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Posted on Dec 22nd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Nintendo, Fanboy


*pic by pwnpocalypse on imgur*

September 28, 1996.  A date that I would remember throughout my life as a red-letter date:  The evening that I picked up my most anticipated console since the Super Nintendo, that being the Nintendo 64.  I left work early and played it until the dawn's early light.

December 13, 1996.  A date that I would remember throughout my life not only as a red-letter date, but later with a kind of  nostalgic sadness.  It was the day that the Nintendo fanboy inside of me died.




Once upon a time, I was a Nintendo fanboy.  I wasn't one of those confrontational ones, ready to throw down at a moments notice, nor would I steadfastly refuse to play games (or even acknowledge them) from rival Sega.  No, I was a pretty chill fanboy, who would readily play ToeJam & Earl and Road Rash as much as I would play Contra III or Super Mario Kart (though I did not own any Sega systems).  When I saw them, I would often lament the negative tone of the Sega Genesis and Sega CD commercials rather than rail against them.  Really, I just wanted us to all get along (and play Nintendo games).

None of this would have been any surprise if you had grown up with me.  While I was truly a child of arcade games (located in nearly every conceivable store within Southeast Michigan in the mid 80's), by early 1988 Nintendo began working it's hooks into me, as many kids I knew began saving their precious bottle money (at $0.10 a bottle) not to play the newest cabinet at the local 7-11, but to save for weekend rentals for their precious NES.  I would soon follow, though I would keep up my gaming visits to the local 7-11 and laundromats.  But by Christmas of '88, Nintendo owned me, much like every other kid I knew.  We in North America weren't the Nintendo robots that some countries would later try to paint us, it was just many of us didn't have anything at home, save perhaps a family Atari VCS or Odyssey2 (many for monetary reasons).  To tell us we could play these amazing games at home for one price forever, well it was just too much.  Even I was willing to overlook the deficiencies of Ghosts N' Goblins on the NES (compared to the arcade) if it meant I could play it constantly without hours of work hunting down returnable bottles, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow from sidewalks.

With the help of Nintendo Power (a subscriber since Christmas of 1988 with a brief break for 1991 and some of '92), I rode that narrowing Nintendo-only line all the way to 1996 (though I did buy a Genesis in '95), with the launch of the Nintendo 64.  I had heard all the rumors and read everything I could and I knew I needed one.  While I had played a bit of my friend's Sony PlayStation (we passed a controller back and forth playing Resident Evil one night) it seemed like a non-factor to me.  I had spent my time and money playing the amazing SNES games (mostly RPGs) that released throughout 1994-1996, so I was looking to continue this trend with Nintendo's next system.  It all seemed very logical. 

By my birthday in early September of 1996 I had the cash and a plan, so I paid in full for a pre-order of the console and a copy of Super Mario 64, which cost around $275 (counting tax, USD).  With the exception of Pilotwings 64 there were no other games at launch, and the games on the immediate horizon didn't really speak to me (i.e., no Nintendo or Square games).  I decided against the Legend of Zelda(!) preorder, seeing that it didn't even have a proper name yet (it was Zelda 64 or something). At the time they had pre-orders for about twenty games, most of which I didn't recognize, which seemed strange at the time, but who cares?  The night before launch, September 28th, the manager agreed to give me my wares before I went home that night.  I (and the manager) didn't think it was all that early, but it turned out to be rather fortuitous, as you will see later.

I didn't get much sleep the following month as I powered through SM64 at night and worked through the day, so that I have very little memory about what happened outside of SM64. Eventually, after a great deal of effort, I was able to "100%" the game, and received the somewhat disappointing reward for doing so.  Still, it was an amazing experience, and one of a kind as far as I was concerned.


From the Feb '96 issue of EGM.  Pics are from the old N64 demo featuring FFVI characters.  This pic is likely from mid to late 1995

While some of these memories took years to dig out the half-rotted attic that is my memory, what happened in the first week of December '96 is very clear.  A little bored (I had rented Pilotwings 64 and was super happy I didn't buy it), I visited my buds who worked at the local FuncoLand to weigh in on their SM64 opinions, as well as get some dirt on upcoming games (hopefully some RPGs).  I was a little shocked to hear that neither of my friends had even seen an unboxed N64, much less play one.  According to them, there were no more consoles in the Metro Detroit area to be had, and within hours of going on sale it had went from being endangered to extinct, no doubt fueled by the news of a shortage that everyone knew about save me.   

For hours I shuffled around FuncoLand, thumbing through magazines, pouring over the backs of display boxes, and having little side conversations with customers.  I learned many things, not only the Sony PlayStation (a console I had all but ignored) was currently a home to a number of RPGs (!) but my beloved Square Soft was going to publish the next Final Fantasy game on it, instead of the N64!  I still remember the sinking feeling this news gave me, a panic akin to claustrophobia. Once the store closed my friends popped in a weird game called Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen into the PS1 demo unit, perhaps in an attempt to cheer me up, and that is how I remember that night: Terrible news framed by the intro sequence of Blood Omen, played over and over.


