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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Console 1 - Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Basic SNES System.
Released: US - 1991
Bit: 16

    I know up to this point I have only made blogs about the games found on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), but I decided to take a small break from that, and discuss my favorite game system of all time, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
    I was never aware of the so called console wars, as they have been called by various groups, but I did know growing up that you were either a Nintedo kid, or a Sega kid. Simply put, you either owned a Sega Genesis, or a Nintendo. I had heard about debates as to what system was superior, but I myself had never engaged in any such debate, as all my friends were Nintendo kids. As such we engaged in a regular
diet of all the classic Nintendo games that were associated with the NES.
    Some history is required at this point, in order to put things in to perspective. Sega was the first to release a 16-bit system in to U.S. households in 1989. This system was called the Sega Genesis. The Genesis was released a full 2 years ahead of Nintendo's 1991 16-bit Super Nintendo System. This means that Sega
Kids had 2 years of thumbing their nose at Nintendo Kids for having an inferior gaming system. (Technically there was another 16-bit system released in 1989 called the Turbo Grafx 16, but I will be damned if I knew of anyone who owned it. I do not recall it being included in any video game dialogue as a kid. As such, I will not mention it again.) In fact I do remember seeing the advertisements for Sega Genesis systems with the taunting words, "Sega Genesis does, what Nintendon't".

The famous Genesis Ad
 This was the first time I was acutely aware of the war between the 2 systems. My friend Ben, a Nintendo Kid by all means, had a friend who was a Sega Kid named Mark, who I only knew by name. I sometimes heard Ben talking about going to Mark's house to play
Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog) on his Genesis system. It's funny how life operates. Mark, the Sega Kid, would later become my first college roommate. Imagine that, a Nintendo Kid, and a Sega Kid rooming together in college. But I digress. 
     Rumors began circulating about Nintendo's anticipated response to Sega's 16 -bit console. While I didn't subscribe to Nintendo Power Magazine, I heard rumors about advertisements in said magazine that declared Ninendo's plans to release a 16-bit console that would once again level the playing field. It really wasn't until
sometime in Jr. High or High School that I began to hear more about it from my friend Ben. He had gotten a Super Nintendo, and was raving about playing games like Street Fighter on it. To this point I had really only played Street Fighter at the 7-11 by my middle school on the arcade cabinet. I wasn't very good at it, and was mostly a button-masher when it came to playing most arcade games.
    My first experience playing the Super Nintendo had to then be Street Fighter. I do not recall playing anything else for the first few months. I am sure there were other games, but Street Fighter tournaments at Ben's house were weekend regulars. Yeah we eventually bagan playing other SNES games like Sim City and Super Star Wars, but it was quite some time later.
    I didn't get my own SNES until years later. In fact I think the first Super Nintendo I bought was used, and was sometime between graduating from high school in 1995, and beginning college at Utah State later that same year. It may have actually been sometime after my first year in college, after I had come home for the summer to work, but I do not recall. I do remember playing Super Star Wars, and Sim City on my own system, and I remember going to the local video rental store in Logan my 2nd year there and renting all sorts of SNES games for the weekend, and playing them.
    To this very day, the Super Nintendo remains my favorite gaming console. It had such a great library of games, and the controls were awesome. The graphics allowed for most games to be done in an amazing way. The Super Star Wars series, for example, fully utilized the power of the Super Nintendo's graphics and sound to produce some awesome games.
    I am hoping to start mixing in a few SNES games in to my blogging rants here shortly. I will remain faithful to the original NES system, and it's games, but I need to balance out the two systems I experienced the most amount of time with.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Game 7 - Marble Madness

System: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: 1984 (1986 to Nintendo)
Genre: Platform/Racing
Publisher: Atari Games (Rare)

For Starters:

Ledges and out!
    Marble Madness is a simple enough concept. Race a marble through a 3D environment, and try to beat the clock. As a child, I loved playing with marbles, and especially loved making courses for them to run through. I remember my grandparents having a plastic cube, that was actually a marble maze, that required you to drop a marble in one end, then rotate the cube around, guiding the marble through the inner workings of the maze, and out the hole on the opposite side. So when I saw Marble Madness on the Nintendo, I was at once captivated by it. As with most of the early Nintendo games I played, this captivation was short-lived.
    Marble Madness was originally developed in 1984 for Atari, and was later ported to the NES by Rare Limited in 1986. I bring this up only because of the fact that the NES version of this game is the only one I have ever played. I imagine that the controls for the Atari (i.e. trackball) would make game play a lot easier than the awkward game play one experiences using the D-pad found on the NES console. If using a D-Pad on a 3D game isn't challenging enough, the game also allows you to select from two different control options, those being 90 degrees and 45 degrees. Since the game grid was set at a 45 degree angle, as it relates to the television screen, the 90 degree control option simply meant that the ball itself would move left/right/up/down as it correlated with the same directions on the controllers d-pad. The 45 degree control option meant that those same directions on the d-pad would correlate to the grid on the screen, making the game a little more challenging.

The Good:

    Since my starting points pretty much cover most of the important points of this game, I still feel it necessary to not deviate from my standard format. Simply put, the best aspects of this game have to be the fact that it's a marble game. There is no denying that this game, while short, is very challenging. But then again, the physical cube I played with as a kid was also challenging, so it's a wash. The graphics, while basic, are decent. The 3-D feel of this game is really amazing, and the virtual world in witch you maneuver through was captured well by the developers.
    As far as the actual game play is concerned, the better aspects of this game are definitely the real-world physics that were incorporated. Should you move to close to the edge, gravity will take over and you will fall off the ledge, and with a large enough drop, your marble will actually break in to tiny pieces, that are then swept up by a little broom and dust pan animation....actually quite clever. There are speed boosters in some of the further levels, that are fun to try and hit, and the various obstacles, such as the vacuumes that pop up and suck your marble down the pipe,are just plain fun.
    Another fun factor is the game's 2 player mode. Race your friends through the various stages, all while trying to avoid the various pitfalls and obstacles. Add on the fact that you can bump each other off the track, and you have a recipe for a fun and friendly competition.

The Bad:

    I realize I am about to contradict myself a little bit in this section, but hey, I never claimed to be perfect. The same aspects of Marble Madness that are fun, are also a big part of what make the game frustrating. Honestly the biggest enemy in this game is time itself. As mentioned, each track is timed, and if you don't reach the finish line in time, you are done. Your other biggest enemy will be yourself. I found myself getting panicked when the time was running out, and would always end up trying to hurry too much, and would inevitably make a panicked mistake.
    The obstacles themselves, while fun, and innovating, are also very frustrating. Amongst them are, the marble-eating worms, and the roving pools of acid. That's right, there are roving pools of acid that will melt your ball, hammers that try and smash you to smithereens while navigating a narrow path with drop-offs on both sides, and a myraid of other hazards all out to get you. Good luck.


    Marble Madness captured a childhood fascination, and brought it in to the video game realm. Oh sure, pinball machines, had the corner of this market sewn up years before Nintendo even existed, but who has the money or space to put multiple pinball machines in their house? I love pinball, but let's face it, any pinball video game I have ever seen has failed to recreate the experience of playing an actual pinball machine. Enter Marble Madness. While different from a pinball machine style of play, it captured the same elements that made playing with marbles in real life fun. Oh sure, the frustrations associated with trying to beat the clock and win will eventually cause you to shelve the game, and let a few colorful expletives fly from your mouth, all while swearing you will never play the damn thing ever again. But you will eventually forgive and forget, and find yourself once again reaching for this old friend. It will be enjoyed even more so if you can find someone to play the 2 player mode with. After all, what's more fun than beating your friends?