After 27 years of playing them, it seems like I've forgotten more games than I can remember. Many may have been instantly forgettable, or perhaps I didn't play them for long enough to form a mental connection, but sometimes they simply vanish and leave a gaping hole where a memory should have been.
Spotting nothing where something should've been is a tricky task at the best of times; with memory, it thwarts you, tries to convinces you that there wasn't anything there in the first place, and soothes your worries that you've forgotten something vitally important to your future well-being. And if you're anything like me, that just makes you more desperate to remember — to salvage some sort of recollection from the scraps of memory left at the edges of the void and then piece them together into some cohesive whole. Even the Internet isn't much help, unless you can put your scattered glimpses of graphics and concepts into enough distinct words to differentiate your memory from the tens of thousands of games to have been released over your lifetime.
I realized I'd forgotten something earlier this year. Unfocused flashes of a game began haunting me, stuck in the back of my eyeballs. I saw shooting, a guy, running, jumping, and a certain graphical style. I ran left through the final level to shoot a giant face. All I had were fragments of memory: twisted remnants left when part of my childhood depressurized and exploded into space. What remained was totally unrecognizable even if I could output my out-of-focus visual interpretation into some sort of meta-search engine. So I got on with things even as my memory continued to assure me there was nothing missing despite the incomplete pieces buzzing round my brain.
It wasn't until a random Twitter request for recommendations of classic run-and-gun shooters popped up this week that I revisited the void where that memory should've been. With new determination, I pulled up Wikipedia's list of all Amstrad games — even limited as it is — and began a determined trawl through every entry while looking for some verbal trigger to attach to the fragments. At last, buried deep in the M section, I found a title which sent a jolt of recognition through me.
The version I played looked more like the video in this link — the technically inferior but still surprisingly authentic Amstrad port. In a matter of minutes, as I skipped through the above video, the hole in my memories reconstructed itself in a wave of nostalgia. I remember that boss, those cogs, those goddamned spiky meat-grinder things — it took me days to work out the pattern to beat them — and the weapons screen with its options of unlocking different combinations using the keys you picked up during each level. I remember the boss fight against ten fighter jets, seeing the silhouettes of your remaining foes streaking across the background as they swoop in to attack, and even the wonderfully stilted cutscene showing your family strung up by whoever the hell it is with the big green evil face who you're gunning for.
I must've played it for months. Even when I finally completed it — with the help of a cheat code, I suspect — I'd go back and replay it in the hopes of getting better and of having more keys in my possession to unlock my family from their confinement. And yet for years that memory had vanished in its entirety, only to be reborn as an amalgam of scattered fragments, long-lost feelings, and Youtube imagery. I can't even be certain which aspects of my memories of the game are true anymore and which were close enough to what was lost for my brain to make a seamless substitution. This is the new truth of my memories of Midnight Resistance: a recollection of childhood past.
Long may it remain.
Originally posted at Generation Minus One, the Webcomic of Last-gen Gaming