Late last week I remembered that the SNES Mini was right around the corner, after it had somewhat drifted out of my mind. The past month has been somewhat busy and chaotic on both a personal and professional level, with Nintendo having the audacity to release a system that's selling rather well. With the silly season of Autumn / Fall and Winter releases there's been plenty to think about, and the humble 3DS has had the occasional gem here and there; throw in a Direct etc, and it's been a busy time.
So I'd lost track of the SNES Mini; being based in the UK I'm fortunate enough to have made a pre-order during the Summer, and when I clocked that its release was imminent it certainly cheered me up. I even held off on a game purchase or two I'd been planning; like most I only have a specific amount I can spend on games, and those pre-orders need to be paid. Besides, the SNES Mini has new games as far as I'm concerned, and not just Star Fox 2.
To quote everyone's favourite Metroid game - confession time... (stares wistfully out of a window). I've never played Star Fox.
Some longer term and particularly attentive readers may have learnt already of my shameful lack of history with Nintendo - considering the fact I write about them - but here's a crash course. My first 'gaming' system was a ZX Spectrum (like a Commodore 64, but British), and then we got a SEGA Mega Drive. I'd have been about 6 years old when the decision was made, and so my older brother made the call; I've never regretted it to this day. I was a SEGA kid in those 16-bit console wars and loved the Mega Drive / Genesis; the original Sonic games, Streets of Rage II, weird games like Gynoug, that was a huge part of my childhood. At one point we got a good PC too, so I grew up with LucasArts titles and Theme Hospital.
Some of my colleagues had both a SNES and Mega Drive growing up, but that was never on the cards for me. We had the PC I mentioned, too, and my brother and I were all about building our game collection as well as we could. Gaming was actually expensive back then - my receipt for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 shows it was £39.99, and that's in the early '90s. I remember we also paid a crazy amount just for the cartridge of Street Fighter 2, it was madness. Throw in PC gaming, and I'm grateful to my parents for getting us all the games they did.
Anyway, my first Nintendo system was when my older brother spent the pay from his first proper job on a Nintendo 64, and it was the Star Fox 64 bundle (or Lylat Wars, as it was in Europe). That game blew my mind, and its brevity didn't bother me because mine had been a childhood obsessed with arcade machines and their stunning games. The 3D visuals were game-changing - which would only become more the case once I saw Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - and even simple things like the Rumble Pak were exciting. I remember we unboxed it, plugged it in and took turns playing through Star Fox 64, over and over again.
That was my first delicious taste of 'owning' a Nintendo system - naturally it went with my brother to University a little while later, it was his system after all! I'd briefly played a SNES in an era gone by at a relative's house, but my first extended time with Nintendo hardware was that N64.
It was the Wii Virtual Console that changed everything for me. I spent a lot of money over the system's life catching up on classics and not-so-classics from the NES and SNES era. In some ways that obsession with the Virtual Console is what turned me from being a Wii and DS fan into being a 'Nintendo' fan, to the point that I now write about them every day. I played dozens of 8- and 16-bit games through the Wii, wonky emulation and all, and that's where my first taste came from. The 3DS and Wii U followed, and on the portable I played catch-up with quite a lot of Game Boy games. I was basically filling in my childhood from an alternate universe, one where we picked up a NES (though their distribution was minimal in my part of the UK) and a SNES instead of a Mega Drive.
So when my SNES Mini arrives Star Fox will be the first game I play, at last. I'm a fan of the series, driven by a love for the N64 game and the excellent 3DS re-release, and I'll finally get to see where it all started. Due to limits in space / time / money I've never retrospectively picked up a SNES or the game, and in gatherings with a clone system or actual SNES it never got booted up. And, of course, it never came to the Virtual Console, which would have been my route in.
I know of it, though, its legend. I've watched the videos, I get the comedic references, I'm aware of how fantastic the music is, I've read about it. To me it'll be essentially a new game that I've waited on for a couple of decades, that gem that should have been on the Virtual Console but never made it. The same buzz many felt when EarthBound finally arrived will be my Star Fox, actually - admittedly, that's a sad lament of a Mega Drive kid.
And then I'll play the sequel, to see whether it was a great game cruelly cut at the last minute or a flawed one that should have been left in the ROM recesses of the internet. Yes, I'm aware that I could have played both Star Fox games through emulators and ROMs long before now, but I never owned them so I never thought of doing that. Whether I'm an idealist or a naïve fool is up to you.
Of course I'll just be playing 'official' ROMs on the SNES, as I was on the Virtual Console, but that's fine. I'll probably even have to sit close to the TV because the controllers are wired and limited to a few feet. I may be a 30-something gamer now, positively ancient in the world of the internet, but it'll be another chance to see what I missed out on in the early '90s.
I don't regret being a SEGA kid, but I know that being a Nintendo kid would have been equally awesome.