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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 5 Games I Got as Christmas Gifts

What's this, a Christmas themed article on Christmas Eve? Truth be told, December has been lacking in posts on Gaming Rocks On due to work and a lack of sleep. This baby popped into my head the other night so I present to you, my top five games that I've revived as Christmas gifts from Christmases gone by.

5. Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers (NES)

If memory serves, this was the Christmas of 1989. After playing and loving DuckTales on the NES, a game based off of the succeeded cartoon show, Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers seemed only natural for Capcom. And sure enough, they delivered. 

When that commercial hit the TV screen, I wanted this game like I wanted my next breath. Rental stores had quickly become my best friend, allowing me to play all the latest NES games or at leas the ones the peaked my interest. Whenever my family and I went to the our local rental chain, Chip 'N Dale was always out. No surprise, really, I mean, what kid didn't want to play as the world's most popular pair of furry detectives? The one time the game was in, my dad denied me the chance to play it. Parents always have their reasons for telling you you can't do something or you can't have this or that? Even so, my father's refeusal to let me play I game I'd been dying to experience felt like a gut punch. 

On Christmas day it became all too clear why my dad didn't want me renting Chip 'N Dale. Among the many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures I'd received, there's was also a copy of Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers staring right back at me when I opened my presents. Looking back, I'm glad my father didn't let me rent the game all those years ago.

I did terrible on the first level, but once I called over a good buddy of mine, the play mechanics became routine stuff. Grad a box and toss it at the oncoming mooks, hide under a box and for some strange reason the box hurts them and they go flying off the screen. I think I had the most fun with Chip 'N Dale when a friend was there to experience it with me.

4. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)

Christmas of 1998. I was in my late teens and thus was at the age where I'd keep my Christmas list small. I can't remember everything I asked for that holiday season but I specifically remember two things that I asked my folks to get for me: F-Zero X and Banjo-Kazooie. One item I got was a nice, big, dark blue winter coat, which I got more than 10 year's use out of. My parents, clever ones that they are, tucked another gift inside one of the front pockets. When I stuck my hands in them, I felt a box and quickly pulled it out. It was Banjo-Kazooie. No sign of F-Zero X, but one out of two wasn't bad.

The timing on Banjo-Kazooie couldn't have been any better. You see, I'd just spent Christmas Eve beating The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and not having a large selection of N64 titles, that meant I would have had nothing to play. With huge worlds to explore tons of puzzle pieces and other collectibles to find, Banjo-Kazooie kept me busy for a long time. I've never actually finished this game. I think I played through about 7 worlds or so before other games sidetracked me. Still, it was a wonderful Christmas gift and an amazing game, one that I still own today. I don't have an Xbox 360 so I still can't play the remake. Maybe one day I'll fire this sucker back up.

3. Super Metroid (SNES)

You remember newspapers? Those things that come with rods and pictures on them that you can actually hold and contain lots of info. Well, whenever we'd get the Sunday paper, I'd make sure to flip through the Best Buy section and see the prices on games, Best Buy was always good for marking down games, even first party stuff. Over a year after it's release, Best Buy was selling Super Metroid for $15. Talk about a deal! Some of my most fondest memories of the summer of 1994 was playing through Super Metroid. During the summer of 1995, I'd gotten farther in the game than I'd ever gotten. Had we not had to return the game to the Blockbuster, I might have finished it.

For whatever reason, I never got around to picking up Super Metroid at the $15 bargain price. My father must have seen that ad in Best Buy because come Christmas 1995, I opened up a copy of Super Metroid in the same gift wrapped box of Vectorman (which was also $15 at Best Buy).

Now I could play Super Metroid in earnest. No rental period to worry about. Only school and the occasional chores kept me from the likes of Kraid, Ridley and Mother Brain. I played this game so much that shortly into the new year, I had it finished with an item completion rating of 88% and under 3 hours. That save file is still on my Super Metroid cart to this day.

2. Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt (NES)

If there was a gift on any kid's list for Christmas in the late 1980s that didn't have one, it was an NES. Though I have to say, I'm not even sure if I was aware of Nintendo until I unwrapped this box. Still, I knew a game console when I saw one and I knew that this was no ordinary game machine.

Two games on a single cart? Madness, yes, but the good kind of madness. Super Mario Bros. was my entry into the platform genre and what a fantastic place to start! The Mushroom Kingdom was big, it scrolled and it was filled with all kinds of crazy enemies like Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Piranha Plants and more. The levels were also quite diverse. Some levels were suspended in the air by bridges that you had to cross while being harassed by annoying Cheep-cheeps. A few stages were regrettably aquatic, with sucky swimming controls. Every fourth level was a dark fortress with no shortage of obstacles and no cheek points.

Super Mario Bros. made me love a lot of things. The platform genre, Mario, Nintendo and video game music. Even when I wasn't playing the game, the music was still in my head.

Super Mario Bros. was the main attraction for me, but I still enjoyed shooting down those ducks in Duck Hunt. Whenever I missed, I'd forgo skill and just give those birds a pointblank shot. Did I feel a little shameful in doing so? Eh, not really. I mean, that dog wasn't laughing at me

1. Super Mario World (SNES)

In 1990, news reached me of a new Nintendo console, a Super Nintendo. The 8-bit Nintendo was cool and now they were adding a super to the title? I had to check this out. In our daily newspaper, I'd read about the SNES and Super Mario Bros. 4, which we all know as Super Mario World. Those purple switches on the console, the cartridge going into the top of the console instead of the front. Even more brighter, crisper visuals then the NES. Mario was riding a dinosaur? Do want! Unfortunately for us living in the states, the SNES wouldn't hit our neck of the woods until the summer of 1991 but when it did reach our shores, I wouldn't shut up about it. It was the only thing I wanted for Christmas and it came packed with Super Mario World!

During this period, Nintendo and SEGA were at each other's throats. Nintendo had Mario and SEGA had Sonic. This war affected kids all across the planet. You either championed the plumber or the hedgehog. Whichever side you favored gave you ridicule from the other. Since I'd come to adore Nintendo from owning an NES, of course I praised Mario and trashed Sonic. This feud that waged across the globe only increased my desire to own a SNES with Super Mario World and those TV ads did not make me not having the system any easier to deal with.

My dad really knew how to mess with my head back then. He knew how much I wanted a SNES and he told me he'd gotten me a SEGA Genesis for Christmas. I was so utterly disappointed. I mean, I was getting a game console, sure, but it was not the one I wanted. I was so convinced that I'd have to force myself to like Sonic, which would later ironically became a lot easier than I could ever imagine since my friend got a Genesis and he showed me Sonic the Hedgehog.

With two big boxes sitting under the Christmas tree, one for myself and the other for my sister, I thought for sure I was going to unwrap a Genesis and was all set to pretend to like it. But when the wrapping paper hit the floor, it was a big, rectangular, SNES box, complete with Super Mario World. Ah, Christmas 1991 was soooooo freaking awesome.

By this time, I'd taken to Mario games like butter to bread. The SNES controller didn't seem foreign at all to me. I quickly grasped the new spin jump, riding Yoshi, gobbling up enemies, dismounting the dino and using the new Cape Feather power up. SNES systems were set up in stores all over the country with a demo for Super Mario World firmly nestled in the cartridge slot, yet this was my first time playing Super Mario World and I'd already blown through the first two worlds. True, I missed a lot of secrets because I was unaware of how many waiting to be discovered, but at that time, that wasn't what mattered to me. I was a proud owner of a SNES and Super Mario World. Best Christmas ever? The 10 year old inside me would have to say so. 

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