For this month's community themed blog, I am going all the way back. Back before colored handhelds, before pocket sizes portables, to the days of the original Game Boy. Before a lengthy family vacation, my parents bought me and my brother Game Boys. His had Tetris, and mind had Super Mario Land. From the moment I turned that gray box on for the first time, I knew I was in for a treat. And I did not know how right I was. Super Mario Land changed who I was. The game took me from childhood into adolescence. I started the game as a child, but ended as a man.
While sitting in an airplane seat that was way too big for me, I flicked on the Game Boy for the first time. I watched the words "Nintendo" slowly fall from the top of the screen and come to rest in the center of the tiny screen. The words faded, and I was soon greeted with the game's title screen and song that quickly became ingrained in my brain. I enjoyed the theme song so much, I sat through it a few times before I began playing the game. To this day I can only think of a handful of games that have had that affect on me. Once the 8-bit symphony was finished, I started playing.
As I played through the first level, I moved past being smitten and began to love this game. The music was fantastic, the enemies were fun to kill, and I was having the time of my life. I recall laughing out loud on the plane as I crushed turtles, flattened Goombas, and made stone heads explode. For me, this was pure ecstasy. But my joy was not to last.
After about ten minutes, my world of fun came to a stop. I received my first "Game Over." I was half way through the second level, and one of those jumping piranha plant's got the drop on me. I jumped, it jumped, and we collided. I had died before, so I first viewed this as an annoyance more than anything else. But unlike every other time, this time I did not come back. The words "Game Over" slowly rose from the bottom of the screen. I didn't
know what this meant. Why couldn't I come back? Could I ever play the game again? I was so hurt, more than anything else. Why had my love betrayed me? Couldn't it give me more lives? Why had it forsaken me? Upset and confused, I turned the game off.
An hour or so later, I turned the game back on. Mario was still there, happy as could be, and I we began our adventure again. This time, we made it to the world boss. After losing a couple lives, I finally beat him. My little heart was so excited! And, after the wall lifted, there she was! There was Daisy! "Oh, Daisy!" I said. "Oh, Mario!" she replied. I had saved the love of my life, and I was quiet proud of myself. This feeling was not to last Suddenly, Daisy turned into a a monster, and hopped off screen. Now I was pissed. I wanted to know who could have done this, and I pressed on to find the villain responsible.
All in all, it took me several months of trying and trying to beat that game. But finally, the day came where I blew up the alien thing, and flew off with Daisy in my ship. She didn't transform this time! I put the Game Boy down with some satisfaction. I had done it. I had won.
Why would I tell you such a story? Super Mario Land changed who I was. I started the game as a child, but ended as a man. The game took me from childhood into adolescence. As silly as it sounds, I learned so many life lessons from SML. Coping with loss? Check. Perseverance? Check. Winning the girl in the end? That's a big check. I have been hard pressed to find another game that has had that affect on me. But it's the reason I continued to play games. I continued to play games to find another game to wow my like Super Mario Land did. I managed to find it in Super Mario World, which is a whole other blog (Continuation of an Affair?), but you never forget your first.
So I am taking a break from my usualstuff to tell you about something magical: a video game movie that is awesome.
Now, we can almost all agree that video game flicks suck. They are almost always made by big movie industries for some quick, easy money. Just picture the scene: a table of men in black suits sit around a table. The man in front speaks...
Studio Boss: Now men, what can we make to appeal to those teen aged boys? How can we mine their money from them?
Executive 1: Well sir, how about a movie based on (enter name of popular video game here)
SB: Why yes...isn't that that new videoed game I heard about? It made (random video game company) millions! How can we make that much too?
Executive 2: Well we can throw a script together using the same character names, hire on some big name actors and make sure there are tons of explosions.
SB: Brilliant! You all make me happy! Go milk that franchise for all its worth!
(Scene ends with everyone laughing and rolling in piles of money)
Damn those greedy bastards! Why don't they care about us little guys? We just want a good video game movie! Is that so much to ask? Now, I have seen a lot of these video game movies. Super Mario Bros, Tomb Raider I & II, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, the first couple Pokemon films, Silent Hill, Doom, Final Fantasy, hell even Alone in the Dark, I have seen them all. While many of these films are not bad in their own right (I actually really enjoyed Silent Hill and Doom), they are never what we as gamers expect. It's just the truth. We always expect the characters to sound, act, and behave in a certain way. We want the characters in the movie to accurately portray the characters in the game. Usually, things always get lost between game and film. I have come to expect it. So when I sat down for Hitman, I had this little voice inside telling me "don't expect too much. After all, it's just another video game movie."
I look back and can fully say that I was totally wrong. The movie did something that I have really only seen snipets of in oter VGM's. While watching Hitman, I actually felt like I was playing the game. Now, I have felt this before. While watching Silent Hill, various shots were used to call attention to the game. For those who didn't see it, during a couple shots, the camera stayed perfectly still while the actor moved into the shot and then out again, just like the games many shots. I also think of the long first person seuqence in the movie Doom. Holy hell, I remember cheering with my roommates as this long shot let us, the viewers, slay some demons for a second. These tell me that the movie makers know the game, and want to preserve aspects of the game that people remember.
While watching Hitman, I couldn't help but feel like I was playing through a level from some new game. The action sequences were always proceeded by a calm Agent 47 walking to his destination, planting weapons, dropping unneeded by passers, and stuffing them in boxes. As I watched, I couldn't help but think "these are things I would have done," or even "I wouldn't have done that! I would have yadda yadda yadda." I have NEVER said that during a VGM. I didn't feel like I was watching some re-imagination of Hitman. I felt like the movie was the next game in the Hitman series. And Agent 47 is still the same by the way. He is cold, heartless, distant, and really only concerned about getting the job done. At one point, some bad guy is telling the good Agent (who is pointing a gun at said baddies face) that there is another way. "You kill me, you go away for life. You let me live and we can work something out" (I paraphrased here). Agent 47 looks at him, and pulls the trigger. Bad. Ass.
Long story short (too late), I loved it. For creating a video game movie that actually worked (in my mind) I give this movie a 8.5/10. It looses a point for the somewhat flat acting of Tim Olyphant. But I give him some credit, because playing a heartless bastard like Agent 47 has to be ridiculous. Plus, he kicks some major tail in those fighting scenes. Well played, Hitman movie. Well played.
PS: That little duckie up there? Yeah, he's in the movie too. That made me smile. [url]
Wow. Over three months since my last post. Well, grad school will do that to ya. Steal all your time and money. Well I managed to find some time and it is now time for part II of my (largely unnoticed) journey through all my game systems. Tonight's episode: Game Gear
I loved my Game Gear. It had color, it had style, and it had a backlight so I could play at night. And oh, did I play at night. Those long nights where I was convinced my house was haunted, and I knew if I went to sleep I would become possessed. All I could do was hide under my blankets, flick the switch to 'on' and I was protected from all sorts of ghosts. That's nice.
My Game Gear doe not work anymore. It began to fall apart many years ago. First, the back battery lid fell off. So I covered it with some duct tape for safety. Then the other one fell off. So, I put tape over that side too. Finally, the back light gave out, so I could only play at day. But by that point, I had moved on to the SNES, thus dooming it to a life in the bottom of my closet. None the less, I still can hold the dead machine (which is about the size of a PSP, only thicker) and recall playing my favorite game ever (on the Game Gear): Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
While I will never deny my love for Nintendo, Sonic blew my mind when I first laid eyes on it. The speed, the super awesome spin move, and the pretty worlds I got to play in. There were green fields covered with mechanical crabs. There was a wide, sweeping Casino that played like a slot machine. And bonus stages that made me vomit from all the swirling. Ah, to be young.
