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‘Console Wars’ review: A nostalgic look back at the original video game war

Presented with blast processing.

Microsoft’s purchase of ZeniMax seemed to reignite the console wars. Xbox fans cheered that the fights was back on while Sony fans dismissed it as a hollow decision. One thing both sides agreed: things had become more interesting. Console Wars is a documentary about the memorable war between Nintendo and Sega. Gamers at the time were divided between the two camps. All the talk around the playground was about bits. Through interviews and archival footage, the film looks back on the time.

Sega and Nintendo both have passionate fan bases. Both have been painted as the hero and villain in various retellings of their battle. Console Wars also has a villain. But here it is not due to blind fandom. Nintendo is clearly painted as the bad guy here. It is not so much they are evil (though there are certainly some underhanded tactics used). It is more of an underdog story. Sega is painted as the scrappy go getters who tried everything they could do reach the top of the video game business.

Despite its lack of new material, Console Wars remains interesting the entire time. One reason is how great the stories are. (Sony’s “$299″ conference at E3 is still amazing.) There is also a great sense of nostalgia in the documentary. Commercials and interviews from the time will remind those who were there of one of the best times in video gaming. The omission of “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” is certainly surprising, however.

Directors Blake J. Harris and Julian Tulis do an excellent job of conveying the innocence of the time. This is especially impressive considering what a bitter battle the two companies were having. While some may chalk it up to a “those were the days” mentality, Console Wars has a sense of fun that goes beyond its era. It is more about the people involved and the culture they are looking at. The stakes may be high, but everyone is still trying to have fun.

The ending is surprisingly abrupt. A part of this can be attributed to how smoothly Console Wars flows. Once Sony enters the fray, they are an unwelcome participant. Sure enough, the multimedia giant signals the end of the film just like it did the real life battle. And there is a definite finality to what ends up happening to Sega.

There are moments in a person’s childhood that will stick with them forever. Some of them are life changing while others are just moments looked back on fondly. For many people the battle for dominance between Sega and Nintendo overshadows any or console war or cell phone argument. Console Wars looks back on those times with a joyful and informative gaze.

Console Wars is available now on CBS All Access.

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