I have an unusual relationship with videogames. Especially for someone born at the tail end of ’93.
Unlike most of my friends growing up, videogames did not play a major role in my childhood. My afternoons were filled instead with sports, arts, and adventure. As a young boy I swam and played football for local clubs, and joined as many of my school’s sport teams as possible, from baseball to rugby and everything in-between. I filled the rest of my free time skateboarding, riding my bike, running around the local park hunting for ‘treasure’, or playing one of any number of imagination games with my friends. Once I tired I would sit at the piano or mess around on one of dad’s guitars, read a book, write my own stories, or get messy painting or making things long before I’d sit down at a console, mostly setting one up when a friend came round or for the odd game of something against my dad before bed; I never played regularly enough to justify leaving a system plugged into the telly like at some of my friends’ houses.
That’s not to say I wasn’t a typical child of my time; I did not escape the clutches of Pokémon cards and, later, Beyblades, but simply never showed enough interest in videogames to justify saving pocket money to spend on them. Throughout my entire life I’ve owned a total of two consoles, and didn’t actually buy either. The first was a hand-me-down SNES from a friend of my parents, on which I have fond memories of playing Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World, Mortal Kombat, and a game that a nostalgia-inducing internet search tells me wasn’t called ‘Chupa Chups Land’ as I had remembered, but Zool (though anyone familiar with the game will surely understand why the former made more sense to a small child). I later came into possession of the original PlayStation, this time a gift from an uncle to whom the device had become redundant following the release of the PlayStation 2.
It is, of course, the former that lead to my excitement at the prospect of Nintendo’s new Mini Nintendo Entertainment System or ‘NES’–the console that preceded my beloved Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Whilst not the 16-bit gem I grew up with, I instantly knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to get my hands on a version of its 8-bit predecessor in all its pixelated glory. What’s more, amongst the 30 titles it comes bundled with are a selection of Mario and Zelda titles, and don’t get me started on the music… Pure nostalgia! Admittedly the experience won’t quite be complete without those clunky cartridges that could be cured of any glitches with a simple blow, but on the bright side the emulator really shouldn’t glitch. Sure, videogames may not have been a defining part of my childhood, but, bit-part or not, the Nintendo Mini Classic promises to bring me straight back to those simpler times.
Aware that the generation before me would have grown up with the NES itself (which made its debut in Japan as the Family Computer, or Famicom, in 1983, reaching consumers in North America and Europe as the NES in 1986) and would likely snap them up at the system’s modest £49.99 price, I was very early to preorder the device (in early July, four months before the device’s scheduled release date no less), opting to do so through Game. Big mistake. You can imagine my horror when I discovered an email from the 8th of November, only three days before the console’s release, telling me that payment had failed for an ‘unknown reason’ and therefore my order had been cancelled. I checked my payment details: all valid and up-to-date. I checked my game account; surely the email must have been sent by mistake? “Order Status: Cancelled”. With my heart in my mouth I then called what turned out to be the world’s most useless customer service team, who not only failed to explain the cancellation (though admitted mine is not a unique incident) but also refused to reinstate my order. Great. To my dismay, aside from re-sellers asking double and triple the price, nowhere online seems to have the system or the extra controller in my now-cancelled pre-order in stock anymore…
Whilst reluctant to let this experience damped my spirits or reduce my excitement for this new/old addition to the Nintendo family, I couldn’t be any less impressed with Game and their lacklustre customer support, and would urge anyone and everyone to avoid pre-ordering with them at all costs. As for me, it looks like tomorrow I’ll be off to the shops first thing in the hope that I can get lucky. Fingers crossed!