Why The Super Nintendo is Still the Best Christmas Present I've Ever Gotten
First, and apology to the Wife With One F because her gift this year was awesome as it is always. With her about to be in school full-time money's tight, but she managed to track down a Doctor Who Cybermen Factory Character Building set on the cheap. They're basically LEGO, and I spent a happy evening constructing it with a bottle of wine on hand, a fez on my head, and "A Good Man Goes to War" on the TV. Thank you, sweetie.
Computer Closet Collection
But like most of you I'm sure there was one gift you got when you were a child that simply topped everything else before or since. It's the gift that if you hadn't gotten it Hollywood would probably have cast you into a bitter old person trying to ruin everyone's holidays forever. Your Rosebud, get it? For me, it was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Nothing else I have ever gotten on Christmas has ever really come close. Here's why.
My parents didn't really have a lot of money when I was growing up. Oh, we never went hungry or anything, but they both worked middle of the road gigs with not a lot of hope for upward mobility. The SNES was the first time I can remember wondering if I'd asked for too much from them.
It launched for $199 in 1990, which is about $340 in today's dollars. That's near what the good version of the Wii U sells for, but look at what you can do with a Wii U. It comes with a browser, you can get Netflix on it for free, it has a social network, it's backwards compatible with the Wii and uses the same controllers, and God knows what else. The SNES came with two controllers and Super Mario World.
That's to say nothing of the games. When Final Fantasy IV (II) came out in America in 1992 it was $69.99. For comparison, Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out this year for $10 less. Add in inflation, and the first 16-bit RPG was $113 to own! The SNES was a high-dollar purchase, so much so that they shipped them at night because of worries that gangs would hijack systems to resale.
So when I opened that box and saw not only the system, but Super Castlevania IV staring at me, I knew that mom and dad had definitely gone without something to provide this for me. And I knew that it would keep on being that way for a while to come because those games didn't get any cheaper. There was always at least one game under the tree for the rest of the life of that system.
The SNES is the last system I can remember not believing was possible. Look, I am as impressed as anyone by the power of my PS3, but when I put Final Fantasy XIII up against Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, it's not exactly like I can't believe the difference. The same can be said for The Legacy of Kain games on the PS2 and Soul Reaver on PS1.
Even when you look at the move from 16-bit to 32-bit, or the Super Nintendo to the N64, there's a distinctly unfinished quality to the games. As cool and fun as Resident Evil or Pilotwings 64 or any other great game from that era that isn't Ocarina of Time, you can feel the fact that the people who were making them knew something better was coming along soon. The games they made were good, but they were good the way a homemade burger is better than McDonald's. They weren't good like how a gourmet steak is better than a McDonald's burger.