The very first time I beat Paper Mario, I would have been 9 years old. In fact, I didn’t beat it at all! I watched my brother play it through, and saw everything through his eyes. As a child, and even today, I learn and live and experience things through the eyes of those I look up to.
Rewind a few months and I’m in my best friends basement, being introduced to the game for the first time. I’d only met him about a year earlier, but we were fast friends. I spent a lot of time at his house, and he was the first person to interest my brother and I in console gaming. I remember quite clearly that we were in our sleeping bags behind the couch in his living room, in front of the gaming television. The lights were out and his dog, Lady, was draped across my legs. My friend had only come as far as the first three Star Spirits when he introduced the game to me. I remember, because when I first got my hands on that controller, Lady Bow was his newest partner and she instantly became my eternal favourite. Presumably bored, or perhaps just taking one of his infamous “cat naps”, my friend dozed off and I spent the night speedy spinning around everywhere I could within the bounds of the Mushroom Kingdom.
I got the game for Christmas that year. My insistence paid off! My brother and I were exploring under the tree and he was tearing the corners off of every present to see what was inside when we slowly uncovered that papered “P” in the upper left side of the box cover and I became silly with excitement!
My only downfall as a young gamer was lacking far too much in skill and always relying on my brother to play all my games for me as I watched. Not that I ever minded. I got to experience the game first hand without ever feeling the stress of losing to a boss or having a game over, and listening to my brother’s sideways humour throughout the story only made the game that much more charming. And when he beat it? A part of me changed forever.
He said that night that–after beating the game, watching the parade, and staring at the fireworks above Princess Peach’s castle as soft orgel music chimed throughout the room–that he could listen to that music for forever. That he wanted to never shut the Nintendo off, and to fall asleep to the peaceful melody. And ever since that day I’ve been chasing that memory. Maybe for him, maybe for myself, I don’t know. But I would replay this game 6 or 7 times throughout the years since then, every time recalling the very moment he said those words.
Tonight I beat the game once again. And I realize that, this isn’t the only memory I’ve been chasing. Things I’ve experienced since that day many years ago that have left the same imprint on my heart have all been things I’ve desperately sought after in the years to follow. And it sucks that those memories will never be recreated exactly as they were, but a part of me thinks that, in the back of my mind, this is why I’ve wanted children of my own for so long.
Someday I picture myself huddled in a mess of blankets on the floor with little versions of my brother and sister and I. We’ll be playing my vintage N64, giggling and being loud… We’ll be chasing memories, and I’ll know that “forever” kind of feeling once again.