The greatest words I’ll ever write have probably already fallen victim to the backspace key, to my own second-guessing. I have this tendency to write like I’ll have a running start, then disappear in a smoke cloud with the sound of the metaphorical starting pistol. It’s stopped me from doing things I should have…like posting a proper introduction here seven months ago. I’ve gathered so much data for my Big Debut Piece. Plenty of discussion and decent ideas. More than plenty of doubt. Maybe a self-deprecating quip or two…or seven hundred. Will any of this see the light of day?
There’s two more days left in Sega Week as I’m writing this. Part of me wants to come up with excuses and delay ’til the final one. Forget speed sneakers; I’m a huge fan of dragging my feet. But…for once, I’m going to cave to external pressures. Hopefully there won’t be an inescapable death-pit at the end of Act 2.
The Sega Genesis wasn’t my first console. This photo everyone loves from my childhood does a decent job of telling you who I am without me waffling on about it for more words than you’re willing to read. …My life is a series of Nintendo games and goofy hats. But just as my dad is likely to remember the Athletic Theme from Super Mario Bros. 3, he’ll also hum along to the music from Chemical Plant Zone if provoked. There’s a confession there, if you read between the lines. I’ve long been wading in the shallow parts of the industry, and I’ll be attending E3 (for the fourth consecutive year) in about a week. But Younger Jonathan was awful at video games. Have I gotten better with age, or should you never take a word I say seriously?
…Let me bring up Dad again. My parents bought me Sonic Unleashed for Christmas, way back in 2008. They hadn’t really gotten me games as a gift since I was a kid. But I’d heard it was a passable Sonic game, and my dad probably heard Chemical Plant music in his head. In between family gatherings and what-not, I got a chance to crack the game open. He happened to wander in while I was playing a Werehog level. He looked at the screen, likely remembering the bygone days of bright colors and 16-bit sprites. He had this concerned look on his face, as he saw Not Quite Traditional Sonic tearing apart enemies. He looked at me again, then back at the screen.
“What the #%^* did they do to Sonic?! …They made him a what-hog? Man, if I were you I’d write them a letter or something.”
These images… or maybe this Shadow the Hedgehog trailer where he literally shoots holes in footage of past games from the series… mark Childhood’s End for me, personally [since I’ve never played Sonic ‘06]. So why then, is my collection of Sega games among the only ones still with me from childhood? Why do I waffle on about how great M2 and the Sega 3D Classics are? Why will this picture make its rounds on the Internet if I ever decide to get involved in politics or “make it big”? Why are two people I met on the Sonic 2 GameFAQs Message Board and Phantasy Star Online…invited to my wedding next year? Why is a part of me still excited for the newest Sonic game to be revealed?
I don’t remember where I first heard or read “You can’t do this on Nintendo.” But I know the line struck a chord. The nineties were all about “Sonic vs. Mario”. I suppose I wanted to give Sonic a chance? Either way, I made the conscious choice to allow the Genesis into my home. As much as they were battery guzzlers, I even made room for the Game Gear and Nomad. Still have those. Eventually, when Mom asked me to choose between potentially owning a Super Nintendo or subscribing to the Sega Channel, I made a choice then, too. My first real encounters with Super Mario World and A Link to the Past came via their Game Boy Advance releases. I’d go on to play many more SNES games for the first time on the Wii Virtual Console in 2006. There’s probably a whole other discussion we can have on me being introduced to the Super Nintendo way late in the game. …Remember the part where I said I had data and decent ideas?
I have so many fond memories. We all know what version of Disney’s Aladdin is the superior one. Gonna just put that out there. …Also, thanks to the Sega Channel, I got to play Pulseman and Alien Soldier before everyone else on the block even knew what they were. I didn’t make the connection that Pulseman was by the folks who would go on to make Pokémon until it got released on the Virtual Console. I think I put two-and-two together that Alien Soldier was from the folks who made Gunstar Heroes (another game I knew about well before the crowd, thanks to being on “the right Channel”) because of this.
My first durable friendship as a kid started over Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Seeing said friend play through Hidden Palace Zone and unlock Hyper Sonic was The Thing that inspired me to work tirelessly and “get good” at video games, because there were clearly cool rewards for doing so. We didn’t keep in touch, because technology wasn’t quite up to speed. But the cool 1,000 hours I poured into Phantasy Star Online in 2000 and beyond are responsible for some of my oldest and best friendships. Heck, I traded in my entire PlayStation library of games to be able to afford the Dreamcast, PSO, and Jet Grind Radio.
[You think if the right person reads this, they’ll actually localize Phantasy Star Online 2? Talk about things that disappear in smoke clouds…]
Things are a lot different now. Ristar’s dead and buried. Shenmue 3 was a Kickstarter. Arrow Flash is more likely to bring a comic book crossover to the surface than this hidden gem, my first ever encounter with a leading female protagonist in games. The Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack is on freaking vinyl. And this guy Aaron Webber has helped turn Sonic the Hedgehog’s Social Media into a Legendary Thing.
I don’t get many things right the first time.
But I’ll be darned if choosing Sega over Nintendo when I did wasn’t one of my better life choices.