Gaming was a huge part of a lot of different people’s childhoods. The ‘80s and ‘90s signalled a huge change for both the gaming community and pop culture as a whole – it was a time when an entire industry was starting to take shape, and gamers were right in the thick of it.
That being said, this was a time before the internet. Nowadays, if something happens, everyone knows about it immediately – but, back when gaming was still young, a lot of behind-the-scenes moments never made it into the public view and plenty of rampant misinformation.
As a result, some stories from twenty or thirty years ago have only recently become public. As it turns out, there was quite a bit of gaming history that people in the Western hemisphere missed out on – so, without any further ado, here are 15 Facts About Classic Video Games That Might Ruin Your Childhood.
15. Blowing into video game cartridges could actually damage them
Anyone who’s ever played one of the classic 16-bit consoles can tell you that if the game is glitching out, blowing into the cartridge is the easiest way to fix it. A small puff of air should be enough to dislodge any dust sitting inside of the cartridge – once the game has been cleaned out, it should start working normally again.
…that’s the myth, anyways. In reality, blowing into a cartridge does more harm that good.
The problems arise from the moisture present in everyone’s breath – and the fact that the insides of game cartridges contain extremely sensitive connector pins. Normally, when a cartridge is inserted into the console, these pins serve as the main connection between the two. Over time, however, enough moisture can start to corrode these pins, rendering the game unplayable.
The fact that this method ‘worked’ is all smoke and mirrors: pulling and re-inserting the cartridges simply gave the console another chance at making a stable connection. As it turns out, there’s no easy way to clean a cartridge – and simply blowing into it certainly doesn’t help.
14. Sega’s ‘Blast Processing’ was nothing but marketing mumbo-jumbo
Playing video games back in the ‘90s meant choosing a side. It was either Nintendo or Sega, and there was no in-between: SNES owners claimed their console’s improved color palette and sound chip made it the better console, while Sega fans cited the Genesis’ more powerful hardware as proof of its superiority.
The Genesis’ extra power was dubbed ‘blast processing’, and supposedly allowed the console to run games at a far faster clip than what Nintendo’s hardware could produce. Titles like Sonic the Hedgehog simply weren’t possible without blast processing – if gamers wanted to go fast, they’d have to buy a Genesis.
Sadly, blast processing wasn’t really the game-changer that Sega purported it to be. While the term did refer to a technical trick designed to draw a bit of extra power out of the console, it was only used on a few select games and didn’t make that big of a difference. For the most part, ‘blast processing’ was nothing more than a bunch of radical ‘90s marketing jargon.
13. Sonic the Hedgehog was inspired by Super Mario Bros.
It’s hard to find a gaming rivalry as storied as the feud between Mario and Sonic. Nintendo’s red-and-blue plumber was the poster child of exploration and adventure, while Sega’s supersonic rodent was all about speed and attitude. In a lot of ways, the two were polar opposites – which makes Yuji Naka’s initial inspiration for Sonic the Hedgehog all the more ironic.
As it turns out, Naka had a habit of playing through the first stage of Super Mario Bros. as quickly as possible – after all, players would have to clear the level regardless of their path through the rest of the game. Over time, Naka began to wonder what an entire game with a focus on completing levels quickly would look like – and, eventually, that concept grew into Sonic’s trademark speed.
12. Dr. Robotnik was originally designed as a hero
Of course, the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog wasn’t the first character that Sega came up with. When Sega was in the process of creating their new mascot, one of the team members submitted a design for a large man with an even larger mustache and a pair of goofy pajamas. The character was genuinely well-designed, and much of the team grew to love him… but Sonic the Hedgehog was eventually selected to be Sega’s new mascot and star of the company’s next game.
However, the team didn’t want to simply throw out such a lovable character. Instead of simply scrapping the design, the egg-shaped man was redesigned to look more like a proper villain – and it wasn’t long before one of Sega’s cutest would-be heroes became one of gaming’s most iconic antagonists. Dr. Ivo Robotnik quickly became a series staple, and only a few select titles have ever excluded Sonic’s arch-nemesis.
11. Super Mario Bros. wasn’t the first true Mario game
Everyone remembers Super Mario Bros. It’s frequently cited as one of the greatest games of all time, and many claim that Super Mario Bros. almost single-handedly pulled gaming out of its slump following the industry crash in ’83 – and all while securing Nintendo’s spot in gaming history.
What’s interesting is that, despite the game’s popularity, Super Mario Bros. wasn’t the first entry in the series – and we’re not talking about Donkey Kong, either.
