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My name is Arthur Damian, I am 28 years old, and I've been gaming since the NES era. I like the new school and the old school. Chrono Trigger is the bestest game ever, and Junction is the worstest. I love to write, and am currently working at Lehman College, helping students transfer in their credits from other universities. I also love vidja gamez, and right now I'm playing games on the Sega Genesis, even though I have a huge backlog of games on the Wii and 360 to go through. BLURG. I also work for That VideoGame Blog now, writing and editing daily news posts! YAY!
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Watch me play Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D on a train, and you too can see this very face of deep concentration that cannot be broken

Greetings, all!  The wonderful Mr. Dixon posed a question to the community about what it is like to "game with you," and I asked the very many voices inside my head what the answer to that question is, but they provided no reply (the ONE TIME I need them to talk!).  However, I have a rough idea of what it is like to game with me, due to the input of my friends, family, and loved ones, and I have come to a conclusion: gaming with me is very different and not one particular type of experience.  There are varying factors, including what type of game I am playing, what type of environment I am in, if I am playing alone or with friends, and who I am playing games with.  It is my duty to you, THE READERS, to chronicle these experiences, and not paint myself in a particularly positive light; for indeed, none of my friends would.

I am obsessed with finding every single conceivable thing in this game

I guess the first thing I would like to talk about is watching me play a single player game, on the rare occasion my friends have literally nothing to do and watch me play something out of sheer desperation and boredom (and I've locked all the doors so they cannot get outside).  I am obsessive compulsive when it comes to my solo gaming; and as such, I will replay levels over and over until I find every single thing I can find.  This can be either particularly annoying, scary, or hilarious to the observer, depending on what is being played.  Take Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, for example: I must find all the Boos, gems, and get 3 stars on each level in order to be a satisfied human being.  If you are watching me play, I will take the 3D off so you will not suffer permanent eye damage, but I will not make any promises that I will continue on to the next stage if I only have two stars because I NEED HELP.  I'm sorry if you are bored seeing me search every single part of Gloomy Manor because I missed a gem that required me to shoot a portrait of a helmet with a literal helmet in order to get it BECAUSE WHO EVEN KNOWS TO DO THAT WHEN IT ONLY HAPPENS IN LEVEL A-3, but maybe you should have brought your own 3DS and had your own fun times, seriously (I still love you guys).

I went from 40 lives to 8 just trying to get the letter G in this stage

Happily, if you aren't looking around for scissors to stab your brain in repeatedly, you are probably laughing your ass off watching me fail.  In Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, I will do my best to find all the letters and puzzle pieces within each stage, which causes me to lose quite a few lives in the later levels.  Hearing the YOU DIED music and seeing me reduced to the verge of tears certainly can make people near me laugh at my misfortune, even though I wouldn't wish the torture of any mine cart level on my worst enemy.  However, that laughter can turn to fear if a vein starts pumping out of my forehead.  Whenever that is the case, I want my friends not to worry, for I have mastered the art of breathing, and I have spent entirely too much on my first generation 3DS to fling it against the wall (though I want to desperately).


I am actually making my way to the right so I can totally steal my girlfriend's kill and claim all the points

When it comes to the subject of playing games with me, I can tell you how it is going to go down, depending on who you are.  Any co-operative game I play with my darling love will always end up being about who gets the most points at the end of the level because she is fiercely competitive and I like keeping up with her and I enjoy trying to find out who is the best at beat-em-ups.  I will not be a dick and go so far as to eat a turkey if she needs health more than I do in Streets of Rage 2, but I am not above going after her kills so I can finish the stage with more points and therefore get the most lives.  However, when it comes to shooting things in the face, like in Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 5, she has way better accuracy and always does better than I do (she's the queen of shooters).  Also, playing a game like Borderlands 2 with someone else usually means my OCD to find all the goodies has to take a backseat to just having fun and moving at a brisk pace from place to place; otherwise, I might have to endure actual, repeated punches to the shoulder.

