three legends of the nineties

For the vast majority of those born in the late 70s and early 80s, the era of computer games began in the 90s with Dendy consoles. Created on the initiative of Steepler and the idea of ​​Viktor Savyuk, this name was given to a not quite legal and official clone of the third-generation Nintendo NES / Famicom set-top box, intended for the Russian market and other countries of the post-Soviet space.

However, if we had been told then that Dendy was Nintendo, we would have laughed at such an expert. After all, the “sixteen-bit” Nintendo SNES in those days was “a completely different matter.”

The Japanese Nintendo NES / Famicom conquered gamers of the planet back in the mid-80s, and by the early 90s it was fading into the shadows against the backdrop of sixteen-bit platforms, SEGA Mega Drive and Nintendo SNES / Super Famicom. However, for the inhabitants of the countries that appeared on the ruins of the former USSR, the main form of electronic games at that time was still Soviet stationary slot machines – and pocket LCD “Electronics”.

Usually models IM-02 with a wolf from “Just you wait!” Catching chicken eggs in a basket. By the way, it was also a clone of Nintendo, namely the Nintendo EG-26 Egg. The source also had a wolf and eggs, only in the Soviet adaptation of 1984 the main character was remade into a beloved poor fellow from the main animated series of the USSR.

Of course, some especially lucky and advanced ones were already playing imported consoles or PCs. But a truly massive breakthrough in computer games on set-top boxes connected to TVs was 1993. It was then that the flow of Dendy set-top boxes ordered in Taiwan and characteristic orange cartridges for them went to Russia and neighboring countries at an increasing pace. If in February of that year it was possible to sell 3,000 set-top boxes in a month, then in the fall, thousands of set-top boxes were sold in a day, and the market was furiously demanding more.

After some time, it turned out that it was pointless to launch an advertisement with a memetic baby elephant and the sticky motive “Everyone plays Dandy”: almost all children craved Dendy even without any advertising. Even if we had a chance to find out, then we would definitely not care that it was not the original Nintendo NES / Famicom, but its not very official Taiwanese clone from TXC Corporation, cheap and noticeably lower quality. Or even “a pirated copy of a pirated copy”. We got into computer games and our towers were blown off.

Very soon the counters of shops and clothing markets were filled with an endless number of orange cartridges with a variety of games for Dandy. Some of them became popular and were discussed everywhere: not only during joint passages, but also in the yards, at breaks and even in the classroom. Some remained little known and uninteresting. But some knew literally everyone who had launched this console at least once. Including because they were often sold bundled with the prefix itself as a basic cartridge. And also – in many variations of varying degrees of bugs, strangeness and stubbornness – they were an indispensable component of cartridge collections of the “1001 in 1” type.

They can hardly be called mega-masterpieces, there were much more interesting and advanced games on Dendy … but only Cthulhu knows how many endless hours were killed by our generation in these mega-hits. Their images have become cult and recognizable in any condition, and even melodies are able to revive those times in memory with just a couple of notes. No worse than the smell of cheap plastic, from which Dandies and Subors were made.

Since then, not years, but decades have passed. Games have acquired such advanced graphics that a screenshot cannot always be distinguished from a photograph, and their branching plots and characters successfully compete in cultural significance with the masterpieces of world literature and cinema. But those same games are still in our hearts. And above all – their big trinity: “Mario”, “Tanchiki” and, so its rastak, “Hunting”.

▍ Mario: Super Mario Bros.

Slightly psychedelic adventures of an Italian plumber in the world of mushrooms, turtles, porcupines and carnivorous plants have become a hit not only among the players in the “Dandy”. This game of 1985 held the title of the best-selling game in world history for a long time after Tetris.

And after all, it seems, everything in it is just almost to the point of primitiveness. You run, jump, eat mushrooms, dodge aggressive bushes, crawl through water pipes and kick turtles. The graphics, even for an eight-bit system, are as unpretentious as a rake.

But … everyone played Mario, often and for a long time. Both alone and with friends. Many people are still able to reproduce the first level, or even go through it, with their eyes closed. True, not everyone at the same time reached all 32 levels to 8-4, the last dungeon of the last world, and saved that same princess.

Thank you Mario! But your princess is in another castle!

The history of the creation of “Mario” – yes, since then a lot of games have been made about the mustachioed plumber, but “Mario” by default remained exactly the same Super Mario Bros. – replete with unexpected details. For example, the characteristic appearance with a mustache, cap and overalls, invented for Donkey Kong, initially did not mean anything Italian and proletarian.

It was an elegant technical solution: the mustache, with too pixel graphics, separated the expressive nose from the rest of the face, the cap allowed not to bother with the hair, and the jumpsuit successfully set off the movements of the hands. The output, indeed, turned out to be an almost stereotypical New York Italian of a working profession.

Well, the name stuck to the character due to the fact that the head of the American branch of Nintendo quarreled over rent with the owner of the office space named Mario Segale (English pronunciation of the Italian Segale). Since the original character of Donkey Kong was not particularly positive, but rather the opposite, the unnamed “Jumper” was renamed Mario. By the way, the character kicking the turtles in the sewers… didn’t he later become the Shredder?

