International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration of women and their accomplishments across the globe. I was going to write an article about exemplary female characters in video games in observance of the occasion, but ultimately decided against it (for now). Instead, I’ll discuss the two most important women of my real life: my mother and grandmother.

Although I don’t have one of my own, I imagine raising a child is an exercise in expenditure. Not only is it taxing monetarily, the mental cost of making sure a child has just the basic needs can be a giant task in itself. As a youth, I often didn’t appreciate the price things, and when I look back I realize how blessed I was to have two people who were willing to buy me the things that I desired, even when money wasn’t ready available. No matter how hard times became, I never wanted for anything. A picture of me next to the word “privilege” in a dictionary honestly describes my good fortune.

My video game fandom began in my youth, most likely after I played the original Nintendo Entertainment System at a cousins’ place. I instantly fell in love, and all I wanted for Christmas that year was the gift of Mario. My mother and grandmother knew this, and with some help from family and friends, that wish came true.

Over the years, I received more video games as gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, even one Children’s Day on which I received a Game Boy. Video games are expensive; even when you factor in “Greatest Hits” discounts for later releases of games, buying these things are often not cheap. The one thing I regret now in my later years is the amount of trading I did with the games they bought me. I gave up so much of those gifts, all because I refused to realize the value of them as gifts.

I get it now though. Throughout my life, my mom and grandmother always supported me. If I needed anything, be it a hug, an extra dollar, or a much needed reality check, I could count on them. No debt I could ever amass would be greater than the good will I owe them for everything they have done for me. You think I’m a bit spoiled? I won’t disagree with that idea. In their opinion, my mom and grandmother will usually say, “I’m well loved.” Queens, they are.

Superheroes are perhaps at their most popular in mainstream media now. You can scarcely look on television or the internet without seeing something related to comic book hero. Fortunately for me, the superheroines in my life aren’t fictional. Thank you mom and grandmother, for always being there to save the day.

Until next time. I hope you had a happy one.

Peace & Pixels

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Been a Long Time…

My goodness, it’s been a while. The last time I posted on here was back in September of last year, when I covered the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. This year, I’m going to make an attempt to blog more, either about video games or photography (perhaps both, which would be best).

I’ll see you all out there on the blogosphere soon. Hopefully, very soon. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Super Mario Bros. at 30

Oh we have a good one for you today, folks. Honestly, I think we have the best one of all time.

Legendary.

Legendary. Photo comes from Wikipedia

Thirty years ago to the day, Nintendo released its seminal action side-scroller Super Mario Bros. in Japan for its Famicom video game system. A critical and commercial success (the game would go on to sell over 40 million copies), Super Mario Bros. made the character of Mario a household name and helped cement Nintendo as one of the enduring titans of the gaming industry.

Developed by Nintendo’s R&D 4 studio, young designer Shigeru Miyamoto directed, produced, and (along with Takashi Tezuka) co-designed SMB. Koji Kondo composed the game’s catchy soundtrack, which has been covered by rock guitarists and marching bands.

The game’s premise presents a simple case of search and rescue. As titular hero Mario (or his younger brother Luigi in the two-player mode), you fight to save Princess Toadstool from the clutches of the dragon-like creature Bowser (also called King Koopa). The game takes players on a fantastical adventure through several different levels (known in-game as “Worlds”) which range from the sunny, greenery filled stages to the bowels of dungeons. Along the way, you pick up a number of power-ups to help Mario and Luigi in their quest, such as the Magic Mushroom (which doubles their size and durability) and the Fire Flower (which enables them to shoot fireballs). Trippy? Absolutely. Fun? Definitely.

Super Mario Bros. is the game that made a lifelong gamer out of me. It was the first video game I ever owned (thanks, family!) and the first one I beat. Without question, my interest in video gaming persisted largely because of this side-scrolling classic.

Thanks for the memories, Nintendo! You’ve given us thirty good years of Mario, and here’s hoping for thirty more. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satoru Iwata Has Passed Away

1959-2015

1959-2015   Photo comes from nintendoenthusiast.com 

It’s been a long time since I last posted, and unfortunately I’m doing so now with a heavy heart. Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s President and popular icon of gaming, passed away Saturday due to a bile duct growth. He was 55.

Iwata joined Nintendo’s HAL Laboratories as a programmer back in the early 1980s, and was involved in the creation of a number of games including The Legend of ZeldaKirby’s AdventureEarthbound and Super Smash Bros. In 2002, he was named President of Nintendo after succeeding Hiroshi Yamaucchi. Iwata eventually oversaw some of Nintendo’s (and the gaming industry’s in general) most successful products, among them the Nintendo Wii and the DS family of handheld consoles.

My condolences go out to Iwata’s family, friends and colleagues. He will sorely be missed.

