Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ultra

With the onset of September and the beginning of a new school year building up steam I am left feeling a bit nostalgic. You see, 13 years ago right around this time I had a sense of destiny coursing through my veins. I can remember EXACTLY what I was doing in the early hours of September 29, 1996. I was sitting at the coffee table in our living room with the local phone book sitting in front of me. I was looking through it for the phone numbers of any place that might carry video games. All the stores would be opening soon, and I wanted to get my hands on one of the brand new Nintendo Ultra 64s. I would turn 16 in less than 2 weeks, but nothing I could possibly be getting for my birthday would compare to the Ultra 64. My family was definitely NOT the kind that could afford cars as presents for teenage birthdays. My mother would have never let me camp out overnight for something like this so my only chance was to find a place that had some left after the doors opened.

My prospects looked bleak, but the promise of living out my Mushroom Kingdom dreams in full 3D was worth any hardships I might have to suffer. As stores began to open, I began to call. The story was the same everywhere. They had gotten X number of systems and all of them had sold out the moment they opened the doors. I was heartbroken. About an hour later a small glimmer of hope shone through the fog of sadness in my brain. I remembered that Sears had a tiny section in the back of the boys clothing department that had a few games. It might be possible that they had gotten 64s that day! I called expecting the same answer I had gotten multiple times before. When I first called, nobody answered. I waited a few minutes and called back. It rang a bunch of times, then a woman answered. I asked for the games department and she said she didn't know if it was its own line or if the people from boys took those calls. I waited while she searched for someone who would know about that area. After an epic wait I was transfered and received the most ludicrous news I had ever gotten. The woman said that I was the only person who had called for it that day. She said they had gotten six of them in the night before, and that they still had all of them.

Excited beyond reality, I rallied my Aunt to take me because my mom had already left for work. When I got to Sears, one guy was buying one, but all the others were still there. I bought on, and picked up the long awaited copy of Mario 64.

The Ultra (as my friends and I continued to call it long after Nintendo dropped the name) is an interesting part of my gaming history. I remember being upset with its lack of games yet I must admit that I probably logged more hours playing that system than any before or since. It also had more games that hold special places in my heart than any other system. Granted, my favorite game of all time is not for the 64, but more of the games that really meant something to me are on the 64. Like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Mario 64, Starfox 64, Turok, Killer Instinct Gold and many many more.

It is indeed odd, that a system who's lack of games was what forced me for the first time to stray from the path of only owning Nintendo game systems is also the system that I had the most fun playing. For all the ranting I may do about the glory of the 16bit era, it was Nintendo's leap into the 3D world that really did it for me.