3 Child Endangering NES Intros

Monster Party Bert talking to, uh, I think his name is Mike.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Children haven’t had enough experience with reality to have developed any sense of self-preservation, which is why most parents are terrified of letting them out of sight. Take one eye off the little buggers, and they’ll no doubt find a way to fist the garbage disposal.

So, when you’re writing a plot that stars a child, it isn’t difficult to come up with motivation for them to risk their lives since they have no concept of risk. Most monarchs of magical kingdoms just have to show up in our world and ask the nearest pre-teen if they’d be willing to slay an evil warlock, and that kid will be completely on board. Video games took to this form of narrative almost immediately after the advent of the cutscene. Writers were finally provided an effective way of conveying narrative within the medium itself, and some of the first products to take advantage of it decided to tell stories about children enthusiastically flinging themselves at danger.

To illustrate my point, I’ve gathered three intros to NES games that answer the question, “Whatever happened to little Billy on the night he disappeared?”

BLASTER MASTER

Blaster Master Opening Animation
We’ve all been there, am I right?

There’s a decent chance you’ve already seen this one before because not only is Blaster Master fondly remembered by people who only played the first level, but the intro itself is a bit notorious for how nonsensical it is.

The opening stars a child named Jason, who has a pet frog named Fred. Jason’s not a very bright child. He quite obviously isn’t aware of a frog’s natural proclivity for jumping since he keeps it in a jar with no lid. One day, after a particularly savage argument, Fred gives up on their relationship and takes off into the yard. Jason, wracked with grief over the horrible things he had said, goes in pursuit to apologize, only to watch his beloved frog partner jump onto a hastily buried crate of radioactive material and mutate.

This does not deter Jason, who loves Fred for his heart and not his looks. Fred, not willing to fall for Jason’s hollow words of apology, escapes down a convenient sinkhole. Jason, having now lost the will to live, jumps down after him. Rather than finding the sweet release of death, however, he lands next to a rad, rad turbo tank. Quickly forgetting about his departed love, he dawns a jumpsuit and helmet he found on a nearby corpse and takes off on adventure.

So, this is one intro where I can really relate to the protagonist. If I found a tank buried in my yard, I’d probably call out, “Hey, did anybody lose a tank!?” and if I didn’t get a response, then finders keepers. At the same time, a tank is probably the worst method of looking for a wayward frog, as it doesn’t really provide great ground-level visibility. Also, where does this kid live that there are poorly disposed crates of radioactive material and tanks buried under several feet of dirt? Judging by Jason’s stunning lack of intellect, I’m going to suggest he’s probably a human guinea pig at some secret lab.

LITTLE NEMO: THE DREAM MASTER

Animation depicting the introduction to Little Nemo: Dream Master
Well, anyway, get in the blimp, kid.

Capcom produced some pretty solid platformers late into the NES’ lifespan, and Little Nemo: The Dream Master is certainly one of them. But while it’s a pretty fun romp, it’s also worrying in a lot of respects.

As the story goes, Nemo is sleeping in bed when a clown climbs in through his window and asks him to become the playmate of a princess he’s never met before. Nemo, knowing that girls are gross and can’t be trusted, refuses this request. Then the clown goes straight for every child’s weak point, and offers him candy if he’ll step inside his magic van. Nemo, deducing that even girls can be tolerated if they feed him candy, goes along with this, leaving behind only an empty bed for his parents to find in the morning.

That clown is a little too efficient at stealing children for this to have been the first one he’s suckered into his flying slave balloon. Nemo’s probably not the only kid who got whisked away to Slumberland and never heard from again. Offscreen, I suspect the local police are swamped with missing child cases coupled with sightings of strange dirigibles in the night sky.

As if being kidnapped isn’t bad enough, it turns out Nemo has been further tricked. The princess isn’t interested in friendship. No, she just wants Nemo to fight against the nightmare that has taken over Slumberland. So, to sum it up, Nemo has been abducted and tricked into becoming a private assassin in a magical land by people who are willing to exploit his candy addiction. Just another wholesome NES game.

MONSTER PARTY

Monster Party Opening Animation
Bat? Batter? Doesn’t matter, I’m taking your soul.

I saved my favourite for last. 1989’s Monster Party is a weird game for a bunch of reasons. It managed to skirt Nintendo’s strict censorship policies by including blood, crucifixes, unmarked pharmaceuticals, and even the forbidden word “hell.” But none of that is nearly as horrifying as its intro.

Our main character, Mark, is walking along after baseball practice when he’s nearly obliterated by an object falling from space. The object turns out to be a terrifying bird creature named Bert, who hastily blurts out a story about monsters attacking his world before demanding Mark’s assistance. Mark raises some very valid objections, but Bert dismisses them. Then he immediately spirits the boy off into the sky. As Mark is dragged high above the city, Bert describes to him the torture he’s about to endure. Again, Mark questions Bert’s intentions, so in order to avoid any further struggle, Bert forcibly fuses with the boy.

To Mark’s credit, at least he doesn’t seem to be a willing participant in his abduction. The smart thing to do would be to just turn and run. To be fair, I question Mark’s physical ability to escape from a winged Demon, but at least he doesn’t say, “Gee golly, mister! Throw in a cake, and I’ll help you murder the Almighty himself.”

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD?

Child abduction has fallen out of fashion as a plot device these days. We’ve come to expect that our protagonists have more motivating them than a fistful of sugar, yet somehow, this is what adults thought was a child’s power fantasy in the ’80s.

It’s story hooks like these that demonstrate why my generation is easily the most abductable. So much of our media suggested that any kidnapping could turn out to be a magical adventure that we needed to have our cartoons bookended by PSA’s that told us not to immediately consume everything offered to us by strangers. It’s perhaps only due to luck that this era in storytelling didn’t precede a wave of missing person reports filled with descriptions of people in wizards caps, pixie dust collected from the crime scene, and a lot of unanswered questions.

Addendum

Sorry, I didn’t want to interrupt. I wanted to wait until you were done reading to give you this context. This article was first posted in the cblogs (community blogs) section of Destructoid on November 1, 2018. Recently, that section of the website was removed, taking with it years of community contributions, including this one. For a long time, the staff would repost meritous community blogs on the front page. I had been reading Destructoid since 2008, so when my first blog hit the front page, it was a major moment for me. A few months later I was officially writing for them, a couple years after that I was getting paid a retainer, and now I’m staff.

I put this article up right before I got hired, and I always felt that it should have made it to the front page. I think it’s one of my best ideas for a blog topic in my years of making stupid articles. It’s something that no one in the right mind would ever intentionally put in a search engine, and that kind of makes it worthless in the ephemeral world of content. A middle finger to the enshittification of the internet. I’ve done a bit of updating to bring it up to my standards, but honestly, my standards haven’t changed much since I wrote this.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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