Warning: Cheesy content ahead!
Gaming, for me, started with the Dragon 32, Sinclair Spectrum 16k and Atari 2600. These early years were full of Chuckie Egg, Centipede and Space Invaders. As the years slipped by, so did the names of the home computers and consoles I had access to. I moved to a Spectrum +2, then onto an Amiga A500, eventually an A500 Plus, the Plus being important to point out.
The Amiga became primary gaming device. Championship Manager, Sensible Soccer (and the follow-ups Sensible World Of Soccer), Outrun and James Pond Codename: Robocod became my games of choice for a considerable time. A later Christmas gift of an Amiga CD-32, the home computer company’s ill-fated foray into console gaming came and went.
However, nestled amongst these events, I had the opportunity to play Blades Of Steel, Super Mario Bros and other games on a Nintendo Entertainment System while on holiday in Edmonton, Canada. It didn’t strike me as being any different or more powerful than my Amiga. It became a footnote in my personal gaming history, alongside my friends Sega Master System.
My First Nintendo
Gameboy, it didn’t really mean that much to me when I tore off the wrapping. I was waiting on my Amiga game The Secret of Monkey Island. The reviews were in, and it was the must have game.. The Gameboy had Mario Bros with it and Tetris. Both games were excellent, and held my attention during long car journeys but, ultimately, the Amiga remained my go-to gaming device.
A friend introduced me to his Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Games such as Super Mario World, F-Zero, Mario Kart and Fifa Soccer were all great fun. But I didn’t own a SNES, so never experienced them for more than a couple of hours at a time. They were enjoyable games even though the idea of a controller, as opposed to a joystick, was still alien to me.
My Gameboy continued to take second place, even with Kick Off and other games joining my games catalogue.
Sony Makes Stereos
I received my PlayStation as a gift for Christmas in 1995. Immediately the console stood out from the crowd. Air Combat, Fifa Soccer 96 and Destruction Derby were my first games on the console, and as a Blockbuster Video part-time employee, access to the latest games was unlimited as you were allowed a free staff rental per night. Tekken, WipeOut, Mortal Kombat and a mountain of games came and went as I became a console game consumer. This console followed me to University, and after drunken student nights out, we managed to find time to play WipeOut or Tekken.
PlayStation dominated the market. However, Nintendo and Sega had not given up.
Cartridge Gaming Lives On
In 1996 the N64 released. I managed to buy one in early 1998. It included a bundle of games; GoldenEye, Mario Kart 64 and Mario 64. The console stood out. It was different opting for cartridges rather optical discs, and the controller was very different from the PlayStation. Mario Kart became the pre and post night out game of choice, battle mode separating the mildly inebriated from the stupidly drunk.
GoldenEye was a standout game. With an incredible first person shooter mechanic and story the game could have been successful on these merits alone. However, Rare added the fantastic split screen multiplayer. Some would search frantically for the Golden Gun and others would know each brick, crate or stone in every map, meaning hiding from your competitors was not an option.
The game didn’t lose the lustre through countless hours of gaming, and the PlayStation sat idle, gathering dust. Only being dusted off for Theme Hospital replays.
The Dreamcast didn’t pass me by. I had a friend who owned one, and we played it for hours on end. However, I had invested in PS1 and N64, further investment in another console was not going to be possible.
Pre-Order to Avoid Disappointment
In November 2000 the PlayStation 2 arrived. I was lucky enough to have it on pre-order. I picked it up first thing from Blockbuster Video and excitedly unboxed it. The N64 relinquishing control of the power outlets and TV connection it had held for two years. The PS1 had vanished long before the release of the PS2, making its way to a family friend.
ISS, SSX, Tekken, Kessen and Timesplitters all vied for my time. Within a couple of months, the N64 had been sold on to a friend, and I completely forgot about the incredible games I had played on the console.
The GameCube also came and went, a colleague had their pre-order delivered to the office, and we marvelled at the tiny optical discs and even hooked it up to a TV to try it out. However, this was the closest I came to playing a GameCube for any significant amount of time.
OS Heavyweight Enters The Ring
Microsoft entered the game console war, it had been given this name by the press, and I was lucky enough to be able to afford a pre-order, again. The bundle included; Halo: Combat Evolved, a new FPS that was going to revolutionise gaming, apparently, Project Gotham Racing and Max Payne.
The Xbox release heralded the arrival of extreme fanboy culture. Xbox and PS2 gamers faced off in online fanboy rants. Both sets defending their console’s abilities against the other, making sweeping comments and… Well, you know the rest. They are still at it.
The Xbox and PS2 shared my attention equally as I consumed exclusives for each console and enjoyed the new era of gaming as games, such as GTA, began to evolve into the incredible series they are today.
Wii Got On Well
In late 2006 the Nintendo Wii launched, a year after the Xbox360. Received as a gift, it included Wii Sports and Wii Play. These games were bolstered by the arrival of Guitar Hero and other party games. In our household, the Wii was a party console. People would come around, and we would play for hours on end trying to complete the songs in Guitar Hero, bowl a perfect game and (once we had the balance board) ski jump in competition against each other.
It was evident the Wii was taking a casual gamer role in the house. It would be transported to the homes of family and friends for kids and adults to play on. Ultimately though it failed to ignite the same spark in gaming for me that, throughout the past 10 years or so PCs had continued to do.
