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Text and Violence by liquidcross is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

In living Game Boy Color

Once more, I’ve run out of ideas. So I’m just going to babble for a bit about the Game Boy Color, I suppose.

You already know I was a huge fan of the original Game Boy, but you might be surprised to know that I sold mine off after the spring semester in 1997, as I wasn’t playing it as much anymore (I never brought it to college with me) and I was in sore need of cash (my summer job hadn’t started yet). Of course, this was a foolhardy move, but I wasn’t too smart back then. At least I wisely kept all of my old games! Anyway, I played other video games in the meantime, including finally getting my hands on my own NES, but my fondness for the handheld platform eventually led me to seek a replacement. The Game Boy Pocket was around, but the newfangled Color model sounded far more interesting.

I purchased a GBC early in 1999; a teal one, since that was the least obnoxious color. (I wish they’d kept a classic gray option, or even black like the Game Boy Pocket, but maybe those weren’t “extreme” enough for Nintendo’s “Play It Loud” campaign.) I think I used some leftover money earned during winter break to buy it. Like most folks when they buy a new console, whenever I managed to scrounge up enough money for a new game, I’d often impulse buy. And as you might expect, I bought plenty of crap along with the good stuff. Borrowing friends’ games wasn’t really an option; the only other person I knew back then who owned a Game Boy of any type was my college roommate, who had also bought a Color around the same time that I did. As such, our lending pool was miniscule.

When I picked up the GBC itself, I bought Shadowgate Classic along with it, which was most excellent. I actually enjoyed it more than the NES and PC versions! Later, I purchased Power Quest because I loved the art style and it featured robots beating each other to pieces. Unfortunately, the story mode was unnecessarily archaic crap; super-slow pacing, and a goddamned password save system. I just stuck with quick bouts against the computer; they were fun, but not worth the thirty bucks.

I tried to get my scifi RPG fix with Metal Walker, but I hit a wall about halfway through the game. If I remember correctly, I needed to do a lot of grinding to pass this stumbling block, but I could no longer access a suitable location in which to do so. I just dropped it and played something else instead. I even got NHL Blades of Steel ’99, thinking it would be as fun as the NES game. Nope, not by a long shot. (Fortunately my local Babbage’s had a very lenient return policy at the time.)

Soon my system became home to much better titles, like Warlocked (real-time strategy on the GBC!), and improved NES ports like Crystalis and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. I also traded in my old copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening solely so I could get the enhanced DX version.

Likely the most important game I bought during this time was an RPG featuring a bunch of collectible monsters. I had wanted to see what all of this “Pokémon” hype was about, so I bought Pokémon Blue while my roommate purchased the Red version. We both loved the game, and it later proved incredibly useful during my summer job working at a day camp. Almost all of the kids there were playing Pokémon, and the game served as a bonding tool and a disciplinary one. (“If you stay out of trouble today, I’ll trade and battle Pokémon with you during lunch. If you don’t behave, no dice.”) Sounds silly, I know, but trust me, it was — if you’ll pardon the pun — super effective.

Unlike my earlier folly, I held on to the GBC until the end of its natural lifespan. I didn’t part with it until I acquired a Game Boy Advance on launch day. Since that played all of the old GBC games, and even enhanced a few (like the Legend of Zelda: Oracle duology), I traded in the ol’ teal workhorse.

Years later, I picked up a used GBC once I had replaced my GBA with the newer, backlit SP model…because I discovered Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble no longer worked properly with the platform. (GBA SP units had upside-down cartridge slots, which naturally reversed all of the accelerometer controls in the game.) No sense in owning a game if you can’t even play it, and by that point, GBCs were ridiculously cheap. I might have paid the princely sum of ten bucks for an “atomic purple” (ugh) variation. Eh, who cares.

Playing that GBC was a fun time, indeed, even if some of my games were junky. It rekindled my interest in handheld video games, and brought back many memories of those original Game Boy days. I still have that ugly purple GBC somewhere; I haven’t touched it in probably a decade, but I’ll keep it around just in case. Unlike many of my other hobbies, it doesn’t take up much space, and who knows…maybe when I’m in my fifties, I’ll want to play a few rounds of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble again.

Crowd control

Lately, I’ve begun to have a problem with crowds. I don’t think anyone actually likes them, but in my case, they’re starting to make me feel mildly nervous and/or anxious. It’s not like I feel the need run screaming for the nearest exit, but I just don’t like being in a crowded area for more than a little while. It’s not claustrophia, either; I’ve been in packed elevators recently with no problem. I can also handle things if I’m on the move, like wandering through busy stores, casinos, or cities.

