Friday, April 20, 2007

I've Got You In My Sight

I recently saw an article in which readers were asked which Nintendo game did the most to move the video game industry forward, and immediately, several favorite titles came to mind. The obvious answer that everyone jumped on was Nintendo's flagship title, Super Mario Bros. After all, that little mustachioed character with a bad case of fashion sense pretty much single-handedly brought the home console business back from the brink of death in the early eighties. I still have fond memories of the game, and how it had everyone in the house, heck the whole neighborhood, glued to the screen. Yes the mere mention of the Mario name is synonymous with mystical proportions these days, but it much more than some dressed up urban legend from some 30 something gamer with a Peter Plan complex rambling about on his game bog. You just had to be there, to appreciate how great it was to be a gamer back then.

Having said that, your probably going to assume that I would nominate that little plumber guy. You know ,the one that could really benefit from a less needy girlfriend who has the uncanny ability to get herself continually nabbed by an oversized spiked turtle with a nasty attitude. As tempting as that choice would be, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and give my nod to the ever so classic, yet simple Duck Hunt. There, I said it. Now before you go about laying me out with a lengthy dissertation about the history of light gun games, and how much they pale in comparison to the almighty Nintendo triad (Mario/Zelda/Metroid), hear me out.

If you've been following the current video game buzz, you've no doubt heard about the mighty Nintendo Wii; slayer of giants. It's been doing the unthinkable, in a Sampson and Goliath sort of way. You see, Nintendo is this successful, yet underdog sort of company that pretty much has all it's eggs in one basket…. Video games and video game hardware. While the other two juggernauts ( I sense and X-men 3 pun here) have other divisions to fall back on , good old "Ninty" ( that name added just to piss you off) relies solely on it's ability to leverage a profit off of it's hardware and first party games to stay afloat. But I digress yet again. I swear, it's an affliction I wear like a bandanna dipped in Tabasco sauce and wrapped around a sun poisoned bald head. Anyway, back to my point.

Back in the early NES days, Nintendo was wise enough to include a "B" side to their Mario hit (45 record reference, for those of you born before the CD age), in the form of an equally addictive light gun game. Although the light gun was hardly new technology, Nintendo somehow made it stick, and everybody was taking out Ducks, like they were going out of style. Much like the Wii, which is getting all the praise right now, that often overlooked light game game from many moons ago, was bringing the whole family together for multiple sessions of mindless fun. Duck Hunt was far from a thinking man's game, and the game play was anything but deep. However, it trimmed gaming to it's barest fundamentals, and it was a blast to play.

It wasn't long after this, that light gun games started showing up in the local arcades, most notably the cream of the crop line up Virtua Cop, House of the Dead and Time Crisis . Each of these games still have a following, and they all pay homage to a humble little game that started out on a grey little box with an acronym for a name. That same little grey box, that kick started a new genre that legions of fans never tire of.

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