I played Sonic for HOURS. The only thing that stopped me was the battery life of the Game Gear. Yeah, it was 12 hours, but do you know how much it costs to replenish 6 AA batteries? That was like two weeks allowance for me! But it taught me how to save money. From an early age, I was forced to make that choice that all gamers make: will my money go towards games or everything else in life. Looking back, I guess it might have been more frugal of me to choose "life." Ah well. Back to Sonic.
Another added bonus of Sonic 2 was that cute little mutant called Tails. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, Miles "Tails" Powers. That boy sure did love adding "s" to the end of his names. Tails served to purpose whatsoever other then to follow Sonic around. You could use him to float occasionally, and that was all right. But mostly, he was fun to kill. I would often sit at the bottom of ocean levels and take all the water and watch Tails slowly drown. It made me smile then, and it makes me smile now just thinking about it. Then again, it could be that I did the same thing to an ex-girlfriend of mine when we were playing co-op Sonic on the Gamecube. After I let her drown, she got all indignant on me saying "Hey! I need air too!" I told "No you don't. I'm Sonic, I'm the hero. You are expendable." Since she's now my ex, I guess she was.
I didn't own many games of the Game Gear, but I still have many good memories about it. Such a fine system it was. I mean, nothing super, but a nice memory for me. Except Sonic Spinball. That game was from the devil himself.
I am, at heart, a total old school gamer. I love the old stuff. I was first weened on Game Boy and Game Gear before moving on to the meatier SNES, PSX, N64, and so on so forth. But I do not forget where I came from!
Recently, I hit the gold mine. While cleaning out my closet, I found all my old game systems and the games I kept! This blog will be my running tally of my adventures plowing through all my old systems. First up: Nintendo's Game Boy
Game: Super Mario Land! Oh mercy, so many memories are tied to this game. Not only was it the first game I ever played on a nintendo console, but also the first game I played ever! My parents bought my brother and I two Game Boys so we would be occupied during long vacation trips. It was that summer that I first experienced the Nintendo universe. You never forget your first time, right?
(Nostalgic music begins to play)It was 1994, and I was in 4th grade. We were on our way to Europe to visit my Uncle. I sat in my airplane seat, and flicked on my Game Boy. For you young whipper snappers, this was back when the Game Boy was about the size of a brick and displayed about three colors: white, black, and gray if you were lucky!
I played through the first level, and was immediately smitten. The music was fantastic, the enemies were fun to kill ("LOL! They exploded! Mom! That turtle exploded!"), and I was having the time of my life. After about ten minutes, my world came to a stop. I received my first "Game Over." It happened on that lousy Egyptian level! The piranha plants got me! Why? Why, God, WHY?? I recall turning the game off for a while. I had been burned and it hurt.
An hour or so later, I turned the game back on. Mario was still there, and I made it all the way to the first world boss. After losing a couple lives, I finally beat him. My little heart was so excited! And, after the wall lifted, there she was! There was Daisy! "Oh, Daisy!" I said. "Oh, Mario!" she replied. I looked down at my Game Boy with some confusion. "Was this it? This was the end of my whole adventure?" Suddenly, Daisy turned into a a monster, and hopped off screen. Well, shoot! This changes things! On to more adventure!
All in all, it took me several months of trying and trying to beat that game. But finally, the day came where I blew up the alien thing, and flew off with Daisy in my ship. She didn't transform this time! Ha HA! I put the Game Boy down with some satisfaction. I had done it. I had won.
I picked up my cartridge today and stuck it in my Game Boy Advance. Still worked. I decided to play a bit and see how far I would get in one sitting. After a few hours, I had only gotten to the second world. But more importantly, I still had fun playing it. Talk about staying power! I think later tonight I might pick up Super Mario Land 2 and see what that has to offer. No more tiny, undefined Mario anymore! Now he has big eyes! And I can see all the enemies too! The colors Duke! The colors!