This week we're asking you to remember way, way back to the distant past. Well, we're assuming it's way, way back - because what we want to know is, what was the first video game you ever purchased?
One thing's for sure, the USgamer team had to dig deep into their past to remember which games were the first they ever parted money for.
Sorry, I can't give a firm answer on this one, because it was a very long time ago and is all somewhat veiled behind failing memory. Access to video games was very much a catch-as-catch-can affair for my family when I was a kid, and it wasn't until the U.S. console industry imploded and retailers desperately slashed prices on systems that we finally acquired a ColecoVision… mainly because buying it as the heart of the ADAM expansion module was the least expensive way for us to get our hands on a computer. For the year or two that our ADAM was a going concern for us — it took up an entire multi-level desk in our living room, and its daisy-wheel printer filled the house with a cacophonous machinegun sound whenever we printed anything, so it ended up being retired fairly early — I was only able to afford a handful of new games for it on my allowance. The games industry may have collapsed, but ColecoVision and ADAM games were hard to come by outside of mail order, and cost a lot more than the piles of unwanted lower-tier garbage for 2600 that cluttered dollar bins!
Our ADAM ownership time is something of a blur to me in hindsight, so I don't remember all the particulars of how and when we acquired games for it. The two that stick out in my memory were Nintendo's Donkey Kong Jr. and SEGA's Zaxxon, both of which we acquired as ADAM tape cassettes. The packaging on those games was fantastic, by the way — they came in boxes shaped like tiny arcade cabinets. I can't remember the order in which we bought them, or who paid for them. I think we might have gotten Zaxxon first, and that my parents bought it… but it's also entirely possible that I'm misremembering both of those details. I know I definitely paid out of my anemic wallet for Donkey Kong Jr., and I'm pretty sure that happened a few months after Zaxxon. But I can't recall for certain, so I'm going to call it a tie. There were go, console warriors: Nintendo/Sega detente, all the way back in 1986.
Whatever the case, it wasn't long after we acquired the ADAM that my best friend who lived down the block received a Nintendo Entertainment System shortly after its national rollout, and suddenly those Coleco games lost my interest. I mean, how do you even compare Donkey Kong Jr. to Super Mario Bros.?
I had to ponder long and hard about this, but I'm pretty sure I'm correct in my thinking. My first computer was an Atari 400 that I bought in 1983 from a student friend of mine who needed some cash because he'd blown his entire student loan on video games and weed. His loss was my gain - the deal included a ton of games (a lot of which were pirated) but they all worked fine with the computer and provided me with plenty of entertainment. Because of that, I don't remember buying any new games for the Atari other than a Joust ROM cartridge that I really wanted - but I bought that in 1984, a year or so after I'd acquired the computer.
However, I know I bought several games the year before for the ZX Spectrum computer that my brother owned, the earliest of which was probably Jetpac, a classic by Ultimate Play the Game - better known these days as Rare. It was the company's first ever release, and what a game it was - a shooter in which you flew around the single screen blasting enemies while trying to piece together a spaceship so you could escape to the next level. Most contemporary ZX Spectrum games were blocky and clunky, but Jetpac played like an arcade game, with smooth, great-looking graphics and excellent gameplay. It was a total revelation, and one of the best games I ever bought in terms of value - I spent most of the Summer of '83 playing and mastering it.
Wow, this is a really hard question to answer. My memory is already not that great and that was a long, long time ago. I want to say that the first game I ever purchase was Legend of Kage, which I believe I picked up at a pawn shop. I think at the time, young Mike thought the cover of the game was really cool, but looking back, I can't fathom why.
It wasn't a very good game as I go plumbing the depths of my memory. You could run, jump by pressing Up, slash, and throw shurikens. Ninjas of various colors and sizes would swoop out of the trees and try to kill you. They generally succeeded, because I wasn't very good at Legend of Kage.
I think part of it was the same was pretty cheap. Enemy shurikens could come from anywhere. You could block them by slashing, but the timing was unbelievably tight. And I think there were fire-breathing monks that were particularly cheap? I seem to remember later revisiting the title only to find out you could beat the whole thing in 15 minutes.
