There comes a time in every gamer’s experience when you simply cannot power off the console. No matter how many hours you’ve been playing, or how long you’ve gone without eating or a bathroom break, you are compelled to keep going. Forget the cries of family members or your significant other, nothing else matters. The entire world is tuned out and only the game remains.
These marathon sessions can lead long into the night, and eventually you reach the point of no return. The window for shutting down and going to bed has past, and it won’t be too long before the Sun’s pastel rays cast the undeniable reality of daybreak upon you. You’ve come this far, why not take it all the way?
Such was the case the night Miguel and I discovered the little import (at the time) gem Wonder Boy in Monster World. We went over to an acquaintance’s house, someone well into his fifties, who played only import games. Nothing in his collection was domestic, and he boasted one of the most diverse arrays of consoles I had seen up until that time. As if this weren’t enough to get our gamer engines going, he only played RPGs. That’s right, his entire library consisted of nothing else but these most epic of games. The shelves above his game station were graced with rows of Master System, Famicom, and Mega Drive games; all in their respective packaging. Most were still even had their shrinkwrap. Just below the shelf sat a large CD holder, filled with PC-Engine games. To make us even more fevered, he played everything on a PC monitor through RGB. This god’s name was Angelo, and he was what each of us envisioned ourselves being a few decades down the road. It was at his house that I first saw A Link to the Past (swapped with his copy of Super Mario World‘s cart so it would work on his domestic SNES), as well as the incredible Wanderer from Ys. On this particular night, we were to bask in the glory of Wonder Boy’s latest adventure.
Now Miguel wasn’t content to merely watch the game. No, he had to have it. Right then and there. Almost immediately, he began his lobbying effort to convince Angelo to trade or sell it. This wasn’t a futile effort by any means, and I myself had once talked the this older and well-to-do gamer out of his Turbo Grafx-16. But Miguel was a brilliant brainwasher, and was quite capable of getting what he wanted. He used reverse psychology in almost all his deals, making the potential seller think that they had less than they really did, thus convincing them to deal it away.
“You’ve beaten it?” He asked Angelo.
“Just last night.” Was his response. Already I could hear the noose tightening.
“So why not trade it for something you haven’t played yet?”
“I don’t know,” Angelo responded. “It cost me quite a bit.”
Miguel always came prepared, and from his backpack he whipped out several RPGs for all systems. Although none were new, the sheer number of games he had brought was very impressive. Heck, there were even a few PC games, and neither of us had a computer at the time. He was like the merchant from Resident Evil 4, right where you needed him to be with exactly what you were looking for. Yes, Miguel would have made one hell of a drug dealer.
Angelo looked over his wares and feebly tried to fight back. “This game is very new. It hasn’t even come out in the U.S. yet.”
Miguel cut him off at the pass. “So take a couple of games and we’ll call it even.”
Needless to say, he went home that night with his minty fresh copy of Monster World. Upon our return to his house, a close inspection of the game showed us that it contained something rather interesting. We used to buy our mail-order games from a company called Game Cave, which you may remember used to have some awesome ads in the back of GameFan Magazine. They were often packaged with small photocopied guides that told you how to pass certain areas of the game. Wonder Boy in Monster World had a guide for the notorious Sphinx and his questions. While it didn’t give you an exact answer, the little screen shots it had made finding the right one a question of matching the symbols with what was on your TV screen.
So we booted the game up and were wowed by the lush visuals and amazing soundtrack. This was one action/RPG that could not be played for a few hours and then shut off. No, this one sucked you in and held you down. We were entranced, and when I finally got around to looking at my watch, it was 2AM.
“Man, I should be off.” I told Miguel, standing up to stretch.
“Dude, you can’t leave now. We’re almost at the Sphinx and I need you to help me with the questions. Hand me that guide.”
I really didn’t want to leave, and this was the invitation I was looking for. I handed him the sheet and sat back down. I watched him battle through the pyramids for a while, and he gave me the control pad and went to the closet to get a notebook and pen. He was going to go through each question, one by one, using the guide as a reference. It would be a painstakingly long and drawn-out process. I returned my attention to the game, and while he was tossing copies of EGM and GameFan around in the rat’s nest he called a closet, I entered the Sphinx’s room and began to press buttons without really even noticing. Hey, it was 2AM! Miguel turned around just as I answered the last question.
“What the hell did you do?” He dropped his notebook.
I stared at the screen and then glanced over at him. “Um, I think I just passed the Sphinx.”
In my mindless button mashing, I had actually answered all the questions…correctly. Maybe the stars were aligned, maybe the Force was with me, who knows. All I know is that I had defeated the language barrier, and in a sleep-depraved stupor at that!
For the rest of the night, we took turns playing, alternating between the control pad and a box of Kaboom! cereal. When one of us got too sleepy to play, we’d nudge the other and trade for the cereal box. This went back and forth until about 7:30AM, when Miguel finally beat the last boss. We struggled to sit through the ending, and then I went home to sleep. It took me about two days to get my body back to its normal sleep rhythm, but it was well worth it. I got to play one of the greatest action/RPG games of the time, months before it would hit U.S. shelves, and saw it through to the end. Even the linguistic horror that is the Japanese written language could not stop our determination and resolve. And we did it all on a single box of cereal.
Sometimes a game deserves that kind of attention. The next time one comes along, I’ll just remember to bring something better to eat.