I started to notice this problem off an over the past few years when I’d attend mass gatherings like metal shows (more on that in a minute), conventions, and even Free Comic Book Day. Last year I thought it was just other stuff annoying me, but now I’m not so sure. That’s why I didn’t work at my local shop for FCBD this year. I dropped by for a bit later in the afternoon to see my friends, but that’s about all I could muster. Feeling nervous is a world of difference from rolling ones’ eyes at turbonerds.

This is immensely irritating to me, especially in the case of metal shows, which I thoroughly enjoy. Oddly, the issue here is a unique one, as I deal with some odd symptoms that don’t present themselves in other crowded situations. About an hour into a show, I start feeling itchy, and my guts start roiling. No nausea, thankfully, but still uncomfortable. This lasts until the show ends; once I’m outside, the feelings stop immediately. Couple that with my spinal and foot problems, which often flare up when I’m standing around for five to six hours, and you can understand my predicament. To be honest, the pain in my back and feet is much more annoying than the other stuff, but it’s still no fun when they’re all mixed together. When it gets to the point that my physical ailments are detracting and often overpowering my enjoyment of the show, I want to snap.

I’m sure some of you are screaming “Just get some help, you idiot!” at me right now, and don’t worry, I’m not against seeking medical assistance. I’m just not sure it’s that serious yet. For the time being, I can deal with it simply by not putting myself in crowded situations. I know I shouldn’t have to give up on things I enjoy, like seeing my favorite bands, but my other health issues are already taking care of that. (And those I have sought treatment for.)

I should be fine for the time being. Fear not, I won’t let something like this spiral out of control! In fact, just talking about it here has made me feel a bit better. Strange how that works, eh?

Bright screen of death

At a recent metal show I attended, I saw something that was both mind-bogglingly stupid and annoying. No, not some fans’ questionable fashion choices. No, not some drunk dude in the pit who thought it would be a good idea to sweat on everybody. (Though I did see plenty of that, thankfully from a distance.)

What I saw were flyers placed all over the venue by members of the event staff. The notes actually encouraged fans to take photos with their cellphones during the show, then quickly share them on Instagram and other social media platforms.

During the show.

You might recognize this as the exact same irritant as people who use their cellphones in theaters during a movie. You’re in a dark room, yet someone’s got a glaring bright screen that’s immediately distracting you from what you paid to see up front. Actually, at shows it’s even worse as the cellphones get right in your field of vision when these dipshits hold them up!

Cellphone photography at concerts has gotten ridiculously out of hand, to the point where it almost ruins every show I go to now. Fans doing this are annoying as hell, and now that venues are actually encouraging it? Fuck that noise. It’s bad enough my health issues are beginning to prevent me from attending shows, but if this cellphone photo promotion bullshit is the new normal, then I won’t miss it much.

My favorite Legend of Zelda game

Most folks’ favorite game from the Legend of Zelda series is one of the true classics, like the original game for the NES or Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Those are both fantastic titles, and the latter is rightfully considered to be one of the best (if not the best) video games of all times. Neither is my preferred Zelda adventure, however. As usual, I walk a different path.

© Nintendo

For decades, my favorite has been The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I very briefly mentioned this in passing in a post about the Game Boy days, but now it’s time for more detail.

I bought a Game Boy in the fall of 1993, but didn’t get Link’s Awakening until my birthday the following year. I would’ve bought it myself, but I was flat broke as a teen, and the few video games I got before then were Mortal Kombat (when I bought the system) and a few Mega Man titles. Priorities, people. Anyway, once I got my hands on Link’s Awakening, I was more than excited; aside from the wow factor of playing a Zelda adventure on a portable system, it was also the first game in the series that I ever owned. I guess it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to latch on to Link’s Awakening no matter what, but fortunately it turned out to be a phenomenal game.

Despite the tiny greenish screen, as Link explored all manner of dungeons and other locales across Koholint island, the game drew me in so much that the outside world faded into the background. The gameplay was great, the story was great, the graphics and music were great, and even the non-player characters were great. Link’s Awakening was loaded with awesome townsfolk and other supporting cast with plenty of personality, and I recall all of them fondly. The clever cameos from other Nintendo properties, like Mario, Kirby, and even Wart, all brought a smile to my face. (Link’s Awakening is also notable for being the only game in which Princess Zelda does not appear. She’s mentioned at the beginning, but that’s it.)

