Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Friday the 13th

So, you were looking for that yellow notebook-papery graphic? Sorry, I was feeling a little lazy this time, so I'll just treat you to a shot of the title screen, instead. Ta-da!

I first played Friday the 13th as a kid. It was part of a box of NES games given to us by a neighbor, a box full of goodies like this game, Astyanax, Spy Hunter, and a bunch of other games. It was a good mix of classics and, well, games like Astyanax, Spy Hunter, and Friday the 13th.

This was, to my un-Game Genie'd NES system, an impossible game. You start out as one of six camp counselors, marching around camp in a fluorescent pink T-shirt and shorts combo, trying to light fireplaces and keep your fellow counselors and the young campers from falling under the mad machete skills of Jason Voorhees. (He also appears with a hatchet, but "mad hatchet" is a better name for a band than an actual description of what was going on in the game.)

So you pick a counselor to play as (you can switch off when you find the other counselors in their cabins) and stalk about the camp. As you are stalking about, zombies somehow ascend from the dirt of the path and wander aimlessly in your direction. Until a knife appears suspended in mid-air, your only weapon is rocks.

Oh, yeah. Stuff you need just appears suspended in mid-air. Healing salves, weapons, lighters, keys...these things have no sense of gravity. And to obtain them, you have to jump into them. Despite being at eye level, it just wasn't good enough for the makers of this game to have you walk right into the object to get them. And virtually all weapons turn into projectiles, no matter how little sense that makes. (More on this later.)

Okay, back to what's at hand. As you're walking around, making good on the instruction to light all the fireplaces with the lighter that magically appeared in mid-air, you'll hear this horrible beeping noise. At the top of the screen, there's an indication as to who is up on Jason's cutting board: a counselor or a cabin of child campers.

Now, as long as you're controlling one of the counselors, it doesn't really matter if Jason picks them off, as long as one is still alive by the end of the game. However, if you don't move fast enough to save the children and fight off Jason, who is lurking about in the cabin, this is what happens:

That's it. Jason wiped out the kids. Game over.

So, after finding a Game Genie code for infinite kids (the total never goes down from 15), I was able to finish the game.

It's odd, the effect those cheat codes have on you as you're playing. I ended up chasing after Jason just to finish the game. Every encounter in a cabin was a step closer to victory! But when I was too far away from the cabins on the lake, and the alarm started beeping that Jason was slaughtering 8-bit children left and right, I just shrugged and kept stalking the camp.

Two of the more frustrating features of the game: The woods and the cave.

The woods...I don't even know what to say. This is where I first stopped caring about getting to the kids' cabins, because I couldn't get out of the goddamn woods. Basically, if you don't pick the right ups and downs, you're going to be wandering in the woods forever, chased by zombies who come out of the dirt and wolves that make really annoying computerized howling noises.

Now, the cave...When I was playing this game as a kid, I was wandering about the cave and came across this frightening creature:

That, my friends, is a purple floating head that looks like all the world to be Medusa.

Now, what would a figure from Greek mythology be doing in a game based on a popular series of slasher films, you might ask?

The answer is...NOTHING!

See, I was just as mystified as you are, even as a 12-year-old who hadn't seen the movies. But, after looking up a couple things about this game on the Internet, I discovered that this is supposed to be Jason's dear old mother. A floating monster head that lives in a cave.

And what do you get for defeating her?

Got a good look at that?

Know what it is? If you don't, look a little longer, I'll wait.

It's a sweater, folks. Bright pink and orange. You slay the Medusa, like Perseus in Clash of the Titans, and instead of a neat corpse head that you can use to turn your enemies to stone, you get a fucking sweater.

And what happens when you take the sweater? Your little counselor dude flashes fluorescent pink and green, and your eyes try to crawl into your head to get away from the seizure-inducing flashing that makes no logical sense.

So, after that, you stalk around again, kill Jason, and this is what happens:

Turns out you have kill Jason a grand total of three times, and you have to kill his Medusa mom a second time. The second time around, though, she gives you something much more useful: a pitchfork, which you can apparently throw like any other projectile weapon, because human-length pitchforks are that easy to chuck around.

