Nintendo Memories? Well that’s not very original. Since I’ve already blown it before Word One, I may as well go all-in. In addition to the lame title, I’m also imbuing every photo below with an irritating Miami Vice-style color overlay. And all jokes to follow will be stolen from, I don’t know, Austin Powers.
It all started when I came across that book, hiding in a cabinet at my sister’s house. My sister is much older, and she and her husband used to babysit me often. They had a Nintendo, one that I played much more often than them, and along with it, this book. This glorious book.
Published in 1987, The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide is easily among my favorite pieces of literature ever. I’m not saying that for effect. I really, REALLY love this book.
For me, the little instruction manuals that came with Nintendo games were often as interesting as the games themselves. I loved The Legend of Zelda, but I doubt I would’ve loved it as much had it not come with a 5000 page manual filled with awesome sketches and goofy enemy descriptions.
If you grew up with a Nintendo, you know what I mean.
And this book was like getting 90 super-sized versions of those instruction manuals, all at once!
The guide told the stories of Nintendo’s top titles, and even better, it listed all of the characters’ names and traits. I was never as into video games as a lot of you were, but I sure loved the lore. I must’ve drawn the cast of Castlevania a thousand times, despite sucking so badly at the game that I never made it past those twin mummies.
It was all thanks to this book.
Thumbing through the pages again sparked a lot of memories. Some were your everyday video game memories. Others were weirder. Using The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide as a mutant version of a photo album, below are ten random memories about ten random Nintendo games.
Game: The Legend of Zelda
Memory: Water of Life Quarter Drinks!
In The Legend of Zelda, Link could purchase the “Water of Life” – a jar of brightly colored who-knows-what, which replenished his life meter. The blue one only worked once, but you could use the red one twice. (And because writing about video games is an open invitation for split hairs, yes, I know that drinking the red version just transformed it into a single-use blue version. I’m not here to be a historian. I just wanted to make crude doodles over crude photos.)
I was obsessed with the Water of Life. It seemed so appetizing. I am the only idiot who ever chose the Water of Life over the Heart Container when that weird old guy got with the giving. No regrets here, partner.
Anyway, the memory. I don’t know if this was a regional term, but as kids, we were always buying these small beverages colloquially known as “quarter drinks.” You may remember them as the intensely colored punches sold in barrel-shaped plastic containers. The quarter drink was an important part of our lives, available in every school and at every local deli. Not a day went by without one of those down our throats.
Once I realized how much a cherry quarter drink resembled the red Water of Life (or “2nd Potion,” as you may remember it), I was beyond hooked. I was young enough to be gleefully stupid, and every time I drank one, I’d act like I was turbo-charged and able to lift cars over my head. In truth, all I did was run around like a buffoon, knocking into things. Drinking four ounces of sugar water was never that fun again.
Memory: The Elusive Great Puma!
Pro-Wrestling was amazing, and definitely one of the Nintendo games I played the most. I was a huge wrestling fan, so it was only natural, but it helped that the game was so damn good. With zany characters, vicious maneuvers and music that lent itself to a lifelong hum homage, it’s still utterly playable today.
Every time I read though The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide, I’d stop and stare at the Great Puma. You could only fight him by beating the normal wrestlers like a hundred times in a row, and I was nowhere near good enough to pull that off. God knows, I tried.
It’s fitting that this supposed puma looks more like a sea monster, because for a while, he was my white whale. All I wanted was to fight the Great Puma, just once. To this day, I’ve not been successful. To this day, it drives me fucking crazy. I wouldn’t even care if he beat me in five seconds. I just want to see him in real life.
Game: Super Mario Bros.
Memory: I have never beaten this game.
Yep, it’s true. I’ve never beaten it. I feel like everyone else on the planet has, even if they’re only being born at this very moment. It’s the biggest shame of my gaming career, which is really saying something.
Please don’t take this to mean that I wasn’t a serious Super Mario player. I had a Nintendo; of course I was. I just had so much trouble with 8-3, and even on the rare occasions that I’d survive it, 8-4 was right there to destroy me in ten seconds.
