The Internet is buzzing today with nostalgic news of the Nintendo Entertainment System's twenty-fifth anniversary and I feel that I can't let the day pass without saying something about the console that started me on the road to life-long video game enthusiast, but I've already shared my NES origin story with you and told the tale of the time I bought my very first NES game. The world doesn't really need another explanation of why Super Mario Bros. 3 is such a great game, so instead I thought I'd go in the other direction and tell you the story of the very last NES game that I acquired. Every console has a final chapter, and while the very last first-party NES game would reach the finish line in 1994 with Wario's Woods, my own personal dropping of the NES curtain came in January 1993 when I bought Capcom's Mega Man 5.
It was the close of the 8-bit glory days when most of the industry's attention had shifted to the Super NES and Sega Genesis. Worthwhile games for the classic NES were few and far between, but Capcom held on a little bit longer than it probably should have with its Mega Man franchise. I'd been given a Super NES and three of its launch titles back in 1991 as a holiday gift, but I was still picking up the odd NES game here or there as I began to build my Super NES collection. By the middle of 1992, my 8-bit purchases had pretty much stopped as I focused on more advanced titles like Super Mario Kart. The holiday season that year had brought more Super NES fun on top of that, so as 1993 opened, buying new NES games was the furthest thing from my mind.
Holiday gift cash was burning a hole in my pocket, so in early January my mother and I made one of our traditional shopping trips into the big city. While she shopped for new clothes, I had my eye on any shop in the mall with a gaming demo unit in its window. Eventually we made one last stop at a Toys R' Us where I made a beeline for the Super NES section. I made my customary scan up and down the wall of games, but my 16-bit needs had been met a few weeks earlier as gifts. Since nothing there caught my eye, I drifted down the aisle to the old NES section, although I didn't expect to find anything. Eyes darting back and forth, I was struck cold by something unexpected: Mega Man 5. History repeated itself as it had in 1989 with Mega Man 2 as I eagerly grabbed the sale card for the game and, cash in hand, headed for the check-out to make my purchase.
History didn't repeat exactly though. While I eagerly tore into the Mega Man 2 manual during the car ride home at the age of eight, at eleven there wasn't anything the Mega Man 5 manual could tell me that the other games in the series hadn't already explained. Instead I busied myself with a book I'd bought earlier in the day and left the game shrinkwrapped in the bag on the long drive back. While I'd voraciously explored Mega Man 2, I found myself taking a more relaxed tone with Mega Man 5 and it actually had to share time with my Super NES interests. It was almost as if I knew it would be the last NES game I would buy and that there was no need to rush through it.
A few other NES games that would catch my interest years later did trickle out before the console was officially retired, but I never bothered to pick up the physical game paks and instead wound up with compilation discs (Mega Man 6) and Virtual Console downloads (Kirby's Adventure) later in life. As for my NES, Mega Man 5 isn't a bad game to go out on at all. In a way, it represents the console itself: both showed their relative age, both were darn good at what they could do, and both are the source of many fond memories in an age of downloadable content and high definition textures. Sometimes simple can be fun (even the fifth time around).