Popo could not remember a time when this was not his life.
Winters were cold in Popo’s village. A chilling frost blew over the land, and the once verdant greens of his happier days gave way to an icy white that left nothing but death in its wake. What few, precious vegetables had been harvested were collected and stored for the long winter, hopefully enough to last until Spring, hopefully enough to stave off death.
The arrival of the condor was the worst day of Popo’s life even before it came to define his existence. The children were playing, building snowmen and imprinting angels, when the shadow of real wings appeared. Cries were heard all around, not of fear of the bird itself, but what it represented, and the repercussions of its dastardly act. The condor stole all of the food in the village, every last crop, and now life had gone from “difficult” to “unsustainable”. No more would the children play, for how could they? The young and old alike knew the darkness that was waiting for them, and without provisions, it would be there before the thaw. Hell, now it seemed that glimpsing the full moon may be an impossible goal.
Popo didn’t have much, but he had what he needed. A heavy coat, thick shoes, a wooden mallet (used for cookery back in happier days): this would be all he would take on his venture to reclaim his village’s vegetables. He would climb that icy mountain, and steal back the food, nay, hope that the cowardly condor had pilfered. He didn’t do it for glory (which, he may admit, was tempting), nor for the food itself (as one of the heartiest villagers, he might have survived on what meager crumbs remained), but for his people. For the elders that had raised him up from a babe, for his friends who had supported his endeavors, and most of all, for the children, who had no future without the vittles atop that mountain.
Popo nearly left alone, but he was joined by Nana at the last moment. Nana had all the same provisions as Popo… well, nearly the same, her parka was more of a pink than blue… and, while many claimed “a girl” would simply slow Popo down, Popo welcomed Nana with open arms. This would be a long, tireless journey, and companionship would be welcome. There, at the base of that first mountain, they vowed to support each other, but if ever there was peril, if ever there was a danger that would threaten to destroy them both, but one could be saved, the way was clear: someone had to survive this expedition, so leaving a man, or woman, behind may be that price. With steely determination, and a mutual understanding of their own mortality, Nana and Popo, the Ice Climbers, scaled the mountain, hammers gripped tightly in their mittened hands.
The mountain was a place of wondrous creatures, both amazing and deadly. The topi appeared to be an unfathomably fuzzy yeti, but its ability to undo the ice chiseling efforts of Nana & Popo labeled it as a threat. At times, perhaps as a result of snow blindness, Popo believed the topi to resemble blue seals, but Nana never corroborated these sightings. A bird that Nana nicknamed The Nitpicker often taunted the duo with its flight and endless mobility. Popo could not stand this bird, and, believing it to be a crony of the condor that had imperiled his loved ones, often struck it from the sky with a mighty jump and an even mightier swing of his hammer. This bird carried no foodstuffs, but its defeat did ease Popo’s nerves.
At times, it seemed that the mountain itself was on that blasted condor’s side. Icicles would form and fall with near no warning, and in the most inconvenient of places. It’s a small wonder the Ice Climbers didn’t acquire any new holes in their parkas (or heads). Worst of all, whenever Nana and Popo dawdled, a created of pure malevolence appeared. This animal was a towering polar bear, somehow equipped with shorts and sunglasses, that could cause an avalanche with the shallowest of leaps. Anyone left at the base of the mountain when this white bear started its assault… well… Popo didn’t like to think about it.
After much trepidation, Nana and Popo reached the apogee, and encountered the dreadful beast of their nightmares. It would be wrong to recount an epic battle, hammer against talon silhouetted against an icy winter sunset. No, at this point the pair just wanted the deed done, so Popo leapt, recaptured the eggplant, and hurried back to the village. It was laborious, it was treacherous, some even claimed it was suicidal, but Nana and Popo did return, vegetables in hand, and all was well.
Except the job was not done. By the calculations of the village accountants, a mere 3.1% of the village’s crops had been recovered. That condor was hiding more food on other mountains, and, having already proven their courage and skill, Nana and Popo were tasked with retrieving every last gourd and green.
Each mountain was more difficult than the last. Some peaks featured icy trails that seemed to push Popo back as he advanced. Other cliffs required Nana to balance herself on the clouds themselves for footing, if only for a short time. The white bear’s pursuit allowed no time for even the briefest of respites. The topi grew in number, their continuous compulsion to impede the twosome’s rise sapping whatever optimism they once had.
Despite it all, Nana and Popo conquered mountain after mountain, besting the condor each time, until it became a second nature for both of them. It was a difficult climb, but it had come to be almost comforting in its repetition. The Ice Climbers came to know their foes better than their friends in the village. None of the creatures on these mountains were pleasant, mind you, but they were familiar, and, like the snow that brought peace in the form of tranquility or death, they were a part of each other’s world. Finally, Popo retrieved every last eggplant, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, corn, turnip, pumpkin, napa, potato, and mushroom, and ventured back from the final mountain.
And Popo wept, for there were no more peaks to conquer.
The village was saved, but Nana and Popo could no longer go home again. The mountains had not claimed their life, but it had claimed their lives. As Spring came, and the time of parkas receded, the legendary Ice Climbers ventured back to the mountains, this time not to scale the heights, but to build a home, to build a new life there, at the base of the cliffs that had brought them together. No one else would understand, no one else could grasp what they had been through. They would be together there, forever, and if that condor tried his same tricks again next Fall? Well, twin hammers would be ready and willing to climb.
FGC #10 Ice Climber
- System: Nintendo Entertainment System
- Number of Players: 2 players, simultaneous, which is always nice.
- Favorite Ice Climber Vegetable: Potato
- So it’s come to this, Ice Climber fanfic? Yes. It was either that or my stunning creation: the Ice Climber theme song.
- Is this “Ice Climber Theme Song” just the Clayfighter theme song, but with the words “Ice Climbers” in place of “Clayfighter”? …. Yes.
- Did you know? Ice Climber was the pack-in game for the NES in some areas of Europe. This is exactly why the Master System is so popular over there.
- Would I Play Again? %^$ no.
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Lucha Libre Heroes Del Ring. I’m not even sure that’s a real game, ROB. Are your language subroutines degrading or something? I think you might need a diagnostic. Please look forward to it!