Birthdays and Emulators

As I grow yet another year older tomorrow on April 7th, I can’t help but to think of something else that recently celebrated a birthday: NESticle. Now in its twentieth year in existence was the first emulator that officially popped my emulator cherry at the ripe age of 14 back in 1997.

At 14 years old I still had a pretty nice sized NES library, thanks to the ever decreasing price tag of used games at Funcoland; but there were still many games that I never had the opportunity to play. You have to remember that probably 90% of my first hand experiences with NES and SNES games were due to renting them at the local video store. If that store didn’t have the game, then the chances I had of playing an unknown title were pretty slim because I would always be very hesitant on dropping $60.00 on a game that could suck.

That all changed one late night as I sat at my Packard Bell PC, browsing the World Wide Web with Moby’s “First Cool Hive” from the Scream soundtrack playing on my headphones. I had decided to search for endings to NES games I never finished and somehow I ended up at a random Geocities website that stopped me cold with this sentence: “Play every NES game on your computer!” My immediate response to this was that it had to be some kind of joke but after doing some more reading, I found that not only was this emulator called NESticle the real deal, but every NES game I had ever wanted to play was now minutes within my grasp. Even better: IT WAS FREE!

I immediately started downloading ROMS as fast as one could on a dial up connection, when I saw a sentence that made me pump the breaks for a quick minute: “It is illegal to keep these ROMS for more than 24 hours if you do not own an original copy of the game.” I panicked a little bit…Could I be doing something completely illegal here? Could the cops come busting down the door like in the movie Hackers and ban me from playing video games and using computers until I was 18?! That thought quickly faded away as I realized that no one was going to waste their time tracking down teenage kids downloading old video games. I laughed it off as I continued downloading more ROMS.

Getting NESticle up and running was a cinch! Not only did it seem to run just as good as my actual NES but it supported joysticks and I was able to hook my Gravis Game pad up to it to make things even more authentic. I fired up “The Empire Strikes Back” as my first game to check out and then moved on to games I never played before like Déjà vu, VICE: Project Doom, Contra Force and Power Blade 2. This was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t believe how small these ROMS were to download in terms of size to games I was currently playing on the PC. Shortly after checking out the previous mentioned games, I visited games I had only rented once or twice; but never owned. With 6 years of Nintendo Power magazine in the same room as my PC, it was time to start putting those articles I had never used in the magazine to the test.

I don’t think I slept at all that night, I just continued to play and experiment with games I had never tried before. I showed my younger brother and father what I was doing with NESticle and the concept of playing any NES game we wanted completely blew them away. It certainly rekindled my love for the NES again and it wouldn’t be too much longer until an emulator for the SNES was designed for us to try out.

That’s another story, for another time though!