Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kid Icarus, Melongenophobia and You

The tale I’m about to tell is a dark and horrifying story of one boy’s decent into a mind-addling fear that would scar him and his family for life. It is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. I take no responsibility for the ensuing nightmares or revolting dinners you may find yourself trapped in after I have passed on this story to you. I recommend no child under the age of eight be subjected to these terrors contained within, as I was on those fateful weeks shortly after Christmas of 1987. This, my friends and readers, is the tale of how Kid Icarus warped my mind and ruined my appetite. Now you may have heard of Kid Icarus recently as a sequel called Kid Icarus: Uprising is about to hit store shelves on March 23, 2012 – no doubt to mentally cripple a new generation of children not ready for the horrors of Angel Land. Let this article be a warning to all 3DS owners and curious Nintendo Entertianment System (NES) enthusiasts. Kid Icarus is dangerous!

I was seven years old when I unwittingly unwrapped an NES on Christmas morning. I was not amused. As any irrational seven year old might react, I was angry. I had wanted an Atari like my cousins had at their house. Instead I awake to find Santa had gotten this goofy looking thing with a man stomping mushrooms for a game. In retrospect, I assume that really hurt my parents' feelings who had tried to "one-up" my Atari Christmas wish. I believe it was an attempt to sell me on the superiority of a NES when they began playing Kid Icarus, but what started as a demonstration grew into a huge addiction from my perspective. I'm not sure if it was all a show on their part or if they truly did grow an appetite to consume 8-bit pixels for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whatever it truly was at the time, my mom and stepdad began to play the hell out of those first two video games, Super Mario Bros. and Kid Icarus. They particularly enjoyed taking turns playing Kid Icarus and I recall coming home from school several evenings over the next few weeks and not being able to get a game in edgewise due to their rampant addiction to MY game system and thus I grew indignant. If there was ever a way to make me want something I thought I didn't want, it was to play it in front of me and not grant me access to it when I demanded access to it.

Now I have to admit what I remember is them playing all night long, but in all honesty it could have simply been them asking me to wait for them to die and me being impatient. I can't really tell and who truly knows how much a 7-year-old's mind can blow things out of proportion. So I admit that I may have been completely off base in my assessment, but what I do know is I said something about it. I don’t remember what was said but whatever it was had a huge impact. My mom and stepdad stopped playing Kid Icarus that very night and (to my knowledge) never played a video game ever again. This would be the First Great Rift that video games would cause between my parents and I. It didn’t matter then. I finally had the game all to myself! I felt I had won a great victory. The repercussions of what I had done wouldn’t be felt until much later when a wiser 9-year-old version of myself realized I had robbed my parents of a joy I would relish in the rest of my life. Truthfully, I felt guilty about it days later when I realized they simply weren't playing at all anymore.

Considering Playing Kid Icarus to Face My Fears
Kid Icarus appealed to me as a young boy because I was interested in Greek myths at an early age. I knew Icarus and I understood his story so I was curious how the story of Kid Icarus would relate to this tale with which I was quite familiar. As it turns out, it doesn't. The titular character "Kid Icarus" is actually named Pit and is a guardian of Angel Land which is ruled by the goddess, Palutena. Pretty much everything in that sentence has nothing to do with Greek myths. The main antagonist is Medusa who retains her snake-hair (or I may have thrown this game in the trash!) but that's about as close to any real myth as this game comes. Due to my age, I was able to forgive the game for its transgressions against mythology - a courtesy that wouldn't necessarily repeat itself for offenders in the future. I spent days and days only playing the first 3 stages over and over countless times without making much headway in this truly challenging game. I developed a deep admiration and respect for it despite it being frustrating and difficult. Little did I know that the true frustrations and most bizarre aspects of the game would come when I made it into the first Fortress, some many attempts later. It was there I encountered my first of many horrific experiences with [pause for effect] the Eggplant Wizards.

These truly nefarious minions of evil have the dubious task of protecting every Fortress in the game. They do not truly seek to defeat you, though, only to engage you and harass you by turning your upper body into an eggplant – restricting your arms and ability to fight. Your only hope for survival against the raging hordes of OTHER (more deadly) beasts in the Fortresses is to run and hop your way back to a Nurse who will remove the eggplant curse. This situation was cause for many frustrating hours of backtracking to the hospital zone, then fighting your way back to the wizard's room just to be cursed all over again and repeat the process (or throw your controller, if need be). It was more tedious a process than I could aptly describe. I wouldn't be surprised to learn "advanced interrogation" techniques involve getting past Eggplant Wizards and finding the hidden Nurse in each Fortress over and over again.  

I cannot even begin to impress upon you how devastating this was to me as a child. I had nightmares for months of being turned into an eggplant with legs and running around aimlessly trying to get rid of the curse. By now you are probably raising an eyebrow if not fully laughing at me, but I assure you this is not a joke. I truly fear and loath eggplant. I won't touch it; I certainly won't eat it. The appearance and thought of it makes me nauseous and sends chills up my spine. I have been known to tell people I'm allergic to it simply so they won't serve it to me (or find out my dark secret). Ten years after the initial trauma, I very nearly quit a job that required me to prepare eggplant parmesan, though I managed to work it out with my boss that I would never have to touch it. Google tells me this affliction has been dubbed "melongenophobia" and I think its safe to say I am "cursed" with it for life. So think carefully over how much you like eggplant when deciding on whether or not to purchase Kid Icarus: Uprising for your children. I'd wager a guess that the new incarnation of Eggplant Wizards aren't even remotely as devious or torturous as their predecessors, but I've given you all the information necessary for an educated decision. Your future dinners may hang in the balance.


Related Links
10 Minutes of Gameplay - http://nesguide.com/games/kidicarus/

The second video comes with some slightly annoying commentary. At 3:29 he encounters the first Eggplant Wizard and starts a full on rant about how vile they are. I feel his pain. Again at 5:39 he encounters a pair of Eggplant Wizards that force a retreat and a swim through lava just to avoid the curse. MegaFreak400 has a good motto for Eggplant Wizards that I'll paraphrase. "It's better to kill yourself than be cursed by an Eggplant Wizard." 

I leave you with that thought.

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