The infamous red journal, with Nintendo stickers of course

I’ve always been into keeping a journal, even when I was a kid. Somewhere around fifth or sixth grade one of my teachers made it a kind of homework assignment and I’m super glad she did- mostly because of the interesting tidbits that reveal who I was as a kid (I was super petty and had a crush on a girl named Lauren) and for that habit it helped me develop as an adult.

But mostly- I’m glad I stumbled across these because there are some GOLDEN little insights into the games I liked when I was younger and what was most important to me.

First up: Top 10 11 bad guys

First off, this list is solid. Don’t come at me. As a kid who almost exclusively played an N64 and a GBC, I didn’t have access to exposure to some of the greatest baddies of that era- I probably would have lost my shit over Sephiroth or Kefka if I’d encountered them earlier in my life or video game experience. But as it stands, these are the ones that stood out to me.

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My number one is pretty emblematic of the kinds of villains that I liked. If you somehow missed The Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the Nintendo 64, do yourself a favor and take a look; one of those weird action-adventure games that probably doesn’t stand the test of time but that was really ahead of its time. Baron is effete, flamboyant, and extremely well-dressed; basically the sort of sexually ambiguous character that for some reason or other was a huge draw for me. He had layers, man.

I also love this list because it perfectly encapsulates what I was playing at the time. Can you tell I liked Bomberman 64? Can you tell I loved Ocarina of Time? I had a hard time telling the difference between Ganon and Ganondorf, and the dash linking them shows that confusion. I originally had Bowser at number 10, but clearly I felt some guiltiness about that and felt compelled to move him up in the rankings; he’s freaking Bowser after all. He’d be offended were he left so low in the list.

Not super sure why I added the 11th baddie to the list, and definitely not sure why it’s the final boss from Link’s Awakening DX. The enemy design for that boss is cool, but only if you’re already a diehard Zelda fan- at that age, I wasn’t. I didn’t really get that Link’s Awakening is sort of a precursor to Marjora’s Mask, a world where familiar Zelda tropes and icons are remixed and reimagined, and that the Nightmare blocking the path to the Wind Fish is an amalgamation of several previous Zelda bosses. I must have just finished the game for the first time or something, the final battle and victory being fresh enough in my mind for me to write it down in my little book, a record of my triumph.

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Those big polygonal bosses and enemies have a certain charm to them that doesn’t really exist today. Check out Regulus; something about his helmet reminds me of a bird of prey, and the way he moved and taunted Bomberman made an impression on me as a kid. My friends and I all had favorite enemies in Bomberman 64, and I thought they were so great that I put three of them down on my list. Hell, I even put down enemies from Bomberman Hero- a game I never even got to the end of. I bet even if I played it now I’d have a hard time completing it.

I’m baffled by my inclusion of Mad Jack from Donkey Kong 64; I never owned that game, only got occasional glimpses of it at my friend’s houses during sleepovers. I must have seen a bunch of him in Nintendo Power or something- I’ve definitely never fought that boss. Am I a bad Kong fan? Maybe. It’s up for debate.

The more I flip through these journals, the more material I’ll have to write about. It’s a blast from the past and I’m loving every weird, nostalgic minute of it.