Metroid (NES)

This blog entry doesn’t exactly have a vivid memory to go with it, but the game in question does carry a fair amount of nostalgic value for me.

1987 - NES (Nintendo)

Metroid wasn’t a game I played too often as a kid.  Even as I grew up, the series wasn’t exactly one of the most obvious things on my radar.  Still, the original NES title did get a few hours of play in my household, even though I didn’t know where I was supposed to go half the time, or what I was supposed to do.  I just explored, enjoyed the amazing music and atmosphere, but never really made a serious attempt at completing the game.

After the release of Metroid Prime for the GameCube, I forced myself to go back and play through what is now considered by many to be a classic.  I quickly realized this endeavor would be no walk in the park.  Sure, I had guides to tell me which paths to take, what floors were fake and could be bombed to make shortcuts, and strategies for taking on enemies.  Still, this game was just hard, and unforgiving to the point of frustration.  With a little bit of patience, I got better, and learned to appreciate the little things that made this game so popular.

One of those things happens to be the environment Samus Aran is a part of.  It’s big, it’s intimidating, and every area is overflowing with life.  The planet of Zebes feels lived in; and by that, I mean that various rock formations and creatures make it feel like Samus is actually an anthropologist, and not a bounty hunter like the game’s manual says.  Strange insects creep and crawl along the floor and walls, while alien sculptures and hieroglyphs decorate it in other areas.  Of all the things to grab my attention when I was little, they were the ones what freaked me out the most…


Freaky faces...

Would YOU want to get on this elevator?


…while these just made me hungry for breakfast cereal…


These look awfully wheat-ey...

...wheat-ey and delicious, that is.


…and then these.  I never made it this far into the game until later, but they reminded me of those candies my grandparents always had at Christmas time…


Careful - these rocks can be destroyed...

...while the worst these do is gum up your teeth.


All in all, I actually think Metroid has aged better than most games from the 8-bit area.  Still difficult as hell, though.



Most of the game’s storyline is laid out in the instruction manual…  something about a Galactic Senate and the taxation of trade routes to Naboo or something, I dunno.  Basically, Samus is sent to investigate the Planet Zebes, though in the intro is curiously called “Zebeth”, leading me to believe whoever communicated the planet’s name to the game’s writer had a lisp.  There, she needs to defeat the Mother Brain, the queen of everything that’s bad in the galaxy.

Like other 8-bit games without cutscenes, I had to improvise a bit.  Here’s Samus Aran’s journey through Zebes as she collects every item, travels through every region and finally conquers a rather lazy final boss.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Ah yes…  such simple box art, yet it works so well.  Everything you need to know is right there, on the cover;  “it’s Mario, he’s got a racoon tail, and he’s going to blow your mind.”  The game’s tagline is also appropriate…

1990 - Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo)

Nearing the end of my very difficult Grade 1, I had a feeling that I would fail and be held back a year.  I honestly can’t tell you if those fears were legitimate or not, because the only subject I vividly remember tanking was Math.  I don’t know if my French, Phys-Ed, Art, and everything else was fine or not…  but the Math certainly wasn’t, and that’s all I can recall.  I had to go to a special remedial after-hours class, and not only did I hate having to do more of the one subject I hated, I couldn’t stand the thought of not being regarded as an equal to my friends in the same grade.  It stressed me out a lot more than it really should a 6 year old.

Eventually, I moved out of this remedial class and learned the rest of the year’s Math curriculum with my classmates.  I still struggled, but was able to limp to the end of the year with a passing grade.  I ended up successfully moving onto Grade 2, and what ended up being my worst year (educationally) was behind me.

In May or June of 1990, not long before the end of the school year, my Mom would bring a game out in a clear plastic bag every once in a while.  It was Super Mario Bros. 3, the absolute juggernaut of a game that had been out a few months, and gaming magazines I would read wouldn’t shut up about it.  I thought Mom was renting it every time I was vigilent with my homework, and getting decent grades on tests.  It helped give me something to strive for, even though you’d think trying not to be held back a year would be enough motivation…  anyway.