From the April '96 issue of EGM.  Pics likely from the unveiling in Feb of 1996

To say I went home down in the dumps would have been an understatement.  I was seriously depressed and my thoughts whirled through my head:  What was I to do?  I had seen pictures in a magazine that seemed to confirm that the next Final Fantasy would be on the N64, but I hadn't really read anything in months save Nintendo Power (which didn't report on it).  If I had only been an EGM subscriber in the early part of '96, but ah, maybe not.  I still don't think I understood what was happening inside me yet; that craving that even SM64, in all its next-gen glory, was unable to satisfy.

I spent about a week thinking and thinking.  The upcoming games list at FuncoLand for the N64 had not changed, with the only game that even remotely interested me being Shadows of the Empire, which had been released but for some reason didn't interest me.  But what did was the lone pic of FFVII that I found in an issue of Game Informer, which was enough for me to bundle up my N64 and trade it in for store credit.  It was easier than I thought (even though the trade in was more than I originally paid) and I could almost see a couple customers salivating as I did it.  I walked out with a refurbished Sony PlayStation (back when they were still refurb'd by Sony), a memory card, a preorder for FFVII, and copies of Suikoden and Blood Omen, as well as a bargain basement copy of Beyond the Beyond.  On the ride home I remember feeling like I was in freefall.  What was I even doing?  It was pretty late when I got home, so I snuck in past my siblings and hooked my new-ish PS1 onto my crap 10" color TV and fired up Suikoden.  And the rest is history.

Looking back I can see where my inner Nintendo fanboy had been compromised, probably by the time Final Fantasy IV had been released.  For years I had thought I was solidly in the Nintendo camp, playing all the new games and reading the required magazines, but something that I didn't anticipate was my devotion to Nintendo being supplanted by a powerful pull to RPGs on Nintendo console, something that didn't even occur to me until recently.  All of my Nintendo experiences, starting with the original Final Fantasy in 1990 let up to that moment.  While I still remember such landmark action titles such as Super Metroid and Contra III with only the choicest of nostalgia, the pedestals of my SNES experiences are crowded with nearly every RPG that Tom, Dick, and Harry could manage to publish in North America.  In other words, while I really thought it was the Nintendo system that I loved, it was really the RPG that I played it on.

So in retrospect, as amazing and groundbreaking as the N64 was in its first few months (and make no mistake those shockwaves are still felt today), for this kid it just couldn't stand against the RPGs on the PSX not only promised, but had already delivered.  While there weren't a ton out by December of 1996, what I had purchased that first day (and more by late spring of the next year) held me over until that special day when the real reason I abandoned that beautiful ship captained by Nintendo, Final Fantasy VII, would finally arrive.

But that, is another story.

Thanks for reading!


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Comments
 
I relate so much to this. I remember my own experiences growing up as a Nintendo Fanboy. Getting my NES for Christmas in 1987, was the catalyst that has me clinging to the big N. I got the SNES when it came out, as a birthday gift.

I too, became enamored by RPG's from the NA release of the original Final Fantasy. When The N64 launched, it sold out in my city. I phoned a store in a nearby city (an hour away) and confirmed they had them.

My buddy Jeff recalls this story well too, because in our excitement to hurry to the nearby city acquire the N64 and get back to my house to play it, Jeff ended up getting pulled over and ticketed for excessive speeding! whoops.

We got back, I opened the system and popped in my copy of SM64. Our minds were blown by the revolutionary polygon 3D sprites of Mario exploring this amazing looking world. Over the next year, me and my three closest friends had many get-togethers, playing late night sessions of Goldeneye and Mario Kart.

During this time, I was well aware of the Playstation, from various game magazines I bought and read (GamePro, EGM, etc.) but was largely uninterested. It wasn't until I discovered that FFVII was going to be released for the Playstation, and I would finally be able to return to the beloved franchise that I had so longed for a continuation of, that I knew I was about to become a Sony fanboy for life.

My high school girlfriend at the time, generously saved her money and bought me my Playstation for Christmas in 1996. Over the next year, I fell in love with the original RE one of my favourite games of all time, Castlevania:SOTN, while waiting for the release of FFVII.

It felt like the N64 had been a patch of fog that I drove through, and now that I had Sony and all of these amazing games to discover, I came out of the fog.

I wouldn't say my love for Nintendo completely died during that period, but I felt robbed of what it could have been, while enjoying what Sony was offering me.

I always joke and say that Nintendo is my first love in gaming. It was a powerful love. Pure and innocent. I will always love Nintendo for the happy memories of growing up with it. But Sony became the dark mistress that tempted me away and showed me a gaming experience that seemed new and excited, and beyond what Nintendo could offer me during that time.

And because of all that, Nintendo and Sony, remain my two favourite game companies, and take up the majority of my game collection/collecting.

 
I can't quite relate, but I can definitely understand. When the N64 came out I wasn't quite into RPGs at the time and I also had grown up with a Genesis as well as NES and friends had the PS that we played a lot so I was getting around the consoles pretty well so any games I felt I didn't have access to at home I was playing elsewhere often enough. I have pretty great memories of playing Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye, Star Fox, Rogue Squadron, Shadows of the Empire, Ocarina of Time, Goemon's Great Adventure, Smash Bros, Banjo-Kazooie, Turok, Resident Evil 2, Killer Instinct Gold and a few others. I never had that feeling that I had nothing to play. Near the end of the console though I finally discovered my love of RPGs by digging backward through a lot of the Squaresoft titles and started to ignore my N64 for a year or two for the PS.

