Welcome to the latest instalment in our nostalgia-inducing column, Memory Pak, where we deep-dive into some of the most memorable moments in gaming – good and bad.
Today, Jim is reflecting on a years-long dilemma he faced over an oft-forgotten DS game, and wonders how we deal with "video game brain fog"...
You probably don't remember every game that you have ever played. Nowadays we have the eShop's 'Previously Downloaded' lists, constant GOTY conversations and tracking apps like GG or GameTrack to remind us what we have been playing, but that wasn't always the case. In truth, not all games are life-changing experiences and, chances are, the more you played in the past, the more you are prone to forgetting.
If you have been gaming for most of your life, then this list of forgotten games is likely something that you have learned to accept (after all, you're probably blanking on it for a reason, right?) but what about those games that are only partially forgotten? The ones where you can remember one small, generally "ungoogleable" element of it like a particular gameplay mechanic or a snippet of cover and nothing else. These are the really annoying beasts.
Until this week, I had this very issue with a game that I remembered had many pixel art scientists in lab coats on the front cover, but that's it — no recollection of gameplay, platform or the all-important title. To say this had been driving me up the wall would be an understatement. There are only so many times that you can search for "Pixel art scientist DS game" or "GBA pixel art professor lab coat" before recommendations of "Did you mean Professor Oak?" become frequent enough to make you want to pull your hair out.
This cycle had been going on for years — yes, plural — and I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never find this game (who knows, maybe I even made it up), but then, while listening to a podcast this weekend, I heard a mention of a 2000s RPG starring an old professor and the title immediately sent alarm bells a-ringing: Contact.
Contact was released in 2006 and was developed by none other than Suda51's own Grasshopper Manufacture. You take control of Terry, a young boy who is enlisted by a mysterious professor, who has crash-landed on a strange planet, to help gather the cells that power his ship.
I say "take control" specifically because you — the player — are actually a character in-game. The professor speaks to you throughout, and you control Terry by using 'decals' (stickers) to give him power-ups, but most importantly, the professor doesn't want Terry to know you exist. Despite being an RPG, the game is incredibly short, which might be why I struggled to remember it.
Looking back on it, Contact carries more than a little EarthBound in its visual DNA — come on, that professor is Dr. Andonuts — but it turns out it comes down to more than a few visual similarities. The game launched just a month before Mother 3 in Japan, and there was apparently some confusion between the two games' marketing.
Thanks to a flash animation that Marvelous Interactive published in September 2005, which featured the aforementioned professor, many suspected the animation to be a teaser for the long-awaited Mother 3. A few days later, the teaser was revealed to be for Contact, and not related to the Mother series at all. Mother series fansite Starman.net covered it extensively back in the day, from the teaser all the way to the confusion and eventual reveal.
Of course, I was oblivious to this as a kid. To me, Contact was just a game with a cool-looking scientist on the cover. Ness? Lucas? Never heard of them...
Despite the fact that I had initially remembered so little, a brief look at a Contact playthrough on YouTube (thanks, Jax Longplays) brought it all flooding back. The fourth wall breaks, the contrast between top- and bottom-screen action, and the ending really got under my skin as a young buck.
By all accounts it wasn't a particularly great game — even I don't remember enjoying it that much — but the search was over and I could finally sleep.
Without that podcast or the above YouTube video, Contact may have stayed well out of contact in my mind. I'm not sure what I would have done had I not remembered, but it's a cracking feeling — a relief, I'll admit — to finally clear the video game brain fog.
In fact, there's an entire subreddit called r/tipofmyjoystick where fellow gamers can share their own stories and details of the games they barely remember, while community members try to solve the mystery of "what is this game?" There's a step-by-step guide on how to format a post to give you the best possible chance of rediscovering that lost B-tier game from your past.
So after my years-long search for Contact in the depths of my mind came to an end, I thought why not open this dilemma up to the wider Nintendo Life community and find out whether any of you lovely lot have found yourself in a similar position?
If there is a game that you can't quite put your finger on and it has been bugging you for a while, drop everything that you can remember (platform, cover, gameplay etc.) into the comments and let's see if we can, collectively, dig up these almost-forgotten titles. And don't forget to vote in our poll to let us know.