Although tracking down the actual date has proven to be difficult, according to Official Nintendo (revisionist) History, October 18, 1985 was the day the NES was born in America. It existed as the Famicom in Japan for a few years before that, but to most of us, the grey box is what we remember most.
Although the system came out in 1985, most of us weren’t privileged enough to own one ourselves for a few years after that. For me, our family would rent one on occasion, and I’d play NES with friends at their homes. I still remember the day I finally got my own NES though – it was either 1988 or 1989. The Canadian dollar was relatively strong, and we picked one up during a road trip to the States. It was near the beginning of our trip, and I was dying to get home and play it. We ended up visiting my grandparents on the way back, and as soon as we arrived I finally got to play my very own NES.
One problem though – no new games. By that time, I had played Super Mario Bros. to death, and have long since gotten bored of Duck Hunt. That’s okay though, nothing a quick stop to the local corner store wouldn’t fix. That’s right, in the days before Blockbuster (and Rogers Video in Canada), we relied on local gas stations and corner stores to rent video games most of the time. You would get the game in a plastic case that sometimes seemed like it was actually intended to house NES games (most of the time they’d be translucent white, but sometimes you’d get a bright pink or orange one), and a horribly photocopied manual that would have been mangled to death.
Renting games was always a crap shoot – unless you had a Nintendo Power on hand for reference, the only thing you had to go by was the box cover. But the first game I ever played didn’t have a box cover. In fact, it didn’t really look like an NES game at all…
It had an odd shape – it seemed to be a smaller cartridge attached to an adapter, with a ribbon hanging off of it. But it was the label that caught my attention. It was a Super Mario Bros. game, but not one that I’ve ever seen before. I was already familiar with Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2, but this one was… Super Mario Bros 1 1/2…?
My curiosity got the best of me, and that was the one game I chose. As you can probably guess by now, it was a pirated version of the Famicom version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (later released in the US as Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels). I only realized much later that it was pirated to begin with of course – I’m pretty sure it was only ever released on the Famicom Disk System rather than a cartridge. But I didn’t care at the time; all I can remember now is the sheer disappointment I felt as I tried to grab the first mushroom, only to be killed. I tried to get as far as I could, but didn’t fare well at all. I spent the rest of the weekend with my shiny brand new NES, playing the same game I’ve played a million times before. To this day, I believe that was the only time I ever attempted to play “The Lost Levels”, even though I owned Super Mario All Stars later on. That game crushed me.
Okay, so this wasn’t exactly the most pleasant memory I have of the NES, but it is nonetheless a fond one that will stick with me forever. What kind of memories do you have of the NES?