Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Magic & Mystery Of Stark Black Backgrounds In 8-Bit Nintendo Games

When I think back on my times playing NES games as a child, the feeling that comes through to me even after all these years is a spine-tingling sense of the unknown. This is the feeling I get when I think about the deeply atmospheric backgrounds of Kid Icarus (I could never make it past the first level), Metroid (I always got too lost or scared to make it far) and World 3 of Super Mario Bros. Mario would be the one that I played obsessively as a child, though I never managed to beat the game. It was the only one of the three I actually owned: Kid Icarus was played at a cousin's house, while Metroid was only rented once or twice.

These deeply atmospheric backgrounds are not highly-detailed. In fact, they're entirely black, with various objects in the foreground for the character to jump around on. It is this blackness that I remember most. It is a blackness that brings to mind eternal nights, realms that are so vast they seem stretch on for eternity. The black backgrounds charge the games with an entirely otherworldly quality: there is a sense that anything can happen in them, that anything can appear in that void at any time. Playing these games, I remember the black swallowing the world around me, taking me inside the games' unique worlds. There was so much mystery in them that my mind couldn't help but add in things that weren't there. These are memories I can cherish.

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