(It's been a little while since I've written here on Dtoid, and it appears the editor has changed a bit, so I do apologize in advance if there are any weird formatting issues that I overlooked. Anyway, enjoy!)
Old-timers like me always like to speak about our local rental shops, and I'm no different. We had two in our home town. The place we frequented the most was the local Marsh Supermarket, because renting games (and WWF Royal Rumble videos) from a supermarket was something that, for whatever reason, made sense in the late 80s and early 90s. In that same plaza, we had Dub'l Take Video, and it wasn't until I wrote that name out that I realized why it was spelled the way it was. We didn't go to Dub'l Take too often, as they were "too expensive" according to my mother, but in the rare occasion we could afford the extra dollar, we would head over there. I remember their selection being gigantic compared to Marsh, and I spent lots of time stargazing over the NES cover boxes.
Cover art and the pixely screenshots on the back of the box were usually all we had to go off of, and we made some rather poor rental decisions throughout the course of the system. The thing about the NES, though, is that even the bad games were notable. There were few games that just had absolutely nothing interesting about them. So, the following games, whether they were rentals or games I owned, are all ones that still hold a very special place in my heart.
To this day, A Boy and His Blob is an enigma to me. I never knew what to do, but I knew that I wanted to play it all the time. I specifically remember one night when my cousin was babysitting my brother and I, and I threw a tantrum because I wanted to play Blob, but she wouldn't let me because she was playing Tetris.
All I knew was that the blob was cute. I looked at him like he was my friend, and I just wanted to hang out with him and feed him jelly beans. My four-year-old dumb mind couldn't make the correlation that certain jelly bean flavors caused the blob to turn into a specific tool, so most of the time I would just feed the blob a bean and say "Oh, hey, he's a trampoline now. That's awesome!"
I never got too far in Blob. I do remember turning him into a rocket and riding him to a distant planet and dying pretty much immediately, and my brother getting into a cave area, but other than that, the rest of the game is a mystery. Naturally, speed runs on YouTube show people beating the game in mere minutes, but I kind of like my memories better. There's a part of me that never wants to know how to play the game.
Super Mario Bros. 2
When it comes to Super Mario Bros. 2, you're in one of two camps: the "it's not the real Super Mario Bros. 2" camp, or you're on the correct side, which is the "this is way better than the 'real' Super Mario Bros. 2" side of the equation. I never owned the game as a kid, but it was the one that we probably rented more than any other. Back then, I didn't realize that this was a rehash of a Japanese game, but I definitely knew there was something weird going on. Where were the familiar enemies? Or King Koopa? The recognizable tunes? Why am I playing as the princess instead of saving her?
It's cool to see how many aspects of SMB2 have become staples of the franchise, like Shy Guys, Birdo, Luigi's superior jumping ability, and so on. The game has certainly left behind a legacy. But the thing that I remember about the game the most is what is perhaps the most traumatizing enemy in my young gaming life: Phanto. Phanto is like the Terminator, he just doesn't stop until you're dead.
Did I forget to mention that at one point you pull a vegetable out of the ground only to discover that it's actually rocket ship that flies you to the next level? Because that happens. It's true what they say, they don't make games the way they used to.
Friday the 13th
Looking back on my childhood, my parents had some weird double standards. I wasn't allowed to watch Beavis and Butt-Head, but they bought my brother and I Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis for Christmas. I wasn't allowed to watch Friday the 13th movies, but we owned the NES game. Perhaps they were okay with that because videogames were still considered children's toys at the time, and as we all know, all toys are completely harmless.
Despite the negative connotation that's usually associated with Friday the 13th on NES, I actually have fond memories of the game. It legitimately has one of my favorite box arts of all-time (pictured above). Not even an unstoppable killing machine like Jason Voorhees is exempt from the neons and hot pinks that were so prevalent in the late 80s.
Even though this game was released well before the survival horror explosion a decade later, I would qualify it as an early horror game. I don't remember actually being scared while playing it, but looking back, it certainly has a creepy vibe. The music that plays in the cabins has always given me a sense of tension, and Jason pops up often enough to keep you on edge. Speaking from nostalgia, Friday the 13th isn't a bad game, but it's brutally and sometimes unfairly difficult in certain spots, which I think prevents it from being remembered as fondly by others as it is for me.
