My palms were sweating and my heart was about to leap from my chest. I took a deep breath and tried to focus. In a few minutes the third and final round was starting. I knew what I was about to do. I knew it was cheap. I knew some might even consider it "cheating," but the round began and I went to work. I blazed through the first level. I was a banana-collecting dynamo. Then, at the last moment, in the final pit, I took a plunge. The onlookers gasped, a red on-screen balloon popped, and a wide smile and hearty laugh erupted from deep within me--no one saw it coming. They had fallen for it.
I was in the last round of the regional qualifiers for the Blockbuster World Video Game Championships. I was twelve years old. The platform was Super Nintendo; the game was Donkey Kong Country, but not just any Donkey Kong Country. This Donkey Kong Country was a modified version designed for tournament play -- the world map was eliminated, extra bananas were hidden, and bananas were given as a bonus for completing a level.
This game now sells in the thousands and, yet, you can only play for 5 minutes before having to restart.
I glossed through the first round with an easy victory. My platforming skills were unmatched, but early in the second round my score was beaten. To my dismay, not only was my score beaten, but it was beaten by my arch-nemesis: James from down the street. Now, James was no friend of mine. His personal hygiene was terrible, he preferred Sonic to Mario, and, worst of all, he was the only kid I knew who could hang with me in pure, unadulterated gaming skill. This kid was nasty on the d-pad. He was the dirty, smelly version of Lucas to my well-adjusted, likable Jimmy Woods. And, like the real Jimmy Woods, I came back with a score to bash his skull in on the second round. While winning the second round was satisfying, we both knew there was still one more chance for him to beat me in the third round. This brings us back to our Tarantinoesque beginning.
Despite my physical manifestations of anxiety, there was little pressure on me: James had failed to beat my score in his third round attempt. Now it was time to showboat. While the onlookers gasped at my death near the end of Jungle Hijinx, I knew that none of them saw the method in my madness. As anyone who played the competition cart knows, completion of the first level brings you straight into the next level. While the bonus bananas from completing a level were huge, the disproportionately large number of bonus bananas on the first level combined with the ease with which the first level could be completed negated the level completion bonus entirely. The effect was only compounded when you considered that later levels included an excruciatingly slow water
The plan worked beautifully. I near doubled my previous score and I was well on my way to the next round of competition. While not a humorous retro gaming memory, this is certainly my most significant and has largely influenced my taste for competitive gaming today. The year of free pizza and video game rentals provided by Domino's and Blockbuster was a nice perk too. Thanks for reading my entry into ConradZimmerman's RetRose Tinted: Corrective Lenses Competition