The year: 1997. It was the fall of my freshman year in high school (oh god, that’s more than ten years ago). I, being the most popular kid at school, often played videogames throughout the night with my best friend on Friday nights. It’s what all the cool kids did, I swear. At this point in my life Rampage was simply a game I had rented a long time ago for my NES. It had stuck in my mind though and whence I heard a new game in the series was coming out for my N64, I was a little excited. I remembered fondly chomping on blond women in red dresses and taking out helicopters. Oh, to have those days back when I could look upon Lizzy and George not with fear, but with love. Alas, they are no longer with me. Now I see a giant ape and lizard and I quake in fear of the horror they will bring me.
But I am getting ahead of myself; teasing you with the punch line before I’ve even told the joke. Pardon me. Upon learning of Rampage: World Tour’s release, I decided to procure it from my local gaming shop, which was, and this will really date me, Funcoland. I remember the man there telling me to “have fun". If he had only known the true horror that awaited me when I brought the game to my friends house later that month he would have wrestled me to the ground and ripped the box from my hands then shot it while screaming “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU"! He did not though, and so I went home and started playing. The first few weeks were great. I played off and on having a blast destroying buildings and working my way through the games many worldly locations. I never actually beat it though because the games save features were messed up. I’d pretty much just start over again and again enjoying the hell out of it anyway.
You’re surprised to hear that, aren’t you? All the foreboding talk and here I am saying I liked the game. Well, I do love the Rampage games. Something about them just clicks with me. Which I suppose is the problem. The simple repetitive gameplay is sometimes hard to put down. Sure you could claim it gets boring but in small doses, it’s plenty of fun punching out buildings and destroying the world. Plenty of game designers with overly complicated games should take a few notes from Rampage’s simple yet addictive gameplay. Even the original plays brilliantly if you look at it from a game design perspective. So I was hooked, but I hadn’t got to play much multiplayer.
Thus I went to my friend’s house one fateful Friday and he, also having the game but never having beat it, decided we would play through the entire thing. One sitting. No saves, no stopping. In our mind it was a sort of homage to the original NES cart which didn’t have any of these options anyway.
And so it began. Actually, after a healthy dinner of pizza and soda while watching a movie it began. In my memory there is thunder and lightning and a terrible storm outside. Women are screaming and there are men in hoods sacrificing a lamb out on the patio. I also have the distinct feeling that I heard Satan laughing with delight. In reality, I think it was a quiet clear night and nature really didn’t notice what we were doing. I popped the game in around 9 p.m. (it could have been later), he turned on the big screen TV, we picked up our controllers and began punching shit.
We started off pretty well. Trucking through city after city and destroying all we could. The beauty of the game is that you don’t need to pay that much attention so we were talking about other things, grabbing bits of food and in general just hanging out. I’d say this lasted for about two hours or so. Around that time we sort of ran out of stuff to do while playing the game. Silence over took us unless one of us died. Then he punched me and it killed me. My best friend just killed me after two hours of destroying cities. Not actually that big a deal since it was damn near impossible to get a game over in the game but still, come on. Tempers started to fray.
By the third hour (12 p.m.), our eyes were starting to hurt like hell. Something about the similarity of the cities probably got to them. I don’t know, but I kept having to look away every once in a while. Still we trudged on and on. We’d never beaten the game so we didn’t actually know how long it went. I assumed maybe 60 or 65 cities, but we hit that and it just kept going. It just kept going I tell you! I couldn’t believe it. I looked for clues in the incredibly thin plot for how long this was actually going to take but there were none. Nothing could tell me how much more I had to go through but we’d come to far to turn back. By the fourth hour we were seriously wondering if the game just randomly generated levels over and over. My friend wanted to quit but I demanded we preserver. There had to be an end. If only I had listened.
Then it happened. Around the 90th or so level I looked over at my friend and his eyes were closed. I swear to god he was sleep playing some how. His character was still playing, a little worse for wear, but he was definitely at least partly asleep. We had played for so long that he could play the game without thinking about it. The ramifications were massive, my mind reeled as I tried to maintain my sanity, the real world and Rampage’s world blending together into one. Just one more level I kept telling my friend. We can make it. My head nodding to the side as I desperately wrestled with my hands to keep on functioning. The buttons on the controller felt like they had thick springs keeping me from pushing them down. The end was surely near, we would fail. My friend slumped over. I barley nudged him awake, pulling him upwards out of the haze of what have been terrible nightmares of playing the game forever. Then, right as my friend was about to go into a coma from playing and I was losing any grasp on reality it ended. We destroyed the final lab and it was over.
A feeling of victory surged through us momentarily. Then extreme exhaustion. We collapsed onto our respective seats and slept through the night. The next morning we awoke to the sun. Had it all been a dream? No, it was real and the thrill of conquering such a beast was real too. I don’t know if you’ve ever sat through over 100 levels of the exact same gameplay over and over again but the feeling you get when you beat that is really not something you can duplicate easily. It’s the kind of accomplishment that only comes from torturing yourself and I wanted it again.
That’s right, this wouldn’t really be the beginning of an affair if it didn’t lead somewhere. This led me down a dark and twisting road. About a month after this we got the original Rampage and played through that. I actually developed a blister from my friend’s NES controller doing it. Then we did it with every Rampage game after that. Non-stop, straight through. I don’t even know why anymore. The thrill is pretty much gone. I think it might be because it brings us back to a day when you had to do something like this or risk your game exploding because you left in on all night. It’s a little bit of retro torture in a world full of saves, easy games and checkpoints. That, good people, is something that is worth having an affair over.
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