Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wayback Machine: Christmas 1996

I'm not exactly sure why. I was sitting here, reading a message board I frequent, and a topic of discussion was the "worst Christmas present" and it made me think of what Christmas was my most memorable. I had one that was memorable when I was really young, probably somewhere in '89 maybe '90. I can't remember exactly. But it was good because I just remember it being huge and getting a BUNCH of stuff. I still have pictures. All sorts of TMNT things, and of course my beloved Gameboy (with Tetris obviously) that I still own to this day. Although my dad loved that thing as much as I did. Well, not so much the Gameboy itself as it was Tetris. He blew up the batteries once. Chances are, if the batteries died in that thing, it was likely his fault.

But honestly, my favorite Christmas was Christmas 1996 because it was probably the prefect cross section of my life. It wasn't as massive as others had been, and it included one of the biggest blunders in gaming history, but god dammit I remember it vividly. Also, it was the last time I got something from "Santa" for obvious reasons. We weren't fooling anybody anymore.

That was smack dab in the middle of America's revitalization with professional wrestling. Which was great for me, sicne it meant I got a shit ton of new WWF merchandise. Including an absolutely gigantic wrestling ring for Diesel and Bret Hart to battle it out in.

Credit for pic: Loose Jakks Database

Of course though, gaming was on the agenda. Why wouldn't it be? 1996 was home to the biggest console launch in ages. Hell, the stupid ass Saturn just came out randomly one day. Not the N64. No no. I would wait in a line at Blockbuster video just to play a few minutes of Super Mario 64. That's what I needed. That's what I craved. Super Mario 64? COME ON! Although....I mean, everybody else wanted an N64 too. Why wouldn't they? Look at this thing.

It's got dang ugly is what it is. Would you look at that controller? It's like somebody broke a table and put buttons on it. Yet I don't care what kind of jokes people say. "HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO USE THAT THING?!?" or whatever they try to say. It was a fine damn controller for 1996. Look at that. It has a joystick on it. Try playing Mario 64 one a d-pad. You can't. It sucks. Go ahead, get Mario 64 DS. Play with the d-pad. It's awful. There's like, nine buttons on that thing, not including the start button. AND LOOK AT THAT! Four controller ports? BUILT IN?! Screw off Sony, they don't need you and your SNES CD Add-On peripheral.

I got three games for my N64. What three games were they you may ask? Well....I suppose I could share. Let's keep in mind that this was 1996 and wasn't even a teenager yet. I still liked playing Sonic Spinball for Christ's sake. Anywho:

Yeah. Super Mario 64. That's boring. If you've somehow stumbled into here and are reading this, first of all, you're likely in a library. I'm just saying, I have a feeling that's my main demographic. Hobos and poor people. The second most popular demo is people in my age group. So yes. You've played Mario. That stupid vulture has stolen your hat. You've caught the gold bunny, and you've tried wallkicking up the side of the castle to try and get to Yoshi without have to get all 120 stars.

Uhh...well. This is a dark spot. Cruis'n (the hell?) USA was an arcade staple. And arcade staple from NINETEEN NINETY FOUR. It's a two year old racing game with basically zero depth. The coolest part about the game was going into first person mode and have flies splat on the windshield. Of course, the best part about THIS version is that if you want to race on other tracks, you have to dredge through career mode, which is basically you racing against AI-less vehicles and crazy physics. And of course, there were hidden cars. It's everyone's dream to race a school bus. Basically, it looked like you were racing in a world made of cardboard. At least they had SOME modesty and put the trophy girls in t-shirts for the N64 version.

And of course, the final new game I got for that Christmas was Shadow's of the Empire. Alright. This is a difficult one to talk about. Mostly because it's a game that didn't hold up very well even DURING the consoles life span. And in terms of Star Wars, there were much better days to come. SotE was based on an Expanded Universe story of the same name. The story was pretty much created to sell as much product as humanly possible. This game is pretty much you being Han Solo without actually having to be Han Solo. The guys ship even looks like the Falcon. Three levels come to mind, and they're all vehicle levels. That should be a clue. The first level out of the gate is Hoth. Which now sounds like the worst thing EVER, but in this case it wasn't. Hop in a speeder and blow up probe droids, AT-STs and learn how to trip up those pesky AT-ATs with your tow cable. Then a bunch of levels that involved running around shooting guys. You even almost kill Boba Fett at one point. But the other two hot points of the game were CLEARLY the swoop bike scene where you race and kill other guys on swoop bikes for some reason. Narrative wise I can't even remember why the hell you had to do it other than it looked awesome. Then there was the final stage. Which is pretty much like fighting the Death Star, except it's a giant space station. There are even Star Destroyers that you can shoot, but their damage never goes down, which is a bummer. You blow up the core of the station thing and win the game. But of course, it ends on a cliff hanger unless you beat the game on a harder difficulty. REPLAYABITLY!

That's Christmas 1996.....well....uh....that's not true. I wasn't going to say anything, but I got something else that year that I had wanted for a few years. By this point they didn't even actually make it anymore. But I got it. Boy did I ever get it.

Alright. Lets crack jokes all we want. Star Wars Arcade was awesome. For a console port of Doom it was totally awesome. It has the only hummingbird based sidescrolling shooter probably ever. And yes, I'm still waiting for Kolibri 2: Still Hummin'. But my main two attractions for the 32x were of course the obvious choices. Virtua Racing was number 1. Which was WAY better than the 100 dollar version you could have got for the Genesis. Oh. And Fred Couples 36 Great Holes. Which is a GOLF GAME you freaking perverts. This isn't a Tiger Woods game. *ba-dum-TISH*

Seriously though. It sucked. The only advantage was that it made some Sega CD FMV games not look like TOTAL garbage for once.

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