I’m well aware that it’s possible to beat, and for many, even easy. Honestly, I think it was my nerves more than anything. A kid’s world is small, and if you couldn’t beat Super Mario Bros., you were in serious trouble. Maybe I just thought about it too hard. At this point, I’ll take any excuse I can get away with.
It feels good to confess. I never saved the princess.
Game: Ikari Warriors
Memory: The Paul and Vince Fiasco!
This memory only has a tenuous link to Ikari Warriors, though I did play it often enough. It was one of the few games my brother-in-law actually had. (And it was the only one he had that I didn’t.)
Okay, so Paul and Vince. These were the relative Rambos of Ikari Warriors: Two cut dudes who blasted their way through scores of enemy troops, and for some reason, spiders. They were hardcore, they had big guns, and they feared no bomb.
They also shared names with my two best friends, Vinny and Paul.
If memory serves, neither Vinny nor Paul owned Ikari Warriors, but boy, did I make a mistake in letting them know about the coincidence. Paul and I were always vying for Vinny’s affections, and he knew a hook when he saw one. For several days, they became the “Ikari Brothers,” thick as thieves and waving plastic guns at every opportunity.
I was the odd Matt out.
“Ikari Brothers?” Give me a break. Paul heard me, I said “warriors!” He upgraded it to “brothers” because he knew that their fabricated bond would only become stronger that way. Bastard!
Stemming from this, I made two important vows. One, never say things that could be used against me. Two, kill Paul.
Game: Ghosts ‘N Goblins
Memory: Those awesome monsters!
I’m really glad that I owned Ghosts ‘N Goblins, even if I was terrible at it. In my defense, I’m pretty sure everyone was. Ghosts ‘N Goblins is freakin’ hard.
Even if I could never get up to the levels that featured them all, I always enjoyed looking at the various monsters. They were just so weird and colorful, and they had such a clear pecking order. These monsters were easy to love. I was always more into bad guys than good guys, and if you liked demonic villains, Ghosts ‘N Goblins was pure art.
I used to draw those creatures constantly. I was especially fond of the “Big Men,” who were giant oafs who looked something like big baby gargoyles.
The only two that trumped the Big Men were, of course, Satan and Lucifer. Yes, they had a Satan and a Lucifer. Satan was more or less a big red bat, but Lucifer, my God! Lucifer is still a strong candidate for the scariest video game character ever. He looked like Ernest Borgnine from The Devil’s Rain, but with an extra head in his stomach.
Memory: Finally, a game I was good at!
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably drawn the conclusion that I wasn’t very good at video games.
You’d be correct.
It didn’t matter much when I was alone, but if I was with friends playing Contra or something, man, I did everything I could to hide it. Usually, I’d just turn the competition into a goof, dying on purpose and making a big show of it. I was annoying and everyone hated me, but that was better than the alternative.
Go on, think back. When you won a race in R.C. Pro-Am, you rubbed it in. I didn’t want to be the rubbee every time I played R.C. Pro-Am. That sticks and stones idiom has a nice sentiment, but it’s completely false. When they made fun of me for racing like a three-fingered blind moron, it hurt.
So you can just imagine how much I overcompensated when I finally found a game that I was good at. One of them was Kung-Fu. A great game, but more importantly, a game I’d absolutely mastered. In Mr. X’s mansion, nobody could stop me. Not the blue guys, not the white guys with the knives, not the magician with the trick head. Not even Mr. X himself. I ruled that shit, and at every opportunity, I made my friends watch me do it.
Like they cared. They were the Ikari Brothers, for Christ’s sake. They had oppressed nations to go save.
It’s become the running theme to say “I sucked at this game,” but in my defense, I never actually owned Metroid. Only played it over friends’ houses. Metroid really wasn’t the kind of game that you could master at a friend’s house, unless it has been previously established as a “Metroid Day” or something.
