Iím not very good with scary things. In fact I avoid most of the horror genre like the plague, and if I ever do feel like trying out something of the sort, (Bioshock, Dead Space) the brightness is maxed, the lights are on, and Iím trying to rationalize every event in my head in a desperate plea to not run out of the room in terror.
But where did this come from? Was I born destined to flinch at even the most obvious of jump-scares? No, I wasnít. This fear was born of something else. Something moreÖ sinister. Something that is not only my first gaming related memory, but my very first memory of anything at all. It wasÖ SCORPIOUS!!!
The year was 1999. The consoles of choice for me were the NES and the Sega Genesis. My day to day life consisted, as far as I know, of watching my mom play those two consoles, silently staring at the warming glow of the tv in the living room. This is the scene of many of my the most vivid scenes of my early life. I can to this day remember so many events in that occurred with a game being played in the background. Whether it was being horrified of having a splinter pulled, and waking up to my mom pulling it while my stepdad played Dynamite Heady, or getting my face bitten by my auntís dog and being calmed down with the music of Star Tropics playing in the background, those two systems were integrated into every facet of my life.
However, those moments were not my first memories. No, the first came from a foreign place. A place that while still looking the same at face value, was a much darker and sinister land. This was the land of Sonic Spinball.
Sonic was awesome to me as a child. It was fast, exciting, and graphically superior to any other game I had owned at the time. But there was something different about Spinball. The gameís much darker graphics and music made it a standout in the set of Genesis games my family owned. From the moment the game starts up, it seems a little odd, and the deeper that you dig, the odder it would get.
This was helped greatly by the music, which I highly recommend listening to while reading this. It rocks! But the sound effects were a great factor in this as well. The arcadey sounds fit the gameís theme perfectly, and honestly made it seem like a pinball table. However, all the sounds in the world couldnít do what the graphics did, in terms of darkening the mood.
Let me preface this next thought with some setting. At this point, the other games in my life were as follows: Sonic 2, the Lion King, Tetris, Mario and Zelda. These games, while occasionally a little dark, never came close to the level of black imagery presented by Spinball. I mean look at this, not a single brightly colored aspect aside from Sonic and the neon in the background and thereís a giant robot dragon lizard popping out of the water to eat you! At the time, there was nothing like it for me in my life. But still, it wasnít truly scary. Just a very intriguing. The terror is still to come.
The game plays like a pinball table, with flippers being the main mode of transportation, along with the jumping and spin-dashes Sonic is known for. It all works surprisingly well, and makes for a fun spin-off (Yes, I know, Iím horrible.) And at the end of the first level of the game you reach a boss. But not just any boss. THE boss. The one that haunted my nightmares, and sent me into a screaming fit, running to shut off the Genesis, and to hide back underneath a coffee table. This boss was Scorpious.
Now look at that thing and tell me it isnít horrifying! I mean his face man, LOOK AT HIS FACE! It is one of the most disgustingly terrifying things Iíve ever seen, and just looking up a picture is enough to give me chills. And on top of that, the boss music is one of the most tense things ever to come out of a 16-bit console. But on their own, neither of those are truly nightmare fuel. No, it is the monster's death sounds that sent me into my fits of reset-button-hitting-rage. I wonít even bother describing it, as there are no words. Just watch the video. (skip to 1:24)
Now, today, as a well adjusted member of society, this boss isn't much. However, as a four year old, this was horrific! It was all so well put together, that it conveyed the message of fear perfectly, even if that wasn't the intention. It is the first thing I truly remember about my life, and honestly, if that was your first memory, you would probably avoid the horror genre as much as I do.
So, with that, I'm going to go and find a blanket and curl into the fetal position under a coffee table, in a vain attempt to drive that face from my mind. Thanks for reading!