The aptly-titled Mario Bros. was released in 1983, and featured the first true appearances of both Mario and Luigi. The game centered around clearing all enemies from the stage, and much like its ape-centric predecessor, Mario Bros. was more concerned about high scores than anything else. It was, like many games of the era, extremely simple and repetitive – given just how influential and innovative Super Mario Bros. was, it’s no surprise that the brothers’ first true outing has largely been forgotten.
10. Yoshi was supposed to debut on the NES
Yoshi is almost as iconic as Mario himself: Nintendo’s lovable green dinosaur has come a long way since his debut back in 1991′s Super Mario World, and is just as much a part of the series is Luigi or Princess Peach. For many gamers, it’s hard to think of a time where Mario and Yoshi weren’t saving the Mushroom Kingdom together.
For a time, Nintendo had actually planned on having Yoshi debut alongside Mario’s traditional platforming adventures. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto had conceptualized the idea of Mario riding around on a mount since development on Super Mario Bros. had begun: early concept art shows Mario riding on a large, bird-like creature. Originally, this mount was to be much larger than Mario, and looked more like an ostrich than a dinosaur… though it’s easy to see how Yoshi could have evolved from these early designs.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo Entertainment System’s limited hardware capabilities couldn’t handle such complicated mechanics at the time, and Yoshi’s debut was pushed into the next console generation. Better late than never, right?
9. Nintendo chose not to include level creation tools in The Legend of Zelda
Speaking of cut content, The Legend of Zelda series is known for leaving quite a bit on the cutting room floor. Whether its characters, locations, or even central gameplay mechanics, Nintendo has a habit of whittling each entry in the series down until everything clicks.
At this point, the series is known for sticking to a general formula – but, back when the series was still in development, no one at Nintendo knew exactly what the final game would be like. For a long time, the development team toyed with a number of different concepts – including user-created dungeons.
That’s right: Nintendo was working on implementing a level creator as far back as 1986. Granted, the tools were still extremely limited, and there was no way for players to swap levels with someone else, but early versions of the game were almost entirely built around these customizable dungeons. Eventually, however, the team realized that playing through the levels was more fun than creating them, and the series’ focus on dungeon-crawling action was born.
8. Most of the early Final Fantasy games never made it to the U.S.
Much like any of Nintendo’s early franchises, the Final Fantasy series has gone on to become one of the biggest titles in gaming history. What started out as a single attempt to make a great role-playing game quickly exploded into the mega-franchise that’s still going on today…but it wasn’t easy being an American Final Fantasy fan when the franchise first took off.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, only the most popular or profitable games made the jump from Japan to the U.S. – and no one knew if Final Fantasy was going to be a hit. It would take three years for the first game to make its way to American gamers – by that point, Square had already started work on a sequel.
This extended localization period continued on through the ‘90s, and as a result, many of the early Final Fantasy games remained Japanese exclusives. American gamers wouldn’t get a chance to play the second, third or fifth installments for years, and it wasn’t until Final Fantasy VII that the different installments would arrive in both territories at roughly the same time.
7. Older games were made harder to ensure that players kept renting them
Back in the days of the arcade, games weren’t just hard – they were punishing. Many classic coin-op games are considered to be some of the most brutally difficult games ever created, but it made sense: if the game was ridiculously hard, gamers were more likely to drop more quarters into the machine.
What’s strange is that, when games made the jump from arcades to home consoles, the difficulty never let up. Sure, it was expected that arcade ports were going to be hard, but if the console-exclusive games weren’t trying to suck the quarters out of gamers’ pockets, why were they still so tough to beat?
As it turns out, publishers were still hoping to bank on a game’s difficulty, but for a different reason: if a game was hard, players were more likely to keep renting it from stores like Blockbuster. Some developers have even admitted to re-working parts of their games simply to make it tougher for players to get through, all in the hopes that they’d rent the game again once their time was up.
6. It’s possible to find Mew in Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow
Of all the popular gaming urban legends out there, finding Mew in Pokemon Red, Blue & Yellow has to be one of the biggest. Before the Internet was a widespread, household item, gamers really only had one source of information: each other. As such, rumors and blatant lies spread like wildfire – and the myth of Mew hiding somewhere in the original Pokemon games was one of the most popular rumor of its kind.
