Zeus Adventure Gold: Busy Blasters
A Game for the NES
1990. Zeus Adventure Gold: Busy Blasters shipped exclusively for the American Nintendo Entertainment System. It would be optimistic to describe its reception as lukewarm; ZAG:BB (also known as Zeus 2) was the video-entertainment equivalent of a direct-to-VHS movie.
The original Zeus Adventure (Zeus 1) was fun for all ages. Players controlled Zeus in a world of mixed-up mythology as he battled the Wretched Tide of Undead across seven stages, each stage capturing a primitive sidescrolling likeness of one of the seven wonders of the world.
Like Blaster Master, a popular NES title of 1988, the levels appeared to be "nonlinear:" most of the stages required the player to find keys hidden in other areas of the game that naturally weren't present the first time through. The winning sequence was fixed; there was only one way to beat the game, and it began with the Great Pyramid. It's worth noting that later, in the early-to-mid nineties, a game entitled Quackshot was released for the Sega Genesis that bore a striking resemblance to Zeus 1, except that it was populated by Disney characters as opposed to the questionable and confused avatars representing the partially-cooked "ancient mythology" found in the Zeus titles.
On My First Encounter With A Vampiress
I experienced a distasteful and unfortunate period in my life where I assumed the job of a barista at the Blue Moon Café. Though disheartened by the bourgeois nature of my temporary occupation, I took special care not to allow my situation depress my everyday disposition. Verily, I have experienced a great--nay!--a legendary amount of excitement and adventure in my span of years, and I decided that I should embrace with open arms the peaceful, simple existence of a normal person.
I was remarkably good at extracting espresso, and naturally, with my stature I encountered neither trouble getting nor trouble maintaining the job. I had the process well-enough memorized that it was simply a matter of muscle memory: BAM! Cup. BAM! Milk. BAM! Espresso. BAMBAMBAM! Double nonfat extra-hot latte macchiato. I had repeated this sequence of events so many times that I could practically do it with my brain suffocated beneath a fuzzy cotton sheet of alcohol (this is not to say, of course, that I hadn't the moral integrity to uphold the principle of sobriety while working).
Despite the tranquility of my stint as a barista, I do recall one night at the Blue Moon Café that was neither routine nor restful, by any stretch of the word. The store had a notably unpopular local band of darkly-dressed musicians who were playing inside the café itself. Their music reminded me of a funeral dirge, perhaps a song to wake the dead; a mourning wail filled with abrasive, disjointed droning sounds stitched together by a siren's wail. I should say that I found the cacophony naturally offensive, but above the irritating noise rose my ire as the pale-skinned, rouge-lipped harlot eyed me from the stage. She had the piercing gaze of a soulless vampiress, and it filled me with such discomfort that I took to staring silver daggers at her.
During the lull in the middle of their performance (and you, beloved reader, must understand that it is only with the most mundane of humanitarian courtesies that I even consider applying the word "performance" to their charade; indeed, their haphazard production of sonic carrion was comparable to the baying of hell hounds) the singer herself called to me, beckoning me to join her on stage. When I politely demonstrated a gesture that I thought would communicate my unwillingness to leave the cash register unmanned, she hunkered down over the microphone and spoke with a voice that sounded like the dragging of wet silk across skin.
"This place, you people are all fucking great, I love it here," she said, then stared directly at me. Her lips, painted red, burned brightly, like hot blood in a vein. "And even though the barista tonight is fucking cute, this is the worst god-damned cup of coffee I've ever had." Then, she flicked her head back to the audience. A single lock of raven-black hair took flight and landed between her eyes. She brushed it away with a hideous grin while the tiny audience spasmed in laughter.
What little patience I had for the woman was lost in the passion of my anger at her humiliating remark. My pride wounded, I impulsively grabbed hold of a nutmeg jar with the intent to strike her in her god-forsaken skull (how my lust for blood was stoked that night!). I drew back the jar and wound for my throw and just as I was ready to hurl it, my ears heard a sickening pop and my right arm was liberated of its socket. My temper whetted by my sudden and painful impotence, I fell knee-first to the hard ceramic floor and seethed, unsure of whether she had noticed.
