Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PlayStation Memories: An Epilogue

On September 9, 2015, Sony celebrated the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation’s North American release, and I shared a pair of vignettes detailing my earliest memories of the console.

Since receiving a PlayStation on Christmas Day 1995, I’ve amassed plenty of PSX stories. After all, the console would redefine who I was as a gamer and greatly influence who I am as a person today. But I’ll save that for another time.

Right now, let’s bring things full circle with my newest (and likely last) PlayStation Memory.

Crime and PlayStation Punishment

October 2009.

I had just quit my newspaper job of five years to complete a Master’s degree and was living with Mom and Dad. But no job and only a pair classes meant two things:

-          I did fantastic work that semester
-          I had a boatload of free time

But student teaching, which I knew would be only slightly less stressful than Vietnam, loomed on the horizon. So Matt, who had never been very good at growing up anyway, sought solace in the past.

"This is a PlayStation black disc."
- Alucard, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

A chill crept in through my open window, bringing with it the scents of autumn and the stillness of midnight in suburban America. My computer monitor lit up the room.

I had just discovered that I could trick my PSone, the smaller, redesigned version of the original PlayStation, into thinking that the CD tray was always closed. Now I could finally try that disc swapping trick I had heard of when I was a kid.

In other words, I could play pirated games.

That same October night, I discovered that there was a fourth Battle Arena Toshinden and a third Jumping Flash!, both unreleased in North America. Sure the Toshinden series had become a joke and Jumping Flash! hadn’t been relevant since 1996, but I was blinded by nostalgia.  

My first PlayStation came with a demo disc of awesome first-gen games. I spent hours fighting the same two characters in Battle Arena Toshinden while rocking out to the crazy soundtrack. And I think Jumping Flash! was the first truly 3D action game I had ever played.

The next day, I sat in my parent’s living room keeping our new puppy company and tinkering around with illegal backups of Toshinden Subaru and Robbit Mon Dieu, as Japan had chosen to call Jumping Flash! 3. I always get a sort of strange pleasure playing canceled games, betas, and imports, and that day I was riding high on bootlegged glee.

A knock at my door startled me back to reality. Hardly anyone but FedEx would have a reason to come to my house.

I hurried down the stairs. A man in a black suit stood before me.

“Hello?” I asked.

He greeted me and told me his name. Then, “I’m a police officer.” He flashed his badge at me. The zany, pirated Robbit Mon Dieu music bopped away upstairs. And if I could hear it, so did he.

Well, they had found me.

This was not the first time video games had gotten me in trouble. Once in second grade a girl stole my GameBoy. If I hadn’t had the sound turned all the way up, the teacher wouldn’t have heard the startup chime and I’d have played with portable power no more. And in eight grade, I was once so absorbed in an article about Street Fighter EX coming to PlayStation, I forgot to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Teachers can get really bent out of shape about that.

And now I was going to be arrested for pirating decade old Japanese software. I briefly considered blaming the puppy, but his cuteness was an impenetrable shield.

“I’d like to ask you a few questions about the day of August 19,” said the investigator.

“I didn’t download any PlayStation games that day,” I thought.

As it turns out, someone had left a folder full of official, sealed-to-the-public documents just hanging out on my neighbor’s doorstep, and our Man in Black was looking for the culprit. Thankfully, I had an airtight, verifiable alibi for my whereabouts, so he thanked me for my time and started walking to the house across the street.

Relieved, I headed upstairs and booted up Toshinden Saburu. And let me tell you, I’m really, really glad I didn’t go to jail for bootlegging that mind-blowing abomination.

It's as good as it looks.

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