However, we had no idea about such details, nor about the fact that the princess was called Peach, the “dragon” boss (actually a pumped turtle) was Bowser or Kuppa, and all this happened in a certain Mushroom Kingdom (by the way, what an Italian-American plumber doing it, if it wasn’t all a mushroom trip in a New York sewer?). All we had was endless passages through jumping, eating mushrooms and kicking turtles. And for them – many thanks to Shigeru Miyamoto, who invented all this disgrace.

And yes, do you also have one of the game melodies playing in your head?

▍ Tanks: Battle City / Tank 1990

The only game that competed with Mario in terms of the mass audience and the infinity of the killed time was Tanks. And not a great creation of Wargaming (just donate!), But Battle City of 1985 from the Japanese Namco. Actually, “Tanks” were the direct successor of the 1980 Tank Battalion game from the same Namco, which was also intended for stationary slot machines. In the original version, all enemy tanks were the same, as were exclusively brick walls.

If “Mario” was and remains a great world hit, then “Tanks” were at the peak of popularity precisely in the post-Soviet space. In Japan and in the West, they never received stars. But we, the users of “Dandy”, were ready to cut into them for hours, if not days. One of the reasons for the popularity was undoubtedly the presence of Battle City or its Chinese upgrade Tank 1990 on the same basic cartridges and in the same collections as Mario. Almost every player on the “Dandy” “Tanchiki” was one of the very first games that he launched on the console in principle.

Everything, as in Mario, was very simple. One or two players controlled tanks, which had to destroy two dozen enemy armored vehicles of four different types in each round: from “just a tank” to high-speed wheeled and armored heavy. And at the same time, do not let the enemy hit the “headquarters”, depicted as a gray eagle behind a small brick wall.

In addition to the actual battles with AI, the game conquered by the fact that it implemented a destructible environment. Brick walls collapsed with normal shots from both the player and the enemy. Concrete (looked more like metal) – only after sequential pumping with bonuses within the level. “Zelyonka”, vegetation, did not collapse at all – but insidiously hid enemy tanks and their movement. Just like in real life. The water did not allow passing, but it was possible to shoot over it. The ice slowed down.

And if only the destructible environment! Tanks had a built-in level editor. What was not built there, especially in a children’s or, even worse, a teenage company.

However, for those who missed the usual “Tanks”, the same cartridges usually had Chinese upgrades, Tank 1990 in a bunch of variants with lettering like “Tank N 1990”. Many people remember “Tanks” in this form: upgrades appeared here that allowed them to “float” on water and destroy vegetation, and enemies got the opportunity to receive their own bonuses.

At the same time, only a few played in the more advanced, bright and complex Tank City.

A little more familiar with the Chinese variants of the development of the idea: Tank 1994 / Missile Tank, and Taan Hak Fung Wan King Tank / Great Tank / Super City Tank, which provided a lot of additional features and features: rockets, flamethrowers, towing concrete obstacles and other joys. Perhaps they did not “shoot” because by that time the “Dandy” had already gone into the shadow of the much more advanced “Sega” and “Nintendo”.

It was the classic Battle City and its variants of the Tank 1990 series that became cult.

▍ “Ducks” / Duck Hunt

The duck hunting simulator was certainly played less than Mario and Tanks. However, there was no player in “Dandy” who would not try to play it at least once. All for the same reason: it was always in basic cartridges, and in the standard set of “Dandy” or “Subora” there was a light gun. In the original version, the console was supposed to have a futuristic and clearly toy-looking NES Zapper, but the Dandy set usually included a pistol in the form of an imitation of some real barrel: Berettas of the 92nd family, Makarov or Desert Needle. What was cooler for post-Soviet teenagers. Actually, games using this unit at our disposal in most cases were limited to the very duck hunting.

The game of hunting was more primitive than a rake. In three versions of the game, it was necessary to hit either one or two ducks from a pistol, or target shooting cymbals. All it took was only three shots. When hit, the ducks quite realistically died, fell into the grass and were picked up by a hunting dog (in our time, such obvious graphic violence against animals would hardly have been missed in a game intended for children, but it was the harsh eighties, especially in the same Japan) . If the player did not hit, the said dog crawled out of the grass and began to neigh disgustingly, such a beast.

Unlike “Tanks”, the game became a hit in Japan and the West, and even reached the second highest selling rate after “Mario”. But in the post-Soviet space, I would not call it super-popular precisely in the sense of the mass nature of the game and the time spent. They played, but not so much for hours and definitely not as enthusiastically and for a long time as in “Tanks” with “Mario”. But all the players in the “Dandy” definitely remember her. Especially the fucking and annoyingly invulnerable dog.

However, it was possible that this was the case in my “bubble”, and other players and their friends were killing hours and days in the “Dandy” for duck hunting too. But, according to my impressions and recollections, the situation was something like this.

Of course, there were a great many games on the “Dandy” and besides this big three. Dozens of hits, hundreds of popular games, thousands of games in general. At the height of the platform’s popularity, the walls of computer game stores were orange with countless Dandy cartridges.

But still, with all the popularity of “Chip and Dale”, “Ninja Turtles”, “Battletods” and other “Black Cloaks”, they have no equal in terms of memeticity and recognition. And even the great “Contra” is inferior to them in this regard.

However, maybe I’m wrong?

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