Posted on September 14, 2014
It’s the smell… if there is such a thing.
Every gamer has a list of “hidden gem” games they played growing up. For me, titles like Felix the Cat, M.C. Kids, Totally Rad, and Power Blade were the third-party games I’d show my “Sega friends” to prove the NES had what it took to compete with the Genesis’ ever expanding lineup.
Oddly enough, these were all games that not even my “Nintendo friends” had heard of.
After getting my Super NES, I was really looking forward to playing not only the mega hits like the Zelda and Contra sequels, but also those sleeper hits that would validate me wanting the console so badly.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long before I played one.
Joe and Mac was the first game we rented after buying the Super NES. In fact, Mom rented it the same day she bought me my brand new console soon after I started the second half of Grade 3. I didn’t know all that much about the game, mostly because I hadn’t really paid attention to Nintendo Power’s Pak Watch section in the months leading up to the console’s release.
Owning a new console seemed like a bit of a pipe dream during those days. I had wanted a Sega Genesis, a TurboGrafx-16 and whatever else was on the market, but I always got the impression that my parents had better things to spend money on.
For my part, I could understand that.
When the Super NES was announced, I knew I’d probably have to ask for it for years before actually getting one. Whenever I’d flip through the pages of EGM or NP and see the great-looking new games coming from Nintendo, I’d try to avoid getting too hyped up. It’d be a long time before I’d ever get to experience these for myself, so I’d often just look at screenshots without reading articles.
To my great surprise, my mom bought me the spiffy new 16 bit console not long at all after it first came out. The pack-in game of Super Mario World was obviously incredible, but Mom’s seemingly random choice to rent Joe and Mac was also a fantastic way for me to ring in the new era.
I loved that it was a simple arcade beat ‘em up where cave dudes beat up on sasquatches and other cavemen. The bosses were huge prehistoric creatures, and my fascination with dinosaurs at the time didn’t hurt things. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I played the heck out of it that night.
The next day, my parents had plans for supper with family friends of ours, so I brought my Super NES and hooked it up to the TV in their basement. I had plans on staying down there most of the day, mostly because they’d be busy cooking that evening’s meal…
It didn’t smell all that appetizing, but I felt adventurous enough to go upstairs at one point to see what a cabbage roll looked like. I was a pretty finicky eater, but if the smell alone was enough to churn my stomach, maybe if I saw them being made I wouldn’t be so grossed out.
Now, when cabbage rolls are cooked, they get this greenish-beige and translucent look to them. The sight of a cooked leaf of cabbage sitting in a sea of marinara sauce was a bit off-putting. I didn’t care that it was filled with meat and seasoning… it looked kinda gross.
Eating leaves raw in a salad was one thing; eating them cooked sounded like a soggy mess, and I wanted nothing of it. I headed back downstairs to play more Joe and Mac, and didn’t surface for a few hours at least. I remember getting to the final level, which if I remember correctly takes place in the inside of a dinosaur’s digestive system. Unfortunately, we had to leave before I had a chance to beat the game.
Whenever we went to their house afterwards, I could still smell the cabbage rolls. It was probably all in my head of course, but I could swear the smell had permeated the walls, carpet, and even the futon I was playing on.
These days, my wife is an amazing cook, and she’s opened my mind up to enjoy many things I didn’t eat as a kid – namely certain kinds of seafood – so I was more than willing to give cabbage rolls another shot when she had a craving for them a year or so ago.
As it turns out, they’re pretty damn good! The crunchiness of the cabbage, and the way the spices and the rice and the ground meats work with the tomato sauce, and beef broth… it’s one of my favourite meals now!
Not long after she made them, I purchased both Joe and Mac for Super NES and Data East Arcade Classics for Wii, which has the Arcade version on it. It’s called Caveman Ninja and feels a tad different, but it’s more or less the same.
Two big games purchased, all because of a smell that brought me right back to that day of playing brand new games in the Shannahans’ basement.