Sonic the Hedgehog 2 | The Game That Defines Me

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Audio

In my quest for the perfect soundtrack to this post, I discovered one of the finest ambient remix albums I’ve ever heard. Please enjoy this playlist from the marvelous Ace Waters.

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

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Matt @ Normal Happenings

Twitter: @normalhappening

For all creatures of West Side Island

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: November 21, 1992

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

1P Start

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly.

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As you read this, you are breathing. You are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. This is not news to you, who are almost certainly old enough to understand and process the complexity of human emotion. When you were very young, however, the enormity of existence was like an overwhelming light piercing the darkness. The world was so big, and there was too much to process and consider. Time heals you from this predicament; like wading into water slightly cooler than expected, you are surprised as to how quickly you get used to the once-incomprehensible sensations of everyday life.

A funny thing happens as you get older: it takes more to impress you as adolescence fades and adulthood worms its way into your heart. As time begins to close in on you, the years of experience surround you like fractals on a snowflake. However, this is no cause for alarm. Seven, 27, 67 rotations around the sun – those are just statistics, and while I take great comfort in statistics, a number does not define how you choose to experience a life of wonder.

Instead I chose to find happiness in the small things, looking back at them as a trail of breadcrumbs leading me to this point. One of those small things was, in fact, measurably so: 108mm (4.25in) long, 68mm (2.68 in) high, and 16mm (0.63in) wide – the size of a Sega Genesis cartridge. Specifically, that cart that contained a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2: the game that defines me.

The Architecture of a Soul

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I often imagine my life as a bar chart; as I said, statistics comfort me. Charts are the source code for my life, something thematically appropriate as I program the CSS for this collaboration. I have learned that, if there is something I don’t like about who I am, I often just need to reallocate sections of my chart to accommodate my goals. For example, right now physical activity is a segment of my life which I am steadily working to increase for the betterment of my future. But like the half-life of chemical elements making up the microscopic world, nothing is ever truly gone. Hidden are the memories sometimes, sure, but never gone — even as I write this, childhood memories of being fascinated by standing between two mirrors flood my brain. I would often contemplate if those refracted images went on forever, and how many I could count before losing the ability to envisage just one more layer.

With such an active imagination and curiosity, those few pixels of my life between where Sonic 2 begins and ends may not seem like much, and indeed there are certainly things in my life which comprise far more real estate. I am an adult now, not the shy kid who came home everyday to his grandmother’s house, popped in a copy of Sonic 2, and started barreling through Emerald Hill Zone. But the residual effects of my experience with this game means that tiny portion will never blink out of existence. Sonic 2 will always reside there, sandwiched somewhere between my love for the science of cooking, my peculiar interest for the 1960’s marionette show Thunderbirds, my determination to remember all the song titles on Sufjan Stevens’s masterpiece, Illinois, and my obsession with filling up all available character spaces on Twitter. (Five characters left? Inconceivable!)

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I can close my eyes and play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — every track, every zone, every branching path memorized in acute detail. I did it, in fact, before writing this piece. My mobile phone (with a brilliant copy of the game, interestingly, downloaded on it) far away in another room, I rested on my bed and pressed the power button on the Sega Genesis of my mind. Zoned in, I gripped the familiar Genesis controller as I would in a dream or a trance. The ubiquitous SAYYY-GA chant, love it or hate it, greeted my ears. The sparkles and chimes, unique to the title screen, soon broke the black – Sonic and Tails jumped into the frame like total goofs, and before I knew it I was off to the races. Removed from my much more pleasurable life with an amazing wife (plus two cats), intriguing education, good career, deep spiritual life, and pursuit of writing, I would make a good Sonic 2 speedrunner.

Inadvertently Speedrunning Life

As a kid, through repeated playthroughs, constant mistakes, and critical failure, a pattern began to emerge. Sonic 2 taught me, more than strict parents or a highly, highly challenging social life, that nothing ever comes easy.

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At first, unable to comprehend the finer mechanics of game design, I looked at this as a curse. I comprehended that the goal was to make it to the end of the act as quickly as possible, but it took an enormous amount of practice to dodge all of the enemies, an intelligent grasp of the physics of the game to build a sustainable pace, and a lot of good luck throughout each run. Why didn’t they make the game easier? I constantly asked myself this as a nine or ten-year-old, without noticing all the while I was shaving seconds off of my total time.

