Friday, January 12, 2007

Madness, Military and otherwise

Outside of the digitally sampled jangling that provides ambience to the shitty carols being pumped out over the grouchy, kid-smacking crowds of holiday shoppers, I have yet this year to hear the sound of sleigh-bells in the snow – though I have heard the meeping grind of graders in the night, so I guess at least a few squeaky-wheel taxpayers are getting their Xmas wishes. My own reaffirmation of the possibility for Christmas Miracles came courtesy of jolly ol’ Saint Nintendo.

I finally got the Wii talking to my wireless internet connection – turns out all highly-designed white boxes can’t automatically speak to each other; my Apple AirPort needed careful introduction – and was busy downloading Virtual Console games, spending my Wii Points like they were going out of style (which they might be, if the contrarian “Wii is a fad” line is correct). Seeing all those old TurboGrafx titles in the shopping channel had me all nostalgic and wistful.

“Oh, man… if they put Military Madness up there, that’d be sooo sweet.”

And lo, it came to pass, in the pre-Christmas week when all was stillness upon the land and nothing was stirring save the new Metal Slug anthology, that Military Madness did once more come to comfort me, at the low-low price of five-odd dollars.

Originally released in 1990, Military Madness (Japanese title: Nectaris; they changed it for North American release to avoid confusion with an organic hippie thirst-quencher that cost seven bucks a bottle) is a turn-based strategy game involving vaguely defined “Axis” and “Allied” armies doing battle for control of the Moon and its valuable resources. One of the best of the medium-core tactics games, I first played MM while working the holidays at the Radio Shack in Westmount Mall. At that time, the ‘Shack was basically panic-dumping shiploads of the already-failed TurboGrafx 16 console at fire-sale prices.

Stacked in a “please, somebody, anybody, shoplift these things away from us” pyramid right at the front of the store, the consoles were marked at something like forty bucks each, and I got a ten-dollar cash spiff every time I managed to unload one (“Seriously, this is the hottest game system right now!”) on some geriatric sucker who wandered in from the Adult Living complex across the road. Since the store in Westmount was the slowest in the city, basically a hearing-aid battery depot, I had lots of time to get addicted to MM, and in a beautiful example of the Circle of Life I took the dirty dough I raked in from all five TG16s I’d managed to sell and bought one of my own.

I was living away from home for the first time, then, and had just begun making my first discoveries in the world of marijuana and alcohol abuse; with the introduction of a videogame system to the living room of my shared University-area house, the picture was complete. Cheapass Imaginus prints (Escher) on the dingy wall (Behr paint no. 3451, “Landlord Beige”) above the fourth-hand sofa, skanky skunkweed ash dribbling out of the “bowl” of a makeshift beer-can pipe (I hadn’t yet bought a bong) onto a pile of uncracked psychology and anthropology textbooks... and me, callow and pimple-faced, still a virgin, clutching a controller in the bright winter light (no curtains), occasionally flapping my hands in stoned excitement over my brilliant successes as a Moon-man warlord.

Sweet holiday memories! Granted, Military Madness – along with every other game ever made – was/is/will be easily available through underground emulation… but there’s something about having it for real, on my television, that makes it more than worth the price of a pint to download. Same for Super Mario 64, and the old NES Ice Hockey, which some friends and I tripped out on for a while. And then there’s Golden Axe, second (well, third, maybe) only to Black Tiger in my high-school class-skipping arcade pantheon. And Space Harrier? “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone! Get ready!” Hahaha! I love that shit! Or Bomberman 93, the craziest-ass party action game that ever came out of Clinton’s first term? And that’s just the stuff available on Wii; what about the XBox Live Arcade, where I picked up…um…Joust, and… GauntletDig Dug

Oh, holy shit. Did I just spend a hundred bucks on archaic gaming? Merry Christmas to me, I guess… [sobs]

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