I love fighting games that let me use a talking raccoon to blast a juiced-up version of one of my favorite survival horror characters

Fighting games are either competitive or silly fun affairs, usually a combination of the two!  If I am playing against someone who really knows their stuff, then I will give it my best and laugh and congratulate my friend afterward, regardless of whether or not I win or lose.  If I am playing against someone who doesn't really know fighting games, I will hold back a little, because nothing is more infuriating than someone doing a 10-hit air combo on you when you are playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the very first time (I know I'd hate myself if I was in the other person's shoes).  One thing I only recently thought about writing this is how others see me playing these games competitively.  I wonder if I look calm and confident or if I look like I have no idea what I am doing and am just winging it, which certainly holds true for certain fighting games (I don't know what I am doing in Injustice: Gods Among Us or Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, but sometimes I end up winning anyway; sorry if that infuriates you, brother of mine!).

Playing fake plastic instruments while slightly intoxicated really brings people together

Finally, we come to my personal favorite way of playing with friends, and hopefully their favorite way of playing with me: a good old session of Rock Band 3.  This is the one game where I feel competitiveness goes out the window, and true camaraderie takes place.  Playing together with friends and loved ones, our minds aren't on getting the best score; we are only trying to get through a song together, and helping each other out if need be (or we just put No Fail Mode on and just have fun).  It doesn't matter who is the best on drums or who has the best singing voice or who can shred that guitar solo the best; we all take turns and try everything out so we can have a complete experience and laugh at the good times we are having together as a unit.  To me, there is no better way to bring everyone close and game as one than playing Rock Band 3 (unless everyone loves the Beatles; then The Beatles: Rock Band is the bestest).

You know that girl in the middle is thinking "I know how to use a controller, get your damn hands off unless you want me to break your thumbs"

So, what is it like gaming with me?  It's everything, really: I'll piss you off, make you laugh, help you if you are stuck, curse at you, and hug you for a job well done.  You burn me and try to kill me for rupees in Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition, I'll bring you my A game and screw you over just as much; you sing "No One Knows" in Rock Band 3, I'll do my damndest to accompany you on the drums as your personal Dave Grohl.  You'll want to stab me and hug me and kiss me and kick me, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
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I have no idea what is going on here, and I LOVE it

Trying to find time to play videogames when working full-time hours is like me saying "no" to a lifetime supply of rainbow cookies: it borders on the impossible.  Friday night, however, was a different story, as a friend of mine invited me over his apartment with another buddy to play some WiiU.  My buddy Pete had been pestering my friend Dom to get a game on the WiiU so folks could have a rambunctious good time when over his place, and Dom finally caved in and got New Super Mario Bros. U to bring people together in harmony and not wage war on each other, hungry for blood (unlike SOME games; yes, I am looking directly at you, Funky Barn).  I got acquainted with the controls while Pete had a cigarette and Dom was cleaning, which didn't take long because I had played the previous title on the Wii.  Once Pete came in and was ready to play, my OCD kicked in and I suggested we go through stages where him and Dom had not procured all three Star Coins.  Surely there was some awesome prize for getting them all in every level, because I needed justification for my sick disease.  Off we went on ADVENTURE!

This level is so gorgeous, it makes you momentarily forget how fatal that purple water is and that HOLY SHIT, BOWSER IS TRYING TO EAT ME FROM THE BACKGROUND

There are two things gamers will notice right off the bat upon their first New Super Mario Bros. U session: that the game is stunning in HD, and that there is absolutely no way in hell any of these levels can be completed with four players running around on-screen, unless all four people are psychic and know exactly what each other is going to do at all times.  Seriously, I had a hard enough time coordinating with Pete, and we aren't slouches when it comes to co-op play.  Amidst all the accidental bouncing off of each other's heads and CONSTANT deaths, there was much fun to be had.  For example, Soda Jungle - 4 was a riot (and beautiful too; look at that screenshot up above): Pete and I were dying a lot because we found out that the purple water WASN'T swimmable, while also looking for hidden passages to find those delicious Star Coins.  At one point we exited the stage and used our reserve Stars (hello, Super Mario Bros. 3!) and said "fuck it": we zipped from the checkpoint towards the goal with reckless abandon, because ignoring the purple water and jumping crazily across pipes without thinking is the only way to win (pro tip: it isn't).  I smiled from ear to ear, feeling exactly like I did as a small boy playing Super Mario World for the very first time.

