The Gamer’s Conscience 02.09.04

Dateline: Some random place on the West coast that I call home. (Hint: it’s namesake is that of the high school that calls Charlie Sheen alumni!)

In the midst of organized chaos that endlessly placates itself across the urban sprawling condo wasteland, there sat three gamers. In the daytime, their dispositions are varied: an entrepreneur whose current obsession is babysitting pets for Hollywood’s elite alongside his girlfriend. Another: the proverbial phoenix that has risen from the ashes of gutter life, only to preen his feathers in a clearer light. And myself; a cultural vagabond who grazes the land in search of new sensations to engrave in my head. In the nighttime, however, this trio forms a collective catalyst to some of the fiercest Halo matches that can be measured in a 20 foot-radius.

T’was a Tuesday night when the countless death-matches of Halo began to mount with seemingly no end in sight. As the characteristic glaze of stagnation began to set in, and the temporary gamer-only chiropractic nightmare of “Halo Neck” slowly crept itself in, it was evident that an alternative had to be sought. And while that notion might not have been known to all three of the gamers sitting in that damp and dark room, it would spread through the trio that change was needed- and indeed change would be at hand.

And where would such change be without a substantial dialogue to convey it properly? Oh, and you want clever names too? Well, this is how it went down!

The Prince of Ikea: 25 wins, bitches! Time for a Diet Coke!
The Saudi Scholar: Aww man, I was so close! Get me a Diet Coke too while you’re up.
PoI: Sounds good- hey Fred, you want a Diet Coke too?
Fred Badlissi: Guys, this shit is getting boring. Halo Neck is starting to set in. And how many times to I have to tell you jackasses that I don’t drink Diet Coke? Hell- if it ain’t the brain cancer, it’ll be the osteoporosis!
SS: Hey- you talkin’ shit about Diet Coke!?!?

Now I can’t recall whether it was my unwavering and utter contempt for Diet Coke that got their attention, or maybe it was because I came in a distant 3rd place out of 3 in that DM with a meager 14 wins, but one of them picked up on my playful contempt for the current state of our Halo game. After about 8 death-matches straight at 25 wins per game, I was starting to feel physical effects usually reserved for NASA astronaut trainees and G Unit listeners. Damnit, I needed a reprieve.

FB: Dude- Diet Coke is for middle-aged Moms and fallen pop stars. And besides- Halo is getting to me- I need something more cerebral.
PoI: Cerebral, eh? What’ve you got in mind?
FB: I say we adhere to the Nintendo commercials of yesteryear and call the Doctor.
SS: Aww, Fred, you’re not thinking!
FB: Yes, I know what you’re thinking I’m thinking. The way you spell ‘cerebral’ is C-E-R!
SS: “Ha ha ha,” jerky. I know what game you want to play.
PoI: Hell yeah! I’m down for some Dr. Mario!
SS: You really wanna play that, Fred?
FB: Well, not really that much. I mean, I really don’t want to make the defeat too painful for you to bear!
SS: Oh hell no, you just didn’t say that. IT’S ON NOW, BABY!

At this point, I was tempted to really draw out the Diet Coke hatred, but now there was bigger fish to fry. Rather than getting lost in the graphical FPS madness of Master Chief, we now had a suitable and equally ferocious alternative to Halo. Rather than be a test of ability to center your target in a given crosshair, I could bring the pain by systematically lining up fragments of primary colors to make quadruplets and zap viruses, and thus bring the pain. Hell yeah- Dr. Mario was in effect.

Before I go on, let me take a few lines to describe the game to the woefully uninitiated. When not jumping on turtles and walking Raiders football helmets, Mario appears to moonlight as a Dr whose licensing and credentials might be akin to the Simpsons‘s Dr Nick Riviera. Practicing medicine with all the confidence in the Western world, Dr. Mario has got the pharmaceutical game down pat. For you see, despite what you may have learned in your Biology or Organic Chemistry classes, viruses can only be killed by lining up three like-colored pill fragments of the same tablet beside a virus of the same color. Fundamentally, Dr. Mario is a puzzle game based on his groundbreaking medicinal research- research that has made it to the dual-colored Tylenol Geltabs (middle of the page)! Damned green and white colored viruses are now history!

Anyways, going back to that Tuesday night, The Prince of Ikea pulled out the Super Nintendo version of Tetris and Dr. Mario and we proceeded to rock that game like nobody’s business. The dynamic of this puzzle game is unique in the sense that when it was introduced way back in 1990*, it was the only licensed puzzle game on a Nintendo platform to feature real one-on-one competition; a one-on-one competition that could inflate your ego to ‘Lucard-ian’ proportions at one moment, only to have it rotting away at the very next. In the celebrated absence of Halo, it was in this renewed ambience of competition that we soaked in. And it was damned good.

Perhaps it might just be me, or the fact that I enjoy a good puzzle game, but the competitive feel of Dr. Mario is something that I think every gamer whose worth their passion in salt should experience in their lifetime. And when you decide to go embark on the journey yourself, I’d like to offer a little guidance in your decision pertaining to the different versions that there are on the market. While I can’t speak on the Game Boy or Nintendo 64 versions, I can speak on the SNES and NES incarnations. To my knowledge, there are no differences between any of the versions in terms of gameplay. But if you want the most pure of the four (soon to be five with Nintendo’s announced Nintendo Puzzle Collection), do what you can to find the NES version if for nothing else than to hear the soundtrack the way it was meant to be. For some asinine reason, they decided to change the key of the ‘Chill’ soundtrack when they reworked it; a decision that I find needlessly annoying as the price of Samurai Shodown IV on the AES collector’s market.

Outside of this, though, Nintendo really crafted a damned fine game that has stood the test of time. Dr. Mario still rocks the competitive Kasbah over 10 years down the line, and is worthy of your gaming time and muster. Now, if only I can find a couple of batteries in time for class, I’ll be in business!

Filling the good prescription for 10 years running- that’s the Gamer’s Conscience.

And another Conscience comes to a close. While there may not be anymore Dr. Mario in the coming week, 411 Games is still gonna bring the pain like an unemployed wrestler and his latest rap album. And like a live microphone placed right in front of a powered up guitar amp, I’ll pick up whatever feedback you see fit to send.

Until the next time!