Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sleeping with the Enemy: A Quarter Century of the Super NES

August 23rd, 1991. A day that will live in infamy.

No, feel free to keep me waiting!
Really, I'm good!
(image from Palace of Wisdom)
Well, it was certainly a day I was dreading. I went full in on a Sega Genesis earlier that year, selling my NES collection to scrape together enough money to afford one. It was the leader of the 16-bit revolution (Sega even said so!), and it didn't need Nintendo's latest console butting in to steal its thunder. As revenge, I spent most of my time in study hall defacing advertisements for the Super NES and its launch titles. Did it matter even slightly? No. Could I have spent that time doing something useful, like, well... studying? Sure. But to a profoundly dorky seventeen year old me, it felt good. Take that, Super Nintendo! The Genesis was released years ago, and your wimpy processor is way too slow to catch up! You'll never have games like Forgotten Worlds, Revenge of Shinobi, and Altered Beast! (Wait, scratch that last one.)

Don't let the detailed background fool
you. The Genesis version of TMNT:
Tournament Fighters sucks, and hard.
(image from Hardcore Gaming 101)
That extreme zealotry- mostly comical, but also a little scary- stuck with me for several years, resulting in fights with countless other gamers and earning the newsletter I'd published the unflattering nickname "Fanatical Fanboy Monthly." Yet for all my devotion to the Sega Genesis, I had a grudging admiration for the games on the Super NES. I played Super Mario World in the electronics department of Wal-Mart whenever my parents shopped for groceries. I spent a lot of time catching up with the system's library in the makeshift arcades built in the back of game rental stores. I fumed when Konami released games I desperately wanted for the Super NES, then offered lame knock-offs for the Genesis as a consolation prize.

"So, you like Super Mario, do you? Well,
have all the Super Mario in the WORLD!"
"Wait, what about Yoshi's Island?"
"...shut up!"
(image from LoveROMs)
I was ferociously loyal to the Sega Genesis in the early half of the 1990s. However, I guess it was inevitable that when the 16-bit console wars came to an end, I would lay down my arms and pick up a Super NES controller instead. The details of where and when I picked up my first Super Nintendo aren't clear... I believe I got it from a random pawn shop in New Mexico, on a trip to Arizona in the summer of 1997. One thing I do know is that I was allowed one free game with my purchase, and there were only two available. I ultimately left Vortex behind and picked Super Mario World + Super Mario All-Stars instead. Considering the lackluster reviews of the former and the bountiful replay value (and collector's value!) of the latter, it's a decision I don't regret.

There are a few things I learned from this experience. One, don't swear that you'll never buy a game system, because when you actually do, your amused friends will be quick to remind you of your broken vow. Two, try not to pick sides in a pissing match between two competing brands. They're big corporations; they can take care of themselves. (Well, maybe not Sega, judging from what happened with the Saturn and Dreamcast years later.) Third, personal preferences are fine, but try not to be a jerk about it, and don't let your biases keep you from playing what you like, no matter where you happen to find it.


  1. Things were different for me. I owned an SNES as a kid but not a Sega Genesis, and I never had any raw irrational hatred for the competing platforms. Looking at magazine pics of games for the Genesis (and its attachments) and the TG-16, I never saw THE ENEMY; instead I saw these cool-looking games I may never get to know.

    I did get to play some of the Genesis library as a kid through various sources, big stuff like Sonic 2 and 3 and Streets of Rage 2, but I didn't own one until well after the system was dead. My experience with the library post mortem is that the Genesis lineup was a lot more...well, arcadey compared to the SNES lineup. Great stuff here and there, but generally the average experience has less longevity, I guess? Maybe it's just that the SNES had a lot more RPGs while the Mega Drive was very platformer and shooter heavy.

    Still plenty of games I'd like to try.

    1. Oh no, the Genesis library leaned more toward the arcadey for sure. That's what I liked about it, though. I got rather tired of my arcade favorites being fed through the Nintendo-izer when they were ported to the NES.

      Having said that, the games don't age as well as Super NES titles in this age of emulation. It's a problem I've noticed on the ColecoVision, which had a similarly arcade-focused library.

  2. Nice write-up, Jess! It's funny how we kind of had the opposite 16-bit experiences as teens. Although, really, as much as I loved the SNES my brother and I bought, the TG-16 was my true love back then. (You think you were considered lame for preferring the Genesis? Think about us poor TG-16 fans. There were folks even then who didn't know what the hell a TG-16 was!) Also, I was a bit more ... open-minded than you were. Although I didn't own a Genesis when the system was still relevant, I regularly rented one due to my curiosity with games like Shining Force and Landstalker and Lunar and Gunstar Heroes. Sigh, if only I could've owned them all :)

    1. Man, I never even saw a physical TG-16 as a kid. It was, like, that system that was only in catalogs where I lived. Local video stores didn't even have the games for rent.

      Playing its games on Virtual Console, well, let's just say my interests primarily laid with the Turbo Duo stuff. Though I did enjoy Devil's Crush and Bomberman '94. I mean, there's some games with great art styles there, but the library feels even more arcade-ish than the Genesis was somehow.

    2. Honestly, I don't think I was lame for preferring the Genesis... but I WAS lame for being so fanatical about it. Like I said, Sega could fight its own battles; it didn't need me as a spokesman.

      The Turbografx-16 was kind of on my periphery as well. I knew of its existence, and would occasionally play its games when I visited one of the makeshift game rooms I mentioned earlier. (I had a strange fascination with Bravoman... it wasn't GOOD, but it was novel at least.) But it wasn't a system I HAD to have, and those awful Johnny Turbo comics from GamePro embittered me toward all things TurboGrafx. Gamers were never so divided as they were during the 16-bit console wars, and a contentious ad campaign from one of the losers was like sticking your fist through a hornet's nest.