With the Christmas period now over and the New Year upon us, here is a continuation of my earlier blog looking back, somewhat nostalgically, at my previous computers and consoles.
1989: Sega Master System
After a certain amount of lobbying, over a year, my dreams came true on Christmas Day in 1989, I suspected the box under the tree could be the present I wanted, but I left it until last in any case, a mistake really because Santa had also brought a couple of games too, which I opened first, so it gave the game away…but there it was a Sega Master System in all it’s glory.
It’s fair to say that my parents got their money’s worth out of the Sega, they didn’t see me again until the next decade! The Sega was a terrific console, it may not have had all the games that the Nintendo Entertainment System could enjoy, but the games it did have were of much better graphics and the type of games I liked, my favourites been ‘World Soccer’ and ‘After Burner’.
Having only owned my Master System for less than a year, Sega decided to release theMega Drive in late 1990 just in time for Christmas, if only I had waited was all I could think, I knew there was no chance of getting one, but it didn’t stop me needing one!
So another year passed and having worn away most of my copies of C&VG and Mean Machines, reading all I could about the next generation 16-Bit Consoles like the MD and SNES, in December 1991, I decided to put my Christmas money to good use, unfortunately the retail price of the Mega Drive was well over the £100 that I was given by my parents to buy a present.
1991: Sega Megadrive
I was determined to get aMega Drive, by now a friend had one and the graphics were brilliant, I remember seeing ‘Golden Axe’ for the first time and thinking it looked just the same as the arcade version.
So one wintery Saturday morning I persuaded Dad to take me to the big city to see if any of the computer shops were up for a bit of bargaining, we soon found out that they weren’t and why would they? It was Christmas and they had something everybody wanted, so we would have to pay top dollar.
By the end of the day Dad was fed up and I was upset, I had set my heart on the Mega Drive and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. So, leaving me sulking outside, my Dad went into a small independent Computer Shop and was missing for a longer time than expected, as most shops had said “NO!” as soon as we walked through the door.
Next thing I knew I was in the shop, stood at the counter, watching in astonishment as the owner checked to see that nobody was looking, went in the back room and came out with a strange looking box covered in Japanese text.
What was it?
Well in the old days we called them ‘Grey Imports’, but to you and me they were foreign stock not to be sold in the UK, it didn’t look like the British Mega Drive’s, it had a red band around the central cartridge port, but he assured us it played games, I seem to remember the conversation went along these lines:
“I’ll take £100 for it, no questions” said Mr Shop Keeper;
“…£100 and a game” Came the reply;
“hmm…Okay, I’ll throw in this game” retorted the Shop Keeper holding an imported version of ‘Streets of Rage’.
So the deal was done, I had the only thing I wanted for Christmas and I was over the moon, couldn’t believe my luck in fact…
…until Christmas day morning…
…Its not what you may be thinking, the console was a Mega Drive, it did work and the ‘Streets of Rage’ looked awesome, the only problem was that all the text was in Japanese!
This wasn’t a problem for the action games, but my brother had bought me a game called ‘Donald Duck’s Quackshot’ that was a semi RPG, which involved following instructions, so it was unplayable.
With the shopkeeper’s “No questions asked” ringing in our ears, we reluctantly returned to the shop, luckily the owner was very reasonable about the whole thing and offered a replacement, which had been converted to display English text, so away we went.
The Sega Mega Drive is the best console I have ever owned, solid, reliable, great games and the six button controller is the best joy pad ever invented, I wished I still had one! But the real reason why I really liked my MD was that it would play anything from all over the known world and convert the foreign text or speech to English, so I saved hundreds of pounds buying games imported at much lower retail prices, also I didn’t have to lend them out because they wouldn’t work on my friends MD’s, but I could borrow their games…Result!
The Sega Mega Drive turned out to be my final foray into the console market for almost a decade, partly due to the platforms ability to improve the graphics over time, see the difference in graphics between Golden Axe and Street Fighter II, and also we had a new computer in the household, this time it was a present for my older Brother, but it didn’t stop me using it!