Either way, it was not worth the money.
I'm 90 percent certain that the first game I ever bought was a twofer. After getting an NES when I was seven, I went with my parents to a game shop at a mall and picked out a couple games. Proving that seven-year-olds shouldn't ever be trusted with important decisions, the games I ended up getting were Ghostbusters 2 and Afterburner.
Like the movie itself, Ghostbusters II is mostly maligned by fans of the franchise, and that's when they deign to remember it at all. It's a legitimately weird platformer - among other things, you run from right to left, and there's a (very slow) spider chasing you that can kill you in one hit. And yet, it's mostly faithful to the plot of the movie, and it's far superior to the licensed garbage put out by LJN. I have weirdly fond memories of Ghostbusters II; and when I revisited it in 2011, muscle memory actually got me all the way to the final level. I'm still pretty amazed by that.
As for Afterburner, when I opened it up for the first time, I told my dad, "I think there's been a mistake. This isn't an NES game." Tengen games, of course, had odd black cartridges because they were unlicensed NES games, which made me think I had purchased a Sega Genesis game by mistake. But it ended up working, and for a port of a fairly graphics intensive arcade game, it was actually pretty decent.
As an aside, I got stuck on a particular stage in Afterburner, so I decided to call the Nintendo Game Counselor hotline for help. When I got hold of them, they told me I shouldn't have purchased it and lectured me about the Nintendo Seal of Quality. I hung up the phone in terror, convinced I was about to go to jail. We lament Nintendo's decline now; but back in 1991, they sure knew how to put the fear of god in the heart of a seven-year-old girl.
The first game I bought with my own cash -- that is, my parents didn’t chip in at all -- is Final Fantasy VI for the SNES (or Final Fantasy III if you’re a 16-bit history purist).
I remember the purchase quite vividly for a couple of reasons. First, when I initially rented the game, I only got as far as the Esper gate before I had to take it back. I said to myself, “Well. I simply need to own this game, don’t I?” Luckily it was the holiday season, so money trickled in at an OK rate. That’s why you’re good all year, see? You cash in at the end. Sometimes.
The other reason I remember buying Final Fantasy VI is because I picked up my copy at Canadian Tire. As the name suggests, Canadian Tire is a Canada-exclusive chain ...that sells hardware and houseware. For a while, it sold games, too. Imagine buying video games at Home Depot. It was like that, and it was weird.
I was busy on the day of my intended purchase, so I handed off the cash to my father and asked him to get Final Fantasy III for me. This is the part of the story where I say he screwed up royal and came back with Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge or something, but that never happened. The exchange actually went smoothly -- $115 CAD, including tax(!!!) -- and my father’s conversation with the cashier reportedly went something like this:
CASHIER: “This game must be for a very special person.”
MY FATHER: “Nah.”
I received over a dollar of Canadian Tire money for my purchase. My father kept it.
The first game I ever bought also made the cut as my biggest gaming turkey, so I have no choice but to revisit the nightmare of Spy Vs. Spy once again.
And since I laid out how this awful game plays in the article linked above, I can now tell the mythic story of how it fell into my hands. Even though Spy Vs. Spy gave me my first case of buyer's remorse, ultimately, why I bought it was pretty adorable: I wanted to impress my mom. Staring at a wall of NES titles at the age of seven-or-so, I had no clue which game to buy with my ill-gotten child money—even with the propaganda of Nintendo Power baked into my skull. My mom, who got me into MAD Magazine by buying me my first subscription, gravitated towards Spy Vs. Spy, and remarked that it looked like a lot of fun. Being extremely young, it was impossible to view a parent as anything but an omnipotent and all-powerful being, so naturally, her word was law, and the game was bought.
It would take a few more years of brain development before I realized Spy Vs. Spy wasn't too complex for me to handle—it was just bad. And to this day I've never solicited another video game recommendation from my mom. (For the record, though, she has much more worthwhile skills than that.)