I wouldn't say at all that my love for Nintendo has diminished as they still put out a lot of content that I love, but speaking of the N64 specifically my love for that console has definitely softened a great deal. When I had my store everybody was constantly freaking out about N64 games and I just don't quite understand the love/nostalgia for that console. There are a handful of amazing titles for it, but compared to nearly any other console it's really lacking a lot.
 
Has your Nintendo fanboyism been resurrected to any degree by any post-N64 system or game? If so, which one(s)?
 
I've been playing around with the idea of writing a piece similar to this. It seems like recent industry events have caused a lot of people to reflect on previous times they felt astray or betrayed.
 
@EngineerMike: Haha, that's great! Getting a speeding ticket! Thanks for sharing the tale, Mike.  Like you, the PSX offered so much more than I had experienced gaming wise, and I always look back to it as a massive era of experimentation and fun.

@Crabmaster2000: Yeah, the N64 did have a lot to offer.  I think stuffing Resident Evil 2 on a cartridge was one of the most impressive feats of that day, Goldeneye showed that the consoles could make playable FPS games too, and Rogue Squadron finally gave me the Star Wars cockpit experience I was looking for.  And Super Mario 64 remains one of the best 3D platforming games to this date, and the catalyst for a lot of other amazing (and not so amazing) games.  Heck, all this talk has me wanting to fire up my N64 and play it a bit.  Thanks, Crab.

@Zagnorch: Not post-N64, even though I purchased (for myself or my son) every Nintendo system that followed the N64.  The one thing that I have learned from that experience was that Nintendo (and all the other console makers) only care as much as they think they need to, and really only to their target audience.  I think I got caught up in the fever of the New 3DS and later the Switch (recently), but at the end of the day all I really want from Nintendo is play the classics.  That being said, I am becoming a fanboy of a lot of early Famicom games that I never played, like Pocket Zaurus and some of the other kusoge games, like Quest of Ki and even the kind-of-bad port of Pac Land.

@SirPsycho:Nice!  I'd like to read that.
 
Great read! On a side note: At least Final Fantasy VII is at long last making its way to Nintendo in 2019 Tongue
 
@Link41: Haha!  That is great, and exactly the laugh I needed this morning.  Thanks!
 
Great read! Although I grew up playing SNES and NES, I wasn't really old enough to remember playing them when new games were still being released for these consoles.  I have so many memories of playing N64 games, and some of my favorite games of all time are on the console (Star Fox 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Pokemon Snap). There are of course the hundreds of hours spent playing multiplayer games with friends and family (Goldeneye, Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, etc.), and possibly the greatest (worst?) tease of all videogame-dom in the N64 DD (just image if half of the announced games for the DD had been released!), so the N64 always has a special place for me.

That being said, GameCube was where I finally lost my Nintendo "fanboy"-ism.  Perhaps I was still too young to understand the gravity of Nintendo pairing the N64 with a powerful (compared to the PlayStation) console with limited cartridge storage space, but for me the GameCube represented Nintendo's attempt to do things "differently" simply for the sake of being different.  Although I absolutely love the GameCube and its software, the simple fact that many games that existed on PS2 / Xbox couldn't make their way to the GameCube due to the small storage size (despite the GameCube being a more powerful console than PS2) really soured on me over time and is what lead to me buying a PS3 nearly at launch and ignoring the Wii until several years later.  Nintendo's decision to forgo DVD's for their own proprietary disc left me feeling "betrayed" in a sense knowing that I wouldn't be able to play the same games that my friends would, and this lead me to step away from a single console and eventually branch out into owning nearly every console.  Looking back, I can now see that owning every console is obviously great because I can experience every game there is to offer, but for me, Nintendo always had that "magic" that makes their software/hardware stand out from the crowd, so I'll always wonder what could have been if the N64 DD had released around 1998, or if the GameCube played DVDs instead of Nintendo's proprietary nonsense.

Loved the post bomba!
 
Great article! I'm happy that I remained pretty much neutral on the console wars. I owned a Sega Genesis, and loved it, but wasn't anti-Nintendo. Most of my friends had NES systems, so I was constantly playing those games at their houses. I would have stayed on the Sega train, had I known about the Saturn, but I was kind of glad I got the PlayStation, for all the reasons you've outlined above. I would have missed out on a ton of great games that shaped my early adulthood period of gaming. I'm glad that I can now afford to go back and find some of the stuff I missed out on.
 
FF8 Was my introduction to the world of RPGs and Final Fantasy and it was purely coincidental.  I was at Fred Meyer and they had a game bargain bin setup in the electronics area and a Greatest Hits copy of FF8 caught my eye.  I'd never heard of it before, but didn't have many games for my recently acquired PlayStation beyond Crash, Bubsy and Jersey Devil.  I bought the game and became obsessed.  I'd never seen anything like it before. 

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