1992: Commodore Amiga 1200
In December 1992 the Amiga arrived in our house and initially I wasn’t too bothered, after all I had ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ what could the family computer possibly have what the Mega Drive didn’t?
Well firstly, the Mega Drive was a Japanese console and as such only really featured Americana Sports games, like EA’s Madden Series, what it never had until much later in its life was a decent football game, because as we all know good football games are made in Britain, after all we invented the game!
A few friends had Amiga 500’s, so the football game of choice even before we had our own Amiga was ‘Kick Off 2’, unfortunately I found this difficult to play and I particularly disliked playing on joysticks, which computer users tended to favour. What really turned my head came in the guise of a demo disk from Amiga Power, a game entitled ‘Sensible Soccer’, at first I didn’t like the game at all, it was far too fast and the ball didn’t stick to the players foot either! But slowly I became fonder of the game, in fact I became obsessed, but that’s a story for a different time. But, once again, I was using a computer for playing games and the Amiga was a wonderful gaming machine with such classics as ‘Cannon Fodder’, ‘Elite’ and ‘Sensible World of Soccer’.
What often gets overlooked about the Amiga also had wad a decent word processor via the ‘Work Bench’ operating system, so from 1995 to 1998 when I went to University, all of my course work was typed up on the Amiga and printed out on an Epsom Bubble Jet…Happy Days.
Then things go very quiet, these are my wilderness years, I never lost interest in games, the games lost interest in me, I should have seen it coming when Sega released a six button joy pad that gaming would never be the same again, it isn’t not for me anyway. I longed for the days of single button shoot-em-ups like ‘R-Type’ or the keyboard basing of ‘Track & Field’, but alas those day have gone.
1998: PC (Fujitsu Siemens Intel Pentium II)
The next foray into computers was when a PC appeared in our house roughly 6 years after the Amiga appeared, so being a late starter is an understatement, I had used one at work for a few years and quite frankly I didn’t care for them much when it came to gaming, so for me this machine will be remembered for getting our household on to the World Wide Web and for helping me in my second stint at University.
1999: Sony Playstation
The Sony Playstation was a Christmas present from my future wife, it wasn’t something I knew much about before I received the gift, by now I had other things on my mind and playing games wasn’t something I took much interest in any more, but the PS changed this. Looking back I think I spent the most money on games for the Playstation, I guess I could do because now I was working gaming became much more affordable, with some of my favourite titles been ‘Speed Freaks’ a brilliant Mario Kart clone and ‘Brian Lara Cricket’ a quite excellent cricket game. I will fondly remember the Playstation for getting me back into console gaming, although I never did catch on with those new fangled 6 button controllers and I struggle to this day!
The Dawn of the Millennium
Once the Millennium was upon us a whole new generation of consoles and computer completely changed the way that not only games would be played, but how we would interface with the systems.
Personally, Since 2000 I have bought a PC (2003), Sony PlayStation 2 (2004), Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade (2009) and now my weapon of choice is a sleek shiny black Xbox 360 Slim (2010), which I almost exclusively play online, be it ‘Modern Warfare 3’ or ‘Sensible World of Soccer’, with most of my web browsing done on my iPhone, possibly the best thing since sliced bread!
One thing is for sure, gaming is no longer frowned upon by the people who don’t understand or think its geeky, computers and consoles are now big business and its influence on modern culture is immeasurable. The gaming landscape has completely changed since I was a lad, in my day if I asked for a ‘Poke’ I wouldn’t get a dry slap across the face! Gaming is different now, its certainly more extreme and competitive, something I have found out about since buying an Xbox, I think its fair to say that generally gamers don’t buy a game for the single player mode, it’s what you can do online, so I envy the youngsters as we never had that and I can only try to imagine what the next generation of consoles will have to offer, but I am also thankful to have lived through the time when gaming went from zero to hero and computers and consoles became welcome in the front room.
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