I have just finished playing through Super Metroid for the first time. I had dabbled in this title during its original release on the Super Nintendo in 1994, but I didn’t make it past the first minutes of play until now. I chalk it up to never owning a physical copy of the game. During the recent boon of downloadable offerings from Club Nintendo, I picked up a digital copy of Super Metroid for the Wii-U. While I do enjoy being able to play anywhere in GIMMGP Headquarters thanks to the Wii-U GamePad, there are certain qualities of the Super Nintendo version that I miss.
For example, I will never be able to loan this game to a friend. If someone wants to play the copy of Super Metroid I own, they would have to borrow my console or come over to play. This also means that the remnants of other people’s play will not show up in my game. So I will not get to experience interesting moments like this one I previously shared in November 2011.
Back in my day, my brother and I used to walk fifteen miles in the snow to buy our video games. We would work 26 hours a day in the steel mill, save our pennies for months on end while only eating old newspapers soaked in rainwater as food. Eventually, we would earn enough money be able to afford our precious Super Nintendo games. We also used to save our games on the cartridges themselves, and we were grateful, dag’nabit!
That is how I feel going into this story. Old and senile towards todays video game youth (who definitely don’t know how good they’ve got it). In reality, my brother and I were rather fortunate to have a father who also enjoyed video games for a time. After the Super Nintendo came out, my Dad’s interest in playing games declined sharply (I think it was the addition of the X, Y, L, and R buttons that he found to be frustrating). But his love for his children meant we were spoiled by getting a new video game on each of our birthdays. One year, my brother and I had our little hearts set on the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
At this point, a little explanation of how memory on video games has evolved over the years might be necessary. You see, modern games utilize a hard drive that is built into the system for saving your game progression. Most of them even save the game automatically as you play, just to make sure you don’t lose any progress due to a freak power outage (or glitchy game design). But back in the days of the Super Nintendo, there was no hard drive built into the system itself. We didn’t even use the memory cards that became common with the advent of the Sony PlayStation.
The cartridges that Nintendo produced would actually contain your game progresssion. This way, whenever you would rent a game from Blockbuster (a store that used to exist where one could rent movies and video games), you often got to see the previous saved games of those who had rented before you. This left me with a feeling of seeing history laid out before me or gave me a sort of digital rival to work against.
As my brother and I placed the third tale of Link into the Super Nintendo, we discovered something odd. This brand new game our Dad had just given to us already had saved data on it. It was like something out of a horror story, as if the game was cursed or haunted by a malevolent spirit who adventured before us. Not only were there games in progress on our cartridge, but one of them had already completed the entire game and collected all the heart pieces! Needless to say, my brother and I were perplexed by this mystery. These were before the days of buying games used, where the titles you purchased may have several owners before you, thus explaining any previous game saves.
To this day, we have not figured out exactly how phantom data made its way onto our copy of A Link to the Past. Maybe we somehow got a test copy from Nintendo. Maybe the employees of Toys R Us repackaged this game after taking it home to play. I still think it may have been ghosts. Some spectre who had completed our game before us, and needed us to beat her legacy to lay his soul to rest. The game data has been long since deleted, in order to make room for each of our own saves, but the story still lingers; a secret never quite resolved.