The Life of a Rob: Part 7

Woo! Thanks for turning up for Part 7! This has turned out to be my longest entry yet!

Id like to make note of when I first got Mortal Kombat for SNES. I had been craving this thing for what seemed like ages & I wasnt sure if, or when, id ever get it. Well, one random day, I was visiting my Grandparents house. I was kinda bored & doing God knows what. Then out of the blue, my Grandma casually says, “I got that game you wanted.” Shocked & all ears, I replied something like… “What game? Where is it?” “It’s on Grandpa’s dresser.”, she said. I wasnt sure what game she was talking about. I figured it was some game that I had mentioned, that she picked up at a garage sale or something. (Which still would’ve been very cool) I was rarely ever given a brand new game at this point. So curious, I rush into my Grandpas room & WHAT THE FUCK?! Theres a brand new, sealed copy of Mortal Kombat for SNES just sitting there. I at first stared at it shocked, like it was a spider monkey or somethin. I was so happy. I thanked & praised her before rushing into the living room where my SNES was set up. I damn near exploded the box to get to it. She mentioned that she was originally going to make me wait until my Birthday, but she gave in. I played the living crap out of it…

Moving forward. The year was now 1993… 8th grade… Ghetto… Lets get to it… Let me touch on the TV shows & comics that I was really into a bit back then. I loved Beavis & Butthead, Ren & Stimpy, WWF (World Wrestling Federation, which later became WWE), I later liked WCW, The Simpsons, Married With Children, Ninja Turtles, GI Joe, & more. I really got into WWF about this time. My friends liked Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, The Giant, Jake the Snake, ect. But my favorite wrestler then & for all time is The Undertaker. I just loved the dark, menacing, mysterious, & almost indestructible gimmick. I could only watch most of these shows when I visited my Grandparents house.

I kinda started to get into comic books about this time also. I would acquire comics mostly from the Big Barn Flea market in Fort Worth TX. I could also find old GI Joes, Alien, Ninja Turtle, & other figures. I had some GI Joe, Predator, Ren & Stimpy, X-Men, & other random comics. Later I would read many more. I once traded my Uncanny X-Men #11 for a complete set of Ren & Stimpy comics. I wasnt familiar with how much comics were worth at the time. I figured trading 1 comic for a bunch of them was a win. But price wise, it was not.

Also, around this time I started listening to Rock music & Heavy Metal more. My old friend Eric got me into Nirvana a little, even though I really only listened to Rap primarily at the time. I think Snoop Doggs Doggystyle was released about this time. I loved that album. Cody was into Rock. Jason’s older cousins listened to Rock & Metal. I loved Nirvana, Metallica, & Aerosmith. Later came Bush, Offspring, Alice & Chains, Green Day, White Zombie, & Soundgarden. The Metallica Black album was their newest album at the time & it blew my mind. I thought every track was great & masterfully crafted. I later got into the other Metallica albums. Metallica would become my favorite band for a long time. The Napster thing did piss me off, but that was mostly jackass Lars throwing a fit from what I remember. I never really let the dumb things that Artists would do, control whether I enjoyed their music or not. If I enjoyed the music, the music stood on its own. People fuck up from time to time. Its human nature. Good music is good music regardless. The internet was still a fairly new thing… But again, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

There was a Blockbuster Music store where you could pick up any CD & sit down & listen to it at a kiosk, for as long as you liked. I would ride the city bus to Blockbuster Music & listen for hours. There were also music stores in the mall where you could listen to certain albums. I started to watch the music videos on MTV (when they still played music videos). I also watched VH1. This introduced me to all new bands & types of music. I would also check CDs & cassettes out at the Library. Music was quickly becoming a bigger part of my life. I would lay there for hours every night & listen to music, when I was supposed to be sleeping. I did this for many years. It was also a form of an escape & my mind would wonder about a great many topics as I listened. CDs became more popular than cassettes. I was a late bloomer on upgrading to CDs. I liked that I didn’t have to rewind the tape with CDs. The audio quality was better. I also didn’t have to deal with any tape getting twisted & destroyed. But I also couldn’t record songs off of the radio like I used to.

