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My Gaming World ’90-’91

The ’80s have come to an end and the “Golden Age of Gaming”, as that era’s often referred to, has paved the way for the decade to follow. It is a good time for the industry and business is booming. SNK is about to release their first home console, the Neo-Geo, which employs an impressive color palate unlike any you’ve seen before, while Nintendo is creating their 16-bit powerhouse, the Super Nintendo, and is looking to further cement their foothold on the industry.

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Gaming is still a niche hobby, although the name “Nintendo” has become ubiquitous with all types of videogames. Anything that closely resembles a gaming system is called “the Nintendo”, the way tissues are synonymous with Kleenex’s. It is the primary option for gamers and Nintendo is occasionally accused of holding a monopoly over the industry in spite of Sega’s noteworthy success with the Genesis console (now equipped with Turbo Blast Processing!) and the rapidly expanding arcade scene. Nintendo proves to be a force to be reckoned with on the console front, while Sega continues to reinforce their masculinity.

Street Fighter II releases in arcades. It quickly becomes the main attraction there, providing the fundamental components of fighting game design that will soon revolutionize the genre. It is a source of inspiration for every arcade developer and provides wide-sweeping influence throughout the industry, setting the scene for a decade ripe with the best entries the genre has to offer. While the renaissance of arcade gaming experienced in the ’80s is diminishing, games like Street Fighter II prove that there’s still a place for competitive multiplayer gaming and the format continues to expand so quickly that there’s no potential end for it by the decade’s end, besides fizzling out.

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PC gaming, however, has yet to reach its peak. MicroProse has released a strategy game called Civilization, a surprisingly deep title that allows the player to expand their empire and assimilate any cultures that look or talk differently than them. The game captures uniquely human ideas and presents them in a fresh way and stands as one of the early pioneers of PC strategy. The platform’s also buzzing with the release of Commander Keen, the first notable platforming game for those who confuse keyboards with gaming devices. Commander Keen is designed by a talented team of programmers who want to make you their bitch.

Shigeru Miyamoto doesn’t care if you’re his bitch or not, but if you are, that’s cool. Super Mario World releases to critical and commercial acclaim as a pack-in with the Super Nintendo, furthering the perception of first-party talent at Nintendo studios. Some say it’s better than Super Mario Bros. 3. Although they’re probably wrong, it is a fine reason to buy a Super Nintendo alongside the slew of other great Nintendo properties coming to the system like F-Zero and A Link to the Past (which is currently arriving overseas).

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This is a time of polishing the things that were done well throughout the ’80s until the formula is nearly perfected. A lot of visual gimmicks and other clever tricks are used to make the best use of each platform’s hardware limitations, giving recent games a distinctive sort of look. Nothing is ever perfected but everything is refined, and as with the decade before it, Nintendo continues to pave the way in innovation, with their competitors quickly trying to latch onto the ideas that work and Sega looking to establish their own identity as a major player in the industry.

Was there another event or title for these years that changed your gaming life forever? Let us know in the comments below.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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