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LONG BLOG

3 Child Endangering NES Intros

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Children haven't had enough experience with reality to have developed any sense of self-preservation, which is why most parents are terrified of letting them out of sight. Take one eye off the little buggers, and they'll no doubt find a way to fist the garbage disposal.

So, when you're writing a plot that stars a child, it isn't difficult to come up with motivation for them to risk their lives, because they have no concept of risk. Most monarchs of magical kingdoms just have to show up in our world and ask the nearest pre-teen if they'd be willing to slay an evil warlock, and they'll be on board. Video games took to this form of narrative almost immediately after the advent of the cutscene. Writers were finally provided an effective way of conveying narrative within the medium itself, and some of the first products to take advantage of it decided to tell stories about children enthusiastically flinging themselves at danger.

To illustrate my point, I've gathered three intros to NES games that answer the question, "Whatever happened to little Billy on the night he disappeared?"

BLASTER MASTER

There's a decent chance you've already seen this one before, because not only is Blaster Master fondly remembered by people who only played the first level, but the intro itself is a bit notorious for how nonsensical it is.

The opening stars a child named Jason, who has a pet frog named Fred. Jason's not a very bright child, because he obviously isn't aware of a frog's natural proclivity for jumping, and keeps it in a jar with no lid. One day, after a particularly savage argument, Fred gives up on their relationship and takes off into the yard. Jason, wracked with grief over the horrible things he said, goes in pursuit to apologize, only to watch his beloved frog partner jump onto a hastily buried crate of radioactive material and mutate.

This does not deter Jason, who loves Fred for his heart and not his looks. Fred, not willing to fall for Jason's hollow words, escapes down a convenient sinkhole. Jason, having lost the will to live, jumps down after him. Rather than the sweet release of death, however, he finds himself next to a rad, rad turbo tank. Quickly forgetting about his departed love, he dawns the jumpsuit and helmet he found on a nearby corpse, and takes off on adventure.

So, this is one intro where I can really relate to the protagonist. If I found a tank buried in my yard, I'd probably call out, "Hey, did anybody lose a tank!?" and if I didn't get a response, yeah, I'd take a closer look. At the same time, a tank is probably the worst method of looking for a wayward frog, as it doesn't really provide great ground-level visibility. Also, where does this kid live that there are poorly disposed crates of radioactive material and tanks buried under several feet of dirt? Judging by Jason's stunning lack of intellect, I'm going to suggest he's probably a human guinea pig at some secret lab.

LITTLE NEMO: THE DREAM MASTER

Capcom produced some pretty solid platformers late into the NES' lifespan, and Little Nemo: The Dream Master is certainly one of them. But while it's a pretty fun romp, it's also worrying in a lot of respects.

As the story goes, Nemo is sleeping in bed when a clown climbs in through his window and asks him to become the playmate of a princess he's never met before. Nemo, knowing that girls are gross and can't be trusted, refuses this request. Then the clown goes straight for the weak point, and offers him candy if he'll step inside his magic van. Nemo, deducing that even girls can be tolerated if they feed him candy, goes along with this, leaving behind only an empty bed for his parents to find in the morning.

That clown is a little too efficient at stealing children for this to have been the first one he's suckered into his flying slave balloon. Nemo's probably not the only kid who got whisked away to Slumberland and never heard from again. Offscreen, I suspect the local police are swamped with missing children cases coupled with sightings of strange dirigibles in the night sky.

As if being kidnapped isn't bad enough, it turns out Nemo has been further tricked, as the princess isn't interested in friendship. No, she just wants Nemo to fight against the nightmare that has taken over Slumberland. So, to sum it up, Nemo has been tricked into becoming a private assassin in a magical land by people willing to exploit his candy addiction. Just another wholesome NES game.

MONSTER PARTY

I saved my favourite for last. 1989's Monster Party is a weird game for a bunch of reason's. It managed to skirt by Nintendo's strict censorship policies by including blood, crucifixes, unmarked pharmaceuticals, and even the word "hell." But none of that is nearly as horrifying as its intro.

Our main character, Mark, is walking along after baseball practice, when he's nearly obliterated by an object falling from space. The object turns out to be a terrifying bird creature named Bert, who hastily blurts out a story about monsters attacking his world and demands assistance. Mark raises some very valid objections, but Bert dismisses these, then immediately spirits the boy off into the sky. As Mark is dragged high above the city, Bert describes to him the torture he's about to endure. Mark question's Bert's intentions, so in order to avoid any further struggle, Bert forcibly fuses with the boy.

To Mark's credit, at least he doesn't seem to be a willing participant in his abduction. The smart thing to do would be to just turn and run, though I question Mark's physical ability to escape from a winged Demon, but at least he doesn't say, "Gee golly, mister! Throw in a cake and I'll help you murder the Almighty himself."

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD?

Child abduction has fallen out of fashion as a plot device these days. We've come to expect that our protagonists have more motivating them than a fistful of sugar, yet somehow, this is what adults thought was a child's power fantasy in the 80's.

It's story hooks like these that demonstrate why my generation is easily the most abductable. So much of our media suggested that any kidnapping could turn out to be a magical adventure that we needed to have our cartoons bookended by PSA's that told us not to immediately consume everything offered to us by strangers. It's perhaps only due to luck that this era in storytelling didn't precede a wave of missing person reports filled with descriptions of people in wizards caps, pixie dust collected from the crime scene, and a lot of unanswered questions.

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About Adzukenone of us since 3:39 PM on 05.09.2018



Adzuken Q. Rumpelfelt is a gadabout gaming hobbyist, avid tea enthusiast, and aspiring writer. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games.

Obsessed in the obscure, the forgotten, and the unique, she enjoys diving in to find the human side of gaming. The failures as well as the successes.

A lover of the kitschy, the bizarre, and the dated. Enjoys 80's and 90's cartoons, horrible box art, awful voice acting, and non-traditional storytelling.

She also writes on her personal blog, the Game Complaint Department