, takes-itself-seriously video content that games have been crying out for. So, which other games are crying out for streaming serialisation; either animated or live action?

Bioshock – Already a movie project which mirrors Rapture and Columbia’s descent into chaos – Bioshock as a franchise has so much potential. “There’s always a man and there’s always a city” we learn at the end of the appropriately named Bioshock Infinite. Those familiar with Once Upon a Time may see the analogue in a character like Emma with Booker – both fish out of water trying to grasp the rules of the new worlds they find theirselves in. Undoubtably this would have to be an animated production due to the fantastical settings but if nothing else it might give us chance for a new Bioshock game. 

Fallout – A post apocalyptic setting would too demand animation over live action and there is lots of scope for an engaging, mature story. The standard ‘man out of time’ would also be relevent here as the viewer would learn about the world along with the character. Although it would definitely need to be for grown ups only. The series could follow the same structure of the Pokemon anime; loosely tracing the journey in the games. Flashbacks optional.

Metal Gear – Despite cricism by some fans, The Phantom Pain did the right thing by reducing the focus on story. The convoluted, complicated storyline of Metal Gear requires research and note taking to even scratch the surface. Perhaps it is time to collate these and produce it as a coherent (as much as possible) narrative. 

For many, the series truly began with the PS1 classic Metal Gear Solid however this game had many, many callbacks, nods and winks to the original 8bit games. The relationship between the ‘modern’ Metal Gear storyline and the era Big Boss was more prominent lends itself to an Arrow style structure. Season 1 could be Solid Snake on Shadow Moses with flashbacks to Zanzibar – showing how the lessons he learned in the latter impact on the former. Potentially – due to the slower paced story telling – this could be live action. All you would need is an abandoned industrial plant of some kind, a bandana and a gimp mask…

The Legend of Zelda – Recently rumoured to be in existence, this series is ripe for an adaptation. Since the so-90s-it-hurt Super Mario Bros movie, Nintendo has been reluctant to outsource its AAA characters – especially in other forms of media. The recent masterpiece Breath of the Wild is perfect for this with much more story content than previous Zelda games. Time travel is an interesting concept retconned into the series and the multiple timelines would be a unique rabbit warren to tumble down later in the series. Perhaps ‘our’ Link and Zelda could end up in different Hyrules; meeting their counterparts. This could lead to some Toy Story style Buzz meets Buzz shenanigans. Yes, Link may have to speak (note: he does actually speak in most of the games but you just don’t hear it). Either live action or animation is possible too. Hopefully the success of as well as respect shown to Castlevania will give Nintendo the confidence to give us what we want.

Speaking of leaps of faith (picks up breadcrumb), an Assassin’s Creed series is on the way in addition to Season 2 (which is longer!) of Castlevania. The games-to-series trend has started strongly. Let’s see it done justice now!