Those questions paralleled very similar ones in my own life. Why must individuals constantly go to blows with each other just to get what they want? Why couldn’t we live in a utopia where people are free to explore their naturally artistic hearts unrestricted? I was starting to get to the age where I noticed nature’s constant competition, while at the same time I was learning the skills needed to be competitive. At some point — I feel like I may have been doing a quiz in my fourth grade classroom — my daily adventures through Sonic 2 and my real-life desire to learn collided and I had a revelation.

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly. This realization marked when I became stupidly good at Sonic 2 — imagine an eleven-year-old blasting through each act of the first three zones in under a minute. I would consult online guides, which were still in their infancy — usually text-based on GameFAQs. I would use debug mode to analyze each branching path, attempting to crack the code of how to access a new, faster, section of the course. I would doodle sketches of the levels in class, planning with architectural precision how to bypass a slow section as quickly as possible.

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Something else happened as well, something wonderful. The attitude of knowing that anything is possible translated one-to-one into real life. I began applying the lessons I learned to all aspects of daily experience. I viewed every math problem and every multiple choice quiz question as an obstacle to overcome, as if in a video game. By fifth grade, I was reading at a twelfth grade level, understanding the works of Bradbury, Tolkien, and Rowling with great cognizance. And, while I struggled mightily with the social aspects of life as a child — it would take until university to unlock that part of myself — the gamification of obstacles is an element of my childhood that has only been strengthened and fortified in the present.

My parents would often laugh at me as I desperately tried to explain that video games improve lives. My dialectic discussion of how they helped improve spacial orientation, reaction time, and problem solving skills — Sonic 2 is a master class in all three — must have sounded outlandish coming from a child. I do not necessarily blame my parents for this short-sightedness, as culture often passes off new technologies as harmful. However, I do wish they had cross-referenced my perfect grades with my passion for becoming remarkably efficient at games for my age.

Pulled Into Focus 

My dad once said, “you have got to stop living in this ‘Sonic-world’ of yours.” I’m forced to disagree, the “Sonic world” gave me my sense of aesthetics. It may seem a little strange, but there is one final feature of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that defined my life: this game is drop-dead gorgeous. It does not even matter that it the game will be celebrating its 26th birthday this month, it will always be one of the most aesthetically appealing games to my brain which so fondly values geometric precision and vibrant colors.

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These are not glamor shots or tech demos, but rather screenshots of the original game. In modern games, I’m completely unconcerned with spectacular graphics, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 far exceeds any game that had ever come before it. Still, it’s not the technical impressiveness of the graphics that I adore so much. Rather, the style is what blows me away. As a child, the exhilarating speed and gameplay of Sonic 2 defined me. But as an adult, the graphical style of the masterpiece is what truly adds to the substance of my life.

Some may say all of the bright colors look gaudy at first, and removing myself to become an independent observer, I completely understand why. When not invested in the game, the constant input of colors can be overwhelming in a very similar manner to the aforementioned blinding light that pierces the darkness. That sensation quickly subsides, however, as you rub your aching eyes and truly invest yourself in the experience. I am a graphic designer by trade, and the straight-line geometry and color coordination that went into the game continues to impress me. Each stage has little details and patterns that fit together like an unforeseen art piece. The skill in which the visual elements of this game are assembled always put my mind at ease and gave me a strong sense of stability when I had few other sources.

My final takeaway is this: those pixel size portions of your life on your bar chart mean more than you know. It may not seem in the moment like something so non-essential as a video game can be instrumental in providing foundations in essential elements of identity, but until you scale that mountain and look down from above, you don’t realize how important your little adventures are. You envision the things you’ve accomplished in life spread across the landscape below, and with them you see the assemblage of small things which bring you to those milestones. When I look down at my life, I see a tiny amount of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in most of the things that have happened to me. Therefore, because of how influential the game is to my development to this point, I would not trade those lightning-fast romps across West Side Island for the world.

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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The Secret of Monkey Island | The Game That Defines Later Levels

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Audio

We know we’re mixing games in the franchise, but we cannot get over the goodness of this ambient mix from Monkey Island 2

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Happy Saturday, and welcome to day three of The Games That Define Us! We have two posts this weekend you simply can’t miss! Tomorrow I’ll be unveiling my piece for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — one I’ve worked very hard on and am excited for you all to read.

But that’s for another day, literally. Today we’ll be visited by a legend in our local blogosphere. Give a big hand to Kim of Later Levels! She is one of the most stand-out people I know, and has done so much to help Normal Happenings get off the ground.

