The Gaming Memories Of Paul: The 16Bit Years
Welcome fellow gamers, to this my third part of my gaming memories. Firstly a big thank you to all who have read my previous instalments, and left such cool comments. For the record, yes I am indeed an old git but still young at heart! Now read on for my years in the 16bit era; a time of change not only for me but for our beloved industry…
The year is 1993, my trusty Master System was beginning to show its age. I was 14, and already I hankered after the latest tech – being uncool at school, tech was my haven. I had a few friends and we would quite regularly meet up to play video games. Social gaming with friends was becoming the norm. However I felt a little out of the loop, they had PC’s or Amiga500’s. New games were being released on a regular basis for them and I wanted to be in on the action, however I still preferred my trusty console. This left me one obvious choice – a rather sexy looking black 16bit Sega Mega Drive. So I saved and ended up getting my dad to drive me into the city, to pick up my new prize…
I remember it being bundled with the original Sonic; I got home, unpacked it and placed it upon my shelves. Booting it up for the first time, I was blown away; I couldn’t get my head around how many colours were appearing on screen at the same time. The sprite of Sonic, compared to the Master System, seemed to be defined; moving so realistically along the levels, which were vibrant and seemed to have so much more life to them. My virtual world had just jumped in size – to me there was nothing this cool machine couldn’t do. The scope for me was enormous and helped fuel my imagination even further.
It also led me to a new genre of gaming, one that I had never really bothered with before – except in the arcades. The fighting genre was finally on my own TV. There were three games, which had me hooked. The first was a series, which defined the MegaDrive – Streets Of Rage; such a simple story, yet I couldn’t stop playing the games. When friends came around, we would sit for hours playing co-op on the original and second games. Axel, Blaze, Adam, Skate and Max became my new heroes – with the simple combat fuelling my hunger for games, the characters were larger than life to me. With some great bosses and at the end of the first having to choose to either be the good guy or join Mr X was for me one of the first games that gave me a moral dilemma. Did I stick with what the story had led me there for: the big takedown of Mr X, or did I break with tradition and become all evil? I played through both choices on several occasions, depending on my mood at the time.
The second game I remember vividly was released to plenty of media hype. The day it was released, was nicknamed Mortal Monday! I had heard plenty of things surrounding this game, there was a mass media panic citing this is was the most gruesome game ever made. The blood content alone was enough to get the media in a flap, saying that it was disgraceful the level of violence contained within the game. It made such a fuss that I just had to have it. I remember telling my folks that I would be walking home that day – a simple plan had been formed. I had saved some money and kept it safe in a building society account. With a friend after school I headed to the building society, withdrew hard earned money and headed to the game store – Mortal Kombat was mine!
I had managed to get a list of the fatalities, and I had the cheat code to enable all of that glorious blood! Sub-Zero quickly became my character of choice; I was big into martial arts films at the time, loving the high kicking, over the top moves – again this was another channel for my mixed emotions. I wanted to be the action hero, loved by all! However there was another fighting game that piqued my interest, one that SNES owners the world over were enjoying.
The MegaDrive was left out of the party though, making it an exclusive on the SNES. Enter StreetFighter II. Eventually Capcom relented and announced a MegaDrive version, yet when it was first released I found myself hanging on until Super Street Fighter II appeared – complete with new characters, and one special Kung Fu kicking, Japanese martial artist – Fei-Long. The levels were full of colour, the characters truly bigger than life. I was hooked, I even bought a strategy book, learning the importance of confusing the opponent with hurricane kicks, wall jumping and starting the perfect combo – mixing it up with a heavy kick followed by a light punch. I poured hours into the game, pretending that my opponents were the bullies from school.
Other games were played, with some trying to redefine genres giving them a unique twist – others going to the most bizarre levels for the fun factor. Decap Attack was a bonkers game, yet so much fun – taking your head off and using it as a weapon proved to be so addictive! My 16bit journey wasn’t finished yet though. Add-ons were released for the MegaDrive, opening new levels of gamin; the MegaCD was the first and was promptly bought, although the fancy FMV footage used in the games such as Road Avenger became boring pretty quickly, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. Then there was Night Trap, a game where you had to save loads of pretty young girls who wore nothing but lingerie! A simple game, which looking back was bloody atrocious, but at the time I was 14, full of testosterone… at that point it was perfect.
Next add-on was the 32x – a simple plugin that allowed for better graphics. Unfortunately again this was underused and the games really didn’t grab me. Star Wars 32x was my reason for buying one, yet it never seemed to capture the fun I had at friends’ playing X-Wing.
I was now 16, finished with exams and looking forward to college, I had a summer job and started going to the pub. Gaming was becoming a piece of my childhood, slowly evaporating away to make way for other ventures, however it would find me once more…