This level can seriously go die in a fire

Of course, playing New Super Mario Bros. U isn't all sunshine and rainbows, though there is a lot of that in the literal sense.  Take, for example, Soda Jungle - Flight of the Para-Beetles.  This level is agony, and the neat, funny thing about the WiiU is that you are constantly reminded of that every time you die and the Miiverse posts pop up (no shit this level is tough, MarioRulezHard).  Even using the fun gliding acorn power-up doesn't help much, because then THIS happens mid-way through the stage:

ARRRRGGHHHHHHHHHH

I can only imagine what a wonderful time four people will have playing this bonus level.  And yes, if you showed me video footage of it actually happening, I'd call you a goddamned liar.  Even Pete and I couldn't do it together: the only way this bastard got beaten was because we took turns riding in a bubble and making the other person try to get to the end solo.  Dom, our resident "I can make platforms using the GamePad" guy, couldn't even make blocks because there were too many Para-Beetles on-screen.  This stage took some tries to beat, and although it was frustrating, there was something that made me genuinely happy: screaming at the sight of giant Bullet Bills filling the screen intent on making our lives a living hell.

Being able to kill these assholes with a Star or with the GamePad power-up is one of the greatest joys we as a human race can experience

During Sparkling Waters - 2, I started to notice how wonderful and almost necessary (at least with four players playing on the TV) the GamePad is.  My friend Dom was quite good at using it for various uses: the stylus can hold enemies in place and can even knock some on their back when used on the GamePad's touchscreen, and it shatters Dry Bones to pieces with a single tap.  Dom was able to destroy the spiky fish up top when Pete and I successfully landed on his self-made platforms a couple of times in a row, which helped us get a particularly tough to get Star Coin.  Dom was also able to tell where Boos were located on the map during a maze we had to cross on the overworld, which was great because I forgot where each one was the second they popped into the ground.  It's a very innovative new toy that I think is quite revolutionary, and some of the Star Coins are almost inconceivable to get without someone making platforms.  It sucks that it doesn't show which Yoshis hold which item during the Toad minigame, though, because three men in their late twenties cannot possibly remember who is holding the Bowser "you earned absolutely nothing" card that ruins your life (probably due to a combination of old age and a "let's get back to dying over and over because it's fun!" mentality that only people my age will understand).

Mario and Luigi can always touch the sky when high on shrooms

I am so friggin' happy I got a chance to play me some New Super Mario Bros. U.  I haven't laughed and smiled due to a combination of actually having fun and unbelievable frustration in a long time.  The item reserves that pay homage to Super Mario Bros. 3 and the overworld map that is full of secret exits like Super Mario World offer a great sense of nostalgia, and the GamePad adds a new level of enjoyment when put into the proper hands (and a new level of physical violence in the wrong ones).  I can't wait to try it myself, though I know there will be moments where I will intentionally hinder my friends' progress, because I can be a dick sometimes and it's funny.  I've barely scratched the surface with this adventure, and I'm eager to have some more time with it as soon as possible.  Give it a try if you have got some good pals to play it with.

It's good to be a kid again.
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When I sat down to blog about when I started loving videogames, I had to stop, because that is literally the most impossible question to answer for a gamer.  Sure, maybe you can pinpoint a moment in your life when you felt an initial spark; goosebumps that started an infatuation with the medium.  But much like real love, a feeling of butterflies in your stomach isn't everything; love grows and expands and changes, much like gaming itself has transformed over the years.  I am not the same young boy that started playing the NES when he was five, but I started to feel the pull back then.  And as I grew older, I fell in love with different aspects of videogames as consoles came and went; and it is my hope that I will still have that sense of wonder, excitement, and passion for gaming as that old couple up there when I am seventy with the love of my life playing right next to me.  I will try my best to illustrate to you, the internet gaming public, the many times I have fallen in love with videogames over the years.



You could say I got a crush on videogames back in the late 80's, when I was little, cute, adorable Arthur.  Surprisingly, I don't really remember playing Super Mario. Bros. when I was a boy; a game many can say was their first love when they first picked up a controller.  No, the game I remember making my child heart leap was Duck Hunt, because I got to use a gun to shoot things on the television.  It didn't matter that the game was easy because I put the gun right on the television screen and no one had the heart to tell me that was wrong; I was shooting ducks and clay discs, dammit (and yes, I fell in love with it all over again when I found out, twenty years later, that player 2 could control the ducks with a controller plugged in).  I didn't play The Legend of Zelda back then, but I can tell you I loved Super Mario Bros. 3 because of my cousin and that stupid Fred Savage movie.  I loved learning secrets together with my cousin, like finding out where the three magic flutes were hidden (ducking into the background under that white block was one of my first videogame secrets, and I pooped my pants out of the sheer wonder of it all).  I was scared of Angry Sun (whom we called Mean Mr. Sun) because my cousin would scream when he swooped down to kill him and that made me scream, too (I was impressionable, shut up).  My mom played Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle with my aunt and they always screamed at the top of their lungs when they died, and momma played frickin' Battletoads with me once (we never made it past level 2).



