Chasing Ghosts: One Quarter at a Time

A truly forgotten childhood gem: Cracking the mystery of Crackdown

Note: After this, I have only one entry left in the Chasing Ghosts series, as the premise (arcade games with specific childhood memories) will have run dry. Hit me up on Twitter if you have suggestions for what I should write about next.

Due to events that my eight-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend, our final three months in Millington, Tennessee were spent in a small apartment instead of the military housing I had called home for four years. Turns out, my father had taken a new gig in the Navy and since he didn’t work in Millington anymore, we weren’t able to stay in that military housing, but mom didn’t want to yank us out of school with just a few months left, so we stuck around in Millington, albeit a different neighborhood without our friends.

Oh, and most of our belongings were packed away. I had my NES, a few of my action figures and a handful of books. We weren’t poor by any means, but it felt pretty barren (I have no photos of this house to jog my memory, although I’m sure it’s still there in case you feel like tracking it down. Somewhere off Navy road if you’re in that area).

One thing our little apartment lacked was a washing machine, or at least a hookup for it. So we spent a few hours every week at the laundromat.
Keep in mind, this was a laundromat in 1992. It was nearly guaranteed they’d have some good arcade machines. If you go into a laundromat today, you might get lucky and find a Ms. Pacman/Galaga combo machine (thank God for those things). Normally though, you’ll just find a vending machine and a television playing one of those stupid judge shows. 2015 laundromat isn’t nearly as fun as 1980s/90s laundromat.

For years, I could vividly remember two of the three machines. One was Robotron, a fantastic game that I was awful at. The second was a 2-player version of Gauntlet, which always took a bit of my money. The third though, that was the best. You ran around setting off time bombs while shooting evil terrorists. You could even sidle up to the walls to avoid gunfire in this top-down action game. Every week, I’d get at least two quarters from my mom and play this game.

It was unlike any game on the NES at the time. Sure, I had games that let me run and shoot things, such as Contra and Megaman 2, but this game had a bigger sense of urgency. Not just shooting the enemies, but placing time bombs and running as fast as you can to get out of the level before it blew up felt exhilarating. And though I never made it out alive as a child, it was certainly fun to try.

But then we moved, and these games didn’t come with us. I couldn’t remember the title of the game, and none of my new friends knew what it was. Without internet or magazines droning on about arcade games, I was out of luck. The game disappeared into the dark corners of my mind where other forgotten things dwell.

I’d think about it every now and then. Try to figure out what I was missing out on. A shame too. I could remember every other game from my childhood. I still remembered every single Atari game my uncle had, and that Marble Madness was the first NES game we rented. But this mystery arcade game? Darkness.
And then, along came the internet, and suddenly I found myself searching for all these treasures I had missed out on. I downloaded NES games for Nesticle. I found old Game Gear games on some new site called eBay (God bless Columns). And after an afternoon of searching, I finally found my game.

Crackdown. Oh, and it had a Genesis port as well. I could have easily been playing it all this time.

All. this. time.

We’ll save the story of my anger upon finding that out for another time. I felt like finding Crackdown was the final piece of the gaming side of my childhood. And when I put together my Mame cabinet, I knew I had to have this game present.

It makes doing the laundry a lot more fun.

Playing the game in Mame

No secret tricks here, although a big monitor is recommended, due to the playing field only taking up half the screen (a map takes up the other half). My 19-inch 4:3 monitor works, but a few extra inches would make this a lot more fun.

My wife plays Crackdown

In an attempt to get my wife to play more video games, I’ve given her a space to talk about the games. Oh, and find her on Twitter @alliwait.

I would never have tried it if I knew what it was about in advance. It was gun and bomb, and that’s it. I know I like fighting games, but I feel like this feels so pointless. You have to find a red x and put a bomb there? That’s lame.