Some of my earliest memories are of me playing the family NES. We didn’t have any fancy SNES in our house, despite this being the mid 90’s. There, in the musty, oft flooded basement, I spent my time grinding lives into a fine digital powder through the futile difficulty of games such as Super Mario Bros (and Duckhunt), Super Mario Bros. 3, 1954, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Kid Icarus and several other games that I remember, but cannot put a name to. I don’t think I ever beat any of these games as a young child, even with the help of my older sisters who had allegedly beaten some of them. Even though I was not victorious there were countless hours spent holed up in our dank basement on crumbling, ancient furniture with the illuminating glow of the television display.
This was the crucible in which my gaming skills were forged. Death after death — and many seemingly impossible feats and daredevil stunts — gave me the resolve and skills that I took with me for the rest of my life. I think it also gave me an appreciation for losing, as it only made me want to win more with each defeat. I wanted that flag, and that new item, and to get to the next level! I loved that NES, even though by the time I was able to play it, the system was on its last legs and glitched up or simply refused to work more often than not.
When I was somewhere around six or seven, my Mom gave me a Sega Genesis along with some games for me and the family. I started out with Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition, Ecco the Dolphin 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I remember that Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition was the first video game I ever beat by myself and how I felt after that final triumphant boat encounter with the rival velociraptor at the end of the game; how excited I was that I had won. I must have jumped up and down, hooting and hollering about my victory. I probably ran around pretending to be a raptor all day that day. Okay, well, I might have done that anyway. But still, it was a possibly one of the best moments in my gaming career: that first taste of total victory over the computer.
More victories came, in time. I beat Jurassic Park: RE with Grant, escaping after the showdown on the boat with the T-Rex at the end of his scenario, then Sonic 2, and even Ecco the Dolphin 2 and Golden Axe. Don’t ask me how I beat Golden Axe as a child. It took a long time to master that, and I still have nightmares about trying to beat Death Adder. I remember beating the Avengers beat ’em Up, sometimes with my best friend, and beating him over and over again in Primal Rage (I’m a good friend). Of course, some games were insurmountable for my skill at the time. I never beat the X-Men game (I still don’t think I can, that game is like a nightmare), and those NES games were still beyond my ability when the system decided that it wanted to work.
I am sure I became a stubborn, neurotic egotist due to gaming, but I don’t think I would have myself any other way. I learned it is OK to lose, that I could often learn more from defeat than from victory, even though it didn’t feel as good. I learned to be better, to be the best, the best that ever was! Sure enough, there was a game that came out right around this time that literally sang this message into my soul.
Pokemon was probably the game that cemented my passion for gaming. I never had a chance. There were dinosaurs, there was exploration and discovery. I could take it with me anywhere AND play with all my friends! It was the greatest thing ever — as far as I was concerned — and it taught me a deep appreciation for reading and math (even though I am still terrible at math). And the card game…. Oh yes, I was in deep. My oldest sister has told me time and time again how she regrets getting me that Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. I had all the Pokemon games from the first generation before long, with an extra copy of Yellow Version to boot. Oh, the nostalgia! And the Rumors!
Do you remember when Generation II (Gold and Silver) were being teased in Japan? The Internet was still young then, and no one knew what they were looking at. Most kids couldn’t read Japanese and all we had to go on were a few scarce pictures and teasers of new Pokemon. But we didn’t expect a new Pokemon game, we thought these were hidden in the game somewhere. Obviously Maril, or Pikablu as we called it, was an evolution of Pikachu and you needed to do all this crazy stuff to make your Pikachu evolve.
People found “glitch cities” where Charizard and all the other starters could attain fourth forms and you got these by doing ridiculous things like beating the Elite 4 a hundred times with Rattata; which, at the time, seemed plausible because of the weird tricks you had to do to get Mew without Gameshark, or the MissinNo trick. Remember the truck by the St. Ann? Did you go to the Game Corner to get its keys or try to use Strength? Yeah, we all tried the crazy rumors, but sure enough the games came out here.
I actually got to play a little early because my neighbor got an import of the Japanese Silver Version. I picked Totodile, of course, and I was blown away by the game, even though I had no idea what was going on. “Look at all these new Pokemon!” I must have squealed to friends and family, triumphantly showing off the new monsters on my PC and team and bragging about it to anyone who cared. Of course, I never got far in the Japanese Silver because I had no idea what was happening, so I was still relatively unspoiled when the game came out here a few months later. Generation 2 of Pokemon is still my favorite and their remakes, Heart Gold / Soul Silver, are probably tied as my #2 game of all time.
Eventually, I had all the Generation 1 and 2 Pokemon games. I even completed the Pokedex in my Blue Version. I continued to play the old games well into the Gameboy Advanced era (I didn’t get a GBA Pokemon until Fire Red). I can’t even guess how many hours I poured into those games because I started them over so many times. I just loved playing through them. I still do, truth be told. The Pokemon franchise is probably my favorite series next to Monster Hunter, but that a story for a different day.