That fierce robotic guy in blue that we all know and respect as Mega Man holds very special place in my gaming heart. But as with many relationships, our has had its ups and downs. We soared to new levels of fun and frustration with Mega Man 1-8 in the Anniversary Collection! We triumphed together over Chill Penguin and his cohorts in Mega Man X. And, most recently, we comfortably picked things back up with Mega Man X2. And so far, when I eke in some time to play, things move along smoothly with only the occasion curse of anger. It was my own fault then when I decided to test the waters in getting a Mega Man game for my Nintendo DS some years back.
When I was looking to bring the blue bomber to my DS, I knew that I didn’t want to begin at the beginning, for (1) I already had, and (2) I couldn’t even if I did want to. Not only had I previously conquered Mega Man: Anniversary Collection and Mega Man X, but you couldn’t play Game Boy or Game Boy Color games on the DS. So that was that and I had to start in the middle somewhere with a GBA game. The title I found was Mega Man Zero (2002).
**Begin itty-bitty story spoilers
Mega Man Zero (MMZ) takes place in a future long after the events of the Mega Man X series. With both Mega Man and Zero long gone (but not really), the world has been taken over, not by the ubiquitous Reploids of previous games but a new robotic race called the Pantheons. Zero is discovered in a cryogenic-type state by a human scientist names Ciel who decided to revive him hoping that he can help fight against the Pantheons. In a twisty, turn-y story that only a Mega Man fan could love (or hate to have to follow but willingly does anyway), Zero ends up fighting against a version his former friend, the Mr. Now-Evil Mega Man, in a perfected land called Neo Arcadia where individuals like Zero are routinely “retired.” (And we’re not talking about trips to Florida.) Zero survives the fate of his former and questionable “friend,” and takes on the legions of Pantheons to save the world.
**End itty-bitty story spoilers
With MMZ in hand, off I went on my daily commutes with Zero and his mission, traversing a series of spritely levels complete with major boss battle action. The game played like any other Mega Man game, with all the running, jumping, shooting, and collecting one could possibly desire. The game looked fine enough for a GBA game on a DS, though I did encounter a few glitchy moments, which I attributed to my copy of the game being well-worn (but therefore cheap. Score!) And me and Zero, we clicked. No Mega Man game is without a few anger-inducing moments, but they were few and far between at the beginning of the game.
Unfortunately, the good tidings did not last.
When I’m at home playing games, I can get a bit…loud. Though I try hard not to get into hysterics, sometimes my emotions get the better of me. I have also been known to semi-forcefully drop controllers on the floor and punch a few pillows every now and then. But that’s okay because I’m at home. When I’m in public, I keep my showiness to a bare minimum. When things really get to me, and I mean, like, really REALLY get to me to the point of Hulk anger, I try to remove myself from the upsetting situation to a quiet place where I can calm down. (Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often otherwise I’d never get anything done outside of my house.) Up to the point of playing MMZ, my public gaming moments were subdued and dignified. If something frustrated me, I simply turned off the game. Why I didn’t do that with MMZ, I’ll never know.
It was on a cool Spring day that it happened during my train ride home. From the moment the train took off from the station, I knew I had a solid 40 minutes of game time. I fired up MMZ like I had been for past several days. Things hadn’t been going very well at the moment as the game difficulty level seemed to suddenly jump to 11 after beating the first couple bosses. (Or maybe it had simply been just that difficult and I failed to notice in my I’m-playing–a-new-game haze.) I was interminably stuck on the fourth mission. I need not rehash my terrible skills at platformers, but needless to say, me and the game were just out of sync. Time after sad, sad time, I died in almost the same place around the middle of the level. And time after sad, sad time, I just put the game away and hoping that things would be back in sync the next day.
On this day, however, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to get to the boss. I wanted to beat the ever-loving shit out of him. I WANTED to progress to the next goddamned level! So I set my mind on a positive “you can DO IT!” feedback loop and got on with it.
And I did before the end of my journey. I MADE it to the boss! There he was, the smug-looking Anubis, and I was ready. Oh, I came close…really, really close to defeating him. But close wasn’t good enough in MMZ. I wasn’t good enough, and Anubis summarily kicked my ass. And then, in a bizarre little fit of rage and reflex, I semi-forcefully dropped my DS on the train floor. I kept the thing in a soft, zippered, protective case that secured the bottom half of the device while the top remained free. On its way to the train floor, the top of the DS hit the heater that ran along the train’s side, the force of which shut the device, so it was closed when it made full contact with the ground. I stopped for a moment before grabbing it and glanced around the car. As my stop was near the end of the line, it was mostly empty at that point, and nobody batted an eyelash at my outburst (thank goodness for citified malaise). I picked up my DS and noticed a small, hairline crack along its top edge. “Well, damn,” I thought to myself. It had been a good, long while since I had really, truly broken any video game paraphernalia, and I took pride in keeping my devices in good shape. I was a little surprised that the impact hadn’t caused more damage, so a small crack was nothing to balk about. Still, it bugged me. And every time I noticed it from then on out, it reminded me of that day on the train.
Sadly, so sadly, the cracked DS isn’t really the worst part of the story, which is that I never completed Mega Man Zero. After the incident, I left my DS at home for a couple days. Then I started taking it, but without Mega Man Zero in tow. I went back to the game shortly before I gave away the DS, this time with a walkthrough and knowledge of the Cyber Elves, and they helped significantly. I got all the way to Neo Arcadia and the final missions, but I simply didn’t have the wherewithal or interest to finish. It’s not something that keeps me up at nights, but I do think about it day whenever I play Mega Man X2 now. It helps keep me patient and remember that the best solution to frustration is to simply push the “off” button.