Console of the Month (November 2017) – Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

My console of the month of November is the superlative second console developed and manufactured by Nintendo, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The Super Nintendo, or SNES for short, was released in North America in 1991 as the follow up to the lightning in a bottle success of the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1991, the NES was still a very popular console but a bit long in the tooth as it had been out for either 5 or 6 years by then, depending on what part of the country you lived. The Turbgrafx-16 and Genesis had been the first 16-bit consoles on the market a full two years before the SNES but they didn’t have a built-in fan base that Nintendo’s own 16-bit console would have. Nintendo took their sweet time in releasing the SNES in North America and because Japan’s Super Famicom came out in 1990, we had a full year’s worth of teaser clips and articles to read about this wondrous new console.

As a Nintendo kid growing up, I was still a subscriber to Nintendo Power when they began giving us glimpses of the SNES in late 1990. Part of me was excited about the prospects of a new Nintendo console that could do things that my NES couldn’t do but there was another part of me that was a bit resistant to embrace this change. My NES was the most significant childhood Christmas gift I received back in ’87 so I saw the Super Nintendo as something of a new baby brother or sister being born from the Nintendo of America parents and the NES was the soon to be ignored older sibling, vying for a level of attention that it would no longer receive. In my mind, the release of the SNES was the writing on the wall that my beloved NES would very soon become obsolete. At this time, I had a friend with a Genesis and I enjoyed playing it when I went over to his house, but I wasn’t feasibly going to buy another video game console, SNES included. I saw my NES as a once in a lifetime childhood gift and I would never be able to convince my parents, especially then as a 16 year old who they believed should be growing out of video games, to buy another console for me. I had a part time after school job but I was terrible at saving money and most of the money that I wasn’t putting away for college was spent on tapes/CDs or gas so I could drive around town with my friends in my ’85 Cutlass Ciera. For me, the Super Nintendo represented the end of my video gaming childhood and I wasn’t happy about it.

Fast forward to spring of 1993. The SNES had been available in North America for a year and a half and I had played Super Mario World and maybe a couple other games for it at a friend’s house but I didn’t have a lot of experience with the console overall. By then I was now going into my final semester of high school and college was on the horizon so priorities had shifted. I no longer kept my subscription to Nintendo Power as it was so heavy on SNES games at this point that it would have been masochistic of me to continue reading it. I knew that the Super Nintendo had taken some of my all time favorite Nintendo characters and series and created amazing looking games such as Super Mario World, Super Castlevania 4 and of course, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Luckily for me, that same friend that had owned the Super Nintendo I played had chosen to sell it so he could buy a Genesis and he offered me a great deal. I bought from him his used console with RF switch and AC adapter, 1 controller and a copy of Super Mario World. Something that I assumed I’d never own was now all of the sudden in my grasp and after a couple of years of not playing or buying many NES games (which was a mistake considering how much the late release NES games sell for today), I was for the first time in years, excited to play video games again. Of course the first game I would newly purchase was Zelda: Link to the Past and that was obviously a wise choice.

I took my SNES to college with me in the fall of ’93 and it provided many years of fun with my college roommates, typically playing sports titles such as NBA Live ’95 or Tecmo Super Bowl III. I would play the adventure and action titles in my downtime but that is few and far between when you’re always studying or going out with friends. At some point in the 90’s my childhood, or more accurately my young adulthood, SNES started turning yellow. I lived with a few smokers in college so I always assumed being around cigarette smoke all those years was the reason it turned yellow. It took many years and several failed scrubbings for me to figure out that my yellowed SNES was due to flame retardant bromine used in the plastic that when exposed to UV light will undergo a reaction that changes it’s color. The console still worked fine so for me, a cosmetic flaw wasn’t going to make a difference. Since the 90s, I have bought two additional SNES consoles that are still their natural light gray color so I keep them in the dark, away from UV light and use my original SNES for playing. Even though I own 3 total consoles, I only own 1 original SNES controller. I also own a 3rd party Ascii Pad controller which offers a variety of switches that can be used for auto fire controls. The Super Nintendo controller was like nothing I’d ever seen before with the 4 primary buttons and 2 shoulder buttons as well as a more ergonomically friendly controller design similar to the late NES dog-bone controller. It’s super comfortable and was relatively easy to adapt to after being used to just 2 buttons for so many years.

Another important peripheral I picked up along the way was the Super Game Boy. This plugged into the cartridge port on the SNES console and Game Boy games would then plug inside the Super Game Boy. This allowed you to play Game Boy games on your television with a partial color palette! It was really cool and I couldn’t pass it up even though I didn’t even own a Game Boy or any Game Boy games at the time I purchased it. I guess I assumed I always would own one someday.

I’ve always been most attracted to buying and playing SNES games that originated on the NES. I saw the console as an opportunity to continue my childhood into adulthood a bring Link, Mario, Samus, Simon Belmont, Little Mac and Donkey Kong along with me. As a result, I missed out on a lot of the SNES’s premier RPGs, with exception of the Final Fantasy games, because they didn’t hold any inherent nostalgia for me. The thing I have to figure out for myself this month, is do I still enjoy the SNES classics like I used to or has the passage of time lessened my opinion of some of the most well-known games for the console? I also need to figure out if the cost of some of the most revered SNES RPGs indicate that they are truly worth picking up for my collection or are they part of the current SNES hype train?

Currently in my collection:

  • 3 SNES consoles, including the original I owned since 1993. I also have 1 RF switch, 1 composite AV cable, 2 AC adapters & an original SNES instruction manual
  • 2 controllers – 1 original first party and 1 3rd party Ascii Pad with box
  • Super Game Boy
My poor abused and yellowed original SNES at the top of the picture. It no longer has the “Mr. Yuck” sticker that was applied jokingly back in college but the sticker residue remains.

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