When the thought of a videogame can bring you back to a specific time and place, you can say that it’s been saved to your “Memory Card”. In this column, we take a look at these saved states and the games that take us back.
Starting in 2000, my family began regularly traveling back and forth between Florida and New York to help take care of grandparents. Fourteen years old, I packed my bags, set my VCR to record Gundam Wing, and headed on out.
People have this notion that the entire state of New York is composed of New York City, or else that it’s the only place anyone ever goes in the otherwise seemingly desolate state. OK, so it’s true that the rest of the state may largely be a devoid of interest, but that doesn’t mean that nobody ever goes there. There wasn’t much for me to do as I spent my summer in the pastoral village of Wellsville, and being my first time back to New York in years, I had little in the way of personal items at my grandparents’ house. To solve this issue, we took a trip to the Walmart a couple towns over. After a brief perusal of the electronics department, I bought myself Boston’s Greatest Hits and Dragon Warrior Monsters for the Game Boy Color.
There was usually something to keep me busy while we were at home, but we would often have to drive a few towns over to take my grandfather to the VA hospital. It was on these trips that I played Dragon Warrior Monsters. An hour out, a few hours there, an hour back…I had plenty of time to sit and play the game all day—and with the closest game-selling store an hour in the opposite direction, I wasn’t in a position to be picking up anything else any time soon. It was just me and Dragon Warrior Monsters.
The game is mostly your generic grindtacular RPG fare, but if you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll understand that this is somehow addictive for me. The game starts off easily enough, but it quickly turns toward sadistic. It isn’t so much that the game is difficult as it is incredibly long and annoying. Dungeons are randomly generated with a set number of floors, each containing a set number of Legend of Zelda-style screens. Early dungeons are maybe four levels of four screens, so it’s easy to check each screen for treasures and exits. Later dungeons are twenty or thirty levels, each with way too many screens of random battles, useless items, and please, please, please just let this screen have the exit.
The story isn’t incredibly long, but the game has a few extra details that could waste your time. Like monster breeding—losing two high-level party members to create a new monster at level 1? A fair amount of my time was spent just breeding monsters, then leveling the babies to be old enough to breed again. Thinking back on it, while the breeding system itself was fairly innovative at the time, it mostly just led to more and more grinding. The vast majority of the game is spent walking or fighting. A true classically-styled JRPG. No wonder I liked it so much at the time.
Still, Dragon Warrior Monsters entertained me while I sat in the hospital lobby or the back seat of my grandmother’s Lincoln. It isn’t a particularly noteworthy game, but it did what games do. It relieved my boredom and kept me from worrying about my grandparents. And, to this day, I can’t think about the game without remembering the time I spent playing it.