It’s easy to define yourself as a “gamer” when you realize milestones in your life have significant video game associations, but nobody likes to be pigeon-holed, myself included. When people claim I should be buried with a controller or some such joke, it bothers me, because I am a special little snowflake, and I believe I’m much more than my hobby. On the other hand, my first great crush and my first “real” girlfriend are both immortalized by renamed protagonists on old saves for Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 8 (and, Heather, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry about Sephiroth shivving you. I didn’t know!). I’ve had relationships with friends defined by Marvel vs. Capcom 2 win records. And if I mention my college years without getting into a long discussion about Super Smash Bros Melee, there is a good chance I’ve been replaced by a replicant.
Perhaps out of fear of this timeline dominating my future, my parents did not allow me to own a Gameboy until I was 15. The excuse (“You’re just making excuses, mom!”) went something like, “Bobby, you play video games so much as is, we’re afraid that you’ll play them all the time with a Gameboy.” At the time, I hated every word in this meaningless, trite parental excuse. As an adult? Holy cow, yes, that is completely accurate. I used to play my NES and SNES with another, separate television on behind me blaring The Simpsons while I stomped around the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s absurd, and a gentle reminder that 90% of being an adult is looking back on anything you did as a child, and claiming that any mother (but your own) that would allow such a thing must be a terrible parent.
Though, in the immortal words of the Fresh Prince, “parents just don’t understand.” I didn’t want a Gameboy so I could escalate my video game playing into a full waking coma; I wanted a Gameboy so I could play Gameboy games. It’s an unusual “gamer culture” thing that I’ve never understood: the console wars. I didn’t buy a Playstation (1) because I no longer believed in Nintendo, I just wanted to play Final Fantasy 7 (and, coincidental to this article, Mega Man 8). I didn’t get an Xbox 360 to join the Microsoft Revolution, I just wanted to mow down zombies with a shopping cart. And the Xbox One looked like the dumbest thing ever created from its introduction, but, God help me, I will follow Killer Instinct straight to hell for another chance at rad Ice Alien vs. Raptor battles (and, in my defense, I did dodge that system until Riptor was announced. I have standards). So, yeah, I never gave a damn about Gameboy’s unparalleled portability or amazing puke-smeared graphics, I just wanted to play through that sweet Gameboy library that Nintendo Power was bragging about every month. There was a sequel to Kid Icarus that I could never know!
I had a few flirtations with the Gameboy, chief among them was when my dad was painting his new home and everything electronic (fun) was disconnected, and I was allowed to borrow my friend’s Gameboy and his copy of Metroid II: Return of Samus. As a result, to this day, the smell of fresh paint makes me want to commit genocide against alien lifeforms. Final Fantasy Adventure was another biggie that I had to play, and was able to experience it secondhand through that same friend. If I had a resume in fifth grade, it would have proudly extolled my ability to decipher the “figure 8 palm tree” riddle when everyone else was Mosesing around the desert forever.
Salvation finally arrived in something no one would have ever expected: the Super Gameboy: a “large” cartridge for your Super Nintendo that allowed one to play Gameboy games on a television in a randomly chosen, limited color palette. All of the disadvantages of the Gameboy, with none of the portable advantages! And, finally, a way for me to play Gameboy games and keep my parents content. To this day, it would take a written statement from Miyamoto himself to convince me this device wasn’t made exactly for me.
And my first Gameboy game was Mega Man V.
(Finally, he’s going to start actually talking about the game… Nope!)
While I had never been allowed a Gameboy, the same was not true for the adults in my life. My maternal grandfather was always a man fond of games (first member of my family to own an Atari due to his crippling bout with Pac-Man fever). Granddad taught me how to play chess at four, mainly so he’d have an opponent that wasn’t sick of him, and if there’s a genetic component to my obvious addiction, I’d claim he’s the origin. He also obtained a Gameboy some Christmas not too far from launch, as the extended family was experiencing “Tetris dreams” and wanted another one of us to gooble gobble at. For a time, and that time would be 1990 to present, my mother’s side of the family was fairly obsessed with Tetris. My mother didn’t allow a Gameboy in her house, but anytime she was visiting her parents, somehow one found a way to her hands. Perhaps her own Gameboy restriction was not made exclusively with me in mind…
Perhaps because I liked games with a clear win state, Tetris never really did anything for me (Not to say I never enjoyed it, but I didn’t dream about it, while I can literally describe to you a dream I had about Super Metroid twenty years ago [it mostly involved attempting to space jump out of lava “in real life”][it was horrifying]). This was important, as I was allowed to use my grandfather’s Gameboy on long family car trips, presumably because to not allow that would be akin to child abuse, and it wasn’t until I had my own Gameboy library (one game) that I could truly enjoy such a privilege. One Gameboy-based recurring trip was a journey to Willow Valley in Lancaster, PA.
I never understood the Willow Valley vacation, but this is likely because the entire “point” of the outing was pretty much antithetical to my complete existence. For those of you that are unaware, Lancaster is the local heart of Amish country, and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, the Amish are a people that live their lives nearly completely devoid of electronics. Please view this documentary for further details. It was true then, and it’s true now, I would have an easier time joining a cult that believed one could gain sustenance from licking the sidewalk than joining an Amish community. Suffice it to say, while I enjoyed being with my family and staying at a five star hotel for a few days, the average Amish experience (Quilt shopping! Beard gawking! Finding a copy of Bibleopoly!) left me cold.
