Off the top of my head, I can list a vast quantity of high profile gaming moments that everyone seems to have been affected by in their formative gaming years- Final Fantasy VI’s opera scene, the final battle with Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat, any occurrence beginning with ‘the death of’; there are so many definitive events that people remember because of their magnitude within their games’ worlds or how abruptly they sideswiped the player. This doesn’t change their impact. Heck, I have one of those moments tattooed on my leg it had such relevance to me.
What people don’t always actively take into account is that there are so many smaller beats that meant a lot to gamers for a wide variety of reasons. Video games are established to illicit some kind of emotion or reaction from those participating in what they have to offer. Even through the memories of Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger ripping at my heartstrings, I started to reflect on moments that stood out to me that may not stand out to the community at large and why they still remained so prominent in my retrospective eye.
So feel free to check out some of my personal remembrances of times past! They may not be industry shattering, but they are definitely a glimpse into my gamer inner workings.
Clock Tower – Sony Playstation – 1995 – KILL KILL KILL
In the grand scale between Brad Vickers and Chris Redfield, I’d say I fall basically in the middle. I get scared fairly easily, but I really enjoy it and while a solid scare used to stick with me for days, I pretty easily shrug them off at this point. I still vividly remember, though, when Clock Tower decided that survival horror was going to be my top genre (outside of RPGs, of course).
After escaping from the Scissorman, a spectre from her past who has started another killer spree right before her eye, poor Jennifer scours the office building that her foster guardian works in to find sanctuary. When she happens upon the computer lab, lined with monitors held aloft on tables against the wall, it can happen that she runs into her nemesis. Slowly, he advances. With each step, his giant blades clash a metallic cadence, and with each snap- a monitor flickers to life with one word in bold letters: KILL. KILL. KILL.
The moment is certainly not the creepiest I’ve ever witnessed in a game, but it was the first that really creeped me out and that I felt was set up to be cinematically effective outside of the usual RPG fare that focused on that kind of thing.
(begins at 9:56, in case the clip doesn’t start at the right spot)
Persona: Revelations/Shin Megami Tensei Persona – Sony Playstation/Playstation Portable – 1996/2009 – More Than Just A Game
Renting Persona: Revelations as a kid was eye-opening enough as it was. I wholeheartedly blame that game, terrible translation and all, for my love of all things Atlus. If it weren’t for the opening scenes, though, I’m not entirely sure I would have been as hooked as I was. Admittedly, though, every Persona game’s introduction to the demon elements of the game tend to be strong and memorable.
Opening in a classroom with a group of students, the audience is introduced to the “Persona” summoning game that has become popular at St. Hermelin High School. The kids banter back and forth, making bets and challenging each other as to how scared they are or whether they are going to see a spirit or not. The event takes a turn, though, when supernatural things do start to happen and what they thought was just a fun game has now turned them into last hope to save their city- and the rest of the world.
While a little stilted in the original PSX dialogue, the game set everything up perfectly to resonate with me. I had never seen a modern day setting in an RPG before, and the kids talking to each other was easy for me to relate to, being around that age myself. Now, twenty years later, this is still one of the most memorable moments in gaming to me.
(begins at 1:24, in case the clip doesn’t start at the right spot)
Suikoden – Sony Playstation – 1995 – You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Castle
Suikoden appeals to me in a number of ways. The music is unique, the story is interesting, and you get to collect a double decker bus full of people to train and bolster your resistance against the evil Scarlet Moon Empire. One major piece of the puzzle in each game in the series is the castle that you get, one way or another.
In the original game, this is Toran Castle, a structure that once contained an undead dragon that needed to be vacated with force. Once the inhabitant is gone, however, it makes for a fine base of operations for Tir McDohl’s Liberation Army. As you travel the world, you convince other people of your cause, and they happily join your merry band. Whether they can swing a sword like an arena champion or run an inn with maximum efficiency, their aid is imperative to gather the 108 Stars of Destiny.
What amazed me was while the inside of my castle was developing slowly but surely, every so often I would come back to a cutscene showing off my new digs. At first glance, it would look like the usual home sweet home I had come to love. After a while, though, there would be an addition here or a new touch there. As I approached my castle for the final time, a beautiful banner lay against its outer walls, declaring that this was indeed the base of the Liberation. It was such an amazing moment that was so small but made me feel like I had accomplished something with all of my side trips and ventures to find every last Star.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors – Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo – 1993 – The Opening Title and Music
If you’ve ever listened to me talk video games at length, you know my love of Zombies Ate My Neighbors is boundless. It is my game to go to when I need to be picked up or when I just feel like bouncing around in a familiar set of pixels and sound. When I first got the game on the Sega Genesis, I honestly didn’t know what to think of it. I hadn’t exactly hit my horror stride, but it didn’t seem to be terribly scary. Nervous and excited all at once, I plugged the cartridge into my system, clicked the power button and grasped the controller in my hand as the Konami logo slid across my screen.
Before I even hit the start button, I knew I would enjoy what I was about to partake in. The rotating scarlet spiral spun around the center of the screen as the title wavered into visibility from a mess of jumbled pixels. The ‘Start’ option flashed as it waited for me to press its namesake button in my hand. The music- some foreign mix of synthesized bass and shrill tones along with what feels like a Surf City feel- lulled me into an anticipatory state.
It may seem like I’m being a bit dramatic and for the sake of writing these moments, I kind of am. When I start this game, though, I still get those feelings. It’s not nostalgia; not entirely, at least. It’s excitement at the goofy and sincere homages to old horror movies and other tropes that I’m about to play through. Running around as Zeke and Julie as they try to rescue their neighbors from the ridiculous rogue’s gallery of Dr. Tongue’s forces is still just as exciting an adventure to me as it was when I was a kid.
(…oh no. No, this is just the whole video. Just let it wash over you for a minute.)
Friday the 13th – Nintendo Entertainment System – 1989 – Finding Momma Voorhees
Let’s face it. The Friday the 13th game is going to come up a lot if you hang around me in a gaming sense for long. It’s not a great game. It’s definitely some weird amalgamated group of horror concepts pasted on top of Camp Crystal Lake and the franchise. I still play through it once a year. No shame here!
When I was a kid, I remember someone telling me that there was a floating head somewhere in the caves. I didn’t believe it- the main villain is Jason, why would there be a severed head in the caves attacking people? Shortly after this was when I started watching through the movies, and I realized that the head they were talking about had to have been Mrs. Voorhees. It all made sense (in only the way that this game could, bear with me here). Still having the means to play the game, I booted it up and started a mad search through the caverns of the camp to find this long hidden secret.
Not ironically, this was also the first time I remember beating the game. Not only was Mrs. Voorhees’ head in the caves, but she revealed a powerful item each time she was defeated- the machete, the sweater, and finally, the pitchfork. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this little hidden nod to the films, but I also went and apologized to my friend for calling him a liar in those years.
(begins at 10:36, in case the clip doesn’t start at the right spot)
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed these little moments- and maybe you’ve thought of your own! I do feel like it’s important to remember that not every pertinent moment needs to be widely recognized. That’s not to take away from those other plot points and events, of course. Those are still important to their genres, works, and certainly to their fans. If you want to share some of your own thoughts on my choices or let me know some of your own moments, feel free to leave a comment or engage otherwise!
– Matt a.k.a. “The3rdPlayer”