If I answer the phone to you, consider yourself privileged

Mega Man X5 Logo

Mega Man X5 (2001)

People are always asking me why I never answer the phone when they ring. Isn’t that obvious? In my book, calling somebody is probably the most selfish everyday thing you can do. It’s as if the caller is telling you, “stop everything you’re doing, you have to talk only to me now”.

If your number comes up as one of my saved contacts, you should know that you have about a 20% chance of being answered. If it’s a number that I don’t have saved, I shall let it ring out and Google it later. I may then ring back if there’s potentially something good in it for me, or pat myself on the back for my vigilance if it’s dodgy. And if it’s a private number, or from Botswana, you can forget about it entirely – waste of time.

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A scientific calculator is no match for exploding Koopas

SuperMarioLand

Super Mario Land (1990)

When I revisited Super Mario Land not long back, I thought I was playing a calculator, never mind a Game Boy. We had to buy scientific calculators in school in order to keep up with some of the ridiculous maths stuff that was coming our way – things likes xs, ys, and many other letters – what was wrong with numbers? Then there was sins, tans and coses… we were getting hit by these daily, and even our shiny new calculators couldn’t deal with whatever on earth an asymptote was. But I used to be seething with envy at our school colleagues in the US, who had access to Texas Instruments calculators, machines which I’m led to believe are the Rolls-Royces of computation and arithmetic. We really were deprived schoolchildren. 

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I used to sleep under a blanket of price-scalped NES Classics

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Star Fox 2 (2017)

Even when the NES Classic was announced, I found a way to be snooty about it. Here was a wonderful, official little gizmo from Nintendo, with a good price point, perfectly replicated aesthetics, and heaps of retro goodness. How could I possibly look down upon it? But you already know that that’s a silly question, because nerds will look down upon anything to suit their own agenda. In this case, I already had a NES plus a lorryload of games that, in any case, were mostly clag, so what was I missing out on?

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Take your pick between the Phony GreyStation, the Dreampants, and grey cartridges

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Nintendo 64 (1996 / 1997)

My first experience with the Nintendo 64 console, way back when in Christmas ’97, was fairly inauspicious. For a start, I’m sure my older brother harboured some secret resentment about gettin gone, given that just about everyone else in his school peer group were getting or had already gotten PlayStations. And there is no section of society more judgmental, more better placed to finish you socially, then your schoolyard fellows. I wasn’t embarrassed at all, in fact I was chuffed. But what did set off some humiliation for me that fateful day was my quite literally ham-fisted attempts to hold the controller.

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How would Bokoblins and Gorons have done in World War I?

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Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (2018)

The other day I was reading about World War 1 casualties in the final days of the conflict, and bloody hellfire. It was the old Hundred Days Offensive, that frightful last rush where the British front decided “Bugger to it all, chaps. Let’s bloody well finish the Gerrys,” to which the French faction gave a hearty “on hohn hohn” laugh and squealed, “Formidable!”

The Germans caught wind of this plan, and for three months they all ran at each other and drove tanks at each other until Germany finally cried for mercy. The net result? Over two million marked casualties. Many were captured, but the majority were killed, and all in the length of a summer’s holiday from school. With numbers like that, you can’t even imagine the face of a typical British or French or German or Austro-Hungarian fighting man, too young to be on a battlefield, but too old not to fight for his country. That nutter Stalin was right, it really is just a statistic.

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We’ll sell you the whole tablet but you’re only gonna need the stylus

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Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)

Call me a fanboy, but I always have to admire Nintendo’s testicular fortitude. They’ve sold us bathroom scales, knowing that we’d buy them in our droves. You almost never want to buy a DS, or a 3DS, or even a Switch, because you already know they’re going to throw out a Lite or XL version any day now. But with the Super Mario Maker duology of games, they’ve really done it this time – they’ve sold you a Mario game, except you have to make the levels yourself.

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Alpha males are born, not manufactured in robotic laboratories

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Mega Man X4 (1997)

It’s a competitive time to be a man, and you might be well aware that there’s nothing more fragile than the male ego. As a man, you may have had occasions in your life where you found yourself at risk of looking small or weak, and you had to fight back – like those impassioned little terrier dogs you see causing a ruckus, or when Napoleon started running amuck in Europe. And as a woman, you may have borne witness to your boyfriend making a right show of himself, after some well-hung hunk tried to chat you up. A man lives in fear that the bigger fish, the more dominant alpha male, will be along very shortly to prey on him. And when it happens, you just have to take your licks.

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I wish the Dark Queen would whip me every day

Battletoads

Battletoads (NES) (1993)

I always thought I’d fancy a bit of sado-masochism, whips and chains and all that. It sounds right up my alley, until I realised that you sort of have to get hurt or hurt other people yourself to get anything from it. I’m more of a delicate care bear, you know, and despite my famously rugged exterior I’m actually quite a softie. I’ve had handshakes where I thought I got rough treatment, and I’m the type of person to say “Sorry” when they bump right into me. If I see any kind of bruise coming up on my leg, I fret for days. This doesn’t make me a real man, I’m aware, but at least my skin stays nice and soft and unwhipped. Anyway, who wants to be tied-up when there’s yoga to be done?

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I coulda been a game dev contender

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Donkey Kong Country (1994)

Game design. The one thing that we’ve always wanted to do. Well, not all of us. Most young lads growing up wanted to be footballers or astronauts of course, but I was aware of my limitations early. As a result, even in my most wildly unrealistic fantasies, I was still essentially a no-name code monkey. Isn’t that sad?

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Wearing a beret to school makes everybody want to be your friend, trust me

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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)

When I were a younger lad, I tried very much to make hats and caps ‘happen’ for me. I was a proud owner of this naff baseball cap with Sampdoria on the front, an Italian football team that were successful in the early 90s – I was a football hipster before there were football hipsters. I’ve tried several beanie hats over the years, but never got much success out of them what with my humongous head. They did fit my head, of course, with a bit of stretching, but the end result was ridiculous. You can’t keep all of that head bate underneath a small canopy of wool. It’ll burst and tear, or look like a crater on your celestial bonce, and you’ll be left with hat-hair everywhere. There was even a time when I wore a Parisian beret to school every day. As you can expect, that one won me loads of friends.

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