My tale of acquisition is less about getting my hands on a game as it is obtaining an in-game element, but it was a quest enough in and of itself.
It was November of 1998, and I was far more into Pokémon than was likely healthy for a 16 year old young man. The original Red
versions had barely been out for a month and a half, but I'd been ingrained early thanks to a month-long exchange stint in Japan over the summer, and had spent an overage of time on the still-floundering World Wide Web learning where all the hard-to-find 'mons were hiding, how to stock up on items and what to use them on, and other bits of lore, such as the glitch known as MissingNo and the reason behind #150's name being Mewtwo
As part of their Black Friday promotions that year, Toys R Us announced they were giving out sticker sheets to the first 150 people who showed up at each store, a few of which would include a message underneath their central sticker notifying the holder they'd won the right to have a legitimate Mew, National Pokédex #151, downloaded to their Game Boy cartridge, complete with a certificate of authenticity. Seeing as how I needed
to catch them all, come hell or high water, I had to be in that line.
Chores were done. Favors were cashed in. A mother was cajoled on a regular basis, and finally, the week prior to Thanksgiving, she agreed to take me to the nearest TRU at balls o'clock in the morning that next Friday. School wasn't an issue, as we always had a break for that entire weekend, so it was on. I was pumped. I was going to be the first of my friends to get a real, non-Game-Genied Mew, mostly due to the fact that I was the only one of my friends who played Pokémon at all. I waited with bated breath for the next seven or eight days, dragging myself out of bed before the sun was even up and doing my mom the small favor of brewing up some coffee before we departed.
The air was frigid outside the Montgomeryville Toys R Us, and to my semi-surprise, a line had already formed, and while not quite as long as my brief research on Black Friday had led me to expect, and two years' prior's Tickle Me Elmo craze had led me to fear, there were nearly a hundred people waiting at 6:30 AM or so for the doors to open. Thankfully, we'd gotten there in time to still get one of the sticker sheets, and it became hard to tell how much of my trembling was from anticipation and how much was caused by the chill air. Carefully, methodically, I slipped a nail under the top edge of the sticker that would determine my fate, muttered some fusion of a wish and a prayer under my visible breath, and pulled.
Only to find that I was not a winner.
I slipped rapidly into dejection, and my mom didn't seem too happy she'd driven me all that way for a whole lot of nothing, but we both tromped into the store with the mob as the gates to pandemonium were flung wide. At the very least, I had some allowance and a bit of money from my new job saved up, so there was a chance of not going home empty-handed. Alas, the fact that I was sixteen years old made most of the offerings at a Toys R Us generally unappealing, even at deep discount; I managed to track down a Nerf gun I'd found some decent modification blueprints for online (the Manta Ray, for those who were/are into the Nerf scene), and began plodding toward the front end to try and avoid the worst of the lines, which were likely to queue up soon as full-cart frenziers began to queue up with their holiday bounties.
That's when I saw it. As an offshoot, I suppose, of the aforementioned Tickle Me Elmo mania Tyco was trying to recapture with Rock'n'Roll Elmo, Hasbro had pushed out a Pikachu plush that spoke, move, and flashed its cheeks when you squeezed its hands. Not twenty yards away from the checkout counters, I spied the last one of these talking Pikachus in what had once been quite a sizable display, and I did the only thing I could. I snagged the little yellow bastard, and probably ruined some wiener kid's Christmas. A small victory, but better than wasting the entire morning. After popping some AAs into his battery pack and cramming said pack back into Pikachu's rectum (yeah, the setup of the thing was a bit weird, now that I think about it), I putzed around with my new, blinky friend for about fifteen minutes on the drive home before falling asleep.
That was not to be the end of my quest for Mew, however. The next April, after I'd had some time to catch most of 'em all and train up some level 100s, Nintendo's Pokémon Mall Tour struck at one of the bigger malls within half an hour of where I lived. This time, I found I could count on a second chance, and we got there bright and early, before most of the stores had even opened, albeit not so early as November's foray. Lines were already sizable by the time I found where they were forming, but after failing once, I wasn't about to let the opportunity slip by again.
Minutes chugged by as I chatted about favorite pokés and 'mons with little kids, and discussed strategy and movesets with dudes older than me, the latter making me feel a lot better about myself, until forty-five minutes or so had passed and I found myself standing in front of a Nintendo representative. I handed him my trusty Blue
cartridge, she popped it onto a machine for a couple of seconds, and voila! My own real, certificated and numbered Mew, apparently caught originally by LUIGI. I'd done it. I'd finally done it.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of a small tournament, in which I got blown out of the water in my second round by some mouthbreather in his mid-20s who'd been winning these things all up and down the mid-Atlantic region, some demos of Pokémon Stadium
and a few other N64 games, and some other pokédickingaround for which I didn't hang around all that long. I had to get my new friend home safe, and figure out what sort of moveset to give her.
In the end, I ended up just leveling my Mew naturally, though she cleaned house just with her default moveset. She helped me pick up a few legendaries I hadn't been able to subdue up to that point, and found a comfortable home on my Pokémon Stadium
and Pokémon Stadium 2
cartridges, mostly unused after the first Stadium
given that I'd decided to take the high road and considered legendary pokémon "cheap." She was one of the few who survived a terrible accident in my early attempts to catch 'em all and dump them onto my Yellow cartridge even before then, wherein I was (unwisely) popping whichever cartridge I needed to organize and level certain 'mons on into my Super Game Boy, and forgot to kill the power before pulling the cartridge back out one night, in my excitement as I was getting close to completing my collection. I still have the certificate somewhere, and chances are, some lucky bastard got her after I traded in both Stadium
games and my Game Boy era Pokémon
titles upon learning there was no way to transfer them up to the new Game Boy Advance games.
I miss her sometimes. But then I just swap in a pokémon who can use Swift, and that tends to solve the problem nicely.
LOOK WHO CAME: