Well I am back from my honeymoon, recovered from the jetlag, and just finished writing thank you notes to dozens of friends and relatives. Due to my lack of free time and the summer slump in video games, we are taking another trip down memory lane this month. So sit back and enjoy. And if you start complaining about it, remember that I still have a brand new set of knives.
When I was in elementary school, I was the only kid in my class who had neither cable nor a Nintendo. I complained about this no end. My parents never got cable, but eventually I wore them down to the point where one Christmas I finally got a Nintendo. And with that Nintendo came everyone’s favorite combination game of Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers.
I always thought that was a weird combination pack. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I realized Duck Hunt was included so that you would have something to play with the Nintendo light gun. It was in fact the only game I ever played with the light gun. The rest of the time the gun was a handy prop for shooting friends, family, and all sorts of imaginary creatures. I’m sure that other games exist, but I have never seen them. Sort of like the subatomic particles: you’re told they exist, but you only seem to encounter them in very special circumstances.
As we all know the most annoying aspect of Duck Hunt is the dog, who either retrieves your kills or laughs at your failure to shoot the duck. I often wasted my extra bullets trying to put down that obnoxious pooch. And I bet you did too (unless you’re too young to have played Duck Hunt – in which case I don’t want to know because it will make me feel old). I’m sure that there is a version of Duck Hunt out there on the internet that finally lets you give that dog what for. And if there isn’t, there really should be.
But how much can I write about a game where all you do is shoot ducks? Well, I could probably write some more, but it would be cruel to inflict on you. So let’s move on to the deeper (but only slightly) Super Mario Brothers. This is another game that you should know the plot to – plumbers from Brooklyn are sucked into a dimension full of mushrooms, turtles, and bricks you can bash apart surprisingly easily. There, they must rescue a princess from a weird turtle/dinosaur thing that breathes fire. However, the first seven hostages they liberate from Koopa rule are toadstools posing as princesses. Eventually, you do indeed rescue the princess and everything is wonderful – until the next time she’s kidnapped of course.
This game was yet another early indicator that I am not talented in the gaming department. I never got beyond the second of eight worlds without a lot of help. At first I tried using the special pipes that allowed me to skip levels – only to die on the final level. I tried doing it with cheat codes that made me invincible and gave me infinite lives – I got so bored that I gave up around halfway through. Then I combined the two and I was finally able to rescue the princess. Considering the years (yes, years) and money (you think Game Genies and cheat guides grow on trees?) I spent on this effort, it was anticlimactic. Of course, this is true of most Nintendo games. Zelda ended with a kiss on a cheek, and the game started over again. Sometimes you get scrolling text describing what happens in the aftermath. Tetris never even ended.
And yet we keep coming back to these games. Every once in a while, we all pull out our old Nintendo consoles or download them on our computer. Is it the feeling of nostalgia? In part, I’m sure it is. It reminds us of simpler times, when all you had to do was finish memorizing your twenty vocabulary words, and then you were free to play video games until bedtime or your eyes started to bleed, whichever came first. There is great comfort in the familiar. This is why meatloaf is one of the top comfort foods. Of course I hate meatloaf and I’m not terribly fond of Duck Hunt or Super Mario Brothers either. But, I know my taste is not the same as everyone else’s, especially when you consider just how iconic Super Mario Brothers is. So, if you loved those games back then, I bet you’ll still love them now. But for me, the next time I need to take a trip down memory lane I will put Tetris in my Nintendo and eat a big, heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
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