I hung out a lot in the woods behind my house during high school and college, as I enjoyed the solitude. While much of my time was spent just walking the trails or contemplating the universe under a tree, sometimes I’d bring my Game Boy along. In some small way, I felt like I was journeying through the forest of Koholint with Link, albeit sans sword and shield. (My woods also didn’t have any talking owls or wiseass raccoons.) Laugh if you must, but Link’s Awakening was one of those things that helped me during those stretches of depression and self-loathing.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played through Link’s Awakening, both the original version and the DX upgrade, which featured fancy colors and an all-new dungeon. I still remember all of the secrets, hidden items, boss patterns…you name it. There are very few other games that have etched themselves into my memory to such a degree.

If for some reason you’ve never experienced Link’s Awakening yourself, trust me, it’s an underrated gem that completely stands the test of time. Find a copy, and go play it. I’m going to.

Jigglyball

I’ve been spending the better part of a decade trying to forget my college years. Recalling that era almost always brings nothing but sorrow and depression, as I’m reminded of all of the time and money I wasted, not to mention how much of a shitty human being I was.

However, once in a blue moon, I can recall a good memory without any remorse or negativity attached to it. This is one of those tales, as it concerns an event that was as ingenious as it was patently ridiculous. I recalled this randomly one day during lunch, with nothing to trigger it; to quote a famous scientist, “It just…popped in there.”

I am speaking of the brutal sport known as Jigglyball.

First of all…get your minds out of the gutter. It has nothing to do with male anatomy, so don’t be disgusting. In reality, Jigglyball was a game created by myself and three other graphic design students in the art building’s computer lab late one night in 1999. (Yes, there was only one dedicated computer lab for art students back then; scary, huh?) We all spent many hours outside of class in that lab, working hard on projects; it was practically my second home, and I’m sure it was no different for the others.

Anyway, we were working late on a group 3D animation project, I believe. When it came to render the whole scene, we were able to use the entire lab as a render farm, vastly speeding up the process. Regardless, it was going to take at least an hour to complete, and we had to kill time somehow. Surfing the ‘net was out, as every ounce of processing power and bandwidth was being squeezed out of the computers to get the rendering done faster. So instead, we had to come up with other amusements, and using a few random items we found around the lab…Jigglyball was born.

The equipment needed for the game is a magazine (ours was likely a copy of Macworld or Adbusters), a styrofoam cup, and a baseball-sized Jigglypuff stress toy.

art by Ken Sugimori
Yes, the pink singing Pokémon that haunts your nightmares.

I don’t know where the toy came from, or why it was in the lab. Maybe it was mine, because I hated the character and could physically abuse it? I really don’t remember. Jigglypuff was annoying enough in Pokémon Red and Blue, but the creature’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. made me despise the little pink bastard with a vengeance. In fact, one of my 3D animation projects was Jigglypuff singing its trademark song, then getting blown up by a cruise missile. (Not the project we were working on that night, however. I don’t recall what that was; clearly it was overshadowed by our new sport.)

But I digress.

The object of Jigglyball is to knock the cup down using Jigglypuff as a projectile. You roll the magazine into a cone, stuff Jigglypuff in the end like a scoop of ice cream, then fling it from the back of the room towards your target at the front. Here’s the catch: the cup must be held by another person, preferably on top of their head. These rules codified themselves fairly rapidly; somehow, it all just came to us at once, with few permutations necessary to arrive at our final design.

As you might imagine, successfully hitting the target took a lot of practice. More often than not, Jigglypuff smacked into a wall. Once our aim improved a bit, we ended up just hitting the person holding the cup. Eventually, we were able to jai alai that shit across the length of the room with increasing speed and accuracy. Overhand, underhand, and sidearm shots were all legal. This kept us quite amused until the telltale beep from the lead computer let us know that our project was done rendering. We checked it over for errors…then played Jigglyball for another hour. The game soon became a staple for those late-night projects. Sadly, our attempts to establish Jigglyball as a collegiate intramural sport went unfulfilled.

I haven’t played the game since, but it’s ripe for a comeback. (Everything from the ’90s is fair game for that retro-nostalgia shit anyway, right?) I don’t even hate Jigglypuff anymore, but I’d start up the sport again without hesitation. I just need to hunt down another Jigglypuff stress toy, and we’ll be good to go.

Any takers?