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Have you ever known a game so well it's felt hardwired into your brain?

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A funny thing happened to me the other week. I picked up a copy of Earthworm Jim HD on XBLA (which you probably already know I love like kittens who deliver cake with little bakers' hats on), and suddenly, as far as my brain was concerned, it was 1994 again.

Now I knew Jim was a hard game, and I knew that the gameplay hadn't been changed at all for this new HD version, so I was expecting to get my arse immediately handed to me and have to learn it all over again. After all, I hadn't played it seriously in over a decade. But none of that happened. Cold, 16-bit instinct kicked in, as did a whole load of razor sharp memories of things I'd forgotten I'd ever known. Very strange things happened to my mind that day, so read click on, so that I can explain this curious case further. And then tell me if anything similar has ever happened to you.


Above: Me, calculating the exact blast angle perfectly

There I was, starting New Junk City for the first time in more than ten years. After that gap, Jim should have been all but a new game to me. But then the bassline of that first tune kicked in, and something mighty and ancient stirred, Cthulu-like, in the darkest corner of my brain.

It turned out that I hadn't forgotten my old Earthworm Jim skills. I'd just preserved them for the ages like some kind of mental secret weapon, sealed away and safeguarded to save future generations.

Every enemy behaviour pattern, every nuance of Jim's running and jumping physics, every tiny detail of the game's collision-detection and every exact angle and distance it's possible to hit a successful whip swing from... They didn't so much come flooding back as materialise instantaneously in my mind, filling my skull with their age-old lessons and hard-learned old-school instincts. All this knowledge was just there, sitting in my brain like a troll under a bridge.


Above: Me, calculating the exact powerslide angle perfectly

Maybe it's a thing that happens with older games. They were harder back then and required more precision, so we had to spend afternoon upon afternoon just mastering how to control the damn things, let alone completing them. Maybe that's why my Jim skills are so eternally locked into my brain. It would also explain why I'm masterfully better at the original Super Mario Kart than any version since.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Ever had a long-thought-forgotten game retake command of your brain and senses like this, as if no time had ever passed? Is there any game you know so well that you just can't not be good at it, no matter hard you try? Let me know. I find this phenomenon intriguing and would like to investigate further.

Topics

Old-school

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64 comments

  • Taxtm - July 14, 2010 6:15 a.m.

    Still happens to me every time I pick up Sonic 3 and Knuckles, even after all these years. I first picked it up when I was 3 or 4 as my first video game, and I'll be 20 in September. I still know where every bonus stage ring is to this day, the moment I pick up the controller.
  • MaynardJ - June 29, 2010 5:40 p.m.

    And Doom 1 and 2.
  • MaynardJ - June 29, 2010 5:40 p.m.

    Was Earthworm Jim really that hard? I remember finishing it multiple times and saving power shots by killing most enemies with a whip attack, meaning I didn't fire any regular gunshot in the whole (?) playthrough. Eventually even the submarine part became a breeze. This means it's probably as hardwired in my brain as it is in Antista's, and i shuould really get this from XBLA. Also: - the original Prince of Persia (although I had a much harder time with the XBLA version than I should have) - Mega Man 2 (haven't played it since the NES days, so not quite sure) - Batman Returns on SNES; I must have finished that one 10 times. - Starfox
  • FALLINGINFIRE - June 28, 2010 2:38 a.m.

    SotC, FFX, Zelda: Majoras mask, ReCAPTCHA: plan sharking
  • purple_omlet - June 28, 2010 1:42 a.m.

    Since the first console I ever received was the N64 (rather late, Christmas of 2004), I played my NES like crazy (mind you it's been in my house since before I was born, and I'm currently 19). The one game I could tell you level by level about is definitely Super Mario 3 or Kirbys Adventure in Dream Land. i know it that well. also, i can remember anything you would need to know about Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask... aside form fairy locations. i never felt the need to gather them all.
  • nadrewod999 - June 26, 2010 5:35 a.m.

    inFamous. I didn't play it for at least a year, but when I picked it back up (eventually), I was saving/terrorizing the city as if I had only left Empire City yesterday.
  • Mexiflan - June 25, 2010 7:56 p.m.

