Round Table: Let's Talk About the Famicom / NES

Oh, the memories

Tom: Back to the games, naturally we still play NES games a fair bit. Thinking about your own personal top 10s, how do these games REALLY stack up nowadays?

Jon: I think most of the ones in my Top 10 hold up pretty well, actually. Bubble Bobble is still great for multiplayer, and the Mario and Mega Man games have aged very gracefully. It gets a little dicier the further you go down the list, though.

Stephen: World of Warcraft came out the same year I first played The Legend of Zelda, so I don't really have much nostalgia fogging my vision. That said, there are a few NES games that stand up to the best of their respective genres — most notably Super Mario Bros. 3 and, indeed, Mega Man.

Tom: I certainly agree on Mario and Mega Man titles. I'm not actually a fan of the two original Zelda games, though I know they're sacrosanct and all that.

Morgan: Well, aside from Bubble Bobble, Kirby's Adventure is my NES fav, and when I got it on the Wii U VC it was all I wanted to play for weeks! I still can't get over how creative it is. The black & white Dreamland level (which I'd never reached before) put a huge smile on my face, and it's one of the few games where as soon as I'd beat it, I fired it right back up again from the start!

BEAST DAVE: I agree with Jon. SMB3, StarTropics, DuckTales - just a few favourites - still feel pretty great.

Morgan: Tom, I'm with you there. Link's Awakening is where Zelda gets fun for me!

Stephen: You have a point about Zelda. The original was brilliant, but it's been bettered in almost every way since then.

Jon: I think where people latch on to Zelda 1 is in how open it is. Like, there's zero direction. Zelda II gets a lot of unwarranted hate. That's a pretty great game still.

Stephen: Also, while we're championing underdogs, I love the first Final Fantasy for some reason. So much.

Tom: Perhaps I came to it too late, with Zelda, as I was conditioned to expect more pointers; not linear "go this way idiot" guidance, but more obvious hints.

BEAST DAVE: I have zero experience with Zelda II, but I still find the original to be a blast to play. The sense of exploration was brilliant at the time.

Jon: Yeah, Zelda and Metroid have no hints whatsoever. Not a lot of games are like that anymore — we've got Dark Souls, and...

...well I think that's it.

Tom: Toki Tori 2, before the patch!

Jon: ba-dum tish

Stephen: I've always kind of put Dark Souls and Toki Tori 2 in the same camp. Kind of like DotA and League of Legends.

Tom: In terms of the influence of the NES library on the modern day, how significant is it? Or to put it another way, how important a building block is it, vital or since overlapped by SNES and beyond?

Stephen: Looks at Nintendo's core cast. It's... pretty much the same.

Jon: Incredibly significant. People who were itty bitty kids when the NES was current are now out there making games.

In the indie realm I think we're seeing a lot of influence by way of simpler interfaces and immediate mechanics.

Stephen: Exactly! A very good point. Devs are constantly looking back to those old games to make their new games. It's a weird and cool cycle.

In the indie realm I think we're seeing a lot of influence by way of simpler interfaces and immediate mechanics.

Morgan: Yeah, certainly in terms of franchises, NES is the king! And then I think things like DuckTales Remastered prove that despite all the advancement over the years, there's still a lot of interest in the types of games that started life on the NES.

Tom: Just this week a dev celebrated his Wii U license by reading through his old Nintendo Power mags!

The NES brought pretty drastic change at the time, compared to the experiences on Atari / Commodore / Spectrum etc. Like colour TV to black and white, I reckon.

Stephen: To paraphrase a recent episode of Extra Credits, classics games from the NES days remind us of products made purely for the joy of it. Adventure, excitement... simplicity in a childlike form of fun.

Morgan: I like that, Stephen! And that's definitely my impression from my VC experience with the NES library!

BEAST DAVE: That's a good way to put it, Tom. Atari always felt like a bunch of blocks with little personality, then with the NES, like we stated before, it brought exciting and detailed characters and worlds into the living room.

Tom: So do you think NES started the "modern" era of gaming, and do you think a new era has begun or will soon? In other words, how long will the NES be that key foundation?