As it turned out, she had actually bought the game at around its release back in February.  She was wise to keep it away from me for a while (as to not distract me from what was important), and give me something to shoot for when it counted.  Smart lady!

I was all set for a summer chock full o’ Magic Whistles, Tanooki Suits and Kuribo’s Shoes!

Making a movie out of this one took a little bit of embellishing.  I thought that maybe just including all the “king has been transformed” scenes between levels 1 and 8 would become a bit repetitive and boring.  To make things a little more interesting, at least, I tried to get an overview of every map, every game, every Toad House, and also every possible reaction from a King when wearing a different uniform.  I always found the King of World 7 to be somewhat strange, all askin’ if he can trade clothes with Mario…  sketchy.

For the next few posts, I’ll be veering away from Mario games just a bit…

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

They made sequels to movies.  This much I knew.  A sequel to a video game?  Quoi?  I had no pre-conceived notion that a game was supposed to be different than its predecessor, much less even have a sequel.

1988 - Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo)

It came out on September 1st, 1988, the day before my 5th birthday.  As employees at the store around the corner, my sisters had the scoop on when movies were coming to VHS, what new flavor of chips would be coming in, and of course, when new games came in.
Maybe it was a walk over to get ice cream…  or maybe we went for a snack run.  Anyhow, as my sister spoke to her co-worker, I was looking at all the games they had to rent.  After a few minutes, she calls me over, and breaks the big news – there’s a Super Mario Bros. 2.  The store has it, and we’re renting it for a few days.  SHE was the one who was excited, giddy at the prospect of playing a new Mario game.  I was just shocked that such a thing would even exist!
We bring it home, pop it in, and immediately recognize the differences…  but…  I like it.  I like it a lot.  There were no Goombas, Koopas or Bowsers to be seen, just ShyGuys, Snifits and Birdos in their place.  It was vibrant and colorful, all the characters had distinct advantages over the others, and the music instantly sucked you into another world.  It was another world, and it was amazing.  Not that the first one didn’t have that, it’s just that this was almost the polar opposite, yet it all still felt like a Mario game.
Many, many hours had been blissfully lost playing this game by the time I heard the news; Super Mario Bros. 2 was in fact a re-make of a Japanese title by the name of Doki-Doki PanicWha?  But it feels so Mario-ey!  No matter how much I could deny it, it was right there in my Mario Mania magazine.

I feel lied to... but it's OK. I'm over it, now.

(More on the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 later.)

With my idea of making a movie out of games comes a challenge – storytelling sequences were few and far between in the 8-bit days.  You knew the game had a story, but it was usually only laid out within the pages of the instruction manual.

For this game, it had an introduction screen and a credits sequence.  To fill the void in between, I showed Mario’s journey through defeating bosses and moving through levels.  Pretty bare in terms of telling the story of the game, but I have no doubt that these movie games will get better as I play through to newer, more “visually appealing” titles.

So long, paper manuals!

I recently purchased Mortal Kombat 9 – or is it Mortal Kombat (2011), or maybe Mortal Kombat: The Second One, but not II – and noticed there was no instruction booklet that came with it.  Thinking that I had been somehow short-changed, I shrugged it off.  No huge deal, I guess!

I ended up reading that games are slowly phasing out the paper instruction manuals in favour of online help, perhaps heading in a greener, more cost-effective direction.

I may not have kept all (or pretty much any) of my early video game boxes, which is a damn shame.  I did, however, feel the need to keep my instruction booklets for EVERYTHING I could.  Being a Francophone – which is just an embellishment of “‘Cuz I’m French” – I learned to read French long before I did English.  In fact, it wasn’t school that taught me English reading.

That’s right – I’m self-taught, thanks to instruction manuals and their eye-catching images and tips!  You just never knew what you’d find that might help you with the game, or perhaps even just a tidbit on characters.

I’ll re-hash Super Mario Bros. one last time, but that’s it.  Check out these two gems from its instruction booklet!