You can’t go wrong with her writing either. She knows how to get right to the heart of the matter, and you always come out the other side of her posts feeling like a better, more informed person. All of her posts are excellent, but here are some recent suggestions you should consider exploring after finishing up here:

She’ll be your tour guide today as we seek The Secret of Monkey Island, so let’s get adventuring! We hope you treasure this chapter of The Games The Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Kim @ Later Levels
Twitter: @LaterLevels

For all the aspiring pirates

Game: The Secret of Monkey Island
System: Amiga 500
Release Date: October 15, 1990

1P Start

I’d never heard of The Secret of Monkey Island, but after booting it up on the Amiga, I was amazed. It was then that I realized fantastic worlds I thought only existed inside of books could be brought to life through a video game.

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We all have that one Christmas present we remember receiving as a child, and mine was an Amiga 500. After I’d excitedly unwrapped the box, my dad told me to think about what I wanted to try first while he figured out how to hook it up to the television. This was obviously a very big decision for a little kid, so I carefully made my selection: it was the floppy disks which came with a manual depicting a mysterious skull, fierce-looking pirates and a young blonde hero which caught my attention.

I’d never heard of The Secret of Monkey Island, but after booting it up on the Amiga, I was amazed. It was then that I realised fantastic worlds I thought only existed inside of books could be brought to life through a video game. My dad and I were wrapped up for hours, battling dangerous-looking yaks in the Governor’s mansion and insulting swashbucklers by telling them they fought like cows; and I felt extremely proud of myself for reaching the solution to the grog-mug challenge before the grown-ups.

That was the start of a lifelong love-affair with the adventure genre and a childhood crush on Guybrush Threepwood. I’d played other games on the Commodore 64 and NES, but nothing so story- or puzzle-focused; and that title became the first I played for myself, all the way through to the end and without much help. It influenced me as a gamer and, even though I now enjoy a variety of releases, it’s point-and-clicks that I always return to because they hold a special place in my heart.

After that Christmas I went on to play as many adventures as I could, eagerly working my way through Simon the Sorcerer, Myst and The Dig. I eventually had the chance to play a game I was inspired to try after meeting Cobb in the Scumm Bar back on Mêlée Island and questioning him about his ‘Ask me about Loom’ badge. I love references in titles like this; a subtle nod can hold intrigue for players and direct them towards releases they may not have otherwise have found.

During a charity marathon stream a couple of years ago, I played The Secret of Monkey Island very early in the morning and my stepson joined me once he’d woken up. He was then about the same age I had been when I’d received my Amiga and I’d never thought to show the game to him, seeing as it didn’t contain anywhere near enough explosions for his tastes. Much to my surprise, however, he was totally captivated – and even ended up taking over the last part of my shift.

That’s the real secret of Monkey Island. It can show a young girl that magical worlds exist in pixels and give a dad an opportunity to spend some quality time with his daughter. It can explain to a ten-year old stepson that video games don’t always have to be about weapons and violence, and can even contain a story with humour. It can give a blogger an adoration for adventures and the chance to meet amazing people in this community. And it proves that all you really need to defeat an evil zombie pirate is a bottle of root beer.

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WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative bloggers. Help us with the resources to make even greater collaborations in the future. We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about finding optimism in everyday life. Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place.become_a_patron_button

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Faxanadu | The Game That Defines Hungrygoriya

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GG says “a lot of this music could be played by a band at a fancy dinner or something.” We concur, and it would be awesome. 

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Welcome back to day two of The Games That Define Us! We hope you enjoyed the first post, and are excited to launch ourselves through the decades of both our lives and gaming history.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today’s writer, GG from Hungrygoriya, has been a supportive blogging colleague since Normal Happenings’s inception. I’m so glad we got this mythical writer back after composing such a creative piece during Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! After reading this post, I highly recommend checking out their piece on Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Similar to this piece, it’s full of personal exploration of the impact of a game, and well worth your time.

I’ll admit, before organizing this collaboration, I had never heard of the game Faxanadu. It turns out I overlooked it on the Wii Virtual Console. I thought I had a good grasp on all of the classics of the NES, but this one slipped through the cracks. However, upon reading GG’s insights on the title, I find myself begging for Nintendo to bring it to the Switch online service.

But that’s enough from me — let’s get to the good part. We hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games The Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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GG @ Hungrygoriya
Twitter: @hungrygoriya

For the unknown wanderers returning home

 


Game: Faxanadu
System: NES
Release Date: November 16, 1987

1P Start

I don’t really have a mantra per se, but the idea of being mindful and staying in the moment rather than fretting about things I can’t control has really helped me in all areas of my life.