As I recall, the thing that I remember most about that night was the way in which her cackling mouth glistened a bloody crimson, as if she were but one crazed beast devouring the heart of another.
One highly amusing aspect of Zeus 2 was that the sub plot involved Zeus retrieving his lost Mjollnir, except they didn't change the game engine from the first, (and Zeus had to throw something, right? Would it have made too much sense for him to throw lightning instead of Thor's legendary hammer?) so they switched the Mjollnir sprite to Zeus's right arm, which always pointed in the same direction as he launched it across the screen at his enemies.
The Day I Met Mjollnir
Memories of the dates surrounding my twenty-fifth anniversary are veiled by a rose-colored glow of alcohol. Even so, I do remember that a handful of my companions flew with me to Caesar's Palace in Los Vegas, where we celebrated on bar stools, imbibing exquisite red wines and feasting upon opulent foodstuffs. After we felt that our inner fires were sufficiently stoked, we participated in several rounds of cards. My preferred card game is stud poker, which I am naturally quite proficient at, and as the sunlight turned away for the night, I found myself with a king's ransom in chips.
As a natural consequence that follows the consumption of any drink, I found my bladder struck with the burning urge to urinate. Once in the bathroom I placed my valise upon the counter, deciding to trust the regal-looking gentleman by the door with its safety. I then proceeded with my business. When I had finished, I returned to the row of sinks only to discover that a second, nearly identical briefcase had been placed next to mine. I was confronted by a moment of indecision, and after washing my hands I decided to take the valise that looked the newest, irregardless of whether it was mine or not. In retrospect, I wish that I had chosen my own, even though it was filled with mere trivialities from my adventurer's life. Even still, I took the valise less traveled by, and that made a severe impact on my evening and the subsequent ill-fated weeks to come.
Later that evening, as my companions and I sat playing hand after hand of cards and enjoying the taste of smoldering tobacco upon on our tongues, my ears detected a disturbance across the game-room floor, and my friends and I made a mutual decision that bidding a hasty exit would be our preferred course of action. I left my chips sitting on the table, another failure that likewise haunts me to this day, and returned to my hotel accommodations for a night's sweet repose. But I found that I could not sleep without first cataloging the contents of the stranger's travelbag.
Whilst seated with my legs dangling over the fine linen bed, I undid the smooth brass latches of the case, and upon exposing the insides, my eyes were beside themselves in disbelief. Laying within the case was a sizable stack of crisply banded $100 bills; a very large, well-polished compact automatic rifle; and a manila folder with files inside detailing an imminent corporate restructuring and the stock split that was expected to follow.
With little choice but to accept take the mystery belongings as my own, I fled the state and returned to my humble home in Arizona. Unfortunately, three weeks after my return, I found myself apprehended by the rightful owner's business acquaintances.
I was on my way home from a soul-searching hang gliding trip when my eyes looked in the rear-view mirror, and perchanced to spot a trio of rapidly-approaching black sedans, which overtook me even at my high velocity. The cars boxed me in and forced me to plow my new Escalade into to the gravelly, unpaved shoulder of the road.
Suffice it to say that they used precisely the same well-polished rifle to demolish my car and hang glider, and their fists left me crippled on the side of the road with my right arm fractured in four places.
I have fond memories of drinking many a Cuba Libre while sitting crosslegged in front of the television, a giddy, drunken grin plastered across my face as I caused zombie after zombie to explode with the power of Zeus's severed right arm. Players were treated to the same result every time: a low-resolution tri-color explosion that looked more like a deranged asterisk than rotten shrapnel from a galactic zombie's exploded cranium.
In all honesty, playing this game sober isn't worth the lung power it takes to get your NES working again. But what third-party, American-only NES game is?
 This game may or may not actually exist.