Seeing the release of Sine Mora, a side-scrolling shooter on Xbox Live Arcade, came with the nostalgia of playing classic shooters of my past. Now, I am not one to get excited about these games mainly because I have played very few that have actually switched it up enough to keep my interests and out of the bevy of other enthralling games to choose from; side-scrollers had taken a back seat during most of my playing career as a sofa jockey. I assimilate most of these shooters as casual-arcade fun and one of the few genres that I really don’t care to see the ending of the game. Whether it be from the nonchalant attitude I have with them to begin with or the lack of character development in most of these; I do not know. While waiting for the download to complete with Sine Mora, I had considered one thing though: How did I get here? Here’s how.
It started with a game called Contra. Originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, this was the game to have if you ever wanted your friends to come over to your house to play. It made having that second controller worth it. The premise was simple and the story was…well…simple as well (it was the 80’s). You run from left to right, shoot things and dodge things. You also had to fight over who got to what power up first and were responsible for killing your teammate quite a few times for simply moving forward while they were doing something non-productive. This also was my first introduction to the Konami Code, but I digress. I played this game til the contacts on the cartridge gave out and never tired of it. Shortly after its retirement, I would soon run into the next evolution in side-scrolling games at my local 7-11.
Early mornings in middle school were not much easier than they are now, but one thing in particular gave me good enough reason to walk to school a bit earlier than I needed to. That reason was 7-11. In all of their wisdom, they had decided to convert their copy/fax room into a small arcade and stock it with Street Fighter II: Championship Edition and a Neo-Geo cabinet replete with 5-6 games. It wasn’t long that a handful of kids were made aware of this and so each morning a handful of us would pile into this crammed corner and waste our lunch money on the digital goodness. While most of my quarters went on Blanka and Ken, I began to spend my time between the matches I wasn’t fighting in to check out the Neo Geo system and, it was at this point, that I had discovered Metal Slug. This game took what I knew about Contra and raised the bar in the action department. I thought juggling a few fire pellets was tough on the reflexes; this screen was covered in bullets and missiles drawn to you like a magnet. I don’t recall the story much but 7am comprehension was never a strength mine. All I knew is that the idea was still basic enough and the system could be beat as long has you juked and jived at the right moments. It was certainly a tough game to try to get through on quarters and I’m sure the management at 7-11 loved me all the more for it. After Metal Slug, it would be some time ’til I cared enough to get involved with another side-scrolling shooter and that time was the PSX.
Working for Gamestop at the time, I had come across a game that was traded in without a case or booklet and the image on the disc intrigued me enough to rent it (and later buy it). The game was Einhander and not only did it serve up a story with unique/futuristic bosses, it was my first step into side-scrolling spaceship shooters. Now, by this point in life, I had already tried such greats as Metroid and R-Type and I honestly did not care much for them. Not sure why, it just never clicked for me and preferred to play more story driven games. The controls were similar enough to the other shooters I had played but the graphics and creativity on Einhander was the attention grabber. It was also a pretty tough game and not very forgiving. As fun as fighting games and clever camera angles of Lara Croft were, they were beatable games. Something about this tough shooter had me fixated on solving it and getting the confusing ending I deserved. Perhaps it was ego that drove me to finish the game, but it was appreciation I had felt when I had accomplished this trying challenge of a game. That was the last side-scrolling shooter I got involved with.
Now, with my download complete of Sine Mora, I will have another go at a classic genre that doesn’t get a lot of spotlight, but I have heard good things about it, so we’ll just see if it has that special “umph” that will help vie for my couch time.
What was your first side-scroller?