Console Wars The Next Generation
Through 2005 to 2008 I concentrated on PC gaming, the PC offered me the flexibility to upgrade. Having built PCs since the mid-90s, it seemed logical to build a new gaming PC every few years, improving as required.
In Mid-2008, a work colleague was selling his PS3, and a friend had experienced the red ring of death Xbox360. It only cost me £50 to get a PS3 with Heavy Rain and some other games. The Xbox360 was free, say for a cardboard box and foam to pack it off to Microsoft for repair. Within a month I had the two most important gaming consoles of the generation and a Wii, which was now gathering dust.
Disconnected and boxed up the Wii slumbered in hibernation along with all of the oversized peripherals that had come with various games.
Red Dead Redemption, Fallout 3, Fallout NV, GTA IV Liberty City, GTA V, Max Payne, Fifa, Madden NFL and a bucket load of games passed in and out of the consoles. My gaming PC reverted to a Football Manager and Tycoon/Management game system.
Where Was U?
The Wii U launched in 2012, I had little interest. Initially, I had thought it was an add-on to the Wii. But after a few minutes realised it was a new console. The problem was the graphics and games looked the same, save for a few standout games, I didn’t think of investing.
My gaming PC was a bit long in the tooth, I opted to buy one this time instead of building. I replayed Skyrim on the PC and had fun with the mods. Building a massive Steam library of games, some of which I have still not played.
I pre-ordered a PS4. On launch day Amazon delivered it, along with Assasins Creed IV: Black Flag, Need For Speed Rivals and Killzone: Shadow erm… No one cares it was pap.
Black Flag was awesome. A massive game with incredible fearsome ship battles. Of course, let’s not forget the tower climbing… So many towers. It could have ruined the game, but it didn’t. The mix of action at sea and on land made for an excellent game.
Need For Speed was filler, pure and simple. You could pick up NFS and play it for an hour and not really do anything, but have had an enjoyable time.
Killzone. I’ve already mentioned that one.
I heard about a game called Splatoon through watching Jim Sterling’s excellent Jimquisition. He painted (pun intended) a great picture of what it had to offer as he embarked on his copyright movement against the likes of Nintendo.
I hovered over the Wii U in the Amazon store, poised and ready to click buy. But I stopped, and a few days later the NX rumour was confirmed. Then as the months drifted by the Switch was officially announced. A launch date followed, 3rd March 2017 would be the big day. I decided to skip the Wii U and pre-ordered the Switch, late in the day after peer pressure from the rest of the team at WHIG. Okay, okay. They actually didn’t need to push me, I was already planning on buying. The announcement of Splatoon 2 and covering the Switch on the WHIG Facebook page encouraged me to pre-order.
3rd March 2017 – 1532 GMT
Amazon Logistics delivered my Switch, only after I had watched the rest of the WHIG team live stream their trip to a midnight launch in Glasgow to pick up their shiny new consoles. Only after, I watched other people picking up the Switch on the live stream. Only after, I watched the Happy Console Gamer unbox his Switch. Only after, I read the various articles showing on NewsNow about the Switch… Only then did I get mine. I opened the Amazon box like a child, then my adult brain thought to capture a photo.
Then I began photographing every box. It was strange. I had received pre-order consoles and games countless times before and never did this on those occasions. The Switch seemed special. I’m not a fanboy, I am useless at Mario, and a sore loser in Mario Kart. But it did feel like I was witnessing the reawakening of a sleeping, or wounded, giant.
After unboxing and entering my previously secured Nintendo ID I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I kept playing. This isn’t unusual I played GTA V for hours at launch and lost a day to Fallout 4. But something hung in the air. It was like Christmas as a kid again. I marvelled at everything from the Joy-Cons to my Pro Controller to the touchscreen. I even found the cable tidy compartment on the docking station to be interesting.
Zelda, of course, is incredible. I’ve played it for hours on my TV and while sitting patiently in my car waiting for someone who was running late.
Both Switch and docking station now sit on my desk, next to my gaming laptop, PS4, Surface Book and NAS. Connected to my 32-inch monitor ready to pick up if I am free, or if I have to leave.
All I’m missing is the Nintendo case I ordered. It didn’t arrive as it was out of stock.
The device feels great to use and exudes quality. It just works, if we forget the Joy-Con issue for the time being. It fits in and looks good. Scratch that, it looks fantastic. I have Splatoon 2, Lego City, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mario’s Odyssey pre-ordered, and can’t wait for them to arrive.
I am keeping an eye out for further release announcements and reaching for my wallet to buy Shovel Knight, which I have on PC, Snipperclips and Fast RMX. But then, should I just order an SD card too?
Hang on, what about Just Dance and Super Bomberman R. Sure I am a heavy metal fan, and I didn’t like Bomberman in any incarnation in the past. But, maybe the Switch will change that? That’s never been something I have thought about with my other pre-order consoles. I’ve never thought ‘maybe this console will change my opinion of that game/series?’.
This, at least to me, is why the Switch is special. Why it is different, and why I think it’s for the betterment of the gaming industry. Sure, Nintendo is stuck in the past when it comes to copyright and attitudes toward content producers. Maybe Switch can fix this too?
Written by Neil Dutton
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