My boyhood crush soon developed into a lasting love once the SNES came around.  This is when shit started getting serious and real; like "take this girl back to meet the parents" level of realness.  Super Mario World was something I cherished and enjoyed, but I always felt my cousin was better at it than me, to the point where he helped me beat levels I always got stuck on, so that wasn't really something I fell in love with.  A Link to the Past gave me chills with its story, music, gameplay, and graphics (did you not piss yourselves when you first went outside and it was RAINING?!  I did.  Looking back at the Super Mario Bros. 3 story, I clearly have problems with bodily functions).  Super Metroid made me feel a level of isolation and exploration that has not been matched since, and I got to see that women can be just as strong a protagonist as men can be.  I also remember Super Metroid being the first game to make me shed a tear with everything that happens with the little baby metroid (and don't tell me you didn't cry when Draygon's kids buried their momma in the sand after you fried her, YOU HORRIBLE PERSON).  Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island wowed me with its storybook look and I got to experience the first drug hallucination in a videogame.  RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound helped get me in touch with my emotions: laughter, sadness, happiness, and regret (I felt for Ness when he missed his mom and grew homesick, and screwing up saving Lucca's mom from losing her legs was something that happened to me; something I would have hated myself forever for doing if I didn't save beforehand and had to live with that mistake).  My love wasn't relegated to just one game company anymore, either...



Turns out I can love two things AT THE SAME TIME (I was such a greedy little scamp).  I loved Mario, but I loved Sonic, too!  The sense of magic that made my eyes swell with tears of joy upon first hearing the music to Green Hill Zone; man, you DON'T EVEN KNOW (I STILL get teary-eyed hearing that first note).  Lasting bonds with friends formed over arguments playing Streets of Rage 2 and Gunstar Heroes, as we accidentally took turkeys from each other even though we had full health and we threw one another into enemies because it was so damn fun.  Yes, I did figure out you could throw a paper airplane in Comix Zone without the aid of the internet, and I did put every cartridge imaginable on top of Sonic & Knuckles (though I never knew what happened if you put more than one Sonic & Knuckles on top of each other; I'm guessing system explosion).  Splatterhouse 3 gave me nightmares with its gore and cinematic cutscenes, and Shadow Dancer let me command a dog to bite a guy's nuts while I gave him a shuriken to the skull.  I always loved the Genesis for its sense of speed and violence, while I loved the SNES for its sense of adventure and emotions that it elicited from the player.


With my teenage years came a snottiness: 64 bits was better than 32 bits (because SCIENCE), so the N64 was a large part of my life before the PlayStation.  3D gaming was something I had never experienced before, and I was instantly floored by the massive landscapes of Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (which still has one of the best ending sequences EVER).  Star Fox 64 shocked me with its voice acting and Mario Party showed me it is o.k. to tear into your flesh as long as you win minigames and beat your friends.  Due to familial urgings, however, I was tempted to try out what I once thought of as an inferior machine.  I am happy to say the PlayStation delivered in a different way than the N64: Metal Gear Solid was the first game I owned for Sony's console, and I learned that movie-like storytelling and stealth gameplay can co-exist to create one hell of an experience.  The Resident Evil titles brought me fond memories of awful voice acting, an intuitive, multi-scenario story that was told across two discs, and a giant that stalked you throughout every room that seemingly could not be killed.  I spent hours breeding that one Gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII, and I explored all 200.6% of the castles in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  Grand adventures weren't just relegated to Nintendo anymore, and I fell in love with both systems for different reasons (I could beat the crap out of three of my friends in Super Smash Bros. and Goldeneye while still having a cat scare the ever living crap out of me in Silent Hill).



