Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remembering E3 2001 and Project Cafe

Around this very time ten years ago, the way I received video game information changed forever.

Before that, my main source of information came from, what else? Video game magazines. It seemed as if I was buying every game magazine on the market, ravaging them day after day for details on the latest Nintendo releases. I scoured through the anthology-sized Electronic Gaming Monthly, browsed the pages of GamePro, scanned the crevasses of my various code books (none the least of which was Tips & Tricks), and even read the EGM spin off known as Expert Gamer. Of course, what kind of young Nintendo junkie would be caught dead without a subscription to Nintendo Power?

In those days, Nintendo Power was my holy grail (with the possible exception of the consoles and games it covered). It's so strange how the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color aren't my favorite Nintendo consoles now, but I can still feel the red-hot excitement I had for their games. Back when I waited with baited excitement for Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong 64 and California's annual E3 Gaming Expo, and when Pokemon became an overnight success and took over my life. I had even memorized practically every video game coming out for the N64/GBC, ranging from Mario Tennis to Lucky Luke to Paperboy 64 to Bomberman 64: The Second Attack to Survival Kids to Penny Racers to Conker's Pocket Tales to WWF Attitude to...god, there were so many. It was inconceivable to think I could get my information anywhere else.

At the same time, I hadn't really been around the internet that much. Oh, sure, I cruised around Nintendo's site more than once and the same went for the official ones for Nickelodeon and Digimon (don't laugh), but I hadn't really seen much of a point on them other than playing simple Flash games. And hey, it's not like they were superior to anything I had on my Nintendo 64.

All of that changed when, ten years ago, Nintendo Power's brief internet section cited Tendobox and Nintendojo, two unofficial Nintendo websites as useful sources of information. Curious as to what this meant, I hopped onto my computer and logged on to the sites.

My mind just about exploded when I saw screenshots and trailers for sequels to Super Smash Bros, Star Fox, and more, all which had just been released from the E3 expo.

To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. What really didn't help was our connection, which at the time was a super slow MSN Dial-up. As you can imagine, it was sheer torture waiting for those screenshots to take minutes to load, as my eyes continued to bulge at every image and video that came my way. As Mom had to pry me off of my chair for bedtime, I was far from finished. I continued to watch the trailers for Melee, Star Fox Adventures, and Donkey Kong Racing over and over without pause. I dived deep into the bowels of Google, desperate for more information on every Nintendo title at E3, especially Melee. God, waiting for that game was insane.

Of course, it didn't take long for me that I had the latest news of video games right at my fingertips. I could log on to Tendobox and ogle at the latest screenshots of Melee, and it'd take several weeks for me to see them in Electronic Gaming Monthly. It didn't take a genius to figure out the difference. That's not to say I didn't stop reading game magazines, as to be honest I kinda preferred the off-beat, lively articles contained in print. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a system I had set up: Check Nintendojo, Tendobox and IGN for news every day, and read the magazine as supplements. No stone was left unturned as I continued to prowl for images and videos. I was like this for the entire year, and the launch of the Gamecube remains my favorite to this very day.

E3 means something for the industry. It's the one time of the year where you know shit is going to go down in the gaming world and even if you're disappointed by a particular conference, there will be at least one announcement that will catch you off guard. The flood of information and the prospects of new Marios and Zeldas and Metroids and whatever Nintendo is planning to revive next or when they have introduced a new concept is something I have never grown tired of. Reading up on Super Mario Sunshine in 2002, being blown away by the DS and Zelda: Twilight Princess in 2004, and the process repeating itself with the 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Donkey Kong Country Returns are permanently etched into my memory.

It's strange looking at these shots and trailers today. Despite it being the cornerstone of my childhood, I don't play Super Smash Bros. Melee anymore. Star Fox Adventures turned out to be a lackluster venture (and, upon reflection, incredibly inappropriate for its source material), and Donkey Kong Racing actually never saw the light of day. But it doesn't matter. Just by watching them, I can still feel the sparks and warmth of the third grader in me watching these videos. I can still feel the young child in me ready to dive into the wonders of the net and everything that followed such as reading up on Nintendo's history and flash games and webcomics and message boards and reading gamers reminiscence about their favorite Nintendo memories as it was the most important thing in the whole world and everything else.

Ten years later, it's different in a way. Tendobox is long gone, but Nintendojo is still around. I still check GoNintendo daily. But as I've grown older into a patient, yet passionate man, it's become harder for me to become excited over things. I jump for joy when a title's announced (The new Wii Kirby had me bouncing around the house for ten minutes straight), but then remain stoic until release, gradually absorbing all the following information with an aloof reaction. I'll never forget when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was about to be released last year at this very time, and when I was browsing the main site and listening to the main theme and it hit me that a new Mario game was about to be released. I grinned. I jumped and laughed and I think I even cried a little. A new Mario game was coming out!

Twelve days from now (soon to be eleven), the E3 Expo will be open to the press. This E3, however, will be special. Nintendo is finally ready to unveil their next console, which will supersede the Wii. Rumors and sources have flooded the internet, but we only know two things for certain: The code name (Project Cafe) and that it will be presented to the world on June 7. I'll know I'll be excited. I know I'll be happy. I know I'll be bouncing. The Nintendo Entertainment System. The Super Nintendo. The Nintendo 64. The Gamecube. The Wii. And now, whatever it is we'll be seeing on June 7. We're going to have a new member in the family.

Twelve years ago, I read about E3 in Nintendo Power. Ten years ago, I devoured every screenshot and trailer presented from E3 on the internet. Five years ago, I began to watch E3 as it happened via a livestream. And twelve days from now, I will be doing the same thing right where I am sitting right now. I may not be as easily excitable as I was back then, but the shock, celebration and intense news coverage is something that has never failed to absorb me into the old realm of that red-hot game hype (well, okay, except for E3 2008), and it is something I look forward to for this year. And for next year, and for the year after that, and then for a lifetime.

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