Ok, so… 1993, 8th grade. Still living under terrible conditions in a bad neighborhood. Still attending a very stressful Middle School. Still primarily using video games as an escape & an obsession. Well one day me & Jason are in shop class… We had a goofy old balding shop teacher that was missing fingers. I imagine he was probably denied a job at the better schools. Anyway, some random kid was trying to convince me & Jason that the Mortal Kombat 2 arcade was out & that he played it at the local Bowling Alley in River Oaks just a day before. I didn’t believe him. I hadn’t heard anything about it in any video game magazines or anything. He did however make a compelling argument, spouting off all kind of details. But surely he was lying & just trying to sound cool or something…

Well, when I got out of school, my curiosity got the best of me. I couldn’t take the risk of it being true & not going! I begged my Mom to take me to the Bowling Alley. “Bless her heart”, she actually did. So I’m by myself & I walk in. As soon as you go through the front glass door of the Bowling Alley, if you looked to your left there was a big glass wall where you could see into the little arcade area. Mother of all shits! There it was! I could see a slick graphic of the Raiden character on the side! Are you shitting me right now?! It felt like Jesus himself was standing in that room…

My face & hands literally hit the glass to get a look at it, smearing the glass. I ran around & into the arcade, while the weird shoe guy stared me down in confusion. No one was around. I walk up to it admiring the arcade cabinet. I could hear the demo music & sounds coming from it like a symphony of hot fucking naked angels. I thought to myself, Jason & the other kids aren’t going to believe me when I tell them that it actually exists. I’ve never idolized any object or game like I did MK2. I still havent to this day & probably never will…

I was so happy I could cry with joy. It was probably weird & pathetic. But THIS was to be my new passion & escape for years to come. I stood there soaking everything in. It was overwhelming. As the demo played, there was a cool fast paced gameplay demo with an exciting sound track. Then it showed an awesome story board of what had transpired between MK & MK2. There was also an add with info on how you could order a MK2 comic & a CD soundtrack through the mail. I later ordered a comic & they sent me 2 of them! I still have one of the comics to this day. I think I gave one to Jason? Everything about the game was on another level. It was so extreme, that I was skeptical if it could ever be brought home to consoles.

The graphics were better, the sound was absolutely amazing, the gameplay was better, it had great new characters. It introduced game secrets like never before in any video game that had come before it. There were so many secrets & mysteries that would be uncovered over time. Characters now had multiple Fatalities! Better looking & more creative fatalities. At the time I seriously didn’t know what else they could have done to make it any better. To this day MK2 remains my favorite MK game & is responsible for some of my fondest video game related memories. I would geek out over it with my friends & my cousin Bill for years to come…

This sucker was perfect. I loved the dark tone. That first day at the Bowling Alley I got to play it a bit, but I didn’t have much money to blow. So my Mom picks me up an hour or so later. I’m so buzzed about it I can’t hardly sleep. Looking back I probably really idolized this thing way too much. I go to school the next day & the first thing I do is hunt my friends down one by one to tell them the legend is real. Screw waiting for lunch time to tell them. They actually seem to believe me just fine. Was I going to be the only one hyped into convulsions? Jason & Cody seemed REALLY excited too though. The arcade started showing up at other places. It ate what little money I had. I obsessed even more than I did with the first one. One thing I noticed was the difficulty was HARD! Harder than the first game. I don’t think I even beat it until after it came home to SNES. The 4 armed sub boss Kintaro was ridiculously hard. But I loved it none the less. That just meant that I would have to get better.

I was so hyped, I went across the street to Eric’s house. It was the first time I had seen him in years. I don’t even know if he was into MK1. But we both went to the Bowling Alley to play MK2. It was nice to see him, but we started to grow apart. I think that was probably the last time we ever hung out. I was pretty good at Street Fighter & decent at MK1, but I didn’t really stand out above most, until MK2. My insane obsession gave birth to desire, focus, & the will to learn. I became really good. For the first time, I could win over my friends & strangers with a good success rate. I learned strategy & combos for the first time in any game. We once went on a field trip to some Bowling Alley. Not sure why, but that’s where we got to go. They had MK2 there. It was my time to beat some of these kids up in my own way. I wasnt super skilled at this point, but I still mopped the floor with most of the kids on Mortal Kombat 2.