I could fill this blog with so many stories about various moments I fell in love with gaming over my lifetime: the lasting effects of Silent Hill 2 on my psyche, being pleasantly surprised that Samus Aran and Leon S. Kennedy could go through massive, game-changing transformations in their respective franchises, silently breathing "wow" upon first booting up Bioshock and feasting my eyes on its visuals, and feeling a sense of boyhood wonder upon first playing Rock Band or using the Wii controller for the first time.  The main thing I want to get across is this: a love for gaming is ever-growing and ever-changing; and just as the heart has many different emotions and facets to it, so too does a bond with gaming as a whole.  And you can tell me now that there is a reticule on top of the Zapper for shooting the ducks in Duck Hunt from far away and you can tell me that Mean Mr. Sun can be killed by a Koppa shell in Super Mario Bros. 3, but you can never take away the happiness and fear I felt about those things as a kid.  Love has so many emotions attached to it, and those little electronic boxes have an abundance of feelings attached to them.

Here's to hoping the future of gaming goes hand in hand with an everlasting love.
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As far back as I can remember into my childhood, videogames have always been violent murder simulators, training children to be efficient killers who have no ounce of compassion or regard for human life. Mario, my first videogame icon, stomped defenseless animals to death under his mighty plumber boots, fountains of blood and brains spurting from the mashed remains of a Goomba who was only minding his own business, bringing milk and eggs home to a now widowed wife and fatherless child. Super Mario Bros. chose to keep these deep family connections hidden from the player, tricking children and adults alike into thinking this was just a game about a man saving a damsel in distress; when, in reality, the calculating Nintendo was attempting to raise a generation of children to be unfeeling robots, not even giving our 5-year-old minds the CHANCE to question our motives. I had gotten my first taste of blood, was already becoming a die-hard Nintendo fanboy, and I was hungry for more. Nintendo knew it had its hooks in me, and was eager to shape me into a cold-hearted killer.


Above: the very definition of violent depravity


The year was 1991, and Nintendo would not let up on their campaign to turn me into a monster. Enter Super Mario World, a game where one of the very first choices you make is to either leave a cute little dinosaur scarred for life and in perpetual pain as a squished, now blinded version of itself, or to take it out completely and have it leave this mortal coil. Yoshi the green dinosaur made his first appearance as a wild animal who had to be subdued and controlled by you, the player. Indeed, Yoshi would sprint around manically like a beheaded chicken, running off ledges into certain death if you did not mount him and show him you were the boss. Mario would use Yoshi to smite his enemies at his own discretion, violently bopping him on the head to force him to ingest foes whole. And if you missed a jump and were plummeting to your death? You could always do this:


Mario teaches us that lives are expendable as long as we save our own skin


Jesus, and I haven't even gotten to Bowser's children, some of whom Mario drops into molten lava to be BURNED ALIVE. That whole talk back in the day about Nintendo being too kiddy and childish? Please; I was ready to smear turtle/lizard/dinosaur blood on my face should I ever decide to become a plumber and venture into an ancient world of make-believe to rescue a princess who was kidnapped by a spiky Godzilla-type thing. Parents and guardians that raise you and teach you the difference between reality and fantasy; what are those?


Is Fox aiming at the enemy, or slowly moving his cursor to target the ever-loquacious Slippy?


Nintendo brought us new hardware, and with it, more realistic gameplay. They were smart, crafty; what better way to train us for reality now that we were close to adulthood? Star Fox 64 was made to prepare me for a career in dangerous, dog-fighting space flight with anthropomorphic wing men at my side. These animals, nay, BROTHERS IN ARMS, were so real, I could hear them speaking to me through my television. "DO A BARREL ROLL," said the wise, sagely bunny rabbit; words that have helped shape me into the man I am today. Moral choices were presented to me before I had to tackle them in real life: do I keep a wise-ass bird alive to show me a hidden exit, or do I shoot him down for running his mouth and insulting me early on? My blood lust was not sated; in fact, it had grown over time, nurtured by the devious Nintendo. Games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark taught me that blocky soldiers deserved to be shot in the butt and groin; it's not like actual human interaction, education, religion, and common sense ever taught me that killing is wrong and that human life should be valued. It's such a shame we don't live in a world with an established ratings system that is honored by decent retail employees that don't sell games to underage kids or tell parents what each rating means and what content is included in each game they buy for their children; otherwise, my life could have been salvaged.