    Ocarina of time,hands down. I can name the exchange chain for the biggoron sword anytime,like it's stuck in my head. The water temple is way easier as well.
  • philipshaw - June 25, 2010 11:05 a.m.

    SSX3 for me, that game always brings me back to 2003 with it's awesome visuals,great gameplay and amazing soundtrack
  • JayLin22 - June 25, 2010 9:39 a.m.

    I recently played Thunder Force IV on my Mac Genesis emulator - it took me 4 goes to finish it. There were a couple of things I'd forgotten since playing the the actual cartridge 17 (!) years ago, but for the most part I'd remembered the enemy attack patterns, hidden secrets and boss-beating strategies. It was like I hadn't played it for 2 months - I made dumb mistakes, but I knew I'd made a mistake even before my thumbs completed their brain-command. Although it has to be said that my reflexes aren't as quick as they used to be. Curse you, Father Time...
  • DrIntrigue - June 24, 2010 11:42 p.m.

    Mega Man 2!
  • nomnom52 - June 24, 2010 11:39 p.m.

    I am insanely good at good at Metroid Prime. I hadn't played it since the days when I had a 'cube, but when I saw Prime Trilogy, I had to get it, and Then I just wanted to get the damn wave beam!
  • V13Dragongal - June 24, 2010 11:38 p.m.

    I'd have to say LOZ Ocarina of Time too. I still remember every song exactly, even the long teleporting ones.
  • Conman93 - June 24, 2010 11:22 p.m.

    I would say Kingdom Hearts 2 although the gameplay is insanely simple in that. I am able to complete the game 100% in under 25 hours on proud mode without dying ( I did it a few times) I'm usually pretty good at SSBB no matter how long the break. Most of the console Zeldas are sort of memorized too!
  • EnragedTortoise1 - June 24, 2010 11:16 p.m.

    MAG and Bad Company (the first one) constantly confuse me. Guy shooting at you? PRESS TRIANGLE! NO! SHIT! CLICK THE RIGHT STICK! Knife a guy? CLICK THE RIGHT STICK! NO! FUUU... PRESS TRIANGLE!
  • hyrumwhite - June 24, 2010 9:29 p.m.

    After Seeing the new trailers of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, I decided to fire up the original. As soon as the first random encounter occurred, EVERYTHING came back to me. Which enemy I should fight first, when to attack with which characters, I even remembered the nuances of Djinni summoning even though I hadn't received those abilities yet.
  • StoneDreadnaught - June 24, 2010 9:26 p.m.

    *final boss
  • StoneDreadnaught - June 24, 2010 9:25 p.m.

    I'm gonna go with Crusader of Centy, an old Genesis Zelda knock-off. (It was in an article here on the site) I know every level's layout, every animal combination, how to defeat each part of the boss from easiest to hardest. Now I"m just waiting for the HD version to come out.
  • GoldenMe - June 24, 2010 9:20 p.m.

    Sonic The Hedgehog 2. First of all, I quite literally beaten the game over 100 times in my lifetime. Second, I memorized every path in every Act and Stage and Zone. And third, the whole soundtrack is etched into my brain. Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Casino Night, you name it.
  • RebornKusabi - June 24, 2010 9:12 p.m.

    I literally know every single minute detail about Silent Hill 1-3 and Fatal Frame 1-3. As in, I know what to do, where to go, how to combat certain monsters and even in the case of all of the Fatal Frame's, I've gotten to the point where I can literally never be hurt for the entirety of my playtime which each Fatal Frame. Another example if it needs to be 16-bit is Super Metroid. I not only know how to sequence break but even if I'm playing normally, I can usually 100% that game in under two hours.
  • admjwt - June 24, 2010 8:56 p.m.

    @cyberninja thats eaxactly how my friends siser is. she got the game the day it came out and has beaten it thouasands of times since.

Showing 1-20 of 64 comments

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