Shifting gears to another Middle School story… 8th grade was a time of high mischief & getting into trouble. I saw Jason get into several fights because kids would mess with him. From what I remember he won the fights though. Jason was pretty stout. I would skip class a lot. Me & Cody would just walk home during lunch some times & go play games. There was even a city bus stop near the school & I would use it to skip school & ride around the city for the day. I memorized what bus numbers went where. I was never even stopped by any city bus drivers & questioned. I would ride the city bus home instead of the school bus. I think it goes without saying that you encounter lots of strange & smelly souls on the city bus. Once me & Jason decided to skip a class. Jason brought along his cousin. I’ll use his nickname, which was Totsie. I had seen Totsie around off & on, mostly hanging out with other troublemakers. He was also somehow in our art class but he was a grade or 2 below us if I remember right. Totsie was cool but we had never really hung out up until this point. He was quiet. Later we became a little closer & he would become one of the most generous & helpful people that I knew.

Anyway, we were in the back of the auditorium behind a big curtain, skipping class, wandering around, getting into mischief. Well some other class & their teacher came into the auditorium & up to the front row to study or something. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t be seen. But we were getting bored. There was a piano back there with us. Well Totsie walked up to the piano, raised the key cover, & stuck his finger out motioning like he was going to push a piano key. Surely he wouldn’t, I thought. I shook my head as to say, please don’t. Well he had the great idea of sternly pushing one of the piano keys… It was LOUD. The jig was up. Shit hit the fan. Some of the kids & the teacher came to investigate. We scattered like roaches trying to hide deeper in the back. I was kinda mad, but I also thought it was funny at the same time. Some kid saw one of us & ratted us out. We all ended up in the Principles office in trouble. I kept shaking my head at Totsie & he just smiled… 

Moving forward… 1994… 8th grade & Middle School was coming to an end. I was so happy that I was getting out of this place soon. When I “graduated” & walked across the stage, someone yelled Mortal Kombat. Kids laughed. I laughed. It was funny. If I remember right, when Jason got on stage someone yelled Doom. He was drawing things out of the Doom game at the time so the other kids would see it. Even though we had little exposure to Doom at the time. We had seen it in magazines & sometimes in various computer stores. We wanted to play Doom pretty bad. It was a gory first person shooter where you fought & killed Demons with guns. It had great 3D graphics. I had played Wolfenstein just a tad at a Radio Shack about a year earlier. It was similar to Wolfenstein but way better. Doom was a huge jump in technology. 

Back to MK2. I saw in a video game magazine that MK2 was headed home to SNES & Sega Genesis. It looked great! This time both the SNES & Genesis version had blood & gore without having to use a secret a code! The bad graphics on the Genesis version was immediately apparent though. SNES had redeemed itself with MK2. This time I didn’t want to have to wait until months later on a special occasion for my Grandma to buy it for me. New retail SNES games were now $59 plus tax if I remember right. I don’t think preordering was a thing quite yet. So my little mind started plotting & scheming on how I could buy MK2 on day 1…

This was the first “big” financial undertaking of my life. As a young teen, I made it my goal to save up & buy MK2 myself. I mowed lawns, I did chores, I sold old games, & finally came up with the money myself. After over 2 months of saving, I had a lot of small bills in a weathered white envelope. Having done all of the work, & going through all of the trouble, it only made my desire for the game stronger. What would follow, would become one of my most vivid & treasured video game related memories of my life…

September 13th… 1994.. Mortal Tuesday was upon us. It had an awesome TV commercial spot. One of my favorite video game commercials of all time. It featured live action characters that looked amazing. The hype was so real you could cut it with a knife. Anyway, I had it all planned out for the morning of Mortal Tuesday, I would be at Toys R Us as the doors opened & I would bum rush any fool that stood in my way to get this damn game. Games would often sell out on day one back then. Toys R Us had a really cool video game set up. You could play various systems in the video game section. Sometimes we would go just to hang out & play games. To buy new games, they had a ticket system. You would go to the video game isle, grab a ticket representing the game that you want to buy, & take it to the front counter. They would then retrieve the actual game.