Clearly the face of a man with a lot of blood on his hands


Let my story be a warning to all those who think videogames are just harmless forms of entertainment: they are nothing more than violent bloodbaths of carnage and gore. They can never touch on important themes like love and loss, where a girl and her friends can rescue someone she truly cares for from certain doom by swapping in a clone of said someone at a certain point in the past and she can express such a deep caring and love for this person when he is saved from the brink of death in a 16-bit game with no voice acting that will certainly NOT bring a tear to your eye. They can never be heart-wrenching and tell a story about a woman who saves a baby whose species she hunted relentlessly, who views her as its own mother, who sacrifices itself to save her life in an ending so touching that it stays with you forever. No, games are just gruesome, and can make you feel no emotions whatsoever. It is too late for me; if only Nintendo had made emotionally-charged games that elevated the medium as a whole, had made games that got us to think, to laugh, and to cry.

If only.
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I am assuming everybody has seen this shit and jizzed accordingly, as I did myself, because NNNGGGGGG. Castle of Illusion was and always will be one of the Genesis' finest platformers, and though I did not own it, you can bet your sweet, delicious booty that I walked around the corner from my house to the local video store to rent Mickey's orgasmic adventure so much that I wore the cartridge's cover art away. Fun times were had by me, but what of my friends? When would they get to experience such a magical, fun-fun, good time? SEGA must have been asking themselves the same question, and figured out that adding a murderous duck for co-operative madness was the answer. Thus, World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck was born, one of the greatest games for two partners to play through together ever conceived by human beings in the 1990s.

Once you and preferably your friend/partner/soul mate/girlfriend/boyfriend/escaped convict start playing, you will be greeted with some storybook malarkey that spews out the game's plot, which is basically this: Donald trips over some scenery and finds a scary door and goes in it because he's a dumbass and Mickey has to follow in after him to save him and there is an evil magician that wants to test your skills before you can get home and yadda yadda yadda, exposition exposition, this is all a roadblock to the good stuff. Controls are simple: hold A to run, press B to attack, press C to jump. Once the first level begins, you are greeted by this:



Now, that is indeed a caterpillar in the foreground on a leaf. What you cannot see is that it MOVES UP IT, TURNS AROUND, SHOWS YOU ITS FACE, THEN CONTINUES TO THE TOP.

.... .... ....

That's it, 1992. It's over. 7-year-old me just gave World of Illusion the award for Greatest Graphics That Gave Me An Accidental Boner.

CONTINUING ON, you and your partner tied up/sitting next to you willingly will start to experience INTENSE GAMEPLAY mere SECONDS after you start: soldiers will come at you and you can stun them with a magical blanket if they are far enough away from you. If they get close, your handkerchief will turn them into flowers. That's right, you don't kill enemies in this game; instead your Curtain of Mystery turns them into harmless butterflies, shrimp, and birds. Be careful when playing with your buddy, because your cape can affect them and tie them up momentarily; though this doesn't do damage, it gets annoying and can lead to damaging your relationship with your friend (also he or she will want to remove various internal organs from your body after the 10th time this happens). A couple of minutes in, World of Illusion starts showing you its true greatness: a seesaw thingee will propel one of you upwards and onwards, leaving the other stranded below, asking for help. What you must do is go to the edge of the platform you land on and hold A to bring a rope down to help your friend up. This is what makes World of Illusion such a great co-op experience: you need each other to survive and get through the game's levels together. There are many more instances of this as the game progresses that I will gush about soon.



DONALD CAN'T CRAWL UNDER THE TIGHT SPACE SO MICKEY HAS TO PULL HIM THROUGH, MMMM! This co-op is fantastic. You won't even be at Level 2 yet and you will already have to time jumps on a pressure-controlled cart with your buddy to make your way through a mine with tracks that fall away almost as soon as you hit them. Speaking of Level 2, Donald and Mickey will recite the magic word ALAKAZAM to make a flying carpet appear out of thin air (either one will say it, though the voices sound tinny through the Genesis and Donald will overly emphasize the word: "ALAAAAKAAAZAAAAMMMM!"). To this day, I don't know who controls the carpet when both players are on it: I assume one controls the direction and the other controls the height. Also, let's say you or your friend die in one of the game's measly 5 levels. Well, the surviving cartoon character can find the other one usually toward the end of a level, dazed out of their minds and high as a kite. One touch from you will bring them back from their acid trip so you can face the ridiculously easy bosses together (one of my few complaints with World of Illusion stems from the game's difficulty, or lack thereof).



