18th Jan2015

My Retro Gaming Memories

by Phil Wheat

As many blog owners will tell you, especially those of the geeky and nerdy persuasion, you get a LOT of random and often unwarranted emails asking you to plug this film, this game, this service etc. So after 5 years it takes a lot for such an email to catch my attention. Why am I telling you this? Well the good folks at Man Crates recently reached out to Nerdly to tell us about their product. Along the lines of Loot Crate, Nerd Block, GeekBox, et al., Man Crates offer a wide range of crates, yes I do literally mean crates, of the wooden variety, which are supplied with a crowbar(!) for you to open. Unlike other “box” services, Man Crates are one-off crates containing some amazing (and some weird) items that will appeal to just about everyone… Just check out their manifesto:

We say ‘no’ to ugly neckties, cologne samplers and executive trinkets. We don’t save wrapping paper, we don’t do ribbons. We ship bragworthy gifts for guys. Gifts that you can’t wait to arrive because you know the recipient will love opening them. Gifts that people gather round at the office, people following the sounds of wood being torn from wood by the included, laser-engraved crowbar. We are Man Crates, and we deliver awesome gifts for men.

Man Crates have crates for beer lovers, whisky lovers, food lovers, sports lovers and, which is most pertinent to us here at Nerdly (well me in particular), retro gaming lovers. In particular the Retro Gamer Man Crate, which contains an NES clone, two random NES games and a ton of sweet treats; and the Super Retro Gamer Man Crate – the one I’d REALLY love to get my hands on – containing a RetroDuo v2.0 portable SNES console with 2 classic, randomly-selected, Super Nintendo games and [again] a ton of sweets and candies.

My bedroom (with crates) circa 1993/4.

My bedroom setup (with crates) circa 1993/4.

I’m guessing the reason the Man Crates email caught my eye is that, even years after selling my SNES, playing those classic 16-bit games still appeals. And as if by coincidence: as a kid I used to store my Super Nintendo games in crates! Not wooden crates, but plastic crates (pictured above) that my mum used to bring home from work. Previously used to house fruit and veg on the shelves of the supermarket where she worked, the crates were the perfect size for my loose SNES carts – of which I had a lot – along with my strange collection of music cassettes: Bon Jovi, Tiffany, T’Pau and Michael Jackson, alongside Barry Manilow and James Last! You see when I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money, so I’d usually only get a new video game on birthdays or Christmas. Those were the only boxed games I’d get, but boxed games were high-currency at the local video game stores, who would often give you 2 or 3 loose carts, usually of the less-than-stellar variety (such as Ultraman, Shaq-Fu and Another World) for one mint-in-box game. So that’s what I did. I finished a game and I traded it in. A lot. So loose carts were my thing. Plus the free game you got with your console, Super Mario World, came sans-box too and that was one game I’d NEVER sell or trade in (I was a huge Mario fan then and still am now).

Back in those days you could easily finish a game in a week. There was no internet and no smartphones to distract you. Hell, we only had four channels on the TV (we were VERY late satellite TV adopters, like 1998 late…), so I’d come home from school and play video games all evening. It was even better when I could actually have the console and TV set-up in my room – I could shut the door and game till my eyes would no longer stay open. I remember finishing Super Mario World (the game I got with my SNES – bought from a Kays catalogue on a weekly basis no less) multiple times, each time trying to finish the game faster or find those hidden areas, missing coins etc. I even had a little Minolta camera I used to photograph the screen with to keep my new “records” for posterity.

I don’t do that now, in fact it’s very rare that I even finish a game these days, there’s always another new(ish) game to play or more often that not I’ll game in very small bursts whilst trying to keep content going here on Nerdly. But back in the day gaming was what I did when I wasn’t going to school or eating my tea. Especially once I stopped hanging out with my friends and playing football lol. It was just me, my Super Nintendo, my twin-tape boombox (the only surprise Christmas gift I ever got in my life) and penny sweets from the corner shop – which probably explains my weight and confidence issues really!

In later years I moved away from gaming, I didn’t have any other console for a good few years after the SNES. That was my console of choice and I didn’t see any appeal in the 3D generation of gaming. I hated the N64 when I first played it, same goes for the SEGA Saturn and the PSOne. I was a 2D gamer, a platform game fan and there was nothing for me in these new-fangled consoles. Which is why I guess I became a retro gamer. I borrowed an N64 just to play Super Mario 64 and Turok. I only got into the Sega Saturn when the machine became defunct – games were cheap and plentiful so I could pick, play, try and choose titles at will. Same goes for the Playstation. The first machine I picked up of Sony’s first console was the small form-factor re-release, the PSOne and that was because the console, and games, were cheap. Admittedly I found games I loved in the 3D era, especially on Sony’s consoles. All those re-released Neo Geo titles on the PS2, all those beautiful arcade-perfect fighting games (Marvel vs. Capcom 2,  etc.) and all those amazing bullet-hell shmups imported from Japan. Oh, and the best game ever produced for the Playstation: RC Revenge (less so the sequel on the PS2 years later).

Even today, in 2015, I’m still playing “retro” games and consoles. Even if it’s not quite as retro as 8-bit or 16-bit games. I’m still a generation behind. Your playing Xbox One and PS4. Me? I’m playing Xbox 360 and PS2! Although gone is the boombox and the penny sweets and in their place are a fiance who loves gaming as much as I do (she’s the biggest Pokemon nerd I’ve ever met), and bottles of Brothers Toffee Apple cider… And although I may be a grown-up, I do still love me some Mario – thank god for the 3DS!!

So what are your memories of gaming, modern or retro? Let us know in the comments.

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