On my journey through the world of nostalgia, the flood of memories usually involves my family. Today, video games are more or less about system quality, graphics, achievements, or PwNing nOoBs and less about people gathering around a system to enjoy the experience. Nintendo still does it – the experience with the Wii and Wii U follows the ideals that video games should be fun for the whole family. I’m not against being a hardcore gamer – I mean, sometimes I feel like ripping a still beating heart from my opponent’s chest, but regardless there is something to be said for the special time games of old. It doesn’t have to go back as far as mine, but consider when you first fell in love with games.
Let me take you back, and share a memory when I first fell in love with games.
GET THE POWER!!
In an issue of Nintendo Power magazine, my brother, Dennis, claims there is an ad asking for photographic evidence of the completion of Super Mario World. I’m not too sure of this accusation, since there have been plenty of Nintendo Power issues since then (at least until they stopped printing them) and I’m not about to go scrounging around for the answers. While a stray copy might exist in some nerdatorium-like Bat Cave, or perhaps in the archives of the Nintendo Company, the bass line of truth remains. I do not care that much to prove him wrong. Be that as it may, in the possession of our family photo album is the evidence that we did, in fact, defeat the evil Bowser and release all of the imprisoned Yoshi…or Yoshis back in 1991.
The hype, of course, was the final battle scene. Bowser would enter the stage riding inside his floating white and green transporter, painted with an orange, clown-like smiley face. Mario would have just made it to the top of the tower after battling various Mecha-Koopas and spitting fireballs. He’d be more than just a little singed, but he might have a feather stowed away- just in case he needs his cape.
To be frank, though, whatever form of ‘power-up’ he came into the final dungeon with, fire flower or feather; it was long gone by this showdown. The killer part was getting to Bowser with at least some strength, at least a mushroom. Super Mario was better than little Mario any day.
The final dungeon is usually much more difficult than Bowser. Final levels from Mario games past consisted of one continuous level; this new final dungeon had two parts. The problem with Super Mario World’s final dungeon was a matter of personal choice. The dangers span between falling buzz saws to chattering skulls that carry Mario over lava. Every door takes Mario to a separate part of the dungeon. Of course, after we played through the game in years to come, we found a consistent pattern of easiest doors to enter. But, at this particular moment in history, we had never beaten the game.
Dennis, my eldest brother, sat on the edge of his heavy wooden chair, analog controller in hand, eyes squinting at the screen. Beside me, my other brother Philip stood, leaning forward like he was about to catch a fish with his hands. I wouldn’t recommend catching the bone fish with razor sharp fangs that swam in Bowser’s moat. My second oldest brother, Donald, paced, twiddling his fingers before his lips as he observed the final stretch from behind the couch. My mother wasn’t watching at all. She was sewing a pair of jeans, but occasionally, she smirked in our direction with a shaking head.
She had seen this all before; the anticipation, the licking of the lips, the hunched shoulders, the leaning so far in that it left one vulnerable to a shove. Whenever Dennis would get close to defeating Bowser, the opportunity would slip from his grasp by way of misstep or miscalculation. Bowser’s flying clown car would crush him with its spinning turbines and he would cry out. “That was FFFu–cheap. That was cheap.” Lucky to remember my mom was sitting right behind him, he would usually catch himself.
This time was different. Dennis was in the zone. He licked his lips and kept a careful eye on Bowser. He had the algorithm memorized. Bowser would float around and throw giant bowling balls out of his clown chariot. Then he would swoop down on Mario. If the plucky plumber managed to dodge those obstacles, the King Koopa would chuck Mecha-Koops at him. Those Mecha’s were oh-so-helpful for striking Bowser, once they’d become immobilized with a single jump.
Dennis was on a roll. One hit would send that over-grown lizard flying.
Bowser Strikes Back
Mom had stopped sewing the jeans and watched the action on the screen. The four of us hardly noticed.
Bowser was ticked. His eyes swirled and he waved his arms in the air. Struck by a Mecha-Koopa, his clown cart capsized. But the giant turtle, lizard, reptile-king managed to control himself and fly off screen. Suddenly, the sky rained fire. Easy enough to dodge, the little spits had two evil eye slits. After the barrage of flame, Bowser’s chariot returned. This time, Princess Toadstool rose like a charmed snake and cried, “Mario!” She tossed a helpful mushroom. As the battle continued, Donald’s pace quickened. The shelves shook as his feet thudded of the ground. Phil bit his nails, and with his free hand, he clutched the table that held the television.
“Don’t touch that!” I grabbed his hand and forced it off the table. “You want the game to restart?” The good ol’ Super Nintendo had sensitivity. One good shake and not only would the game be lost, but the save spot too.
“You’re not the boss of me,” Phil said.
“Quiet!” Mom was leaning forward now and watching the battle as if it were the World Series. We silenced. Dennis had made it passed the second round and Bowser was fed up. He slammed into the ground with his clown hover, turbines spinning like a windmill in a tornado. Occasionally, he tossed a Mecha-Koopa, bowling balls, or slammed into a section of the rocky castle brick.
We stopped breathing. Dennis was hit by a spinning turbine. Super Mario shrank. It was all over. Little Mario sped out of the way as Bowser crashed along, accidentally smashing one of his own Mecha’s.
Mario Out Of Luck
Dennis saw his opportunity. Donald stopped pacing. Phil had no more nails to chew, so he bit his fingers. I clasped my hands together, while my mother covered her mouth.Mario darted beneath the massive King Koopa, grasped the fallen Mecha and threw it high into the lightning cracked sky. Bowser saw stars. He spun out of control and flipped. Princess Toadstool floated safely down and we cheered. This was the moment we had been waiting for.
Dennis jumped into the air…and landed hard. The table and game jarred and the screen went black.
“No!” A collective scream shattered the room and chaos erupted. Donald ran out of the room and paced in the hall way, yelling at Dennis from a safe distance. Philip began to argue with him over whose fault it was. I was close to tears. My first real video game ending and I couldn’t even watch it.
“Why don’t you beat it again?” The voice of reason. Mom smiled from her chair. We stared at her and she shrugged. “You did it once, right?” Dennis took in a deep breath and hit the reset button. The Super Mario World coin appeared and it was game on–Part Two.
The second round of Dennis vs. King Koopa was successful. My mother had the camera ready and Dennis kept his feet on the ground. I’ll never be sure if he did send a copy to Nintendo Power. I do know that we have a copy to keep this memory; my first game ending ever.
Since then, there have been many beaten games, many entirely on my own and it was never as epic it seemed. Then again, everything seems so much cooler when you are five. It seems such a small accomplishment now since we can pretty much beat the game blind-folded after playing it so many times.
Of course, there are so many wonderful games out there that I have yet to play, so time will tell. Perhaps my nephews or my own future children will have the same feeling one day.
How about you readers? What was your first epic game experience? When did you fall in love with games? =) Be sure to comment! Now, go play games.