[Editor's note: BulletMagnet tells a wonderful tale about Capcom's Demon's Crest and how it messed with his religious beliefs for his A Time to Destroy Monthly Musing. -- CTZ]
This might be a bit too personal of a story to be appropriate for a blog like this, but I’ll try to avoid going too deeply into the stuff no one else would be interested in. Regardless, just be advised of what’s on offer here - if you don’t mind a bit of exposition, read on.
To briefly set the stage, I’ll mention that I was raised in a pretty religious household (I won’t bother saying which religion specifically) – granted, we weren’t the type of totally nutty faith that tells everyone who disagrees with them to their face that they’re all worthless sinners who deserve to be treated like garbage by true believers, but more to the point I was the recipient of a pretty strict upbringing in terms of morals, and the code of conduct that I was required to abide by. It was a fair amount of guidelines to keep in the back of your head, but I managed to keep myself mostly on the straight and narrow without much trouble. Some years down the road, though, some of the nitty-gritty stuff of my religious upbringing started making less sense to me as I looked more deeply into it, and suffice it to say that eventually I left its confines, and to date have not taken up similar spiritual residence elsewhere.
Now before you assume anything, I want to make it clear that I do not consider my upbringing a “deprived” or “wasted” one – while I don’t adhere to my former faith’s dogmas anymore, by my own choice I’ve determined to keep many of its basic lifestyle teachings in mind even now, as I can look back on quite a number of them and realize that they kept me out of a lot of potential trouble. To a large extent I could truthfully say that, aside from the absence of rituals in my schedule, as a person I haven’t changed a heck of a lot. In short, despite my differences with it, I really can’t say that my years of living in a religious environment really “cost” me anything.
Well, except one particular SNES cartridge.
It was the early-to-mid Playstation era, and I couldn’t have been much past age eleven or twelve. I had always enjoyed video games, and my first and still-favorite system was the Super Nintendo, which I played with relish, despite all the shiny new 3-D stuff coming out for “next-gen” systems. My folks didn’t mind my gaming in general (though like any parent they’d cut me off if I was glued to the screen too long for their liking), but any title I wanted to play had to go through them, and especially when it came to my father, “immoral” games were out of the question. For the most part this, too, was no problem for me – the SNES was one of the most “family-friendly” systems of the time, and there were plenty of quality games with no objectionable content for me to play as it was. I did occasionally sneak a few games of Mortal Kombat 2 and a handful of other “forbidden” games at a friend’s house now and then, but I honestly wasn’t nuts about any of them, and was perfectly willing to go back to my usual stuff when I got home, without a second thought. Gaming and God, for the most part, got along pretty well.
Then came that fateful trip to Blockbuster – granted, it was one of many, since I didn’t have enough money to afford my own games then, and much of what I played was rented but never bought. By this time the store’s SNES section was all but gone, replaced by rows of games that might as well have had their boxes printed in Martian – while I’d yet to acquire a PS1, I had recently received an N64 as a gift, but disappointingly few of its releases appealed to me very much. In fact, before the system’s lifespan had ended I would cancel my long-running subscription to Nintendo Power, as each successive issue, it would seem, featured less and less that I’d want to bother reading about, let alone play. However, thanks to said magazine I was at least up on Nintendo releases in general, and thus my eyes suddenly became affixed on a ten-dollar used bare SNES cartridge buried inside the bargain bin, a title that I could remember reading about, with some trepidation, down to the last detail –
Capcom’s Demon’s Crest.
Based on what you’ve read so far, you could probably guess that “occult themes” were a big no-no for me – in most cases, as with a gory or lewd title, I almost certainly could have just told myself to pass it by and continue my search elsewhere. This moment in time, however, was a perfect storm of temptation – not only was there little else on the shelves that remotely interested me, but this game had been generally well-received by reviewers (if not consumers, as I’d eventually learn), and most of all possessed that certain something, that little extra spark of quirky, abnormal ambience and personality, a little bit of deviation from the norm, that would in time come to define my taste in games in general (as has, again, likely become evident to most readers of this blog). Almost unconsciously I reached into the bin, and slowly took the cartridge into my hands - as my fingers curled around its edges, I simultaneously began to attempt to convince myself why I should ask for it, even as so many of my long-established instincts were setting off moral alarms like there was no tomorrow.
“…well,” I eventually managed to muster, “you’ve read enough about the game, you know what it’s really about – the cover image and the title are just there to make it seem edgier to everyone else, the companies always do that. After all, Firebrand’s not really a “demon,” he’s a gargoyle – same guy as was in Gargoyle’s Quest, right? No “demon” in that one! And even the setting – it’s not Hell, it’s the Ghoul Realm.”
Nintendo’s euphemism-slinging PR team of the era never had a stronger hold on a gamer as it had on me at that moment, but I wasn’t done – after all, I had previously managed to find gray areas within the Castlevania titles (“you’re fighting evil!”), and was determined to do so again here. Heck, there was no real blood or gore, no sex, no bad language, just the “thematic elements” – the former three were hard to gloss over, but the latter was just chock full of juicy loopholes. It was very possible for me to successfully repackage the “demons” as “monsters” or “creatures,” and the “fight for control of the underworld” as a non-specific “adventure” – not to mention that on this particular day my father was not out with us, and my mother, who was far less religious than he was (and eventually left the faith herself, years before I did), would be far more likely to go for it, and would probably not bother to tell Dad either, if I stated my case with enough conviction. It was settled – now was the best opportunity I was likely to get, and I determined to take it for all it was worth. I started off to find Mom somewhere amidst the maze of shelves and empty VHS boxes.
Somewhere in the recesses of my conscience, a voice whispered to me, “Satan is just loving you right now.” I ignored it.