Jon: I guess it depends on what you mean by "modern". It certainly resuscitated the home console market.

Stephen: That's a tricky question. I feel like games have been building from those uncomplicated blocks bit by bit over the years and haven't stopped yet. Contra has become Modern Warfare, in a sense.

BEAST DAVE: I just made the same Contra to COD comparison the other day, Stephen!

Jon: I think it started a wave that receded once gaming moved into 3D, which forced developers to think with a whole new grammar.

Tom: That seems like a good way of looking at it Jon.

Jon: As indie development becomes more prominent, like now, I think those roots show themselves again.

Morgan: I definitely think of the NES as the bedrock of my modern hobby, if only because it started many conventions that I think of as defining "console gaming". The controllers, the genres, even region locking!

BEAST DAVE: Remember when the N64 was the big thing? Those 2D platformers that defined the NES/SNES era were virtually nowhere to be found – there were a few exceptions, of course.

Morgan: Mischief Makers being the best!

Jon: Yeah, platformers became this weird mix of world exploration and item grabbing that kinda ran itself into the ground by the start of the next gen.

Stephen: For the longest time nobody could make 2D games because they weren't "hot" and "popular" and "cool" and whatnot, but big-time publishers aren't the only people making games. That's where the indies come into play, who are bringing back the long-suffering platformers.

Which is lovely beyond words.

BEAST DAVE: Well Jon, like you said previously, it's kind of all coming back now thanks to indie devs. And I'm okay with it!

Tom: So, to work towards the end. It's time to name your favourite NES game.

I'll be boring and say Super Mario Bros. 3.

BEAST DAVE: ONE game?! Oh man...

Morgan: Kirby's Adventure!!

Jon: I'll say Super Mario Bros. 2.

Morgan: Can we do a favourite underdog NES game too?

Stephen: Super Mario Bros. 3... but DANG IT Kirby is close!

BEAST DAVE: I'm going with StarTropics. I want Nintendo to revive that series oh-so badly.

Tom: You can do an "underdog" game too if you like!

Stephen: Does Final Fantasy count? Because it's Final Fantasy. Still my favourite in the series because I'm crazy.

Jon: Perhaps not _the_favorite, and I don't know if it's even considered an "underdog" game as it was made by Capcom, but Little Nemo: The Dream Master was incredible.

BEAST DAVE: Underdog, eh? I think I'll go with Little Nemo.

Jon: YEAH BEAST DAVE!

Morgan: Yay! My underdog pick's New Zealand Story. I discovered it while living in Auckland and even though the kiwi has arms (they don't even have wings, Taito!), I totally love it!

Tom: Anything else you guys want to talk about before we finish?

Jon: I wish that more game controllers had built-in mics like the Famicom's second controller so I could whisper sweet nothings to it.

Morgan: Woah, did not know about that! That's awesome.

BEAST DAVE: "Fixing" our games by blowing in them? How did we not mention that?

I didn't know about that either, Jon.

Tom: So, did you know blowing on cartridges doesn't actually help? As proven by science.

Morgan: Oh, yeah! I didn't even have an NES but that's been burned into my brain too, I blew into carts for years (not literally, obviously)!

Jon: I did that this weekend with Shaq Fu on SNES. I knew it wouldn't scientifically help, but I did it anyway and OH YEAH THE GAME WORKED TAKE THAT SCIENCE.

Also Shaq Fu isn't a very good game you guys.

Tom: NO WAY!

Jon: Way.

Who knew?

Not this guy.

Stephen: I just want to point out how radical the NES controller is. So box-like and squeaky.

Or is that just mine...?

BEAST DAVE: Mine aren't that squeaky. My SNES controllers on the other hand...

Tom: So let’s all sign off with five words to sum up the NES.

“Did have some awful shovelware” is mine.

Stephen: A box of old magic.

Morgan: Now I kinda want one.

Jon: Howzabout "We'll meet again, old friend".

BEAST DAVE: The world’s first Mario machine.

Tom: And with that, the round table is closed!


If you made it to the end, our humble thanks; we'd love to read all about your memories and opinions of the NES in the comments below.