This week marks the 30th anniversary of Nintendo's launch of its NES system in Europe and, specifically, Ireland.
Launched on September 1st, 1985 - just in time for the Christmas market - the Nintendo Entertainment System was brought into Ireland via Mattel Toy Products, who had the exclusive licence to sell and distribute the games console.
Figures and information on its launch are sketchy at best, but it's fair to assume that it didn't do well. At all. In fact, we're almost pretty certain that there was only a handful of consoles actually sold in Ireland. You have to remember this was 1985. Ireland had an income tax rate that was crippling households and recreational spending was almost nil.
Moreover, high-end consumer goods like a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System were almost virtually impossible to get a hold of. If you were lucky, your best chance was to try and order in from abroad or, if you had someone overseas in say, the Irish Army, they could bring one home with them.
It wasn't until 1989 that the Nintendo Entertainment System began to reach a certain ubiquity in Ireland. Like the economic fortunes of the country, Nintendo was beginning to take charge of its house and begun handling distribution and sales directly into Ireland. By 1990, the Nintendo Entertainment System was hitting its stride and almost every second house or third house in the country had one.
Everyone will remember the distinctive grey-black colour and the nice, clean little clap it made when the cover closed down on the cartridge. The trick, if the game didn't immediately load, was to blow right down the middle and get all the dust out. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Usually a little bit of tilting on the card helped.
There was, of course, the fabled golden cartridge that housed The Legend of Zelda. Some said it was a myth, but they knew someone out in Exotic Faraway Town From Where You Lived that had one and it looked class. Someone had even seen it in the local shopping centre for £20.00 and was planning on getting for Christmas.
There was also the Zapper, which your Dad was insanely good at. Later models of the NES came pre-loaded with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. and provided your Dad with hours of entertainment and cursing at the dog that popped up when he missed.
By 1992, the NES' popularity was starting to taper off slightly. Arcade machines were still prevalent and popular and with Street Fighter II giving players a first taste of the multiplayer experience, the NES and its penchant for deep solitude became less exciting.
There were so many games that really did focus on the player and their experience. Metroid was one woman battling against an army of aliens in a strange, distant land. Castlevania saw you exploring a darkened castle on a stormy night. Smash TV, sure, you had a two-player option - but who had a controller to spare? And moreover, who was even allowed to play Smash TV?
The covers for the games is, perhaps, our most vivid memory. The artwork on the cover of Castlevania was truly frightening to a young child. You had the blood-soaked fangs of Dracula hovering over a darkened castle with just a whip to protect you. Covers like Gradius foretold of wondrous star adventures and blasting off into space with a mighty fleet behind you. The excitement beneath them all was unbearable.
It does really speak to the impact the NES had on adult gamers as the release draws close of the NES Mini and the sheer level of interest towards it.
Did you have a NES back in the day? Still got yours? Share your memories and pictures in the comments!