Despite being old enough to own my own house, I still have a ton of junk in my parents’ attic. I’m slowly moving all of that stuff to my own home. Occasionally I come across something fun, weird or amusing from my past. “It Came From the Attic” is a series of posts about these odds and ends.
I am a huge JAWS fan. Once, I was a superfan of all things JAWS, including the original novel, all the movies and even the novelizations of the movies, all of which I read. Nowadays I’m mostly just a fan of the first movie, but JAWS: The Revenge holds a special place in my heart, for a few reasons:
- It was the first and only JAWS film I saw in a theater;
- I saw it with my dad;
- I saw it during a big family reunion in Florida;
- and the only JAWS Nintendo game was based on this movie.
The JAWS videogame wasn’t the most difficult NES game, but it’s important to remember that most NES games were more difficult, on average, than most games today. NES games often (not always, but often) grew out of the same game design thinking that developed arcade games, where the idea was to keep people pumping in quarters as long as possible. (Ever since seeing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Devil Fish, I’ve wondered if the JAWS game was ripped off some earlier game involving a submarine). Anyway, I rarely beat NES games as a kid, but I do remember that at some point, I beat JAWS.*
The game consisted primarily of your little diver swimming around with a +1 Speargun of Unlimited Ammo, doing your best to singlehandedly consign every species in the sea to the endangered list until JAWS shows up and tries to eat you. There was a major flaw in the programming such that, if your little diver was at the very top of the water, JAWS swam right past you. So all you had to do was use your speargun to pelt JAWS endlessly in the schnozzle as he came at you, go up as he went past, then dive down again and fire spears up his sharky anus until you reduced his power bar to zero.
At that point, you are ushered into a ludicrous sequence where you repeatedly try to jab the broken bowsprit of your ship into JAWS’s gills. This is directly inspired by the equally ludicrous climax of JAWS: The Revenge, but it was also pretty damned hard. If you failed, you had to go back and start pelting JAWS with spears again (and half the time, JAWS wasn’t even around).
Where am I going with this, you ask? Well, last week I was digging around in my parents’ attic and came across my old paperback novelization of JAWS: The Revenge. For some reason I decided to take it home with me. I don’t know if I was actually planning to read it again – I mean, I already spent who knows how many precious hours reading this thing as a kid – but when I opened the inside cover I found a nice surprise.
The top says “Cassani Reunion 1987.” That’s the reunion where I saw the movie. I doubt I wrote this when I actually was at the reunion, as I would have been a bit young for this book I think. My hunch is I wrote it later, possibly just to commemorate when I went to see the movie.
The bottom part is much more interesting. It reads:
8:26 pm May 11, 1992
BEAT JAWS (Nintendo)
I love that I evidently found this event important enough to document for posterity. The time is so specific, I obviously wrote it down just after I beat the game. As my memories of my youth get increasingly foggy, it’s pretty cool to know exactly what I was doing twenty years ago.
By the way, the little JAWS souvenir there is from the gift shop of the Universal Studios Florida JAWS ride, which is now gone. It was the only toy-like thing in the place. Here’s a fun – wait, not fun, random and useless – fact: during high school, whenever I needed to remember something for the following day (like I had a homework assignment to finish in the morning, or had to remember to bring in a school project or something), I would place that JAWS trinket on my bed table.
Oh, and as for my opinion of the movie JAWS: The Revenge? It’s deserving of its bad reputation, of course. And there’s something mean-spirited about the way Sean Brody – the cute kid who sang “Do you know the muffin man?” on the beach in the first movie – is savagely killed by the shark at the beginning of the film (while Christmas carolers sing in the background, in a pathetic attempt at irony).
That said, the film does one thing right: realizing there’s no point in hiding the shark anymore, the film gives us tons of shark mayhem. Oh, and Michael Caine’s pretty fun, even when slumming it.
*The only other NES games I remember beating were Contra (using the Konami Code, of course), Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3. I didn’t beat the original Super Mario Bros. until 2006.