It was nearing the end of the 16-bit era with the Saturn and Playstation shedding dark clouds over it. There was no stopping it. Games were going 3-D but it felt like they weren't quite ready to be there. Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA were positives in what seemed like the next step and while I liked the way the games moved and animated I did not like the way they looked. The Street Fighters were only getting better and the sports games were hitting their stride with killer football, nhl, and fifa titles hitting on the Genesis and SNES.
The Saturn released to a weird and sudden summer Toys R Us only secret that no one cared to show up for and then the dismal release games. It was just sad. The high price of 400 bucks for a slightly enhanced version of Virtua Fighter that was available for the 32X. It was just too much too soon. Playstation would eventually come along and the shelves at stores had so many consoles people couldn't keep track. There was Playstation, Saturn, 3DO, Jaguar, DUO, CDi, NEO GEO, SNES, and then the rest of Sega's onslaught of hardware including Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, and even the Nomad. I was a fan of Sega but even I could see that they were headed down a road of confusion and delay.
It was so much hardware and so little space. The local mall that once had four game stores had none from the middle of 1995 to about the holiday of 1997. Babbages, Software ETC, Electronics Boutique, and Funcoland were all but memories. Then the local Video Game Trader, Reel Entertainment, and then Movie Stop cut off their game division known as "Zappers". My world lost interest, magazines were showing pixelated blocky pics of games that just didn't look that fun to play.
I lost interest. I was seeing blocky games with tank controls that were supposed to be the best games ever. Honestly nothing from Saturn or Playstation had me excited for gaming at all and it seemed I wasn't the only one. The three big arcades closed down too.
I was so depressed with where gaming went that I joined the military to get my mind off of it. I learned to play guitar, play drums, dated girls, and went to movies and sporting events. I guess it wasn't all bad...but then I would walk by a still standing arcade and I would remember how fun games were. I dumped some mad coin into a few machines like Out Run, WWF WrestleFest, and Super High Impact Football. There was always something about the arcades that made games awesome. Maybe it was the guy in the back that had those little free candies or something. I don't know.
I went back to visit that arcade again a few weeks later only to learn that it had closed down too. The operator said that because of Sega and Nintendo consoles people didn't come to the arcades any more. I dropped to my knees. It was the last one standing. It was the last. I drank a lot that night. Thinking about the old days of playing Golden Axe, After Burner, and Hang On there. I was my first taste of Spy Hunter, Street Fighter 2, and even Pac Man. The lighting of the dark arcades and sounds of the machines blipping and blopping and pinball machines shaking. Where do I go now? Guns N Roses Sweet Child 'o Mine was on all the time asking me that question. Where do we go now?
I played some McDonald's Monolpoly and actually won a free Sega Saturn that came with the three pack of Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter, and Daytona. I bought Virtua Fighter 2 which gave me a glimpse of hope that games can look less blocky. I started to play Quake 2 on my PC a lot. The multiplayer was insanely fun and then I got my hands on a Playstation and passed the time with a few games that were okay but I'll never feel like Resident Evil or Metal Gear Solid were mind blowing. While I was distracted by them for awhile I didn't feel entertained. PS1 and Saturn games felt like work just to talk to other people about Final Fantasy 7, Tekken 2, and a handful of uninspired sports games.
Finally the hardware would start to dry up on shelves. No more 3DO, Jaguar, Sega CD, and 32Xs filling the shelves with shovelware. No more weird Zeldas on CDi. The Genesis and SNES would finally be retired from store shelves as well. Saying goodbye to the Genesis and SNES was one of the most life crushing events I could have ever shared with my friends. We had our own special funerals and poured our 40oz's on their caskets and lit them up in fires. My one friend said, "Dude, we could have traded that all in for some store credit.". I pulled him up off the ground and looked him dead in the eye and said "Hell no, they'd only give you like ten bucks you dumb ass." It was a night to remember. Always.
Better days were ahead. I finally got a N64 and things were brighter. I stopped drinking for awhile with the N64. Mario, Zelda, and NWO/WCW Revenge really brought me back out of the darkness. Games were starting to look clearer and play better. I was having fun again without the alcohol to make the games seem better than they were.