My favourite gaming memory comes from the Christmas of 1995.
1995 the year that the world was introduced to a cowboy who befriended a spaceman, Brad Pitt found his wife’s head in a box (SPOILER!) and we found out that the thing Batman was missing was Batnipples!
It was a glorious year and as an avid SEGA gamer (growing up on a steady diet of Master System and MegaDrive games) there was only one gift I wanted from the fatman, a SEGA Saturn! It was literally the only gift I asked for that year.
As a regular reader of SEGA Power magazine I was being bombarded with advertisements for the SEGA Saturn since the March edition and with images of ‘SEGA Rally’, ‘Clockwork Knight’, ‘Panzer Dragoon’ and ‘Virtua Fighter’ I knew that I had to have the console. I had never seen graphics that beautiful before and for all I knew I never would again! Christmas couldn’t have come quicker and as I shoved my Christmas list into my mums hand in early September I knew that I would be playing one of those games come December 25th.
Santa had not let me down yet and he wouldn’t start now, not on this; the most important of years.
When Christmas morning arrived I was awake by 5:30am. I jumped out of bed and checked on Mum and Dad…still asleep. I did what anyone would do in that situation, I woke up all my siblings and played the waiting game, eventually we’d make enough noise to wake up the parents and Christmas could officially begin. I began with my older brother, we had prepared for this eventuality by taping some Christmas movies and began to watch them. I moved on to my sister’s room and woke them all up with a simple scream of “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” Soon all eight of us were awake and (im)patiently awaiting Mum and dad to do the same.
In our defense we held out as long as we could and we didn’t rampage into Mum and Dad’s room until 7:30 to wake them up and begin the long descent into the living room.
Every year we had the same routine, we’d line up on the stairs youngest to oldest (front to back) and Dad would go into the living room and come out with the same speech:
“Sorry guys, Santa must have forgotten us this year! There’s nothing there! Let’s just go back to bed.”
We knew this was a lie and we’d run into the living room. This year was no different. As I finally breached the door and ran to my gifts I began to marvel at all that was left for me – and it was genuinely a lot of stuff and I was incredibly happy with my impressive haul (which included a TV for my bedroom).
And yet one thing was conspicuous in its absence; the SEGA Saturn.
It was nowhere to be seen. In all honesty it took me a little while to realise that I had not gotten my beloved console. Dad had noticed – he approached me and sat me down – he said that Santa had spoken to him and the Saturn was not as good a console as SEGA had said – Santa hadn’t wanted me to get disappointed and didn’t leave one but he did leave a card. I ripped it open and there was a clue in it for a mystery gift.
And so began me & my younger brothers treasure hunt. We ran from the living room to the utility cupboard – BOOM – another clue, eventually we got to the last clue – the answer was obvious – behind the sofa…we approached and there was a large box there! I reached in and dragged it out – a tight fit and it was a struggle – but out it came! Slowly and surely and there it was! My…
I had no idea what a Playstation was – my world revolved around SEGA – I had never heard of this console!
My Dad explained that after I had asked for a Saturn he went to a store to ask what it was and was treated to play both of them that day. He explained that SEGA Rally wasn’t going to be out for a while – SEGA couldn’t get it working on their new hardware and there was a racing game on Playstation that was much better than ‘Daytona USA’! He then asked me to go get some “batteries” in his room – I ran up and sitting there was ‘Ridge Racer’ – I grabbed the batteries and ran back down – leaving ‘Ridge Racer’! My Dad was entertained by this act of obedience and told my brother to go grab some ‘batteries’…he too returned with batteries. Finally he had to ask my older brother to go grab “batteries” and he returned with ‘Ridge Racer’! Dad gave me and my younger brother the game and said it was brilliant and we’d love it!
We excitedly asked the question – “can we set up the Playstation and our new TV?” Dad grabbed the TV and we all ran to the bedroom to experience this new; and frankly, mysterious console.
We booted up ‘Ridge Racer’ and after being welcomed by ‘Galaxian’ we pressed start when prompted and…holy shit…this game looked amazing! It looked better than any of the screenshots of the Saturn! I instantly forgot about SEGA and as I threw my car around its first corner side-wards I was a Playstation gamer! This is what the next-generation of games would look like? My God it’s beautiful! My Dad took a go and he was like us; utterly amazed by this machine we held in our possession! He called in our Mum and she too was amazed by what she was seeing!
Our older brother then came into the room with a present for me and my younger brother – we unwrapped it – it was ‘Cyber sled’ a 1-on-1 tank battle game by Namco!
‘Cyber Sled’ also looked amazing, it was no ‘Ridge Racer’ in the game-play department but it certainly looked the part and it was good while it lasted!
We shortly went back to ‘Ridge Racer’ and we noticed something new every lap, the plane that flies overhead, the helicopter that swoops low over the track, the jump that preceded that and the sound! My god that music was pumping and it sounded like real music! These CD games really were the future…
…next up was ‘Demo 1’ which contained a plethora of playable games, a few videos and two tech demos. We started with a fighting title ‘Battle Arena Toshinden’ which we played for hours! ‘WipeOut’ followed which had more amazing sounding music and played really rather well. Next came ‘Destruction Derby’ the first game I ever saw Mum play (and laugh at in joy!).
We watched a few videos of more amazing looking games, my younger brother really enjoyed playing ‘Jumping Flash’. Finally we witnessed the Tech Demo of the T-Rex – my God this was the most impressive thing yet – it looked amazing and you could make it roar!
We took a break for dinner and the best thing of the day happened, my uncle, the very same uncle who always had the best gear and tech came to visit us for a few hours! My Dad told him we got the Playstation and he was keen to see it as he hadn’t gotten one – he lost his shit to ‘Ridge Racer’ then really lost it to the T-Rex and WipeOut! He admitted jealousy – which made me proud to own a Playstation! My uncle had made us jealous for years with all his cool shit – the shoe was on the other foot now and it felt good! i’ll never forget the look on his face as he played ‘Ridge Racer’ for the first time, a whole new world unraveling before his eyes – his SNES looking decidedly old-hat!
At the end of the day my Mum and Dad asked me if I was disappointed…I said of course not! They said they were sorry about the Saturn…I had genuinely forgotten that I had asked for that, I loved my Playstation and the wee console stayed under my TV until I got my Xbox original (since we can’t call the xbox 1 anymore). Even today no matter what game I’m playing and on what console it is on my Mum will always say “you playing your Playstation?” the lexicon had changed in my house in 1995, and has never went back!
The best console I ever owned! Too many hours spent playing every classic game, and the console that turned me into a true gamer! Thanks Sony, but even more, thanks Dad for being a proper parent and researching gifts rather than blindly buying what I asked for and spending far too much money on me to give me the best Christmas ever!
Merry Christmas everyone! And a happy New Year!