Xenophilia: Illegal childhood

Think of any great videogame released 1980-2000. Yep, that game is great. And you know what? I never had a legal copy of it. You see, there were none in Ukraine. And in, pretty much, any post-soviet country actually. What a fun childhood we had.

Late 80s and the beginning of the 90s were strange times here, both in terms of politics and entertainment. I had a chance as a small kid to play on some Atari clone, the name of which i never knew. I shot white squares on the TV screen and played Pong. All because, Soviet Union was going to be “more open” with it’s ongoing “perestroika” period. Then it went completely open, by dissolving and leaving me, still a small kid of 6, happily playing with my “Poisk 1” computer, which was, basically, an IBM PC 186 ripoff. But it played Montezuma’s Revenge, Arkanoid (and PopCorn), Saboteur 2, all of which could fit on one floppy. What? Don’t copy that floppy? Never heard of it.

But then, somewhere in 92-93 something happened. That something was “Dendy”, an “addon” (for TV), as we used to call it (no, we didn’t know it was supposed to be called “console”). It had awesome games, most of which came pre-installed on the console itself! Great games, i’m sure you’ve heard of them: Super Mario Bros, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ice Climber, Pope– What? What is “NES”? No, i don’t know what it is. Yes, Dendy was a NES clone. And it was a smash hit, if you have any doubts. Where were Nintendo looking? No idea, but we didn’t care. We wanted games and we had them. Nintendo didn’t want our money, pirates (and, effectively, those who sold Dendy and illegally made cartridges for it were pirates) got them.

Then Sega Mega Drive 2 – that was awesome. Cartriges were illegal copies too, but i don’t think anyone even considered trying to sell original ones at the original price here back then. We didn’t care, we had games. We had awesomely fast times with Sonic, were flying on the magic carpet in Aladdin, killed each other in all the gory ways in Mortal Kombat. We… SNES? What the hell the SNES is?! Yep, while i’ve seen some SNES cartridges and consoles at the time, I’ve never heard anyone played it here. Maybe it was to hard to clone or chip, maybe copying the cartridges was a costly thing. Or maybe after Mega Drive (you might know it as Genesis, by the way) went popular and 16-bit was in the air, nobody cared about bringing a competing console on the market. It’s not like SEGA or Nintendo cared.

Then the golden times came. Copying CD’s, even back in the mid-90s, was much cheaper than copying cartridges. No surprises then, that Panasonic 3DO and PS1, when it appeared, got instantly popular. No need for a powerful PC, awesome 3D graphics, and insanely cheap games (CD-R’s were cheap, remember?). Stupid fun in Way of the Warrior, joys of pro-survival horror completely in Japanese in Doctor Hauzer, Jill sandwiches in Resident Evil and…. Should i even go on with the list of popular PS1 games. We all played them, loved them and never ever had a legal copy of them. In fact, my first (and only) PS1 legally obtained game was Critical Depth (twisted metal under water from the same developers), i was given as a gift, while i was staying in Italy in 2000. And even with that, my PS1 was chipped. There were no other variants of it. Why would there be? Would you pay crazy amount of money to order it from somewhere abroad? In the time, when the internet here was in the stage of early adoption (since 98 or so)? No way.

Long story cut short, it’s 2011 and the only legal games you can buy in Ukraine (without ordering from abroad) are for PC and Sony consoles. Why? Because we (well, Russia technically, Ukraine has no major publishers, only distributors and developers) had people who knew how important it is to create a good market and Sony cared enough to go with it too. With the help of Emulators and Roms i had to feel the immense joy of experiencing all the Final Fantasy games before FFVII. With the help of SNES9x and some ROM archive site i could fall in love with Super Metroid and understand how Chrono Trigger is one of the best games of all time. With the help of R4 thing i can enjoy Hotel Dusk or Phantom Hourglass. With Dolphin i can finally play Eternal Darkness or any Zelda game. Apart from that cool looking one i saw in Italy, the one that had that flute-like thingy, you know? Yes, i’m talking about Ocarina of Time and yes, i haven’t played it. I wasn’t given a chance by Nintendo.

Why is Steam so popular today in Ukraine? It has most games available and adapts the prices for our region. Why is PS3 so popular here? You can play games legally, you can use PSN without any hassle and buy games there (almost without hassle). Why Microsoft and Nintendo consoles are pirated so much? Well, not like there is any legal alternative. There is some (rather big, but a bit too little, too late) in Russia, by the way. In Ukraine? Nope. So thank you Nintendo for making a huge part of Eastern Europe to miss out all the best games you had. Thank you Microsoft for not wanting my money and not supporting Ukraine in Xbox Live (and GFWL as well) and making me miss out some great games, like Shadow Complex and having to use friends’ chipped 360 to enjoy the amazingly bizarre journey in Deadly Premonition. Just, please, don’t get too surprised when you get little to no love here.

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