“This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore.” That quote always brings a waterfall of memories from my younger days. Does it sound a little macabre? Let me explain.
Some of my fondest childhood memories have to do with video games. I was always inside the house – the cliché of a nerd not playing sports – and not having many friends. Most of my time was spent on movies, knockoff NES or messing around on the PC, but I’ll get into those another time.
This was back when Cybernet’s Lucy Longhurst appeared regularly on Tube (SABC) and Paper Weight actually sold books by their weight; the best branch was a massive shop in Tyger Valley, which later became the Emporium and now House & Home. John, my best friend at the time and someone I still value to this day, and I would spend our pocket-money on random video game magazines. We’d pour over these for hours and he even bought a few back from England. These wonderful pages contained images of games we could only dream of, but never play or afford. Also, a few issues of White Dwarf. It was in these Bibles of video gaming history that we learned about Link’s latest adventures through Hyrule, Sonic’s jump to 3D, Mario’s foray into every genre and more. Yes, some of these were ancient, but we didn’t care.
At that time my mother pursued a career in estate agency (and she was good). Every time she sold a house my sister’s and I – those still living at home – would receive R50 as pocket-money. Back in 1998 this was a lot of cash for a kid. After that I eventually tried some local publications, which consisted of NAG (new on the scene) and PC Format as both came with PC CDs full of demos and movies. I still curse Grant (for those who know who he is) to this day for the Magic the Gathering: Portal demo pack which was bundled with that copy of NAG. I continued buying these for a few months.
But, this isn’t about NAG, or Magic the Gathering and my later geek addictions, or even about those old magazines. This is about PC Format, but more specifically one of their demo discs. Upon this disc sat a demo of Resident Evil 2 for PC. Now our PC was crap – and there’s no other way to phrase it – which came into our possession, and was taken back to MTR Computers (in Edward Street) many times for faults. It took me quite some time, but that Resident Evil 2 demo eventually ran on our PC. Sure it stuttered and jerked and was slow as can be, but that didn’t matter. I was playing a game different to Quake 1, Doom, SimCity 2000, Mario 3, Contra, etc., I was playing a game where I feared for my character’s life. For some reason the intro movie didn’t work (or the demo didn’t include it?) but my character, Leon, started off amidst a blazing city while zombies approached; a timer counted down to the demo’s finale. I ran for my life, shot a few zombies and died. I died, but it didn’t matter, I restarted and tried again and again and again. Each time getting a little further before I either died, or the timer ran out. Only once did I reach the Licker.
I was hooked.
John, who previously owned a PS1 “in the old country”, and I would debate for hours over the SEGA Saturn or Sony PlayStation. He often spoke of something called Final Fantasy 7, but I usually brushed it off.
One morning my parents went shopping at Tyger Valley and we popped into Dion (not what Dion Wired is today). I headed for the games section, naturally, and sitting right in front of me was Resident Evil 2. That beautiful black cover with a white zombie face on it staring back at me. I picked it up and continued to scan over the back cover for every morsel of information.
I needed a PlayStation. I needed to play Resident Evil 2. I wanted Resident Evil 2, even if I didn’t yet have a console to play it on; I would save up for it.
After a few days I decided on selling my Magic the Gathering collection. It was humble and mostly built from pre-constructed Urza decks, but after a few weeks I raised the R200 needed, some of which came from saved pocket-money as well.
By that time my parents were pretty sick of me talking about Resident Evil 2.
One Saturday morning I convinced my dad to go to Dion so that I could buy the game. My mom dropped us off as she had to take a client to see a house. We first visited TeleGames – located in the current food court – which was the only real gaming store around (there was another in N1 City for years). After a brief chat with the sales guy, who had put up with me numerous times before coming into the store and playing whatever NES game was on display, my dad and I looked at the PlayStation 1 boxes. This was when the PS1 was transitioning from its original controllers to the Dual Shock kind. Afterwards we headed towards Dion and I bought the game. Upon immediately leaving the store I started pouring over the game manual, box, discs, basically anything at all.
My father lead us back towards TeleGames, but mostly just to browse around. I looked up at him and said, “I wish I had a PlayStation, but I have the game and I’m happy. I’ll save up for one!” The thing is I did want one, but I knew my parents didn’t have the money for it and I really was happy to save up for one no matter how long it took. My dad stopped us, pulled out his cellphone (a brick) and called up my mom. It’s not a conversation I remember, nor one I was listening too, but I did hear, “but we can put it on the credit card.”
Again my dad lead us towards TeleGames, into the store and bought one of those beautiful silver-grey boxes. It’s still the only shop I’ve ever seen a Nintendo 64 in. My mom picked us up and told me dad he was too soft, then smiled at me.
I had a PS1 and I was shocked.
We had fish and chips that evening (my oldest sister and brother-in-law) came over for supper and we all played TEKKEN 3 and Gran Turismo on the included demo disc. Once everyone had left I booted up Resident Evil 2, ran through the streets and died. This continued until the wee hours of the morning and I loved it.
The PS1 did net me a few more friends and was popular at sleepovers (4-player Quake 2 death matches until 3am). Many years later my mom confessed it was to help me make more friends – I will always be grateful for that.
Resident Evil 2 is still my go-to game for feeling like a kid and the warning, “This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore,” followed by the title screen blaring, “RESIDENT EVIL…2!” still gives me goosebumps.
To this day I tell people I “conned” my dad into buying me one, but I really hadn’t. It wasn’t something I expected, but it was a gift from a man who only wanted to make his family happy. I will always regret not playing enough games with him.
Now, let me tell you about Final Fantasy VII…