Gaming

A Fucking Nostalgic Article About Loving Super Nintendo

The mini is coming and so are my fond memories of SNES and its effect on 90s Australiana.
28 June 2017, 3:08am

Nintendo has just announced the release of the mini SNES classic, a micro-reimagining of the timeless Super Nintendo Entertainment System. And I've just put one on hold at JB Hi-Fi. And now I'm writing this. In that order.

The release of the SNES on November 21, 1990 (1992 in Aus) may be the most important moment in the history of gaming. The console transferred a subculture into mainstream pop-culture, and shaped the future for the medium that's now the most bankable in entertainment. For people my age, it was a revolution. Suburban childhoods were never the same again. Quite literally, the game changed.

This is one of my earliest memories: it's Summer 1994, I am three and a bit, visiting other cousins in Narrogin. My older cousin Brad (then seven) is laying on his belly in the middle of his lounge room, his fingers furiously mashing the buttons of his brand new Super Nintendo Entertainment System. He is playing Super Battletoads. He hands me a controller, blue text flashes "player 2: start," and for the first time in my life I'm playing a video game. I die instantly. I'm seized with wonderment and fear, too scared to jump past the deathly gas geysers puncturing a rickety rope bridge. My cousin is unimpressed but I am enthralled.

Thus began my lifelong obsession with video games. Brad and I, and eventually the rest of my rabbit warren of kin, would spend our family vacations huddled around bulb shaped televisions, splitscreening games on the SNES, the N64, the Playstation, the PS2. But it was the SNES that initially brought us all together, and it was the SNES that shaped so much of how I think and feel about family, friendship, and art.

Watch this very hectic SNES commercial below:

When the SNES was first released the video game market was no longer marginal: the industry crash of the 1980s had been buried by Nintendo with the NES, Sega had burst onto the scene, the console wars were well and truly a-go. The SNES was marketed as a hip new mega toy–a mind melting 16-bit cartridge carting arc of excitement. The mainstream media suddenly found itself covering video games with all the earnestness of a big cinematic release, or a new car: networks were choked with ear piercing VHS aesthetic acid trip ads for games with bizarre and menacing names: F-Zero, Super Metroid, Street Fighter. Australia had 13 SNES bundles released over time, and shows like A Current Affair suddenly found themselves clumsily covering an expanding industry and medium that they didn't understand, going so far as to hire two child reporters (one with the amazingly early 90s name Ace Matters) to cover the phenomenon.

Australia isn't and never will be a country that embraces geeks. We are always half a decade or so behind in our acceptance of new and exciting trends. We don't absorb subcultures as ravenously as our American cousins, we don't like the shock of the new. But in this way the Super Nintendo was the Paul Keating of consoles, double-breasting its way into a nation daydreaming of Robert Menzies and pinball machines.

A Current Affair reports on video gaming:

Gamer culture is still "fringe" but games are not. It's easy in 2017 to take for granted the place video games occupy in the media landscape—after all, two generations of children raised on them have come of age. This wasn't the case in 1992, or heck, 2002. Back then games were just games, and anything more and you were dangerously drifting into geekdom.

So to me, a frail turtle-neck wearing lollipopped headed boy with golden ringlets looking like a Pears soap ad from the 1890s, the SNES was more than a toy, it was salvation. Everyone around me was lean, fit, and sports obsessed, but with the SNES I finally found something that I was good at, and truly loved.

Australia actually contributed some amazing games to the SNES library. Our criminally underappreciated games industry produced titles like: Shadowrun, NBA All Star Challenge, Mech Warrior, Radical Rex, Super Smash TV, and (fittingly considering how often Channel Ten would repeat it) the game adaptation of Total Recall.

Games that reflected Australian culture however were few and far between. Game studio Beam Software produced International Cricket, which was available only here, Europe, and Pakistan. Beam Software was founded in 1977 and released innovative SNES titles like the aforementioned Shadowrun, as well as AFL games on the NES. They were one of the earliest exponents of pixelated Australiana.

Possibly the most boring/Australian game ever, International Cricket:

But for me, Nintendo was an escape to a country and culture that I perceived as boorish, dull, and packed with dickheads. In games like Donkey Kong Country and Zelda: A Link To The Past I found a template to expand upon my hyperactive imagination–fantasy worlds and characters that matched those in my head. Afternoons spent reading Nintendo Power magazines and illustrating my own game booklets (a treasure lost to today's young gamers) were formative in how I came to want work in the arts: to think, critique, and create. Final Fantasy is as much an influence on me as Ulysses, and I can't thank the SNES enough for that. I can't recite Shakespeare, but I can still rattle off the cheat codes for The Lost Vikings.

Not that it was a solipsistic fap fest. The SNES was a social console. Games like Mario Kart and side scrolling co-op masterpieces like Donkey Kong Country 2—_and of course—_Super Battletoads, brought me out of my shell. Swapping controllers between friends and cousins, it was with the home console, the SNES, that I learnt how to socialise: to riff, tease, roast, and fuck about.

I'm 27 now, and I can still hear the noise Woody made when he died in Super Toy Story. The SNES is a foundational part of my visual memory, my hyper referential passcode triggered secret level imaginings. It was my boyhood–I can't delve into that rattlebag of jingoistic mid-90s Australian nostalgia without feeling its D-pad pressing into my thumbs. And yes, International Cricket is still the closest I've come to watching a test match.

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