Did Gaming Charm Disappear With The Cartridge?
Do you remember that feeling you get when you first turned on the game on your NES? Maybe it was the immediate * ding, ding * of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out that got your worked up for a marathon of dodging punches. Or perhaps, you just enjoyed the charming title screens and the ability to just jump right into jumping on Goombas or shooting down ducks.
On the Sega Genesis, we were routinely treated to a number of comical and mesmerizing Sega logo animations that tied in with the game’s theme while showing off that trademark Sega style. I remember sometimes I would reboot my Genesis just so I could watch that Sega logo animation one more time. (If you’d like to see some of these in action, take a look at this gallery of animated Sega logos. How often do you see these kinds of intros anymore?)
Fast forward just a bit now… Remember back to when you had got your N64, you turned it on for the first time with Mario inside. BLING! It’s A Me, Mario! Do you remember that enchantment followed by Mario’s face instantly appearing allowing you to play around with it.
Now with CD/DVD based machines, that all seems to be gone. First thing you normally see now is a copyright screen and ‘Loading’. Then it’s the developer’s logo, then the publishers, then the people who make the video codec, then Bob’s friend’s company logo. Then, if your lucky you get to the crappy press start screen!
The magic is still in some games, but its getting harder to find. Nintendo seems to still have some first-party games that have a great feel to them. Animal Crossing is the main one that comes to mind — Mario Power Tennis also had the Wario and Waluigi voices in the opening credits. It isn’t so much the game itself that is always missing the magic, its the whole entrance into the game’s world, that is lacking.
To be fair, the movie industry is essentially experiencing a similar fate. Pop in a new DVD and you have to sit through a bunch of copyright notices and commercials before you even get to the menu.
In the case of the gaming industry its rather hard to put your finger on the cause. Could this all be caused by a movement to make their business partners happier instead of the end user? Or is cause by the fact that the average gamer is getting older? Or maybe it was about that time that developers tried to make everything in the game to be more life-like.
Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, even if the developers tried to make the game realistic, it still managed to look a bit animated due to the graphical limitations of the consoles. However, once the machines were able to reproduce respectable 3D graphics, that cartoon-like touch started to disappear. With that change, the magical little touches that pulled us into the game also seemed to disappear.
It looks like Nintendo is our last hope for this kind of magical feeling. Even though I have to click through that same warning every time I boot up my DS, the first-party games do still have some charm to their openings. I also got a real kick out of New Super Mario Bros. when you shut the DS to take a break and Mario’s voice says “bub-bye!” and then welcomes you back when you return.
Again, do not misunderstand me — there are plenty of new games that I enjoy. However, I can’t help but miss those little thrills I got simply by turning on a game.