The second and third times around the camp are exactly like the first time around. Walk around, save coworkers/campers, throw shit at Jason.

And so, after an evening spent playing this game instead of having post-work bonding time with my husband, this was my reward for defeating eight-bit Jason Voorhees:

That, my friends, is an image of our main villain, a crazy machete-wielding axe murderer, sitting on the floor in purple pajamas looking depressed. And, you see, no mention of the crazy monster mom! Is she dead? Is she alive? Is she mating furiously, trying to create another slasher movie monster? We don't know!

...Wait, now that my mind is on it, what would that thing mate with? That weird goat-looking bad guy from Clash of the Titans? Grendel? The host of the newest political commentary show? Who know what horrors would lay with that beast??

This was my reward, friends. A crappy end screen and disturbing thoughts about the creation of eight-bit monsters.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Super Mario Brothers 2

Where, indeed, da goombas at?

Also, I totally used cheats. That's what I get for making those little pictures up before actually re-playing the game.

Like any other kid, I was geeked to get my sticky little hands on a copy of Super Mario Bros. 2. We expected a continuation of the epic battle between Mario and Luigi and Bowser. More castles, more fireballs, more goombas. Goombas by the dozen!

And goombas. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

It occurs to me now that I have an unhealthy obsession with these walking, fanged mushrooms. But what we got was so very much different from what we expected.

At first, it all seemed neat. You could choose from one of four characters, still familiar from our carousing about in the mushroom kingdom the first time. You could play as Mario, who had no immediately apparent use; or Luigi, who could jump really high and flail his legs about in the air like know, there's really no good simile for what he does; Toadstool, who could pull shit out of the ground really fast; and the Princess, who wore a pretty pretty pink dress and could float for a couple seconds.

I was, as a kid, particularly excited about being able to play a game as a female character, because up until that point, I had not played an NES game with any female characters. (It was a while before someone told me that the main character in Metroid was a chick.)

And then the game started, and your heart raced, and your character dropped onto the screen in that first scene, and you thought...

What the hell is this??

No goombas. No koopa troopas, or discernable koopas of any kind. No, you get little pink freaks in noh masks, hopping vultures, giant-eyed fish, and some kind of end-level boss that lays eggs with its mouth. And then you have to throw the eggs at it, thereby defeating it with its own young.

And your weapons? Bombs and vegetables. Enemy in your way? Chuck a turnip at it!

Almost two decades later, my fiance would tell me that the game was actually based on a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic. Hence the lack of mushroom- and turtle-based enemies.

The game was so difficult for me as a kid that I was satisfied with watching my childhood friend play it when we were hanging out at her grandmother's, rather than deal with the stress of whomping things with various veggies myself.

In re-playing it, I saw some peculiar things. One of these is the whales in the ice level that you have to traverse to make it to the other side. Observe:

Here, the whale appears to be a giant black slab with an eye and a gas problem. And if you're just walking around on the whale, minding your own business, and then walk into that stream coming from its blowhole, you get injured. However, if you're standing directly on top of the blowhole with the whale decides to, for lack of a better word, blow, this happens:

Oh, my. That can't be comfortable.

Then you get to the end. After fighting some pretty challenging bosses to get to this point, you end up with a lizard-man who won't eat his vegetables. So you're expected to help ease his nutritional difficulties by taking vegetables that shoot out of what appear to be the bells of brass instruments and toss them into this guy's mouth, while he is belching up bubbles at you.

Of course, I will help you with a visual aid.

Hm...not the best visual aid, because it looks like Mr. Main Enemy here is having some trouble with constipation. Maybe he could sing for a modern rock band. Is Hinder looking for a new front man?

So, what is your reward for defeating all these ridiculous enemies?

Turns out that everybody's favorite plumber ate a much-too-spicy pepperoni before bed. 'Twas naught but a dream!

To repeat the thoughts of my younger self, upon watching my friend conquer the game:

What the hell is this??