Allow me to outline exactly what I remember from our multiple trips to Willow Valley:
- The trip was about three hours. Round trip: The entire span of my childhood.
- There was a pool that allowed one to swim from inside the hotel to outside. It was, for whatever reason, never open when we were there. Never.
- The buffet was pretty alright.
- Shockingly, despite all the shopping opportunities, there was not a single decent electronics store in all of Amish Country.
- The hotel arcade featured four games: three were completely forgettable (sports, hunting, racing trifecta) and the fourth was World Heroes 2 Jet. Despite having spent a lot of time in arcades as a youth (… and adult), this was the only place on Earth I ever saw this game in the wild. It was, without hyperbole, the only reason I looked forward to ever returning to Willow Valley.
Number six is number five, aka Mega Man V, my Gameboy game that I was allowed for a few days to actually play in a portable manner. One way or another, the downside of the Willow Valley trip was that basically nothing was centrally located, so everything, and I mean everything, required hopping back into the car or on to a tour bus to get anywhere, and couple that with the travel time involved in just getting there, and, well, let’s say I burned through a number of Stardroids as well as batteries.
Without exaggeration, to this day, my greatest memory of Lancaster is the backseat of my grandparents’ car and Mega Man V in all its pale green glory.
(Oh man, he’s back on the topic of the actual game! I bet he’s actually going to…. ‘fraid not!)
As my first Gameboy game, and a member of a very small collection (eventually including Final Fantasy Adventure, Tetris, Wario Land, Pokémon Blue, and Pokémon Gold), you’d expect my copy of Mega Man V would be safe and living in a prized part of my collection, but, no, my copy of Mega Man V had somehow been lost by the time I started “inventorying” my collection. To be clear, for a number of years, I didn’t really think too much of my growing pile of video game cartridges, and just left them all in my “playroom” and grabbed whatever I wanted to play when it surfaced. It wasn’t until my college years, and when I effectively had “my own place” for the first time in my life, that I started to really sit down and put all my games into a “collection”. At that time, Mega Man V was missing, and, considering it was one of the few games I could remember actually taking out and about, I assumed it had just become wedged into a car seat somewhere, and that was that, it was lost, the end.
And don’t get me started about, “Oh, I guess I’ll just have the game again when Mega Man Mania for Gameboy Advance drops.”
A few years later, our first Electronics Boutique opened in my hometown. I was already friends with one clerk there, and quickly became friends with the entire staff, as, let’s be real, I had nowhere else to be. One night, I noticed Mega Man V on the shelves, and bought it. Approximately ten minutes later, I discovered that it was a mislabeled copy of Mega Man I, and wound up returning it to a very contrite clerk whom I would mock relentlessly for the following decade about trying to sell fake games. I’m a horrible person, but I really wanted a copy of Mega Man V back in my life!
Sometime later than that, I finally found another copy without much fanfare at an EB that was clearing its stock of Gameboy games. In all honesty, I likely barely played that copy of Mega Man V, it was more about having that game back again more than anything. Granted, it wasn’t “my” copy, but it was good to know it’s available and there with Tiny the Mewtwo and Bob the Hero of the Mana Tree again.
Well before all that, my grandfather, holder of the Gameboy, had a stroke on Mother’s Day… I want to say 2000, but that might not be correct. Thereabouts. My grandfather survived, but the right side of his body was paralyzed. He struggled against it in all things, but Gameboy just wasn’t working out. At some point, he packed up his Gameboy in its carrying case with all his games, tucked it away, and put that all behind him. Later, I tried to rig an emulator on his computer so he could play Tetris easily with one hand, but, in the end, he didn’t seem to enjoy it, and that was that. Gaming, like so many things in his life, was over for him.
A little over a decade later, and fifteen days after his wife passed, my grandfather died. Within the span of less than a month, both of my mother’s parents were gone. My mother was devastated (and if I’m being honest here, nearly four years later, she still is). My mother was an only child, and so am I, so, for all intents and purposes, it was up to me to sort through the material possessions accumulated over a pair of lifetimes that combine to 180 years. There was a lot of stuff. Protip: please, just throw out greeting cards you receive, your kids will thank you. And somewhere, buried deep in a closet, was the old familiar Gameboy carrying case I had dragged all over Lancaster.
And in that case was Tetris, Dr. Mario, 4 in 1 Fun Pack (featuring Chess), and Mega Man V.
My life isn’t defined by video games.
My soul might be.
FGC #3 Mega Man V
- System: Gameboy (Super Gameboy!)
- Number of Players: 1
- Can recite the proper order for Robot Master disposal? This is one of those weird ones where there isn’t a perfect loop, presumably due to the 4 then 4 style. That said, nearly the entire cast is weak to Rock’s Rocket Punch, and kind of makes “bothering” moot.
- Is there something sexist about how Venus’s weakness is Mars? Probably not
- Proud of myself for not making a Uranus/Deep Digger joke? Yes
- Did You Know? This is one of the few games to feature Tango, Mega Man’s cat. While I understand the popularity of Rush the Robodog, I refuse to believe more people want to see Beat the Birdbot than Tango, the cat that can turn into a buzzsaw of unending destruction. Actually, that’s a redundant description for a cat.
- Would I play again? I played through this again in its entirety just to write this article, and I just played the game previously about a year ago when it was released on 3DS. Okay, once a year doesn’t sound that often, but trust me, it means something.
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Mortal Kombat Trilogy for the N64. Now there’s a game where no philosophy is necessary! Please look forward to it!