The year was 1991, and I was in my senior year of high school. The Super NES had just been released. My friends and I was amazed by it, as it was capable of doing things that neither our beloved Sega Genesis or NEC Turbografx-16 could. Scaling! Rotation! Transparencies! Echo effects! Soundtracks that sounded like they were performed by a full orchestra! You get the idea!
IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US! AAAAAHHHHHH!
Right around the same time, I had been introduced to the world of flea markets by my friend Marc, and we were starting to hit them every other weekend. The amount of used games they had for different consoles was staggering. I’d never seen so many Sega Master System games in my life. The selection of NES games was like someone had taken three or four video store’s worth of rentals and put them all out on display. There were racks of Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800 games, mostly untouched and covered with a thick layer of dust. Intellivision, ColecoVision, Odyssey 2? Present and accounted for. Every so often, one of the vendors would have the odd Fairchild Channel F or Bally Astrocade for sale. Of course, they had Genesis and Turbo games as well, usually priced almost as high as what you’d find them for new.
It was only a matter of time before the Super NES games started trickling in. A lot of the vendors had them on display, but the consoles themselves were only demo units and were not for sale. Not that I could have afforded any of them at that point in my life.
The nearest flea market to me, Flea World in Sanford, FL., had a mini amusement park of sorts attached to it, named Fun World. There were go-karts, kiddy rides, even a petting zoo – but most important to me was their arcade, which was massive. They had so many games, old and new. The arcades in the local malls were pretty impressive, but this? This was something else entirely. The place was always crowded, the multiplayer games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting the lion’s share of attention.
Not exactly the same, but you get the idea. (photo courtesy of Arcade 1up)
One Saturday, after trading in a couple of games and staring wistfully at the Super NES displays for a bit, Marc and I found ourselves in the arcade. I’d made a successful trade, but even with the games I’d traded in, I didn’t quite have enough to afford the game I wanted, unless I threw in some cash. The trade took nearly all the money I had left. By the time we’d made it to the arcade, I had maybe sixty-five cents on me. I had to choose what game I wanted to play carefully.
As one might expect, TMNT had a crowd around it. So did a lot of the other popular games. The older games weren’t really being played, but I wasn’t interested in those. I’d played a lot of them to death by this time. No, what I wanted to play was something new.
That’s when I saw it, over in a corner. It was a game I’d never heard of, a sequel to another game I’d never heard of, but it was by Capcom, who I knew from their NES games and their earlier arcade games. No one was playing it.
Hmm. I decided to check it out. Upon first inspection, it reminded me of an older arcade game I’d played a couple of times, Data East’s Hippodrome, minus the weapons and mythological setting. Okay, sure. I’ll plunk down a quarter and give it a shot, then maybe go try something else.
No dice. It was going to cost me fifty cents to play, practically all of the money I had left. I considered this for a moment, then shrugged, dug my two quarters out of my pocket, and dropped them in the slot. I hit the one player button and was presented with a character select screen. Wow, I could choose from eight characters? That was unusual. They were a colorful bunch. I chose the blonde karate guy, and then the game informed me that my first match would be in Brazil, and my first opponent was some freaky green dude with fangs and wild red/orange hair. Huh. Here I thought this was nothing like Hippodrome.
“ROUND ONE. FIGHT!”
Before I could even get a proper handle on how to play the game, Greenie absolutely thrashed me. I don’t think I managed to land a single hit on him. My jaw dropped slightly, but when round two was announced, I realized that I had another shot.
Not that it mattered. I think I may have actually landed a hit on him that time, before his combination of air attacks and electrocution did me in. And just like that, the game was over. I think I lasted maybe a minute and a half, tops.
I was furious. I just blew the last bit of money I had for a minute or so of gameplay. The game was a broken, cheap, piece of shit cheating money grabbing garbage pile! I decided right then and there that the game sucked, and I would never, ever play it again.
Of course, if I’d stuck to my guns on that, we wouldn’t be here now.