Monster Party is weird. Like, really weird. Legendary weird. But I played it, and I loved it. It appealed for me for two very specific reasons. First, one of my all-time favorite movies is The Monster Squad, and Monster Party's cover art reminded me of the movie because it featured so many of the classic movie monsters. Secondly, the story is about a kid coming home from a baseball game, having an anthropomorphic bird crash land in front of him, getting abducted by said bird in order to help him fight monsters on his home planet, and then merging with one another somehow. Why does that part appeal to me so much? Because baseball was my first love, and I often daydreamed about how awesome it would be if that actually happened to me.
Not weird enough? Let me continue. Each level features several monster rooms which usually require you to hit projectiles back at the enemies. It's like batting practice! The first one you come to is a phallic-shaped plant that starts the battle by saying "Hello! Baby!" Why does it say that? I DON'T KNOW! Why is the next monster room completely empty? I DON'T KNOW! Why is there a monster room with a giant dead insect that says "Sorry, I'm dead"? I DON'T FREAKING KNOW!
Actually, after doing research (and by that, I mean the Monster Party Wikipedia page), I found out that a lot of the weirdness was due to the fact that the game was heavily edited from what the original version was intended to be. It also may have had something to do with copyright issues. I mean, that plant on the box art does look almost identical to Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
I would suggest watching a longplay of the game on YouTube so you can experience just how much weird the game has to offer.
This really shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you when you remember who it is writing this blog. I have a very weird, vivid memory pertaining to Pro Wrestling. I was at a friends house and their mother was playing Castlevania. She was at the game's climax, taking on Dracula's second form, when she got a phone call. Not realizing how big of a deal this was, I turned the game off and put in Pro Wrestling, because I just wanted to see Star Man on the wrestler select screen. When she returned, she was understandably furious. She spanked me, and I sobbed all the way up the road to my grandmother's house. If that were to happen today, she would have gotten 3-5 years in prison. But this was the 90s, and we weren't all a bunch of politically correct crybabies back then.
Anyway, Star Man! Star Man was my dude. My memories of my actual skill level with the game are hazy at best. After going back a couple decades later, I realized that it's actually a very deep game. There are so many moves when you compare it to the WWF games of the day. WWF Wrestlemania is basically Urban Champion with the inclusion of a y-axis and a cartwheel move for Bam Bam Bigelow. But Pro Wrestling was the closest thing to a professional wrestling sim that you could get on the NES. It had an in-ring referee, a ringside cameraman, and a story mode, complete with your winning of the Video Wrestling Association Championship.
And, if nothing else, Pro Wrestling gave us the phrase "A Winner is You!"
Super Mario Bros. 3
Few games have left such an impression on me that I actually remember where I was when I opened it up. My brother and I have birthdays that are only 15 days apart, and even though we always had separate parties and presents, I remember Super Mario Bros. 3 being a joint present in 1990. I remember being in the weird front room in the house we lived in at the time (I guess it would have been considered a den), and the moment my brother tore open that wrapping paper, and I saw that vibrant yellow that has since become unmistakable, I knew what we had on our hands.
I had already become obsessed with the movie The Wizard by this point, so my brother and I were well aware of Super Mario Bros. 3. Up until then, I had never asked my parents to buy me a specific game, but after seeing The Wizard, it was the only thing that I asked for for months. There's really nothing I can say about the game that you haven't already heard hundreds of times. It's a classic. Some people, including myself, consider it the best game on the NES.
I just wanted to share my memories of getting the game rather than talking about the game itself. It's one of the most vivid memories I have from early in my life, and still one that I cherish greatly.
It's a little late for celebrating the NES' 30th birthday, but in my opinion, the NES should be celebrated on more than just special occasions. It's my favorite console of all-time, and I'll go to my grave proclaiming its greatness.
Here's all the places you can find me on the internet.
Thanks for reading,