World 1 "Map"

When I wasn’t playing the game, I was thinking about it.  When I was reading the manual, I would trace my finger along the map and “pretend play” the game.  In a weird way, this simple little overview of the game’s first level gave me a sense of perspective on the Mushroom Kingdom.  It was a big place that could be explored, and it just made me want to play it that much more.
Then, there’s this.  I never really noticed this one until a few years ago, so I’ll just let you appreciate its brutal honesty.

Well, it's entirely possible.

 “It’s not a glitch, per se.  It’s just that the Koopa Troopas are more agile when stunned than one might think.”

Picture this…

I have two more memories I’d like to share about Super Mario Bros., but since I’ve already shared some in prior posts, I’ll keep ’em short.

Picture a 5 year-old Andre sitting in front of his living room television – pretty much exactly like the video I posted in the “About Me” page, just a bit younger.

It’s early in the morning, and he’s snuck out of bed early to get some Nintendo action.  The volume is turned down low as to stay incognito, as he’s pretty sure the last thing he’d want is his folks getting woken up prematurely.

Miraculously, he makes it all the way to World 8-1.  He’s never been to World 8-1!!  This is unbelieveable!!  OK, so he makes it through to the end of the stage…

This looks intimidating…

Time to make some perfect jumps, here…  nothing fancy, just jump and—

The screen goes black, and my nerves take a beating from the shock of the loud noise coming from behind the television.  NO!!!  This can’t be happening!!  I was at 8-1!!  Did I land on a pillar?  Did I fall to my death?  WHAT IS GOING ON??!?!?
Knowing the NES was on, and it might have just been a temporary television mishap, I paused my game.  By this time, my folks were up and out of bed, wondering what in the heck I could have possibly done to the television to warrant such a rude awakening.  My Dad checked it out, and noticed a burning smell coming from the back of the TV.  It was none of my doing – the television was about 10 years old, and a bona-fide piece of junk.  It was messed up real good, now.
It was a difficult pill to swallow, but Mario would have to wait far longer than any paused game would allow.  With great reluctance, I powered down my NES.
The TV ended up being repaired a few weeks later, but my quest to rescue Princess Toadstool had to wait another day…

Super Mario Bros.\Duck Hunt (NES)

Back when I was 4 or 5 (which would have been in ’88 or so), we made a family trip to Shediac, New Brunswick.  There were longtime friends of the family who lived there, and their kids were a good 10-12 years older than I was, which meant I would probably spend the weekend being pretty bored and finding ways to keep myself occupied.

The couple’s son had some kind of machine hooked up to his bedroom television, and he was kind enough to show me what it did.  He popped something into it, turned it on…  and I was forever changed with what I saw.

The one that started it all!

1988 - Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo)

(Note that this isn’t the original Super Mario Bros. cartridge, but the 1988 mashup with Duck Hunt that was included when purchasing the console.)
There was just some strange satisfaction when I took that controller in my hands and headed on over to that first Goomba to stomp on him.  It took me a little while to get used to, but it all felt so natural to play.  Needless to say, I was hooked.
I begged and pleaded with my parents to have one of my own.  It was one of those toys I just had to have.  I had never really wanted anything else so badly, honestly, and this was the first thing I can ever remember repeatedly asking for.  Of course, it was quite expensive to buy, and my parents wouldn’t just go and give their kid what they wanted when he wanted it…  I mean, that would be spoiling him, right?
First, my Mom told me I had to be 7 years old to legally own a Nintendo system.  What gullible 4-year old isn’t going to believe that?  I mean, you have to be a certain age to drink alcohol, a certain age to buy cigarettes…  I guess it made sense.  Reluctantly, I agreed, and just stopped asking for one.
(My Mom’s a genius…  or, I was an idiot.  One or the other.  Probably the first one.)
That winter, my sister got a job working at the store around the corner from our house.  They sold snacks, bare essentials, rented movies and, oh yes, video games and consoles.  One snowy morning, I woke up to see an NES hooked up to our living room beast of a television.  I was mesmerized.  All of this awesomeness…  and it was all MINE.  For a day or two, anyway.  My sisters had fun with it too, I guess.
Pretty much that same year, my Dad had a work trip to Calgary, Alberta.  What does he come home with?  An NES, complete with two controllers, an NES Zapper and Super Mario Bros.\Duck Hunt.  I thought to myself…  “Um, aren’t I breaking some kind of law?  Dad works with the police…  shouldn’t he know better than to supply video games to minors?”
So it began.  23 years of collecting video games, and I haven’t looked back.

Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (GBC)

This will undoubtedly be a two-part entry, mostly due to the fact that it pertains to arguably the most celebrated game of all time.  That’s right, it’s Super Mario Bros.  Instead of doing the predictable, however, let’s start with the 1999 remake for the Game Boy Color – Super Mario Bros. Deluxe.

Same game, but better.

1999 - Game Boy Color (Nintendo)

I played the heck out of that old brick with the lime green and blue screen, but I never quite got that satisfaction like I did while playing on the NES.  Maybe it was just the size of the screen…  maybe I needed my games to be bigger.  When the Game Boy Color rolled around, I was only vaguely interested.
A fellow student at my high school named Antoine happened to own one not long after it came out in ’99.  Antoine had gone to my school for a few years, moved away, and in Grade 10, he was back.  He wasn’t exactly a friend, per se, but we had a lot of common friends between us.  The ladies just loved him, for some reason.  One of those ladies just so happened to be a lady I was interested in, so naturally, I kinda held it against him.  That bastard!
When he brought that tiny purple GBC to school, though, I was intrigued.  All of a sudden, this guy was alright enough to hang out with before class in the mornings.  As it turns out, Antoine was actually a pretty nice guy, and a pretty big geek, to boot!  He let me play his copy The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, as well as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe.
Aside from being a remake of the original classic, Deluxe included Super Mario Bros. 2 (the difficult Japanese version) as an unlockable bonus, a Challenge Mode, as well as some multi-player content.  When playing the game, it’s more “zoomed in” than the NES version, meaning there are times when you have to duck, or press up to see parts of the screen.
Aside from that, however, it’s your standard Mario adventure!  Nothing wrong with that!

The reason I chose to tell the story of Super Mario Bros. using Deluxe was pretty simple.  There’s more to it!  A land map, some images…  I guess if I were to tell the story of Mario and his quest to rescue the Princess, I’d need more than just footage of Mario capturing the flag, moving onto the next level, etc.

There are more medals to win at the end of the game, and I’m not sure they yield different victory screens, but oh well!  The story is told.

Workin’ on it!

I only have limited experience in website upkeep and design, so this is still a learning process for me…  so, please, bear with me!

One of the main reasons I started this blog was because of my current video game “project”.  At around the time games went 3D, got cutscenes and became a way of telling a grand story, I thought to myself…  “wouldn’t it be a cool idea to take all the storytelling scenes, be it FMV cutscenes or text-driven sequences, then paste them all together to make one big movie???”

It seems like a bit of a silly idea to me, looking back on it.  All I had was a 14-inch television and a VCR in my bedroom, but I went on with it.  There were some difficulties at getting it to look right at first, but I managed to get the timing down – knowing exactly when to push record on my VCR’s remote became quite the challenge!

Since then, I’ve made a few of my “video game movies”, as well as a compilation of every single Mortal Kombat Fatality ever.  Thankfully, I have some new ways of recording and editing these clips together, which make it much easier to compile them into one cohesive video.

If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve done so far, look me up on YouTube!  My username is kornnut43, and though there are a fair amount of NASCAR videos on there (it’s another passion of mine…), my pet project will eventually take center stage.

The Ramblings of an Aging Gamer…

I initially wanted to call this blog “The Aging Gamer”, but I realized a few things…

  1. I am not old. Yet.
  2. That would give the impression I’m kinda cranky, and mostly stick to “back in my day…” posts. Hopefully, I’m going to steer clear of being too negative towards pretty much anything. Unless, of course, it clearly deserves it.
  3. There are a few blogs already named as such, so to avoid confusion, I have decided to choose something else.

In the next little while, Control Pad Blues will become a place to recall something about pretty much every game I’ve ever played. I figure this blog was almost neccessary, if only to avoid flooding my Facebook statuses with geeky stuff that would (undoubtedly) get me on many people’s “Hide” lists.

Blog on!!