Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Benzaemon’s World – #19: Sonic Blast Man

In Arcade, SNES on December 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Title: Sonic Blast Man

Format: Arcade, SNES

Released: 1990

OUTGROWING YOUR PROBLEMS

Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Punch My Personal Issues

They say violence never solved anything.

They never played Sonic Blast Man.

I grew up in a tiny seaside town that had nothing to do in it. In my free time I’d make a sandwich and go into the woods for fifteen hours at a time or sit and wonder if black people really existed.

There was one toyshop, and as I didn’t give a shit about Sylvanian Families, there wasn’t much to spend pocket money on. When it came though, there was only one place it was going.

Going to the games arcade was like going to the once-yearly carnival – extreme excitement based around the blaring music and horrible lights, but tinged with the exhilarating fear of navigating through the crowd of chavs at the entrance and avoiding the gypsy owners.

Inside it was an Aladdin’s cave of games that the rest of the country was sick of. There was a three-player Aerosmith shoot ’em up that actually had Steve Tyler’s voice. In a bid to stay relevant your guns fired CDs. There was an amazing Spider-man arcade game that was glitched and sometimes your character just fell down dead; I asked for my money back once and was told ‘that’s how that game works’.

But it didn’t seem to matter. This was a place that I loved and somewhere that I could never possibly humiliate myself by allowing a woman to get sexually assaulted. Right?

One day there was something new there. It was a different kind of game…one with a physically interactive twist. On the front was some kind of superhero, and at that point in my life that was about all it took to get my attention (that point in my life has so far lasted 31 years). Walking closer I saw a punch bag where buttons should be. My friends were behind me urging me to have a go. BUT WHAT WAS IT? Suddenly it came to life. “SONIC BLAST MANNNNNNNNNNNN” it screamed. And with that I felt my 20 pence slither into its coin slot.

Suddenly, awfully, I became aware of two things. 

One was that the crowd of chavs in tracksuits had been alerted by its howl, and were now snaking through the arcade towards me keen to see this new game in action and even keener to see me fail.

The second thing was what was happening on screen. There were no colourful characters. There were no superhero-like fonts.

What there was was a pixelated depiction of a thug holding a screaming woman by the hair. 

“Level One: Purse Snatcher Thug” read the title. What was happening? As if in answer, a punch bag sprung up from the center of the control panel. No. NO! Not only did I have to stop this sexual assault, but I had to do it with a crowd of enemies watching, jeering and…with strength? At 12 years old I looked 9 or 10 and had the matching physical prowess. I didn’t know how to throw a punch. 

Panicking, I wailed my arm at the pad as hard as I could. Behind me people laughed, in front of me my wrist exploded in fire, and beyond that the thug stared back at me, smug. Two more goes. I didn’t want two more goes. My wrist hurt and I was red from embarrassment. “Hit it then knob-head” said a deeply unpleasant voice behind me.

That night I lay in bed, humiliation running through my head. My game had ended with the thug…taking the woman. What had I done…WHAT HAD I DONE?! 

Around 13 years later and I’m in Japan. 

I’m taller, stronger, more desirable to girls than a large portion of the domestic male population and I’m dangerously over-confident. 

I’m on a date with a cheerleader and walking through a giant games center. We were on our way to the bowling alley and I’d decided to show off en route. I’d come first in Super Outrun, to her squealing delight. When we’d passed Silent Scope, I’d stopped to complete the game, entrancing her further. 

I had found a country where my personality was not only accepted…but praised. I had come home.

Finally we were just about to enter the bowling arena when something caught my eye. SONIC BLASTO MANNNNNNNNNU screamed the console. Good lord. “They used to have one of these when I was a kid” I murmered, and with that my 100 yen slithered into its coin slot.

The bastard in the back alley appeared and suddenly everything felt wrong. The game was asking for a 20 MegaTon punch to knock him down. I wound up and threw. 18 MegaTons left to go. 

Holy. Shit.

I’d been practicing Muay Thai for years now…what was happening?

Over my shoulder I heard Japanese schoolboys gathering, eager to watch White Monkey. 

I threw again, desperation starting to bead on my brow. 15 MegaTons left to go. 

WHAT THE FUCK??? THE BOMB THAT WIPED OUT HIROSHIMA WAS ONLY 0.2 MEGA TONS! HOW THE FUCK COULD ANYONE BE EXPECTED TO DO THIS? THIS. IS. NOT. RIGHT.

Last go.

“Zannen! Tsukarete desu ne!” The cheerleader consoled. “Ne.” I replied, attempting to enjoy the worst ever game of bowling through tattered shreds of ego and masculinity.

The date with the cheerleader had gone well. Despite my physical weaknesses, one date led to another and before I knew it we were living together. Long term plans were discussed and my infatuation led to my blindness to the fact that she was a selfish monster. 

Around three and a half years later I was on a flight back to the UK wondering how it had all fallen apart so quickly. I’d describe the next few weeks but to do that I’d need to remember them. I moved to London, got a job on a building site and screamed into my pillow a lot. I’d lost everything.

One Saturday I was walking around London alone and in a daze. I remember catching sight of myself in shop windows occasionally and finding the bearded tramp in cement splattered clothes almost unrecognizable. Somehow I ended up near the London Eye. Without being aware of the direction I was taking I walked into Namco Land, red-eyed and unblinking. I made my way through the bleeping games, parents holding their children tighter as I passed, wondering if I was a part of The London Dungeon that had escaped. Finally I found a bench and sat down with my head in my hands. 

I was rubbing my eyes with both palms, but even through the blurred vision I knew instantly who was looking at me. The thug. That mother-fucking Mad Max thug. Staring out at me across the games room floor, knowing. I got up and started walking towards him. I started running. 

SONIC BLASSSSSSST MAAAAand with that my one pound was hurled into its coin slot. 

Here he was. That rotten rat-bastard that had humiliated me so many times. Brought me crashing down to earth. “Well guess what, FUCKER? I’ve got nothing left to lose…THIS IS AS LOW AS I CAN GO!”

BANG up popped the pad.

I closed my eyes and channeled seven years of Boxing, Muay Thai, Karate, Self Loathing, ex-girlfriend loathing and borderline mental breakdown into one punch. “GWALAAAAAARGGHHHHH!!!” my throat made me do a hilarious scream.

BANG down went that pad.

As I opened my eyes the thug recoiled, his face in tatters, blood shooting from his nose. I forget wether I screamed my exes name out loud or in my head.

Level two started, and on that you had to derail a train by punching it.

I walked away at that point, wise enough to know when to quit, and leaving a small Spanish boy to have a free go and perhaps pattern his own life with humiliating defeat at the hands of an unpopular game.

Perhaps Sonic Blast Man had been put in my life to humilate me. But I like to think it had been put there to be the thing, the ONLY thing that could save me at that low point. Not many games let you hit stuff.

I started to feel better soon after.

—–

Benzaemon owns every issue of She-Hulk and is an awesome dude.

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