RIP

The Nintendo Game Boy Turns 25

On this day twenty-five years ago, Nintendo’s Game Boy was first released in Japan. Yep, it’s been that long ago. A trailblazing system, the Game Boy essentially paved the road for what we know now as the portable video game market.

Classic.

Designed by Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo’s Research and Development 1 unit, the Game Boy is the company’s second portable gaming device following its Game & Watch line. A phenomenal success, the Game Boy (including revisions such as the Game Boy Color, Pocket, and Light) has sold over 118 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling video game consoles ever.

Originally released in white, the Game Boy featured a 66 mm monochrome screen and required 4 AA batteries to power it. The system’s button layout– consisting of a black directional pad, grey start and select buttons, and red A and B buttons– shared a similar design scheme to the controller of Nintendo’s home console the Famicom. For multi-player usage, the system employed a cable that could link two Game Boys together through a port found on the console’s top right side.

The Game Boy debuted in Japan with six launch titles: Super Mario LandTetrisTennisAlleyway, Baseball and Yakuman. Within the system’s first two weeks on the market, it sold out.

Soon, other companies begin to make their own portable gaming systems, leading to rival consoles such as the Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and NEC TurboExpress. Each console was more powerful than the Game Boy, and all featured color displays.

However, what the Game Boy lacked in hardware it made up for in software, with an extensive library of hundreds of games including: Super Mario LandMetroid II: The Return of Samus, Donkey Kong Land, the Game Boy Color version of Metal Gear Solid, PokemonThe Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Tetris, the system’s best-seller. The games were essential to the console’s staying power, which helped keep some version of it in production for nearly 14 years.

Oh, and since it’s a Nintendo system, it’s practically indestructible. Seriously, not even war can defeat a Game Boy.

I still own my Game Boy, a green one, which I received as a Children’s Day gift way back in the mid-1990s. Thanks, mom.

Here’s to 25 years of one the greatest game machines! Below is a YouTube video of one of the very first Game Boy commercials released in Japan (respect to Vahan Nisanian for the upload). Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

 Update: Relocated the information about the Game Boy’s time on the market.

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Turns 15

Time sure does fly by quickly.

Fifteen years ago to the day, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for its Nintendo 64 console in North America (the Japanese release date was November 21). The game is the title in the series to use 3D graphics, and the fifth title of the franchise overall. It proved to be a huge commercial and critical success, selling over 7 million copies worldwide and is one of the most positively reviewed games ever; it has been thought of by many to be the best game ever created.

Ocarina of Time stars franchise hero Link as sets out to thwart the evil Gannondarf, who has kidnapped Princess Zelda and is on the hunt for the power Triforce, a magical relic that can grant him incredible power. Set in the fictional kingdom of Hyrule, the game is adventure through time, starting with Link as young boy and (after a time jump) showing Link as a young adult in the game’s final acts.

I remember the first time I played Ocarina of Time. It was in a Toys R’ Us on an N64 kiosk. It was in the early stages of the game, while Link is still a child. I was struck by the game’s 3D visuals and the power of the N64 in general. Seeing a large 3D Hyrule to explore and do battle in was incredible.

Ocarina of Time was very warmly received upon its release, earning perfect reviews from many gaming publications and numerous Game of the Year awards.

Ocarina of Time has seen a few re-releases over the years. It was ported to the GameCube with the Master Quest, iQue (a Nintendo system released only in China) the Wii’s Virtual Console, and most recently the 3DS.

Here’s to fifteen years of a legendary title!

Peace & Pixels

 

 

 

Hiroshi Yamauchi Passes Away at 85

1927-2013

It’s a sad day in the video game industry. Hiroshi Yamauchi, former president of Nintendo, has passed away at the age of 85. Yamauchi helped turn Nintendo into a video game powerhouse, and was once even the majority shareholder of the Seattle Mariners.

Yamauchi joined Nintendo in 1949, after his grandfather (then president of the company) suffered a stroke. During that time, Nintendo was still making handmade playing cards. Yamauchi helped to expand Nintendo’s portfolio to include electronic entertainment, a move that led to forays into the arcades and eventually the home video game market.

Aided by future industry greats such as video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (who joined the company in 1977) and game hardware designer Masayuki Uemura, Yamauchi oversaw the production of several Nintendo systems, among them the Color TV Game series, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Gamecube, and the grandest of them all, the Nintendo Famicom, known elsewhere as the Nintendo Entertainment System.

It was during Yamauchi’s run that the industry received the legendary characters, games, and systems that we know today. Characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link all debuted in games and for Nintendo game systems while Yamuchi was president.

In 2002, Yamauchi stepped down as president and was succeeded by Nintendo’s Head of Corporate Planning Division Satoru Iwata. Yamauchi joined the company’s board of directors as chairman, a position he held until 2005. He was one of the richest men in both Japan and the world, with an estimated worth of $2.1 billion as of April of 2013.

Mr. Yamauchi is survived by his three children.