I can remember the excitement of seeing an NES demo pod in a shop, way back in about 1990 - the strange, exciting cadence of the word 'Nintendo' that seemed, somehow, to verbalise the jumping movement of the Mario sprite. And when Sonic first bounced into the special stage on my Sega Game Gear with that stylised crescent moon behind a sparkling curtain of golden rings, I remember gasping in awe. It was amazing.
These old games had so much character. Collectable objects, bloops and beeps for sound effects, magical 8-bit synthesized music, hand-drawn sprites, smooth movement, power-ups, secret rooms, end-of-level bosses - these are the things that excited me about videogames and still do.
But, sadly, such things can never last. Graphics got 'better' and so games changed with them. Passwords became game saves, cartridges became discs, two-player versus became the online deathmatch. It's been a great ride, sure, and the early 3D games like Ridge Racer, Daytona USA, and all of the Virtua series have arguably yet to be surpassed in terms of gameplay. Progress can bring great things. But while 3D is rarely, if ever, 100% convincing, 2D reached its pinnacle over a decade ago.
And that's why I find myself drawn to the downloadable games from Virtual Console, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. On the former, the news, weather and 'Everybody Vote!' channels have been banished to the far right pages of my Wii Menu, displaced by Super Mario Bros, the Sonic trilogy, Gunstar Heroes and Mario Kart 64. It gives me instant access to the best games from my youth. But while that's great for nostalgia, it's PS3 and 360 that are the most interesting in terms of the future.