The Nintendo Famiclone: My Intro to Home Video Games in the 80s!
It was 1987, and I just discovered home consoles by accident…
For me and my buddies, the only video games that existed in South Africa in the 80s were at arcades and corner stores in our neighborhood.
They were towering cabinets made of wood, glass and circuit boards that magically sucked up coins through slots conveniently placed within the reach of kids in exchange for a chance to inhabit and control an electronic 8 bit sprite that fought enemies, boss battles and racked up brag-worthy points.
And then, it all changed for me.
That same year, my grandparents took a holiday to Hong Kong and Singapore. By then, we had heard rumblings of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System. I had never seen one of these consoles. The most I was exposed to up to that point was a Commodore 64 that my neighbor kid owned, and the games just didn’t resonate with me. I wanted the colorful 8 bit sprites I saw on those curved arcade screens, accompanied by electronic synth music, the smell of popcorn and the cheers of onlookers who wanted to see you kick the snot out of the boss and get to the end game credits.
Well, that day came when my grandparent returned from their holiday and presented me with the Micro Genius console, a little gray box with two game pads — little rectangles with a clover-like cluster of directional buttons, two lozenge-like “start” and “select” buttons, and two round plastic buttons marked A and B. Totally foreign to me, but oh so appealing.
In addition, they had a bag of plastic cartridges that housed single games, but also collections of games under titles such as “100 in 1”
and “50 in 1”. One of those single title games was titled “Super Mario Brothers” with a graphic of a little mustached man in overalls and a hat in mid air punching a block made of bricks. I loaded it up, heard the first notes of that iconic theme song, and the rest, as they say, is history!
I was hooked. I got my friends hooked. We played after school and on weekends. We got to know and master every single game on those little carts, from Mario Brothers to Ice Climber and Contra to hundreds of other titles, all at our fingertips, no coins required.
This, my friends, is where it began for me, but there was a long road of video games ahead in my future…