System launches are a time when you most often hear the term "killer-app" tossed around by the media and gamers alike. Which platforms have them, which don't, and how that will influence one's intent to purchase console X or handheld Y.
Funny thing is, I've rarely purchased any gaming system based on that criteria. In fact, with the sole exception of the PlayStation 3 - which was bought on the prospect of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy 13 - the decision to buy was always based on either a cumulative list of games or on a single, non-killer title. And I've got a nagging suspicion that's how a good many enthusiasts operate, too.
So I ask all of you, what prompted you to buy your consoles and handhelds? Was it, in fact, the Call of Duties and Super Marios of the world? Or was it a b-tier game that held a great deal of personal excitement?
Here's my list. I'd love to read all of yours.
NES – The Legend of Zelda. Okay, so this one is pretty much the textbook example of buying a system for its killer app, but whatever. I was introduced to Zelda at a friend’s house, after school, when I was in the fourth grade. I spent the next several months obsessing over it until I finally got an NES for my tenth birthday. But seeing as this was my formal introduction to gaming, I figured why not start with it anyway?
Atari Lynx – Ninja Gaiden. I’d already become a card-carrying fan of the NES titles, but the prospect of playing (what remains to this day) the only home port of the arcade version was just too much to pass up. The fact that, for it’s time and the technology involved, it was a fairly faithful adaption made it all the cooler. Because the old formula was as true then as it is today: awesome game + portability = awesomer game.
SNES – U.N. Squadron. I’d played a metric shit ton of this game in arcades in the year or so leading up to the launch of the SNES. And despite all of the coverage centering around Actraiser, Super Mario World, and the like, it was the announcement of a home port of U.N. Squadron that got me salivating over the prospect of owning a Super Nintendo.
NeoGeo Pocket Color – Metal Slug: 1st Mission. I originally had no intention of buying one of these things. Then I happened to be in an EBX one day and was sort of absentmindedly looking at the display and somewhere in the back of my head I began associating “Metal Slug” and “portable”. I dunno…I guess it must’ve been like one of those old Electric Company bits…all I know is that ten minutes later I left EBX with a system and copies of Metal Slug: 1st Mission, Fatal Fury: First Contact, and Bust-A-Move Pocket.
Dreamcast - Capcom Versus SNK. Not much to say about this one, really. This was a dream mashup for me...in addition to being hugely unexpected. The game turned out to be just as amazing as it looked and remains one of my favorite 2D fighters. (Well, technically that would be Capcom Versus SNK Pro.) Still, while everyone else was abuzz over Soul Calibur and Sonic Adventure, I was dreaming of wrecking people with an unstoppable combo of Vice, Cammy, and Terry Bogard.
PlayStation 2 – Tekken 4. Another instance of becoming obsessed with the arcade version…only this time I knew full well that a PlayStation 2 port was inevitable. And I also knew that I’d no longer be able to hold out on purchasing one once that happened. And sure enough, one day I happened to be walking by my local Gamestop and noticed the Tekken 4 standee in the window…shit, I didn’t even step inside the store. I just hopped a bus to my parents house, gathered up some PSX games I was willing to part with along with the system itself, headed back into town, and emerged from that same Gamestop a half hour later with a brand new PlayStation 2 and a copy of Tekken 4. And it was glorious.
3DS – Dead or Alive: Dimensions. Not owning any Microsoft consoles, my last foray into this franchise was 2000’s Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore. So when it was revealed that a sort of franchise overview would launch with the 3DS a la Ridge Racer on PSP, I knew I’d have to get one. And yeah, the game was a little on the dry side in terms of stages. And yeah, the tag team mode was just awful. But it was still great to finally jump into the series again and start taking characters like Brad Wong and La Mariposa for a spin. Overall, I'd still say it was worth it…though I’m glad Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate came along all the same.
PlayStation Vita – Ys: Memories of Celceta. (At one point I would’ve said Sine Mora, then I finally got to play it on the PlayStation 3 and realized it’s not actually that great of a shooter.) I’m about as big of an Ys fan as you’ll find, and have owned every domestically released installment of the series (barring the recent Steam releases). I imported Ys 4: The Dawn of Ys during my junior year of high school, and the game rapidly achieved an almost mythic standing with me. To this day, I’ve been waiting for a domestic release of either version of Ys 4. So imagine my excitement when I learned that Falcom would continue their PlayStation handheld love by releasing the first internally developed version of Ys 4, blending elements of the superlative Dawn of Ys and the less good Mask of the Sun. November can’t come soon enough. Runner-up here would be Dead or Alive 5 Plus.