Just looking at that picture above, I get butterflies in my stomach.
The older I get, the more apt I am to let some drivel like "They don't make 'em like they used to" spew forth from my mouth. But in the case of video games, it's true. Your kids can keep their fancy PS3's and their Xbox 360's. Let the masses clamor for their Dreamcasts and their 32X attachments. You want to sit at home and play Sewer Shark on your Sega CD? Be my guest.
Me? I'll take the NES every day of the week.
I invite you back to a time when there was only one true home video gaming system. With the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, Atari showed itself the door and died somewhere in a gutter, alone and forgotten. The NES was a tour de force, a stylish gray box that matched any interior decor that had literally hundreds of games to bring 8-bit entertainment to your home.
It seems like everything from the 80's made some kind of comeback in the last 5 years or so, but there's a reason the NES has come back in a big way. As cool and visually stunning as new games are, NES games were just more fun. I don't care if it looks like I'm actually running the West Coast Offense on Madden '08...give me the 4 plays to choose from in Tecmo Bowl and I'll be a happy camper.
One of the only downsides to Nintendo was that there was little to no capacity to save games. Only a few of the longer games in existence had password support. There were no memory cards. There were no save checkpoints. These were real games. Each new cartridge was a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down by the Gods themselves. And this was not a bad thing. I firmly believe that without the toughness taught to my generation from having to play Nintendo games all the way through in one sitting, we'd all have degenerated into a race of wimpy sissy-boys.
However, the lack of being able to stop a game and come back to it later could be a major inconvenience, especially to 7 year olds like myself. One time I tried the sneaky trick of turning off the TV at bedtime but leaving the Nintendo on and just pausing the game, but the next morning, the Nintendo was so hot that I never had the balls to try it again. It seemed like there was no hope but to force yourself to sit through these games to the end. Addiction to crack and meth skyrocketed as gamers were desperate to find ways to keep themselves awake for the 32 hours it seemed to take to beat Ninja Gaiden II. It seemed like nothing could ever help us in our plight.
Then the clouds parted and the Game Genie arrived.
When I opened this wonder on Christmas morning, I felt like a parent must feel when they first have a child, and that child can be used for ill-gotten gains such as slave labor and running pyramid scams. The Game Genie was like nothing the Earth had ever seen. It looked like a game in itself, but it wasn't. Like the creepy man next door to you, it slowly eased its way behind the game for insertion. And then the other end was crammed into the NES system, the Game Genie acting as the ultimate Quimby.
The results were mind-blowing to say the least.
Suddenly, anything was possible. Mario and Luigi could jump twice as high and have infinite lives. The two shirtless dudes from Contra could now plow through the millions of aliens that have invaded the Earth without worrying about tearing their sequined red and blue Hammer-pants. Need to start the game with the entire Triforce? Done. Want to start your quest with $1,000,000 in gold? No problem. Need to start at level 7 after your dog walked in front of the TV and reset the game by pulling the controller out of the Nintendo? Why not? Hell, you could even connect the Game Genie to ANOTHER Game Genie to enter up to 6 codes at once!
The Game Genie continues to live on today. After being adapted to work with the Super Nintendo and Genesis systems, you can now find the Game Genie built into any NES Emulator worth its salt. Just scoot yourself over to the Game Genie website to pick and choose your favorite codes.
With most games coming on CDs and the rise of memory cards and save points, we may never need something like the Game Genie again. But I tell you, when Game Genie was at the top of the world, anything seemed possible. If you were alive and remember this time, you know what I'm talking about. And if you don't...get off my porch.