So late that evening, the day before Mortal Tuesday, Me & Jason were hanging out & geeking about the next day. Well before I left Jason’s house that evening, I told him that I was gonna stop by a payphone & call Toys R Us to make sure that they were going to have it out in the morning & maybe even see if it was already out. I had heard sometimes they put game tickets out early, which was illegal! So I leave Jasons house & call Toys R Us. Some old lady picked up, she proceeded to tell me that they were putting the tickets out as we spoke & that itll be there first thing when they open up. So I hang up. Then the little gears in my head started turning… Toys R us was going to be open for about 1 more hour…

I begged & begged my Mom to drive me to Toys R Us so I could see if I could snake a copy of MK2 out a day early before they closed. If I begged my Mom enough she would usually do stuff for me within reason. I love my Mom. So she took me to Toys R Us. I remember the sun was going down. I hauled ultimate ass to the game isle. To my amazement, I find a brand new bulging pouch full of tickets for MK2 on SNES. I pull one out, spilling a few more onto the floor, not my problem, gotta move! The store is minutes away from closing. This is what I’ve been training for… I “tore ass” to the front counter with my golden ticket like I was running for my life. I get to the front, Shit! No one around. I yell for help & some 90-year-old lady creeps out from some back room like the Crypt Keeper. …Talking about how they’re about to close, & making small talk about how it looks like rain & shit. No shit! I need to purchase this game NOW! I hand her the ticket & she pulls her hanging spectacles slowly up to her old eyes movie style. Ok, ill be right back she says. Oh my God. Was she actually & unknowingly going to break the law & hand me this beloved game?

I wait a moment & other employees started locking doors up & whatnot. She steps out from the holy & mysterious video game safe in slow motion. I swear some gangster ass rap music started playing to her slow stride. I spot the treasure in her hand as she continues to walk in slow motion. Or maybe she was just that old. She brings it back & sets it on the counter. I panick. Not missing a beat, I slam my envelope of money down. I know its enough. I grab the game & dash out the door. No goodbye, no thank you, no nothing. I aint got time for geriatrics! I think I was out the door before her old eye receptors could detect my movement. She probably thought I disappeared & wondered if I was a dream. I run to the car, slam into it to stop my momentum. I think my Mom thought I had just robbed the joint. I’m asking her to go go go! I’m now sitting in the back seat, burning the manual & box art into my brain. I had never desired an object like this before. I literally took a deep whiff of the box. I loved that new game smell of paper & plastic. I worked for it for a long time & now held it in my hand.

I had to have been one of the first kids in Texas to get a copy of MK2. I TOLD my Mom that I was going to stay the night at Jason’s. She was ok with it. She was also happy for me. She saw how mind numbingly excited I was & knew that I had worked for this. So we pull up to Jasons Granny’s house. I walk up to the front door holding the game behind my back. Granny comes to the door, I ask for Jason, & she goes to get him. A quick moment passes & Jason comes to the door probably wondering why I had come back. Jasons asks me if they had the game out? I tried with all of my might to screw with him & say, “No, they didn’t have it out. Sike! They Did! I got it!” But what actually happened was I said some strange gibberish along the lines of… “No, they didn’t… mmm… FUCK I GOT IT!” In the blink of an eye, Jason broke the laws of physics, space, & time… He had somehow snatched the game from my tight grasp, was already in his room, game inserted into the SNES, starting the game up, with controller in hand before I could even run back to his room. 

For a second, I was amazed at Jason’s spry mutant abilities. When I arrived in his room, Jason had already TOLD Granny that I was spending the night. Similarly to how I TOLD my Mom that I was spending the night. Now, we didn’t normally TELL our parents stuff like that, but this was fucking non negotiable. So I arrive in Jason’s room, the Acclaim logo is already starting up. Now there was a secret “code” of sorts where if you held the L & R buttons on the top shoulders of the controller before you turned the system on, the bosses of the game, Shao Kahn & Kintaro would thrash the Acclaim logo. Jason was so hyped he was grasping the controller hard holding these buttons down & made the secret happen. Before we even got to the title screen, he had found a secret. At first, I thought that was how the game was supposed to start. We stayed up ALL night playing, I mean ALL night without a blink of sleep. It was magical. It wasnt perfect Arcade quality, but they still did an AMAZING job bringing the arcade home. Granny took me home the next day & she took Jason to school. Jason went to Lake Worth High School this year.

Congrats on getting through this long entry & thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

  

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