The passage of time can be cruel. It reminds us of the fragility of human life, the frailty of our physical forms, and the waning relevance of the memories we consider so personally precious. This is true even in the context of video games, where the age of once-beloved classics can befuddle, amuse, and outright shock us.
In 1989, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console was enjoying its heyday, especially in North America. Top developers were truly beginning to crank out their highest-quality material as they learned the tricks of maximizing the output from the 8-bit hardware limitations. Two great examples, although perhaps for different reasons, were released midway through the year.
In June, Konami released a hybrid-genre title intended to be a blockbuster. It had driving portions, shooting stages, fighting elements -- it was The Adventures of Bayou Billy, and the American version was programmed to be so much more challenging than the Japanese release that many just remember it as, perhaps, a "stupid hard game," even if some talented gamers can beat the game without suffering a single death. Difficulty aside, it did boast impressive visuals and mechanics, and literally millions of people have memories of playing this cartridge at a younger age.
In July, Capcom released Mega Man 2. Although it was also challenging, it is nearly universally regarded as being superior to Bayou Billy. In fact, it is frequently considered among the very best NES games ever released. With its pitch-perfect soundtrack, innovative level designs, massive enemies, successful tweaks on the original formula, password system, and other vital ingredients, Mega Man 2 still holds up as the gold standard of NES classics, especially in the platformer/run-'n'-gun arena.
As our favorite video games get older, so do we. For many of us, this simply means fond reflection, rather than fighting any sort of existential crisis. In a way, this routine is almost comforting -- by commemorating the past triumphs of the gaming industry, perhaps we can find a spark of optimism for its future, along with our own.
Or maybe we'll simply fire up a round of Mega Man tonight before returning to the daily grind.