Express & Star

Take me back to 1995: Nintendo vs Sega, Blur vs Oasis and the rise of Mondeo Man

Andy Richardson looks back to a year that saw the rise of the games console, Cool Britannia and when Ford cars were in the fast lane.

It was Sega vs Nintendo, with two iconic characters up against each other

Was it Mario or Sonic in console wars?

There comes a time in life where we have to take sides. Blur or Oasis. Red sauce or brown sauce. Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash. The answer is Johnny, every time.

In 1995, the kids had another choice to make.

It was this: Sega v Nintendo.

There are those who were Team Nintendo, all the way. And why wouldn’t they be? Nintendo was cool. It was edgy. It was the sort of gaming that said: ‘We’re from the right side of the tracks, but we prefer hanging out on the wrong side…’ Sega was corporate. It was beige. It was the uncool also-ran in the era of Console Wars.

Sega and Nintendo weren’t the first big businesses to duke it out in the technological space. That battle has raging since time immemorial. From VHS to Betamax, from Apple to Windows, from Nikon to Canon, big tech companies play the tedious game of divide and rule as they seek to make us acolytes of their particular system. Perhaps the funniest element of the Sega versus Nintendo face-off was this – both of them lost, when a rival player, Sony, became the third spoke in their wheel.

Nintendo, of course, had been the original super console; the OG, if you like. At one stage, controlling around 90 per cent of the market, it was usurped by those pesky upstarts at Sega, who literally went into Mortal Kombat to sell more consoles. There was a price war – hurrah – a rush to make better games – double hurrah – and the belated arrival of Sony’s PlayStation, which meant none of us cared any more whether we were playing on a Sega Saturn or a Nintendo 64 because we’d all switched to the coveted PlayStation.

It was, however, fun while it lasted. Indeed, the Sega v Nintendo console war was so fiercely embedded into our popular culture that it became the subject of a non-fiction novel, Console Wars, by Blake Harris, as well as a film/documentary, in 2020. Whodda thunk it? And all we wanted to do was play with our Super NES.

Rose-tinted specs, however, are what’s really required as we look back to the era of Super Mario and a little Blue cat thing, called Sonic The Hedgehog. Sega, bless them, put up a good fight and deserve their place in gaming history. For a little while, we all wanted the hack and slash classic Shinobi, the beat ‘em up brilliance of Streets Of Rage, and the so-good-it-hurts sporting genius of Virtua Tennis. But Nintendo countered that with better graphics, better marketing, and, hell, just by being cooler. Nintendo’s Mario transcending the world of gaming and, arguably, transcended gaming itself. Offering pure, unadulterated fun, and the best moustache this side of Freddie Mercury, it was the Don of the gaming world. It’s funny now, of course, looking back almost 30 years, at graphics that now seem out-dated, past their sell-by, and a little bit wonky. But, back in 1995, the battle lines were drawn and everyone took a side: Nintendo, or Sega.

Rising stars of Cool Britannia

Lead singer Liam Gallagher and rock band Oasis, treat fans to a secret free gig at the Virgin Megastore in London's Oxford Street at midnight, to launch their long-awaited new album.

It was the year of Blur versus Oasis. And, yes, the louts from Manchester won that, fair and square. But it was also a year of unrivalled invention, as Cool Britannia enjoyed a degree of cultural prominence that it perhaps hadn’t enjoyed since the swinging sixties, and arguably hasn’t enjoyed since.

So the faux battle between Damon Albarn and the Brothers Gallagher didn’t tell the true story, because 1995 was the year when the alternative became the mainstream, when dance music filled our clubs – and radio stations – and where bands could fulfil their dreams of success in a way that hadn’t been possible since the heyday of punk, just under 20 years before.

It was the year of Leftfield’s classic debut, including Open Up, with John Lydon, and of Tricky’s Trip Hop classic, Maxinquaye. PJ Harvey was the nation’s foremost musical auteur, releasing the brilliant To Bring You My Love, replete with such hits as C’Mon Billy and Down By The Water. Radiohead released The Bends, a huge step forward from their debut, with such seminal tunes as High And Dry, Fake Plastic Trees, and Street Spirit, while perennial indie-types The Boo Radleys crashed the charts with their breakthrough, Wake Up! on the ever-inspiring Creation Records.

Elastica took Suede’s mantle as being the coolest band on the planet, while Supergrass smoked their way to success with I Should Coco, and singles hits like Caught By The Fuzz and Mansize Rooster. And what of the ever-brilliant Paul Weller, whose Stanley Road album was released in May that year. 1995 was vintage.

When Ford and Mondeo Man mattered most

Ford Mondeo

Back in 1995, a small handful of us had access to the internet. One in a hundred of us – and, yes, I was that one – were able to log onto poorly maintained computers where we knew something would crash before we’d been able to download and read. WiFi speeds were slower than the proverbial milk floats – do they still have electric milk floats? – while such privileges, which prevented the need to leaf through paper and ink books, were the preserve of but a few.

Happily, in 2023, we all have super-fast broadband, which makes researching a feature on the most popular cars in 1995 as easy as typing ‘the most popular cars of 1995’ into a search engine.

Hey presto. The Ford Escort was the car all of us drove. And if it wasn’t an Escort, it was a Fiesta. And if it wasn’t a Fiesta, it was a Mondeo.

The Mondeo, of course, was not just an aspirational car – it was also an electoral demograph, who can forget the political parties’ determination to win the votes of Mondeo Man?

Fords were followed closely by Vauxhalls – in order of popularity, the Astra (a rubbish Escort), the Cavalier (a rubbish Mondeo) and the Corsa (a rubbish Fiesta).

Beyond those, there were pale imitations, a few cars from France – thanks, Renault, for the Clio – and Rovers, which habitually broke down and started to rust at the first sign of rain.

Curiously, Ford Escorts are now collectable, and you can pay between £10,000 and £90,000, depending on how frivolous you are with your cash.

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