by Justin Crockett
I didn’t have a whole heaping load of friends growing up. Well, a few, and strong friendships that last to this day. But, if I had my druthers, I would happily spend hours with my digital friends on my TV. From system to system, I followed the exploits of Link, Mario, Samus, Sonic(including fucking dumbass Tails), Simon Belmont, Ryu Hayabusa, Cloud Strife, Tommy Vercetti, and numerous other pixelated folks.
This here is my top moments of gaming in my storied existence.
Super Mario Bros. 3
There was a movie event in 1989. It was called “The Wizard”. It starred Fred Savage and his tiny Rain Man of a brother. Whatever the plot was, it hyped up a Mario sequel that had my 10 year old ass shaking to the bone. In the movie, they played it on a giant megascreen TV, and it was gorgeous. Nintendo also tried to show off the Power Glove in that movie, but it was such an epic shitfuck of a device, that it quickly failed.
No, I just wanted the game. I think I had just recently gotten “Double Dragon II”, so I couldn’t afford to get Mario 3 as well. So a friend(that I kept around because of his game collection. You all had that friend) brought it over, and tried to get me to play 2 player with him. I instead tried to talk him into ways that he could leave my house but let the game remain with me, so that I could play the game alone, as was my preference.
It didn’t work. So we played co-op. And it was so good, I didn’t care that my friend was mouthbreathing next to me. When I first got to equip this item…
…my whole world shat itself. It didn’t even occur or matter to young me that RACOONS CAN’T AND NEVER WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE FLIGHT.
Final Fantasy VII
I had never been much of an RPG guy before 1997, and truth be told, I wouldn’t be much of one after. Aside from “Fallout 3”, “Zelda 2”, and “Diablo II”, I just kinda dipped my feet in the genre, wanting RPG elements, but also not being able to be cool with the concept of turn-based combat.
But in 1997, “Final Fantasy VII” was lent to me, or I got it used somewhere, and the game itself was so immersive and beautifully crafted, that I didn’t care what genre I was playing. Characters died, and you cared about them. The world was expansive and held secrets, and the details of each area were filled with creativity. And holy shit, the music…
If you didn’t feel a twinge of emotion during some of the beautifully-scored scenes between the characters, you’re a robot. Cloud came off sometimes as a meat-headed dick, yeah, and Barrett was a bit clumsily written, and as the game aged, it just now looks like a buncha jagged polygons but HOLY SHIT LEVIATHAN SUMMONS!
Resident Evil 2
If you wanted to play a scary game in the Nintendo days, you had “Shadowgate” and not much else. The survival horror genre would eventually take off once the Playstation era began, though. The first “Resident Evil” came out, having you explore a spooky old mansion, but it wasn’t until the sequel hit that, for the first time, I was actually scared to play a game in my room with the lights out. This shit would make you jump, and gasp out. When a zombie or a Licker would crash through the window, it was fucking chaos, and you would try to fight them off or run, with that clumsy ass walking mechanic that I still have trouble with when picking up the game for the first time in a while, shooting what few bullets you have left, until you come across an herb hidden somewhere, or you reach the most relief-inducing sight in all gaming history….
I’d be a silly goose if I denied the hardcore sports fan that dwells inside me. Any and every sports franchise I’ve probably spent some amount of time with, be it “Bases Loaded”, the “NBA Live” series, or any of the Madden games. But the coolest memories I have are of me and my older brother playing the shit out of some RBI Baseball on NES.
With music that will stay in your head and lay eggs, the gameplay is as simple as it gets, and the home runs are plenty. I imagine we played as the two All-Star teams, and I would venture to guess that I lost all the time. But it didn’t matter, it was the most fun game to lose. And if you threw something that wasn’t a strike down the middle of the plate, you probably got punched and cussed out.
It was an easy game, you just picked it up and played it. There was no season or franchise mode, there wasn’t even all of the MLB teams. You couldn’t set the price of hot dogs, or trade or create players. And that’s probably why I can still play it today, and it’s still that fucking fun.
The Legend of Zelda/Zelda: Ocarina of Time
As I mentioned before, I did not have a giant gaggle of friends. But the ones I did have were nerds of the highest quality. We could beat Mario in a half hour. We knew the code in “Punch Out!” to get straight to Mike Tyson, and we probably still do.
We knew the proper order to take on the levels in “Mega Man”. We just handled our shit. And that was probably how “The Legend of Zelda” became the blockbuster it was: it was the community. It was sharing secrets with your friends. “Hey, bro….burn that bush near Zora’s lake for a hear piece”. “You’re at the Lost Woods? OK, here’s the directions to get to the Magical Sword!”
That’s what made the original so special. Talking to people, drawing your own maps, trying to explore every nook and cranny of the game world, which to a kid my age, was endless. We are jaded by the huge maps of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, but back in the 80s, “Zelda” was fucking ginormous.
I’m a huge believer in boss battles. I think they are an important way to wrap up a chapter or act in a game, and “Zelda” had some great ones. And strategies to beat them was another way the geek community grouped together. Dodongo had to eat your bombs, Gohma took arrows in his eyeball; you didn’t know this shit, you’re just standing there flailing a sword uselessly until that annoying beep told you that your health was down to a half heart.
And when the Zelda series got a more grown-up update for a more grown-up Justin, “Ocarina of Time” made my nerd boner sprout magnificently. The first time I got on Link’s pony, Epona, and just rode through the fields of Hyrule, it was a perfect translation from my younger years. A maturing of the first game that I fell in love with, made by the same people, who had also matured. The Water Temple is still the most challenging dungeon I have ever played through, and the one time I felt like I had accomplished something in a video game. I remember setting the N64 controller down and just breathing in deeply, like I had saved a village of starving, legless puppies. The bosses, even more badass than before, got proper introductions, like they were movie credits.
And the final fight with Ganondorf, was like playing a living movie. Music built tension as you climbed the steps towards the ultimate boss in the game. Your hair stood on end as he morphed into the demon that you slayed on your little NES when 8 years old. I remember actually breaking a sweat and being breathless after that last Ganon battle.
No other game has completely encapsulated the feeling of living art and accomplishment as “Ocarina of Time” did. None. I will personally fight anyone that says otherwise.