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I wish I could remember the first time I played Faxanadu. My family bought an NES in 1990 when I was just four years old, but if I’m being completely honest, I don’t even remember how Faxanadu made it to us. It could’ve been a birthday or a Christmas, but many of my memories from that time are a bit foggy.

My parents were always pretty divided on gaming. My dad had bumped into that first goomba in Super Mario Bros. and never picked up a controller again, while my mom absolutely loved the challenge of games like Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3. My siblings also enjoyed gaming, but I was the only one who would regularly pop longer games like The Legend of Zelda and Faxanadu into the console. Usually they were stuck onto the trusty Game Genie to ensure I had a fighting chance to make it past the first parts of the games without meeting death too soon.

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Faxanadu was different from many of the other games I had been playing up until that point. It was not cut from the same cloth as the bubbly, colourful platformers of the NES era. Though I enjoyed the Mario games and Adventure Island II, Faxanadu drew me in for different reasons. The music was questy yet dissonant, and the graphics were based more in reality than imagination — as realistic as the setting of a giant tree can be, I suppose. There was something about the game’s dark and gloomy atmosphere and the nameless hero taking up a dire cause that I could relate to at that point in my life. My childhood was not particularly bright, and the dark setting of the World Tree was a great escape for me while I hacked and slashed away at unidentifiable enemies to raise my experience and rake in the gold. I especially appreciated that there was no option for a second player. It gave me an excuse to be alone once in a while.

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I should’ve disintegrated far more often while playing Faxanadu, but with Infinite Magic and Infinite Power by means of the Game Genie, I was unstoppable. After finally giving up the cheating machine, dying in Faxanadu was very frequent for me. Thankfully it wasn’t all bad, since one of my very favourite parts of the game is the message that’s shown when you die. It’s my one go-to phrase for when I need a pick-me-up:

Don’t have negative thoughts. Remember your mantra.

Those words are sometimes all I need to put one foot in front of the other when I’m feeling a little glum. I don’t really have a mantra per se, but the idea of being mindful and staying in the moment rather than fretting about things I can’t control has really helped me in all areas of my life.

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Faxanadu was the first proper role-playing game I ever played. If you know much about me or my taste in games these days, it’s all RPGs all the time, and Faxanadu is solely responsible for that. I will never forget the day I beat it on my own without the Game Genie for the first time. I was well into my twenties and had decided to stream the game in hopes to garner some interest from others, having spent most of my life not knowing anyone else that enjoyed the game as much as me. That night I think I played Faxanadu for one or two people that came and went throughout the evening. I was vanquished over and over again, and after about five hours of struggling, I finally defeated the anticlimactic final boss. My enthusiasm post-win was met by silence, since most people watching had given up on me long before I had made it to the end, but it was a quiet victory and I reveled in those moments completely. I’ve felt accomplished finishing other games, but none bring me as much satisfaction as Faxanadu. Nothing beats seeing that rejuvenated World Tree and watching our nameless protagonist go off to his next adventure.

On the surface, Faxanadu looks like your average action RPG. In many ways it is, but I’ve never been able to find the same sense of urgency and adventure in other games like it. Though there’s not much to know about that game’s main character in terms of his story or motivations, his shoes are an easy pair to step into and walk a mile in, and the game and its challenges therein shaped much of my sense of self-reliance and determination. I’m so glad to have been able to experience such a wonderful game in my youth, and I’m even more grateful that I can continue to enjoy it as an adult.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative bloggers. Help us with the resources to make even greater collaborations in the future. We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about finding optimism in everyday life. Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place.
become_a_patron_button

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The Bard’s Tale | The Game That Defines Mr. Backlog

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Audio

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

The adventure begins! Welcome to the very first day of The Games That Define Us!

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Leading off, we have the wonderfully talented Iiago from Mr. Backlog, who, according to his favorite shirt, has too many video games. Of all the bloggers on this list, Iiago has an unrivaled affinity for very old games — like, titles that came out before the nineties. His pick today comes from sometime in 1985 (the only game on this journey with an unknown release date), when games were developed by a very small number of people and were marketed mostly by word-of-mouth. Obviously, my personal favorite post of his has to be his quirky and interesting answers to my Super Specific Questions of the past, but his true bread and butter is crafting commentary on classic computer games. After enjoying today’s post, might I recommend venturing over to Mr. Backlog’s blog for his thoughts on the direct sequel to today’s selection.

So, without further delay, let’s get on with it! We hope you enjoy the very first entry of The Games The Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings Continue reading “The Bard’s Tale | The Game That Defines Mr. Backlog”