Anyone who played video games in their childhood will have some particular favourites they remember fondly. For many, this means Sonic the Hedgehog or perhaps Mario – certainly it’s one explanation for how Nintendo manage to shoehorn the Mario character into every franchise possible without their fans rising up in revolt – but I didn’t have a Sega Mega Drive or a NES. I’m can’t scare myself by sitting down in front of Sonic 1, instantly able to recall exactly where to find every secret in the Green Hill Zone as soon as the music starts. I know for a fact that some of you can.
I had an Amiga, the best home computer ever, but before that I had an Amstrad GX4000.
About as successful as the weird Amstrad emailer/phone thing that Sir Alan strangely never mentions on The Apprentice, the GX4000 was not a classic console. Wikipedia tells me that it was essentially an Amstrad CPC home computer without a keyboard, and only 25 games were ever published for it. This means I once had the distinction of owning 16% of its entire game catalogue, and our local Post Office seemed to have the rest on the shelves waiting for me. Impressive.
Among the games that made it into my collection was Navy SEALs, apparently a tie-in with a film of the same name. I’ve never seen it, and indeed I had no idea I was playing a movie tie-in at all until years later, but I became such a master at the game that I could easily reach the end without losing a life. Every time.
In the great time-honoured tradition of making the game your own, I re-christened all the game’s weapons and characters. Every guy whose face gurned from the corner of the screen had a name, faithfully recorded in the game manual. I’d love to say that it gave me an emotional attachment to them, inconsolable if I let one of them die, but remember I could play through the game without losing a life. I never had to see any of them beyond Number 5, whose grumpy visage doesn’t help me remember his name. Sorry man.
The flamethrower weapon became the “bum burner”. The mysterious screaming, exploding thing which I assume was supposed to be some kind of rocket launcher was the “screamer rocket”, or something along those lines. The final level of the game took place in Beirut, where for some reason your dude could jump twice as high as in the rest of the game, as though gravity is lower in the Middle East. Perhaps it is. It’s closer to the Equator after all.
I can only assume that the creators of Half-Life also played Navy SEALs, shamelessly stealing the idea for the final act of their game taking place in an alien landscape with significantly lower gravity.
Amazingly but inevitably, I can still play Navy SEALs thanks to the magic of emulation. The fabulous WinAPE emulates the entire Amstrad CPC range, including the GX4000. I’m sorry to report that I can no longer complete the game on a single life – in fact, thanks to the second level requiring some careful timing when it comes to crossing a lift shaft complete with moving lift, I can’t remember how to get through it at all.
You don’t get that problem with Sonic, do you? Navy SEALs – clearly a superior gaming challenge on a truly inferior console.
Wikipedia FACT: “In total, fewer than 14,000 units were ever sold, making the Amstrad GX4000 the worst selling gaming console in history.” Classic. Why doesn’t Lord Sugar ever mention this achievement?