Trigger warning: The below article contains a description of a wilful deletion of high scores. Reader discretion is advised.
Back in the day, my Nintendo 64 was, obviously, one of my most treasured possessions. In the pre-internet dark ages, it was my sole form of interactive entertainment (other than fighting with my siblings). The only slight complication was that it wasn’t technically mine as such. Ownership was shared with my younger brother, which, looking back on it, was actually a remarkably amicable arrangement. Most of the time.
There was, however, one infamous incident that has lived long in the memory. Or, at least, it’s lived long in my memory, which is really all that matters. It all began on one unremarkable Tuesday, I assume. I went to fire up the N64 and noticed that my/our copy of Lylat Wars wasn’t there. Lylat Wars (a.k.a Star Fox 64) was one of my favourite games at the time, and, even by today’s standards, it has remarkable replayability.
In it, you played as Fox McCloud, ace space fighter pilot. Fox, and his squad of remarkably irritating wingmen, were tasked with saving the Lylat Star System from the villainous Andross and his armada of frankly crap space ships. The exact route taken through Lylat on the way to the final showdown depended on what you did in each level. Certain planets could only be reached if secrets were uncovered, or specific criteria were met.
Also, and most relevantly, medals were awarded for each level based on the number of enemies you shot down. In turn, these medals unlocked other modes in both single player and multiplayer. Some medals were easier to get than others. If any of your wingmen were shot down in a mission, then you wouldn’t get the medal even if you reached the kill target. This meant you couldn’t afford to shoot Falco down, or let Slippy get himself shot down, even if you really wanted to.
I asked my brother if he had seen the Lylat Wars cartridge. He only then informed me that he had leant it to a friend of his; we’ll call him Richard (because that was his name). Leaving aside the fact he hadn’t checked with me first which was probably theft, I’m sure I was pretty annoyed that I couldn’t have another crack at the harder route through Lylat, which I kept failing at. From memory, it was a good month or two before we got it back. When it returned, I eagerly plugged it back into the console and fired it up. Then I saw the star map at the start of a game.
All my medals were gone. I checked the leaderboard. My high scores were gone too. Replaced by well below average scores from “RIC”. Richard, had wiped the game data. He had not defeated my scores with honour. No, he had cleared them, like a miserable Ferengi. A disgrace that would dishonour him, his sons, and their sons. I was watching a lot of Star Trek: TNG at the time…
I was, understandably, a bit miffed. By which I of course mean I was flippin’ furious. The scores were one thing, but those medals mattered. I was well within my rights to wipe his scores, but no. I rose above. I set about regaining my medals and pushing the intruder’s scores off the board the old fashioned way. So I spent the next couple of weeks playing a lot of Lylat Wars.
Soon, the leaderboard was uniformly mine. For the record, I topped out at 1,395 points, which I still maintain is quite good actually. The hard route fell to my onslaught. Missions I once found impossible became straightforward. Even Andross’s weird brain and eyeball form was no match for me. Medals were both restored and gained anew. Except for one.
Aquas (a rare example of a fun underwater level) was a mission that was once a guaranteed source of medals for me. You had infinite bombs and no wingmen to worry about. Reaching the kill target was so easy I didn’t even have to try. That was before the Richard Affair though. Ever since, no matter how good I got, I could never regain that medal. I don’t know why. It’s in my head. Every now and then I go back and try, but my skills have dimmed. Also, the N64 is notoriously clunky, and those control sticks were not designed to last 25 years…
And so there it sits. A watery monument to my failure to properly vet my brother’s friends. To allow him to loan my/our game to someone totally lacking a sense of morality. Perhaps that is the moral of this story, dear reader – trust no-one. Even your nearest and dearest can become pawns for the ethically bankrupt. Some would say that 20+ years is a long time to bear a petty grudge, but to them I would say, “no, you’re wrong”. My only regret is that I’m not better at Aquas.