While last November saw the 30th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Famicom, today is the 30th anniversary of the release of its North American counterpart, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System! Or Super NES, or SNES, or Super Nintendo…however you refer to it, it was 30 years ago that we finally got the big N’s 16-bit powerhouse on this side of the Pacific.
I wrote about my first experiences with the Super Famicom in that article linked above, but I still have a story or two left to tell about the Super NES.
The 9-month wait for the NA release was excruciating, especially having already played the Super Famicom and knowing what it was capable of. Nowadays it seems ridiculous for a console not to have a simultaneous (or at least near-simultaneous) worldwide drop, but back then, almost everything happened in Japan first, then the localizations had to happen. Nintendo Power and the other magazines had already revealed to us the redesigned console — I remember actually being quite disappointed by the squared-off design of the SNES, as I really liked the smooth contours of the SFC and thought it was a very slick-looking piece of hardware. The SNES, on the other hand, looked clunky, and I just didn’t understand why it had to be totally overhauled. That was just the way the game industry worked back then.
Even so, I knew that what really mattered were the games, not what the hardware looked like (thankfully, the controllers remained almost identical, with the exception of two of the face buttons being concave instead of all four being convex, and their colors changed to shades of purple instead of the iconic four SFC colors). And all the games I was excited about were coming to local store shelves: F-Zero! Actraiser! And of course, Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World was gonna be the pack-in!! The console could have looked like a straight up dog turd, and I still would have bought it to play those games.
What I remember most strongly about the release of the SNES, however, was that it was supposed to come out on Sunday, August 30th, 1991. The magazines were all reporting it — I think even Nintendo Power said so. So I was socking away my teenage fast-food job money, and had a spare $200 at the ready in my bank account, ready to withdraw the Friday before that weekend, so I could hit up one of the local shops first thing in the morning on the 30th (this was also before there were huge lines of people camping out for game consoles, so I wasn’t worried about missing out).
Then, on the morning of Sunday, August 23, my dad came into my room and woke me up. When I peeled open my eyes, he was holding a page from that morning’s local newspaper in front of my face: it was a full-page Toys ‘R’ Us ad that boldly proclaimed:
SUPER NINTENDO IS HERE!
WHAT?! It was a week early!! OMG OMG OMG!! How did this happen? How did they sneak it out without anyone knowing?!
And most distressingly, I didn’t have my 200 bucks on me to go get it!!
Not to worry, of course. Dad to the rescue (as I now know, as a dad, we often are). He offered to come to TRU with me and buy it, and I could simply take my money out of the bank the next day and pay him back. Deal!
So there we were, at 10:00 sharp, in the checkout line with the good ol’ Toys ‘R’ Us paper slip for one SNES console, along with only two other people — one in front and one behind — which leads me to believe that I may have been the second person in my town to buy a Super NES.
Of course, I spent the whole day playing Super Mario World, happy as a teenage gaming clam.
The next morning, I held up my end of the bargain, as Dad again accompanied me to the bank, where I withdrew my remittance. But just as I asked the teller for $200 out of my account, Dad stopped me and said, “You sure you don’t wanna get another game?”
The only other two games out at launch were F-Zero and Pilotwings, and I knew I wanted F-Zero. But seeing as he bought me the console, I didn’t want to trouble him for another game when we got it. I just figured I’d pick it up later.
“Well yeah, actually I do.”
“Why don’tcha take out another 50 then.”
I mean, it was my money, but if my Dad was anything, he was an enabler of things that made us happy.
So, our deal squared away, and me with two SNES games by the end of its second day on the market, I was finally on my way into the world of 16-bit Nintendo — a journey which would become, quite probably, my favorite era in gaming. The SNES would of course bring us stunning, life-changing experiences like Final Fantasy VI, Contra III, and Super Metroid, games that continue to be super popular today, as well as highly-revered cult favorites like Earthbound, Kendo Rage, and Axelay.
So happy 30th birthday, Super NES! You showed up a week earlier and a little uglier than I would have liked, but 30 years later, I still love ya the most.