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A Look to the Past: October 4th

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As each year passes, it seems like the days of my youth are gradually slipping away. I sometimes find myself daydreaming of video games of old and the days and nights I would spend adventuring with Link, saving woodland creatures with Sonic and busting up Goombas with Mario. Skip forward in time to 2012 and we will get to look back at important dates in video game history and reminisce a little bit with GameZone’s new column, A Look to the Past.

Yoshi's Island Box Art. AWWWWToday, we will look at some important events that happened to fall on October 4.  Ah, if you were like me in 1995, my favorite thing I owned had to be my Super Nintendo. Arguably one of the best consoles of all time, the Super Nintendo was full of great, original titles and kept me entranced for hours on end. That brings us to October 4, 1995 when Nintendo released Super Mario 2: Yoshi’s Island in North America for the SNES. The Super Nintendo was late in its lifespan and used the Super FX 2 microchip (made famous by Star Fox), which allowed for 3D rendered graphics. The use of this on Super Mario 2: Yoshi’s Island allowed for a pretty unique and cute graphical style much different from any other Mario titles at the time.

I remember playing this as a kid and thinking, “This isn’t Mario!” And the magical thing about Yoshi’s Island is it wasn’t a typical Mario game. It instead let the Yoshi dinosaurs be the playable characters. As a prequel to all Mario titles at the time, Mario is still an infant allowing the player to play as the Yoshis. Sure, one can argue that the story revolves around Baby Mario, but the true heroes are the Yoshis.

marioConsidered one of the best video games of all time, even back then I knew I was playing something special. Everything in this game was something so new and refreshing and it opened up an entirely new universe in the Mario world. Mario games at the time were great, but Nintendo looked past the other Mario games making something completely new and it definitely worked. Since its release, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island has sold over 4 million copies worldwide.

To be honest, pooping out eggs had never been so much fun and to this day, I consider its art style and gameplay to be among the best in video games.

However, it wasn’t the only major event to happen on October 4. Moving on from the happiness that encompasses Mario, there was a significant loss to the video game industry as a whole.  Exactly two years after Super Mario 2: Yoshi’s Island was released, Nintendo, the video game industry and the world lost an icon, Gunpei Yokoi.

Gunpei YokoiYokoi was absolutely beneficial to the early days of Nintendo. In its toy manufacturing days, Yokoi first made a name for himself at Nintendo by creating the Ultra Hand toy along with a few others. As years passed, Yokoi got the idea to create a watch that also played games. With that idea, he created the Game & Watch series of handheld systems with the help of another video game icon in his own right, Shigeru Miyamoto.

After the success of the Game & Watch series, Yokoi created one of the most successful handheld systems of all time: the Game Boy. Of course, the Game Boy went on to sell over one hundred million units and was considered a huge success.

Roughly six years after the release of the Game Boy, another of Yokoi’s creations, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy. It was the first system to provide 3D graphics, but failed to catch on like the Game Boy did. It ended up selling less than one million units and Nintendo discontinued it a year after its release.

The last product Yokoi created for Nintendo was the popular smaller version of the Game Boy, the Game Boy Pocket. Soon after that, he left Nintendo in 1996. One year later, two cars struck him on the highway; he was taken to the hospital and ultimately passed away hours later.

So, the next time you power on your 3DS or you’re playing the latest Nintendo game, pause the game and have a moment of silence for one of the first pioneers of Nintendo and the video game industry, Gunpei Yokoi.

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Heath Hooker
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