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Nostalgic for the NES


We dream in 8-bit

It's the year 1985, and the Nintendo Entertainment System lands on the shores of North America. In the next 10 years, the NES would connect a generation with its quality, simplicity, and sheer economic power. If accompanying my mother to buy an NES at JC Penney's is my first memory, then the succeeding hundred memories involve sitting on the carpet during hot summer days focused on the television screen while the 8-bit soundtracks blasted through the house.

It's not that the Nintendo replaced the outdoors; it supplemented it. The Brothers Grimm were replaced by the Brothers Mario, and the minimalist stories of the games framed our adventures and dreams.

As young minds, we forever connected our synapses with the locations of hidden coins and keypad combinations of up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-a-b-start. The fledgling Internet lacked the ability to inform our theories of game play, physics, and toadstools, so secret lives and shortcuts traveled via hearsay and next door neighbors, seeds planted by the miniature manuals that came with each game or a holy issue of Nintendo Power. The NES' charming unreliability conjured a cookbook of home remedies to prevent that dreaded blinking screen, rituals that provokedimmutablesuperstitions.

But alas, the gaming industry is fickle. Only five years after its release the Arthurian NES was overshadowed by its own offspring, the SNES. Camelot ended --- the Genesis vs. SNES rivalry tore apart households and friendships. Never again would one company so thoroughly dominate the video game market share, unintentionally creating a near universal cultural experience.

And this year, the industry is set to move on further, with Nintendo's next generation console Wii rumored to be out before the Christmas shopping season. The Wii is potentially a return to form, with a focus on innovative game play, graceful simplicity, and even the option to download classic NES and SNES games to its hard drive.

But those who've tried to play Metroid or The Legend of Zelda via computer emulation know, it's just not the same. There is magic in that bulky grey box and its ungainly rectangle controller. Luckily, for the die hard nerds, for the temporally unbalanced, for the curious and the junk collectors alike, there's hope---the survivors of the 60 million NES systems sold still inhabit the globe. Find one, blow some air into the cartridge, cross your fingers and hope for the best.