I love full-body bubbles. The way they wrap around your every inch, like they were made for you and JUST you, your specific specifications always in mind...ahem. World of Illusion's true magic comes from the different ways it can be played. Sure, the game only has 5 levels, but it has different variations of them, and that's what is so cool about it. Playing alone as Mickey is quite different than playing alone as Donald. Whereas Mickey will be scaling a mountain in Level 2 at one point, Donald will be going through dangerous rapids on leaves at the same point; you experience different parts of the same stage depending on who you are playing as. Playing with a friend opens up parts you wouldn't see alone, and incorporates mechanics based solely around playing with another human being, like using the rope to pull each other to safety and the seesaw mine cart. World of Illusion offers 3 unique adventures in one tiny cartridge, and you don't even need to buy DLC expansions to experience each and every one (though you do need a friend to play co-op with, because fuck AI).



So you fight through spider, dragon, shark, and witch (IT'S FUCKING MADAM MIM, YOU GUYS) bosses to end up fighting the evil magician Pete, who looks more like a giant hobo than a master of witchcraft. Whacking him enough times with your rolled-up towel causes him to shrink back to normal size and he presents you with a glowing ice cream sandwich, which sends you home. Then Donald and Mickey do the magic show they have spent no doubt YEARS preparing for in front of an awesome audience that includes Goofy, Pluto, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Afterwards, the credits roll as the two best friends for life go through the forest Mickey treks through at the opening of Castle of Illusion. Such a fantastic game and adventure. As happy as I am that Castle of Illusion is getting a remake, I would love for World of Illusion to get the same treatment; hell, you could just port the Genesis game to current consoles and I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I love Disney adventures and being a part of them, but I love them just a bit more having someone at my side to share that experience with; because of this, World of Illusion is right up there with Gunstar Heroes as the definitive, most iconic, wonderful, and special co-op platformer I have ever had the pleasure of playing.
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It's 2001. I boot up my PS2 again, but I don't know why. I push myself to see this story through to its end; but the nightmares, they have already started. I can't go to sleep without having the television on mute, the dim light dancing across my face as I try to forget the image of that being with the pyramid for a head. Why? Why do I keep playing you when you are already having such a disturbing effect on me? I want to be able to have a good night's sleep, but I need to finish you. I need to know what happens to James, to Eddie, to Angela. So I soldier on. I keep going deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole, this descent into madness. I guess I feel that when I reach Silent Hill 2's conclusion, it will all be alright. I'll be satisfied and content. I'll be able to sleep in the dark again, and dream pleasant dreams.

How utterly wrong I was.



Even after knowing everything about James and his demons, scenes like the one up above are etched into my brain; and like a film projector, it loves to play it every night right as I close my eyes. Nothing has stopped. If anything, things have gotten worse since I have beaten Silent Hill 2. I try to have some fun with subsequent playthroughs by using new weapons like the chainsaw, but I am still disturbed. Months have gone by, yet the television light stays on. I reflect on my experiences and remember something that chills me to the bone: I was walking around with Maria at my heels, and decided that it was late and that I really should stop playing and get some sleep. I wanted to see if the game would let me kill her, so I revved up my chainsaw and felled her in one swipe (why was I even thinking this way?). After getting the Game Over screen, I reloaded my last save for the hell of it, and almost dropped my controller. The concrete streets of Silent Hill had been replaced with flesh; at least, that is what it looked like to me. There I was controlling James, Maria running around with me, on streets made out of skin. Did the game get corrupted somehow? Was this only a glitch? Was the game punishing me for my horrible deed? I remember calling my cousin and calmly explaining what had happened. His response? "Dude, you have been playing for too many hours. Just shut it off and get some rest; your mind is playing tricks on you."

Was he right? Was there something wrong with me? Had I really seen what I had seen?



My cousin, he knew about Silent Hill 2 and its effect on my mind; in fact, he had seen it firsthand. I remembered: it was late in the game, I was over his dad's house, and I played from the end of the hospital all the way to the game's completion (Silent Hill 2 engrosses you so much that you don't want to put it down, no matter how scared you are or how many hours you have been playing). At one point, I was in a prison courtyard, but could proceed no further. The second I had gone outside, I heard a horrible noise. What was it? It sounded like heavy breathing from something that was vaguely human, and hooves galloping across the grass. I could not see anything in front of me, only utter darkness. For the life of me, I could not bring myself to push the analog stick forward and have James move even one inch. It was late, I had been playing for quite some time, and I was absolutely terrified. What would happen if I even took one step? Would the beast rip me to shreds instantly? Could I even defend myself? What the hell did it even look like? I was so paralyzed with fear, that I called my cousin in from the other room. "Please, please take the controller and move James forward. I can't deal with the sounds and the darkness. I'm freaking out." My cousin took the controller from my shaking hands, proceeded forward, and found that there was nothing in the courtyard except a horseshoe I needed to collect to advance further.