What’s funny is that, while attempts to find Mew usually wound up failing, there is a way to obtain the extremely rare Pokemon without cheating or hacking the game. By taking advantage of a glitch in how the games store their Trainer and Pokemon information, players can trigger a legitimate fight with Mew – and, just like any other Pokemon, Mew can be weakened and caught.
5. Players were originally supposed to fight Professor Oak
The ending of the original Pokemon games are forever burned into the memories of an entire generation of gamers. After powering through both Team Rocket and the Elite Four, players expected to see the credits start rolling – only to learn that their rival was waiting for them, standing guard as the game’s final boss.
It’s an iconic moment, and taking the top spot in the Pokemon League was an amazing feeling – but the original ending would have played out a little differently had the development team not cut a pivotal battle at the last second.
In early versions of the original Pokemon games, Professor Oak acted as the player’s final challenge upon returning to their home in Pallet Town. The fight, while glitchy, can still be accessed in some versions of the game via hacking – and, judging from his team of high-level monsters, the Professor would have been an absolute powerhouse of a final boss..
4. The original Street Fighter was an unplayable mess
Street Fighter II is the reason that the fighting game genre exists today. The game may seem basic by today’s standards, but it’s easy to forget that just about every other attempt at a one-on-one fighting game that came before Street Fighter II was something of a mess.
Surprisingly enough, that includes the original Street Fighter. The first game in the series was, to put it lightly, almost unplayable: even something as simple as moving around the screen was a needlessly complicated chore, and actually trying to pull off any of the character’s unique special moves was borderline impossible. Long story short, the game just wasn’t all that fun to play.
Thankfully, Capcom’s team went back to the drawing board for the second game: movement was smoothed out, the characters were completely reworked and combos changed the genre forever. Street Fighter II was fun – in fact, it was so fun that most gamers completely forgot that it was a sequel at all.
3. GoldenEye 007 almost launched without multiplayer
It’s hard to imagine GoldenEye 007 without its iconic multiplayer modes. Sure, the single-player story mode was a lot of fun, and the Rare did a phenomenal job of bring first-person shooters to home consoles, but it was the player-versus-player combat that made the game so popular with Nintendo fans.
That’s why it’s so astounding that, up until the last few months of development, GoldenEye 007 didn’t have a multiplayer mode. In fact, until around March of 1997, no one at Rare had even started working on it – for context, GoldenEye 007 launched back in August 1997.
As if that wasn’t enough, GoldenEye 007′s multiplayer modes were made without any authorization. None of the higher-ups at Rare or Nintendo knew that multiplayer was even on the table until it was up and running – basically, developer Steve Ellis and a small team built the game’s entire multiplayer suite just weeks before the game was scheduled to enter distribution. Had it not been for Ellis’ brash decision and ridiculous dedication, players never would have been able to head-to-head with their buddies.
2. The Nintendo 64 could connect to the Internet (in Japan)
Considering that network play is so ingrained in modern gaming, it’s easy to forget that consoles only recently went online. While the timing may have been off, Microsoft’s idea of an always-online console doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore – a far cry from the days of no Internet connectivity whatsoever.
Then again, Western audiences are at something of a disadvantage: in Japan, Internet connectivity via video game console has been around for a bit longer. Despite the fact that the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive was a massive failure, it did boast one major innovation: Randnet.
Randnet was an online service designed from the ground up for Nintendo’s console, allowing users to play demos, send e-mails and browse the web – and, while there was no way to play with other gamers, Randnet was still a major step forward in console connectivity. Sadly, between the need for two separate peripherals and the abysmal sales of the 64 DD, Randnet never made much of an impact.
1. The original PlayStation was almost a Nintendo console
There’s no denying that the PlayStation 4 has been a huge success. Sony’s current-generation console has outsold both the Xbox One and Wii U by a huge margin, to a point where both Microsoft and Nintendo have basically given up on trying to match the PS4′s sales numbers.
For Nintendo, the PlayStation’s success has got to sting. Not only have Sony’s consoles consistently outsold Nintendo’s own hardware, but there was a point where the two companies actually considered partnering up.
Back when the Nintendo 64 was still in development, Nintendo considered using Sony’s CD-based prototype console as its next major hardware release. The switch over to discs seemed like an inevitability, especially considering the limitations brought on by cartridges’ relatively small storage capacity. However, Nintendo decided that cartridges were the best way to cut costs and prevent piracy, and left Sony to work with other partners – Sony, on the other hand, didn’t want all of their hard work to go to waste, and the original PlayStation was born.
It’s safe to say that Sony made the right call.
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