Somethings are better remembered.

I like to imagine the perfect Saturday morning every week, and I plan it like many others on a Friday. The anticipation of the weekend has built up and finally we can look forward to some free time, and we can share in our atmosphere of relaxation across our social circles. Everybody is happier for it being Saturday.

oooh nostalgia

Sometimes I’ve been working on Saturday morning, sometimes I’ve been too hungover to get out of bed on a Saturday, sometimes the fact that it is Saturday hasn’t hit me until very late at night when it’s practically Sunday, and sometimes my Saturday morning has gone according to plan and even though some haven’t, I’ve successfully managed to consistently dream up my perfect Saturday morning every week. “That is what I will do on Saturday morning”. I don’t always mind if my plan doesn’t happen, It’s the thought that counts, but I never fail to make Saturday morning plans.

If you’re going to show Star Wars screenshots it is the law that at least one Storm trooper be visible.

I’ts my tradition, a ritual that I try and maintain. Usually it begins where I watch some type of fun show like a cartoon or something entertaining in some way that makes waking up on the weekend start of fun. And this happens preferably from my bed and the earlier this happens the better. For me that’s between 0700 and 0800. This is the fault of my brother, who for years managed to wake up early on Saturday but struggled to do so on a school day. He would switch on our shared TV to watch the kids TV shows. I normally follow this TV in bed ritual with a good “adult” breakfast of many tasty things. Years back breakfast on a Saturday meant a bowl of cereal followed by a walk into town where we would meet our father and spend the day with him. Dad is a PC gamer and owned the first 486 out of all the people I knew (because a child knows SOOO MANY people /s), he would upgrade this 486 eventually with the first Pentium and the interest in modular gaming platforms was passed down to his kids as was his old 486. My 3 siblings and I are all PC gamers as a result of hand me down PCs from dad.

My default screen looks like this, map up, blaster firing, dark atmosphere and lost like a child alone in a supermarket.

Back in my day..

My first thoughts about PC upgrades tended to revolve around “What new games can it run now?”, today I don’t even bat an eyelid in that direction. I assume it can run everything which has been the case now for the last 10 years. Once upon a time in an upgrade far far away we could now play Star Wars Dark Forces. Up until that point just two of my friends had a PC capable of running such a powerful game. They would talk to each other about the levels and the cool weapons and how awesome it is to be running around inside of Star Wars, which to us was hugely important and very very cool. All I could do was to listen and ask many questions. As soon as our hand-me-down 486 was upgraded (probably ram and a gfx card) I borrowed Dark Forces and installed it. Despite what I am sure was a terrible looking game my brain which was pumped at playing a Star Wars game registered only beauty and happiness.

Like my friends I could also interact with Storm Troopers (read: kill them with Blasters) and run around that typical Star Wars Imperial environment we all recognize from the movies. Rescuing a character called Crix Madine from a Imperial Detention Center was as far as I could reach which had taken me a couple of Saturday visits to my fathers place before I had to give my friend back his game. I don’t know why I couldn’t get past that level but I suspect my young brain couldn’t understand how doors and door codes worked or something idiotic like that. Plus limited time was a factor. Oh well. Dark Forces became the game that I failed to complete, and eventually faded into memory. Nostalgic talks about games with my friends would often find their way into Star Wars territory pretty quickly, specifically, X-Wing and Tie Fighter, and of course Dark Forces which would remind me of the level that escaped.

Here we go, the haunting level that hated 12 year old me.

And so now to present day, two years ago I bought Dark Forces on Steam and like most cheap Steam purchases it remained in my library collecting digital dust up until Friday this week. My inner clock alarm bell rang which signaled my thoughts to start planning Saturday Morning. I chose a couple of Penn and Teller magic bits to wake up with and I decided that I would install and play Dark Forces. The idea just popped into my thoughts from no where. After some amazing magic and wonderment to start my morning Dark Forces was installed and as I began to play I remembered everything about the first few levels. I’ve not played this game for a very long time but like riding a bike there are some things you don’t forget. I rushed past and ignored many Storm Troopers as I raced my way to that prison level. Some of the levels are really frustrating puzzles that require a lot of back tracking and hit this switch then that switch sort of annoying game play early games were riddled with – sewer system level I am looking at you. I surprised myself by beating the first 5 levels really quickly, I thought it would take much longer than it did, but after a lunch break, a stretch, the usual Saturday chores and some socializing I blocked out a section of the remaining afternoon to complete the Imperial Detention Center.

Anybody recognize this? In my gaming life this image is iconic.

Anticipation can be wonderful. Waiting for the result of ones expectations can build excitement right up to an amazing reveal, but it can also lead to the biggest of disappointments. It’s like a crap roller coaster. Imagine as you are slowly towed to the top, you see to your left and your right the curves and dips and corkscrews that await. The towing takes quite a long time and this “mountain” doesn’t seem to end. Everything below you is much smaller, you’re really going to enjoy this, the anticipation of everybody on the roller coaster can be heard and felt in the air. And then the track levels off a little, the towing has stopped so here comes that scary exciting plummet and!…oh.. you see a park worker smiling and asking if you all had fun? You unbuckle and leave the roller coaster safely, you leave through the exit turnstile and make your way down a long set of stairs to the bottom. Oh well, what a crap roller coaster. That’s the sort of disappointment I felt as I finished this prison level. I had built this level up to be some nightmare puzzle horror over years of my life and now I am uncertain if those memories are even real as I realized that I had just succeeded to rescue the dude from ROTJ who explains the Deathstar attack plan with no problems, no retracing of steps, and everything seeming blindingly obvious. It was done, completed. No trumpets blaring or fanfare. It was over and there was no sense of satisfaction to be had, no closure. Nothing at all.

Weird green tube gun. Wildly inaccurate but quite good fun. That thermal detonator being thrown to the right would nearly end me at the cost of this screenshot. I dunno, the things I do for a screenshot.

Completing the rest of Dark Forces took about 3 hours with only a few minor frustrating puzzles blocking my way. I just Googled these problems and read a guide, I couldn’t be bothered giving the game anymore of my time. As far as I was concerned I beat the game when I completed that prison level and rescued Mr.Bad 80’s haircut, anything the game provided afterwards was just filler, an obstacle in my way of being able to say that I have completed this classic game. Part of me wishes that I had left the memory of it alone rather than confronting it. Perhaps it’s arrogant to be that way at times, the need to revisit unfinished business and to “do it right this time”, but by doing so I felt a bit disappointed that I had indeed fulfilled my expectations and done it right.

You want a medal? Here’s your medal! Well done in completing Dark Forces. A game that only took you 20 years to complete.

Oh well, there is always next Saturday.

Useful Links:

Guide I used: http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/3397-star-wars-dark-forces/faqs/2031

Buy it..

..here on GOG: https://www.gog.com/game/star_wars_dark_forces

..here on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/32400

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_Dark_Forces

Penn and Teller: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEYtEo7c-c


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