The story starts back in good ol’ 1988. I was a 7 year old, wide-eyed kid with Thundercats figures in my pockets and what felt like the world at my feet. This was the year that my parents finally relented and bought me my first ever video game console– a Sega Master System. “Absolute blasphemy!!” I hear you all cry, but please bear with me; I was young, naive and had never even heard of Nintendo or Super Mario Bros.
Don’t get me wrong– I absolutely adored my Master System and spent many happy hours with Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. Children are generally easily pleased and at this young, impressionable age, myself and Sega began a passionate, completely innocent relationship. I was amazed at Space Harrier, ploughed countless hours with friends playing co-op Time Soldiers and was generally one very contented young man.
Then, one fateful day in 1990, everything changed. I had a friend who used to live just round the corner from me and I used to frequently go over to his place to play. That evening, I walked into his usually innocuous living room and was confronted by something quite wonderful. He had somehow obtained a NES, complete with a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. From that day onwards I would spend near every evening with him (and his mother who was equally obsessed with the game) taking turns to work our way through the various levels. My imagination was well and truly captured by the game in a way that I had never previously experienced. It was absolutely joyous but at the same time completely heartbreaking because my beloved Master System now seemed second best. I would squeeze every last moment out of my time with Mario, looking out of the windows at the fading light, dreading the fact that I would soon have to leave the Mushroom Kingdom and return to the cold, underwhelming arms of Sega.
I’m so, so sorry.
I could never look at my Master System in the same way as I was too busy yearning for warp whistles and the Koopalings. I would still regularly fire up the Sega system but it wasn’t the same; it became a hollow, vacuous experience and all I wanted was to be back at my friend’s house playing Super Mario Bros. 3. It became a sordid little affair, played out to a soundtrack of New Kids on the Block. To this day I am sure that my poor little Master System knew what was going on. I wasn’t very good at hiding my feelings of resentment which only served to aggravate the problem. I started treating it badly; no longer handling it like the priceless object I had once considered it to be. Shortly after I started straying, the console just gave up and packed in. A true case of a broken heart (CPU) if ever I’ve seen one.
Now, children are fickle creatures and, as much as I was in love with Nintendo at that point, I allowed my head to be turned when, in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog was released for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis for those of you in the US). I cannot explain how incredible this game looked at the time and aesthetically it was truly above and beyond anything that had ever been seen on a home console. The impression of speed the developers were able to create was enough to ensure the hype surrounding the game’s release reached fever pitch and everyone wanted a piece of the action. Mario was forgotten in the callous blink of an eye. After a few successive weeks of pleading with my soon to separate parents, I became the proud owner of a Sega Mega Drive and Sonic the Hedgehog. If only for a short while, I was happy. Cowabunga was the word on the mean streets of Brighton and everything seemed right with the world.
Before long, Nintendo was back to test my loyalty and resolve. In the days before Sony and Microsoft, back before Sega left the home console scene, things were very simple– Sega or Nintendo; Mario or Sonic. They were great times! From petty squabbles in the playground to a full blown media war, the characters seeped into the public consciousness in a manner I have not seen since. Indeed, the thought that the two would ever appear on the same console, let alone the same game, was just unthinkable, which just goes to show how things within the industry have changed. From what I remember, at the time Super Nintendo was released, Sonic was considered by the majority of young, painfully shallow gamers as the cooler of the two mascots and I won’t lie– for a while I followed the in crowd and declared my loyalty to the blue hedgehog.
However, soon enough, another friend of mine received a Super Nintendo shortly after it was released and, having spent some time with Super Mario World, I was no longer able to deny my true feelings. Yes, Sonic was cool, but it became obvious to me at this point that he could never match the magical, deep gameplay of his rival. Within a matter of days I had taken my Master System to my local video games shop and traded it in for a Super Nintendo. Again, you will have to excuse my childish ignorance, but for some bizarre reason I left the shop without Super Mario World (possibly because I had again spent countless hours experiencing it at my poor friend’s house), opting instead for Super Star Wars and Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose.
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