I have been in that courtyard on subsequent playthroughs, and I hesitated before going forward. Every time.



It is 2013, and still I remember feeling such terrible knots in my stomach at various points throughout Silent Hill 2. I remember getting off the boat that takes you to the hotel where James and Mary used to stay, opening up my inventory, seeing the letter she wrote to him at the beginning of the game was just a blank piece of paper, and needing to take five minutes to breathe because my whole world was torn asunder. I remember my heart leaping from my chest hearing a woman scream in a bathroom stall. I recall being in a prison and being able to shoot an unseen prisoner in a cell, hearing him cry out in pain as James lowered his pistol with each shot, knowing the man was on the floor and desperately trying to put him out of his misery. I screamed bloody murder when I found two Pyramid Heads walking around the sewers. I can still hear the radio going off in the elevator, a quiz show host asking me questions for a prize, hearing him laugh maniacally over what would happen if I was wrong; I took extra time making sure I was right with my answers, because I couldn't bare to see what would happen to James if I got it wrong (my imagination left me with many grisly outcomes).

The most damaging scars of them all, however, are my memories of the characters and the fates of each and every one of them.



These recollections, how could one ever truly push them out of their heads? How could I ever forget Angela, a woman who was sexually abused by her father and constantly looking for her mama, staring at that knife so intently, knowing what she wanted to do with it? How could I block the image of her family picture from my brain, with her father violently torn out of it? The memory of James and Angela killing her father, who James himself sees as a monster, the pain that Angela remembers; that won't ever go away. And the fires that eventually consume Angela, seeing this woman succumb to her dark intentions, hearing James say that yes, he feels the heat from it, too, for what he did to his wife...God...



That image of Angela climbing those stairs is burned into my retinas.



I was always deeply frightened of Eddie. I knew he was a murderer the second I saw the dead man in the fridge and found him throwing up in the next room. I remember the messages scrawled in blood in his room. Scenes like the one above just made me more and more nervous about what would eventually happen between him and James (and that poor, defenseless dog being killed hit me right in my very soul). And yet I felt a little sorry for Eddie because he never trusted anybody and felt the whole world was out to get him; that he needed to kill everyone he interacted with that "looked at him funny." I knew eventually I would have to kill Eddie; yet I always wondered: why did James not see him as a monster like he saw Angela's dad? Looking back and remembering the scene where James laments over "killing another human being" after shooting Eddie, I think it's because deep down in his subconscious, James views Eddie as an equal, because he knows he himself is a murderer.



I can't watch that scene without getting goosebumps. The scenes between James and Maria always got to me. Finding out she was just James' image of his wife not sick and dying, seeing her die over and over again at the hands of Pyramid Head, who was James' manifestation of himself as a murderer, and watching her take pills and constantly cough, knowing she will eventually succumb to the same illness that befell James' beloved Mary (this is heavily implied in one of the endings)...

It depresses me.



Most of the endings are depressing or disturbing in some way. Either James leaves Silent Hill with Maria coughing up a lung, he leaves with his wife's corpse in his arms and sinks himself in his car with her so they can be together forever, or he resurrects Mary from the dead to be with her on Earth once more. The only truly happy ending (besides the silly Shiba Inu one) is the one where he lets go of Mary and Maria and leaves with Laura; the orphaned girl who Mary took in as her own daughter who is the only person who sees Silent Hill as it truly is: a deserted town without any of the monsters that the others imagine. I wish I could only keep the image of James and Laura being happy together in my brain, but the scars Silent Hill 2 left on me never healed. Perhaps I can focus on this image of innocence:



...and be alright. Maybe I just need to replay Silent Hill 2 and go for the best ending again to be truly at peace with myself. We shall see. But just in case things go horribly wrong...

...I'm keeping my television remote by my side every night.
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