I started playing a Megaman game for the first time. Before you start making sarcastic comments about how I should try Pong next, you have to note that the NES and SNES were never really popular in Europe, and unless it came out on Gameboy, I hadn’t heard of many popular Nintendo games until I was already an adult. I hold up my hands an admit that the old Nintendo library is a gaping hole in my gaming knowledge.
The Megaman series is of course well known for its balls hard approach to level design. Each level is created with alarming meticulousness, where perfect timing see you finishing a level fully stocked on health with operatic ballet style precise jumps and shots. However, mostly you will be watching Megaman succumbing to dramatic leaps into never ending pits, or death at the hand of giant robotic snails. Of course, back in the 80s and 90s there was a desperate need for this kind of difficult gameplay.
NES cartridges couldn’t hold a lot of data, and so developers had to find other ways of stretching out games to make them worth their $60 price tags. This often meant requiring absolute precision from players and that dreaded lives system. In Megaman you begin each level with 3 lives. There are 2 checkpoints, one half way through each level and one just before each boss, but if you lose all three lives on the boss you have to go back to the beginning again. This is absolutely punishing for those who have mastered the level to have to go all the way back through the damn thing just to get a second crack at the boss.
This was the moment I started contemplating emulation. With the PC’s save states, “lives” become exactly what they are in modern day gaming; redundant. Live systems have long been thought of as outdated so why can’t we all use save states, we would have still completed the game right? To counter this people often talk about the nostalgic idea of completing the game as the developer originally intended, warts and all, but if I will gladly look at a walkthrough to figure out the best order in which to complete levels then why do I shy away from the modern day save state?
I didn’t have the internet as a child, and the list of games which I left unfinished because I couldn’t figure out where to go next is almost as big as my backlog. Nowadays, I take walkthroughs and forums for granted. These days the idea of not completing a game because I can’t figure out which way to turn seems ludicrously wasteful, just like throwing my famicom out the window because I’ve had to face the same mid-stage boss 50 times.
And then there was the moment when I first completed a level in Megaman 4 and I jumped off the sofa in triumph throwing the little bone shaped controller in the air. I celebrated by taking a terrible photo of the TV screen to prove to my boyfriend that I had completed a single Megaman level, something which he had never accomplished himself. In that moment it didn’t matter how blistered my thumbs had become. Screw your emulation, I wouldn’t give up this feeling for all the save states in the world.
What do you think of save states and emulation? Are you not getting the real experience?