Virtually Overlooked Week: Eric's picks

Eric Caoili
E. Caoili|06.14.07

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Virtually Overlooked Week: Eric's picks

Virtually Overlooked has taken over Wii Fanboy! All this week, members of the staff will be outlining their personal picks for future Virtual Console releases.

It was 1994 when Ahmad poignantly rapped, "Back in the days, when I was young; I'm not a kid anymore, but some days, I sit and wish I was a kid again." If scientists could only harness the wasted enthusiasm of our nostalgia, our cities would never want for electricity.

Remember the peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches? Or the summer swims with the sun on your back, tanning your skin golden brown? The days you could set your heart on a girl you hardly knew at any moment, whether it be a winsome classmate or the clear-skinned brunette from Noxzema's hokey commercials? The nights when TGIF meant new episodes of Full House and Family Matters, and not after-work casual dining?

Each weekly batch of Virtual Console releases is a reminder of my idle youth. Some games I recognize only from magazine previews I read with eager eyes over a decade ago, and others are familiar friends -- titles I've been meaning to catch up with to recount years past. The whole gang hasn't quite made it to the reunion yet, but that doesn't mean we can't trade old stories about them in the meantime. "Sometimes, I still sit and reminisce ..."

Rescue: The Embassy Mission - NES

I remember sitting in the back seat of our car, completely oblivious to my mother and aunt's conversation up front as I tried to take in every printed word of Rescue: The Embassy Mission's manual. It was already dark by the time we started driving home from the mall, but passing traffic casted just enough light into our Toyota Corolla for me to hold up and read everything I had pulled out of the game's cardboard box. Even with strained eyes, I could tell that Rescue was going to rock my Alvin and the Chipmunks socks right off.

My Cobra-Commander-helmeted SWAT team never questioned the tactical abilities of their nine-year-old captain, and they paid for that loyalty with their lives. Seasoned officers in peak physical condition fell to their deaths after mistimed rappelling maneuvers, recruits who scored top marks at the academy for their aim and reflexes suddenly found themselves outgunned by two-bit terrorists, and the blood of good men stained the streets due to lack of proper support -- all under my watch. It was a fantastic game, through and through.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - Game Boy

During our 6th grade lunch recess, right next to the bicycle rack where we used to conduct mock battles as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Billy Behrman assured me that he would only be borrowing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for just a week. As collateral, he let me hold onto his Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat which, as I complained to Billy the very next day, was "the Butt King of Butt Mountain." Little did I know that I would be playing host to this bottom-ruling monarch for not "just a week" as we'd originally agreed, but for the rest of my entire life. Yes, I'm sure it's no surprise to you at all -- I never saw my copy of Link's Awakening again.

It wasn't until twelve years later, when I found a cartridge of the game abandoned on the sidewalk outside of a Chinese restaurant, that I was able to see what waited beyond Koholint Island's sixth dungeon. Every green-and-gray-pixel moment was perfect, validating my grade-school memories of it as a portable masterpiece. I swear though, if I ever see Billy Behrman on the street, I am going to sock that dude in the face, for really reals.

Mutant League Football - Sega Genesis

I made an art form out of slide tackling in Nintendo World Cup, abusing the move to the point where my character seemed stuck aslant as he made his way across the pitch. You could say that it was my preferred mode of transportation. Similarly, in NHL '94, I took every opportunity to body check opposing players against the board walls, sometimes even putting the game in jeopardy by leaving the goal cage unattended to chase a straggler.

So you can imagine the joy that surged through me when I spotted Mutant League Football's arrival on Blockbuster's gray shelves. Angels sang "hallelujah" as I carried my rental out of the store. Younger boys cleared my path and saluted, recognizing the game in my grip. And later that night, my mom seized the cartridge away after having watched me smash the referee in a manner that broke apart his limbs and internal organs like a jigsaw puzzle hit by a shotgun blast.

SkiFree - PC

I made the most out of the limited entertainment choices our family's first personal computer had to offer. Typing dirty words into Microsoft Word lost its novelty after a few days, and FreeCell proved to be just as confounding as the bedroom vulgarities Clippy had underlined to indicate my misspellings. SkiFree's obstacle-filled slopes and abominable snow monsters made sure I didn't die of boredom while I waited for my 14400 modem to connect with AOL's dial-up servers. Once online, I'd search for new Simpsons WAV files to replace all of my computer's sounds with.

Saturn Bomberman - Sega Saturn

I must have played over a dozen Bomberman sequels, imports, and clones by the time I was 16 years old. Every college scout had a file on me, hoping to snatch my demolition talents up before I decided to go pro. I was a prodigy in the arena, and I took no pains to hide it. Local news stations ate it up, replaying highlights of me speeding down passages atop a green dinosaur or battling up to nine other players with little regard for my own safety.

I had a full ride to any university of my choice, but my luck finally caught up with me in my junior year when a freak knee injury knocked me out of the limelight. The recruiters quickly stopped calling, and soon after, so did my supposed "friends." I don't regret any of it at all, though. They were some of the best times of my life, those Saturn Bomberman years.

Pipe Dream:

Puzzle Bobble Online - PC

Puzzle Bobble Online isn't just the foremost edition of the Bust-a-Move franchise; it is the puzzle genre's finest moment, as far as I'm concerned. The perfection of its six-player combat, cooperative mechanics, and team modes has never been replicated. It killed me when Taito decided to shut down the game's servers sometime around 2005. I fear we'll never see anything like it again.

I had stolen my first kiss from the woman I'd eventually marry the week I discovered PBO. She fell asleep that night with her head on my chest, hours before I closed my own eyes. I could see everything in my life finally coming together in bubble form. Cannons were angled, balls were shot and bounced down bends into tucked-away corners, and a burst of of confetti rained down with the cleared rows as Bub and Bob hopped up and down in victory.
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