Twenty Years of SNES Ignorance

As has been well documented here at toomanywires, I grew up SEGA. In my formative years, it was understood by everyone who mattered (i.e. my friends) that you must choose either Nintendo or SEGA. Your choice of console let everyone know exactly what you were about, as did your wrestling preference - WWF or WCW - and which channel you watched when you got back home from school - CBBC or CITV. Its interesting to note that the GameBoy was exempt from such divides, as everyone had one regardless of their allegiances. Besides, children who could convince their parents to buy six AA batteries twice a week were few and far between, so the Game Gear remained little more than a curio amongst my classmates.

While some of my friends, and the majority of gamers across the pond, were enjoying Super Nintendo, I was investing time in my SEGA Master System and then the Mega Drive/Genesis. While it was a relative non-event in Japan, and was unable to maintain its early lead in the US, in Europe the Mega Drive was the 16-bit console of choice. When discussing 90's youth and popular culture, you'd be amiss not to reference it, and it achieved a level of cool which has long alluded Nintendo. It’s high speed arcade conversions were the ideal bedfellow of the prevalent dance culture, and its edgy marketing campaigns took on a life of their own. I was proud to be SEGA and happy to revel in my Nintendo ignorance. The SNES is for children, I'd tell myself, safe in the knowledge that my console had attitude to spare.

For me the Mega Drive was playground bragging rights, christmas and birthdays. It was a TV screen struggling to keep up with Sonic speeding from left to right, Axel patrolling the Streets of Rage and Alex Kid coming to terms with an unfortunate case of hand gigantism. It was knocking someone off their bike with a crowbar in Road Rash and hunting down a mad dictator in Desert Strike. It was my console and one hell of an experience. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

More than fifteen years later, and I have long since moved away from this counterproductive, console monotheism. What hasn't changed, even as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Super Nintendo, is that I still know fuck all about Nintendo's 16-bit masterstroke. Rarely a day passes by when I don't stumble across a SNES themed blog that I will struggle to fully appreciate, or a friend will reference a game to which I can't relate. Even from beyond the grave, the Notorious BIG continues to preach the merits of the SNES via my ipod, rapping “Super Nintendo, SEGA Genesis.  When I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this.” It seems everyone has something good to say about the Super Nintendo.

The SNES is twenty and I remain clueless. Images of a monkey riding a rhino, a fox piloting a spaceship and a fat plumber terrorizing mushrooms do not invoke memories, but instead serve only to confuse. I have eagerly read my fair share of recent SNES features, and gleamed plenty of interesting information from them, but without reference points it just doesn't mean a lot. If anything, its quite disheartening to hear so much about great games that I know I will never get around to experiencing fully.

It's not that I haven't tried. Two years back I bought a Super Famicon (Japanese SNES) with the intention of catching up on some missed classics. I enjoyed Super Mario Kart, Final Fight and Donkey Kong Country, but as with most retro games experienced for the first time years removed from release, I didn't stick with them for very long. I even subjected myself to Prince of Persia, inspired by an episode of the TV show Game Centre CX, though it wasn't long before I was threatening to throw game and console out the window.

This twentieth anniversary has reminded me of countless games that I would love to have played back in the day, and perhaps would even consider trying today. Earth Bound (Mother) definitely appeals, and is one of my wife's all time favourite games. Final Fantasy IV, V and VI, as well as Chrono Trigger are all stone cold classics, though fortunately I have since been able to experience all of these titles through updates and modern collections. I particularly enjoyed playing Chrono Trigger on the DS and can absolutely appreciate all the fuss. I should probably play Super Castlevania IV, and Super Metroid still remains a mystery. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past would be at the top of my list, though the less said about my lack of Zelda experience the better. I'd say I want to play Super Mario World 2, but that would be a lie. Despite my best efforts, Mario continues to leave me cold and I just can't get my head around the appeal of the plodding, Italian plumber.

This anniversary has made me feel like the plus-one party guest, invited despite not knowing the birthday boy. I'll loiter on the sidelines of a few conversations and laugh along to jokes I don't understand, but when it comes to speaking to the birthday boy I won't really have anything to say. I doubt very much this will have changed come the thirtieth anniversary of the SNES.

By all means leave some SNES recommendations in the comments, but I can't promise I'll ever get round to playing them. Now, where's my Mega Drive?


  1. I was a Genesis guy as well. That is what we had. And I loved it. It wasn't until years later I got an SNES and caught up on the games I missed there. I really enjoy both systems. I'd suggest Yoshi's Island, but as you mentioned, you are not interested. Though you really play as Yoshi in that game, not Mario. Surely that will change your mind!

  2. I caused my dog to die in traffic right as the SNES and Genesis launched. To this day, that's the most shattered I've ever been. On instinct, I stole a credit card and ordered both systems from Sears. So they got delivered on the same day, and then I sat sobbing on my living room floor for a month, racing hovercraft and jumping around with Mario and Sonic. Now there's only a handful of games (Out of this World, Star Control, SNES Zelda) from that era that I can even imagine playing for longer than 15 minutes, but the systems themselves carry a weird emotional resonance with me because we met in such a vivid moment.

  3. @ Trip - Yoshi instead of Mario? Sounds good!

    @ Thirdrail - Wow, rough with the smooth. SNES and MD must have made that time a bit easier.

  4. I wish we'd kept the Mega Drive headphone jack. That's one of those lost branches of the console tech tree, like the genius keypad/overlay systems on Colecovision and Jaguar controllers, that should have become standard.

  5. Definitely one of the better hardware features of the 16 bit era, though i think it had already been phased out come the slimmed-down Mega Drive II.


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