System Lords

System Lords
The Making (and Unmaking) of a Nintendo Fanboy

Kyle Orland | 8 Feb 2011 12:15
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I had to be absolutely certain, because there was a lot riding on my choice. My parents were reluctant enough to let me use a year's worth of saved-up allowance money to buy a single 16-bit system, much less hedge my bets by investing in both of the top two contenders. "What's wrong with the Nintendo you've got?" they'd ask when I'd bring it up. "Will this new one work with your old games? You mean you need to buy all new cartridges? Do you realize how many NES games you could buy with $199?" My parents' limited indulgence was only going to give me one shot at this, so I had to make it count.


Of course, my increasingly rabid interest in everything associated with videogames made the decision harder than it had to be. The appeal of games like Sonic the Hedgehog was self-evident, as was the wacky brilliance of early Genesis titles like ToeJam & Earl, Streets of Rage, and Kid Chameleon that I was exposed to by my Genesis-owning friends and magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly. I couldn't stand the fact that I had to choose between owning games like those and having the opportunity to own titles like Super Mario World, Super Castlevania IV and Gradius III.

But I'd made my decision to wait, and I did my best to ignore the niggling voice in my head that suggested maybe I was missing something by not buying a Genesis. Usually, that voice belonged to Tim, a friend-of-a-friend who sat at my usual lunch table in sixth grade. Tim was practically my polar opposite: loud, rude, and an unabashedly outspoken Genesis supporter.

Long before the internet became an integral part of my life, Tim became my first troll, bad-mouthing the Super NES and its games in a way that seemed perfectly designed to get my ire up. I remember us almost coming to blows during a heated argument over the relative merits of Street Fighter II and Eternal Champions, despite my never actually having played the latter game. As time went on, the growing association between Tim and the Genesis ended up increasing my somewhat irrational hatred for both.

But the Genesis was also associated, in my head, with an adolescence I wasn't really ready for at the time. The Genesis was the blood-code-infused version of Mortal Kombat, while the SNES was the care-free childishness of a game like Clay Fighter. The Genesis was the dark palettes and war imagery of Jungle Strike, while the SNES was the bright colors and sci-fi ridiculousness of Mega Man X. For most kids, this comparison probably made the Genesis even more desirable, but I was a late bloomer, and eager to hold on to a system that let me hold on to a youth that I felt slipping away, even then.

By seventh grade, I had transferred to a new, Tim-free school, where I found a group of friends that had all made the same gratification-delaying decision on the Super NES. It was a bit of a sheltered environment, as far as the system wars were concerned, and one where we could easily revel in games like Link to the Past, Street Fighter II Turbo, Star Fox, and Contra III without even thinking about the Genesis games we might be missing.

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