I tried something different today. This week, a friend of mine left a Nintendo 64 at my house, along with a few games, while he was out of town. I've never actually owned a Nintendo 64, let alone any video game system (besides a NES I found in somebody's trash can), but I'd played Mario into oblivion. So I decided to pose myself a challenge: beat Bowser In The Sky 100 times in one day.

Piece of cake for a seasoned veteran of the game. I had beaten Da Big Boss about thirty times before I started getting bored. So I decided to make it harder. I'd beat him without my cap. Or I'd jump off the big platform every time I took a single point of damage. Or I'd fight him as the little pieces of the star dropped off, before they actually fell. Cool stuff like that.

I was keeping tally marks with a penknife on the side of the cartridge. (One per five plays. I'm not crazy.) I got to the 95th time, and I started to hunker down. I didn't allow myself to use the Jump button. Or to turn to the right.

Game 99. Ever so close... I saw "C'mon troops! Let's watch the ending together!" one more time, grabbed the giant Power Star, and started flying. I landed in front of the castle, and looked up at the big stained glass. But then, something surprising happened. Three toadstools dropped out instead of the usual two, and a Japanese voice said something incomprehensible. The English subtitles were clear enough, though:

Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!

What the hell? The screen blacked out after that, and I'm not so sure that I stayed conscious either.

Nothing really remarkable happened over the next few days. I got a few weird phone calls, sometimes at 3 AM, when I'd pick up and hear some faint Asian dialect on the other side just before somebody hung up. I didn't get that much sleep, but I passed it all off to chance.

My friend got back from Liberia, and I gave him his N64 back. He left, and I didn't hear from him for awhile. But the phone calls stopped. I dropped by to check on him after a few days.

Needless to say, he was dead, a Goldeneye cartridge permanently fused to the charred remains of his console.

I still haven't gone to that other castle. I've yet to find anybody who'll admit to beating Bowser ninety-nine times using only left turns. I'm pretty confident that I'm the only one that's still standing; but it's only a matter of time before I'll be suckered into buying a GameCube.