How far could I reasonably get in the ten minutes I had before someone busted out the damn Nerf toys? I take no responsibility for my Metroid failures: I was a victim of circumstance.
But I was still very familiar with the game’s characters, all thanks to The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide.
For some reason, I was especially intrigued with Dessgeega. “Intrigued” could be understating things, because for a while, pretending I was Dessgeega may have been my favorite hobby.
Keep in mind, I had no idea what Dessgeega did in the game, and could only make assumptions based on the picture above. I did my best, flapping my arms like an eagle, and repeating the name “Dessgeega” in a horribly shrill voice. All the time. Everywhere.
Discounting the fact that I just learned of a Pokemon based on an Easter Island moai, Dessgeega is the coolest video game character that I know almost nothing about.
Memory: The Castlevania Sleepover Night!
One night, I slept over Vinny’s house. The same Vinny who moonlighted as an Ikari Brother, but thankfully, Paul wasn’t there. Vinny’s real brothers were, though. After an evening full of ping pong and Monopoly, we settled into his older brother’s bedroom, taking turns at Castlevania.
Eventually, we stopped playing, but the game remained on, blasting its haunting tunes forever and ever. Or you know, until morning. The night turned into the usual sleepover firestorm of Cheetos, freeze tag and mayhem, all set against that scary Castlevania music. I don’t think I realized how much of an impact it was having on our night, but in retrospect, it so was.
That might’ve very well been my first Halloween party, even if I didn’t know it, and even if it wasn’t Halloween. To this day, whenever I hear Castlevania music, I think of Vinny’s old house. They really liked mayonnaise over there, and his mother used to make so many plates of salted green apple slices.
Memory: Everyone makes bad decisions, sometimes.
For some ancient birthday, my brother gave me a present in the form of a simple IOU. In the near future, we’d go shopping for a new Nintendo game. Yes!
Problem was, I was impatient. Well, duh. I had the guarantee of a new Nintendo game. Any kid would’ve been impatient.
That same day, we ended up in a nearby strip mall, for God knows what. Bagels, groceries, I don’t know. But I knew that this strip mall had a comic shop, and I knew that this comic shop also sold a few Nintendo games. Even if waiting for the superior selection of Toys “R” Us would’ve been wiser, getting my game and getting it quick was all I could think about.
So, in we went. I can’t remember every game that they carried, but the fact that 1942 was the one I went home with should clue you in about their selection.
Look, this isn’t me ragging on 1942. It was actually a decent game, but it certainly wasn’t a title that was just cause for calling every same-aged kid in the neighborhood, to brag.
1942? What did I care about 1942? I immediately regretted my decision. Even on the car ride home, I spited my brother and said that “1942” meant that there were 1941 better Nintendo games. Somehow, this had to be his fault.
Jeez, I had the golden ticket! A Nintendo game of my choice! And it wasn’t like my library didn’t need the boost.
It gets worse.
I don’t know what the game’s normal price was, but this was just some random comic shop in a junky strip mall. It played by its own rules. 1942 cost 40 bucks, and my brother had already set a strict limit of 30. Not only did I choose 1942, but I had to front $10 of my own money to get it!
Again, I don’t seek to offend fans of 1942. I became one myself. But part of the joy of getting a new Nintendo game was the idea that you were joining a club. 1942 had no club, believe me.
Game: NONE, THIS IS ABOUT POSTERS.
Memory: THINGS RELATED TO POSTERS.
On the inside cover of The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide is a small-sized version of the poster that came with a zillion Nintendo products. You know the one. With R.O.B. leading the way, several rows of NES game images tantalized us. There were many variations, including plenty without R.O.B., but they all looked relatively alike.
I don’t know if I’d call it my favorite poster ever, but it was certainly the one that I tacked up the most often. Over the course of adolescence, I probably hung a dozen of those babies on my bedroom walls. It was almost to the point where the real thrill of a new Nintendo-related acquisition was getting another poster to tack up.
I’m not sure how to end an article like this, so here’s that picture of me wearing my homemade Bigg Mixx mask again.
Thank you for reading.