As we grow older as Nintendo fans, we tend to fine-tune our purchases to our liking. As kids, though, we probably received several different kinds of gaming gifts, some of which we asked for and some of which we didn’t. Regardless of whether we wanted them or not, however, I’d be surprised if memories from both categories didn’t stick with you somehow, so I thought I’d share some of my deepest gaming memories, most of which come from titles you’ve probably never played or may have just forgotten about. Are you a fan of the heroes in a half-shell? How about Buzz Lightyear of Star Command? Or maybe, just maybe… pre-rendered textures?!
Staring with NES, my most played game may just have been 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What sticks with me most is the horrifying electric seaweed. Getting through that maze without taking any damage should be an Olympic sport! Despite that difficulty spike, though, the game was a lot of fun, and the world map still impresses me to this very day. It allowed players much more freedom than just going directly from Level 1 to Level 2 etc., as you needed to find missiles to blast roadblocks from your truck’s path and access new buildings and sewers. But even though I never got very far at the time (I was very young), the action-adventure was still decent enough to warrant a Virtual Console purchase several years later (although Konami did, in fact, pull the game from the Wii Shop Channel back in January).
SNES makes a well-deserved cameo on the big screen in 1999’s Toy Story 2.
Moving onto SNES, a few more licensed titles left their marks on me in the form of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition and Toy Story. The first Power Ranger game was a great action romp, and its password system holds a particularly special memory for me as my dad always wrote each password on a small piece of paper taped to the cartridge. The Fighting Edition was another perfect fit for me as I’d never been a fan of the genre before and battling it out as the Ninja Megazord was always a treat. Both of these games took the Power Ranger license and did well by its name. Toy Story, on the other hand, had a fantastic art style and offered challenging platforming with all of the classic characters from the film. If there’s one retro game I would love to revisit, it would be this one. If only more licensed properties were treated so dearly…
Entering the N64 era, the game changed forever as the Big N entered the 64-bit realm with two legendary titles in just over two years: Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. These games speak for themselves but within the latter lies something I keep coming back to in my mind, and that’s pre-rendered backgrounds. This involves transferring outside footage from a more powerful source to another piece of equipment– in this case, N64. They’re very pretty to look at, but they’re much less interactive than real-time renders. Yet the screencap below excellently demonstrates this process with one section of the back alleys in Hyrule Castle Market, presenting us with pre-rendered scenery and a real-time resident of Hyrule. If you look closely enough, the door is also rendered in real-time. Although pre-rendering may seem like cutting corners, the result can soothe our imaginations.
Never has a back alley looked more beautiful.
Galloping away from a heavy hitter, there are also some much smaller N64 games that also left their mark on me. The first of these was Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue was a very fun platformer which, although I didn’t finish the game, continued to use the Toy Story license well. Every single time I reminisce of the sequel, I remember how much fun I had in just the second level, Andy’s Neighborhood. Collecting Hamm coins and climbing that tree was such a blast!
Buzz and Woody aside, though, there’s another N64 hero who had three solid adventures in less than three years: Bomberman. I consider Bomberman a heavy hitter but the little guy hasn’t been relevant for quite some years now (the same goes for Mega Man), much to my dismay. Bomberman 64, Bomberman Hero and Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! are all worth playing if you adore the White Bomber. The now defunct Hudson Soft developed all three titles, utterly expanding the classic Bomberman formula, and it’s not too often do we see a trilogy of good games on a single platform either.
From enjoyable licensed games of yesteryear all the way to a unique way of mapping textures, the little things are relevant. The image above of the back alley from Ocarina of Time, reminds me of a quaint European town from a bygone era. Pre-rendering has significance but, as can be seen in Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo is moving towards more plausible visuals. Games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Fighting Edition and the Toy Story games infused my love of the included characters in television and cinema with lasting gaming experiences. Last but not least, Bomberman literally blew up ranks to be remembered in the annals of Nintendo 64 history. These memories, although small, will never die.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artwork created by Christopher Uminga.