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Super Mario Brothers

I've been using screenshots to illustrate my previous blog posts, but I don't think that will be necessary to illustrate the original Super Mario Brothers. If you haven't played it, then you're either a) too young, b) were raised by Ned Flanders, or c) don't play video games, and I'm surprised you're reading this at all.

I don't remember how old I was when my family got an NES. It was either eight or nine. And every system came with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt package. And I enjoyed both games immensely. With Duck Hunt, I learned the joy of killing ducks, and then sending forth a dog to retrieve the carcass, or to enjoy the bloodless sport of shooting clay pigeons.

With Super Mario Bros., I learned the joys of jumping on giant mushrooms.

Now, when I think about it, it would be perfectly natural to jump on and crush to death a waist-high mushroom that is actually approaching you. Mushrooms shouldn't move. That's all there is to it. Especially when they have huge eyes that have the mean guy slants to them, like they're angry all the time.

When I played the game through again recently, it still had the same effect on me as it did when I was a kid: elation when I got the fireworks at the end of a level, thinking "this is cool!" when I got the water level, and being totally impressed when the sky turned black to indicate that all the action was going on at night.

Mario was so cool that he could even stomp mushrooms at night!

In retrospect, I'm not really sure what purpose Luigi served in the game, other than to give it a two-person capability. Nobody got excited about being Luigi. He was the tall, skinny sidekick, decked out in green. I supposed, at the end, he just stood back and watched his brother save the princess, get all the credit, and go on to a life of wealth and fame in the Mushroom Kingdom where he is worshipped by dwarves with mushroom caps on their heads. And twenty years later, when Mushroom Kingdom reporters find him frozen to death on a city park bench, he will be referred to in the article as "Luigi, the Robert to Mario's Raymond."

Okay, back to the entry. Enough with the segue.

Another part of my childhood was getting together with friends of the family, who had a couple kids around my and my sister's ages. They also had an NES. So when the families would get together, we kids would gather 'round the game systems while our parents sat at a table, played cards, and got really, really loud. And usually around midnight, we kids would filter out and beg the adults to order up some Domino's pizza, because at the time, Domino's was the shit.

When it wasn't my turn at the controller (and being the youngest, that was pretty rare anyway), I would read the instruction manual that game with the game cartridge. Not only did this glossy little booklet come with actual instructions on how to play the game, but also a listing of the game's enemies and what they were called. So I memorized the name of all the enemies, and when I yelled, "Stomp on that goomba," no one knew what the hell I was talking about.

However, when I explained that the goomba was the angry-looking mushroom guy, the four of us decided that this was a funny word.

Now, here's the part that proves all little kids are assholes. Our friends had a neighbor who may or may not have been developmentally handicapped. Time has clouded whether or not this was a fact, or if the neighbor was simply annoying. We decided to start referring to this neighbor as "Goomba."

In addition, we got it into our heads that Goomba liked flashlights. I don't remember what the basis for this was, but it was stone-hard fact in our little world.

I really wish memory served me well, because then I could tell you exactly why we came up with the concept that if this neighbor had a band, it would be called Goomba and the Flashlights.

This wouldn't have worked if we were British, because Goomba and the Torches just doesn't have the same ring to it.

We even came up with an opening song that Goomba and the Flashlights would sing at the beginning of each show. It was pretty much singing "Goomba! And the Flashlights!" over and over again to whatever tune was in our messed-up little brains at the time.

If you watch South Park, do you remember when Timmy was the front man for the Lords of the Underworld? The Goomba and the Flashlights song went kind of like that.

So, for your convenience, I'm going to sum up this whole, rambling blog posts in a few numbered points for you, rendering everything you've read up to the point completely extraneous information. (Do you remember your first communion? No? That's because those brain cells are now being used to remember this post!)

1. Everyone who was a kid for at least part of the 80s remembers Super Mario Bros.
2. Mushrooms shouldn't move.
3. Everyone loves Raymond, not Robert. That's why it's called "Everybody Loves Raymond."
4. Kids are assholes.
5. Kids are big assholes.
6. You've just lost more brain cells on this post, you poor bastard.