Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Mandela Effect - The Nerdly Version

There exists a phenomenon called false memory.  These are memories which a person sincerely believes are true yet can objectively be shown to be false.  A colloquial name for this is the "Mandela effect", so named because many people in the late 1980s and into the 1990s believed that Nelson Mandela was dead.  Given that he was imprisoned by the South African government from 1962 to 1990, people could be forgiven in the pre-Internet days that he was dead.  In the context of suppressed memory cases, usually involving child sexual abuse, the theory is very controversial.  However, I am not going down that road.

Instead I am going to pull some false memories from elements of popular culture which I have found interesting.  James Rolfe did an excellent video in his Angry Video Game Nerd series satirizing the supposed "Berenstain Bears Conspiracy" :  The conspiracy alleges that there has been a concerted effort to change the authorship of the Berenstain Bears books from "Berenstein" to "Berenstain."  After all, doesn't everybody remember the "Berenstein Bears"?  I remember the books and the shows being referred to as the "Berenstein Bears" and used that label to refer to them myself.  I would suggest that the mistakes lies in three factors.  First, "Berenstein" and "Berenstain" are very similar words.  Second, "Berenstein" is a more common surname than "Berenstain"  Third and perhaps most important, "Berenstein" is easier to say that "Berenstain."

So from my own experiences, let me describe two instances where I probably am the subject of false memories.  Originally I was going to describe three memories, but I forgot what the third memory was!  [Update : I finally recalled what it was!]  For the three examples I will explain the origins of the memory and try to explain how I may have acquired the memory falsely.

Godzilla or Gigantis

The second Godzilla movie was originally released as Gigantis the Fire Monster.  Unlike the original, which was released by small regional companies, the sequal was released by a major motion picture company, Warner Bros.  The localization was managaed by the same people who had made the first Godzilla movie, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, a success.  However, Gigantis the Fire Monster was not a success.  Most likely this was due to changing the name of Godzilla to Gigantis, trying to persuade the public that this was a new monster.  Unfortunately the movie did not do well at the box office.  Perhaps due to its change of title, it languished in semi-obscurity for decades thereafter.  It was not often shown on TV.

I had been watching Godzilla films throughout the late 1980s.  A few were available for rent from my local video store, but I had to keep an eye out for listings in my TV guide so I could watch and tape other films.  Occasionally my parents would buy me a video, but I did not have access to a movies catalog until I got a job.  I remember taping Godzilla, King of the Monsters as hosted by Grandpa Al Lewis from the Munsters on TBS's Super Scary Saturday.

In the mid 1990s I got a job and was able to buy some Godzilla movies.  I eventually bought all that were available at the time on VHS that I could find in the movie retail store at the local mall.  A few that eluded me were Gigantis and Destroy All Monsters.  I knew they existed because I read Ian Thorne's Godzilla books as a child.  Around 1995 I learned that the Disney Channel was going to show "Godzilla Raids Again", so I taped it.

When I watched the Disney Channel tape, I saw the title as Godzilla Raids Again.  The typeface was very different from the other opening credits.  It looked video generated.  About a year later I discovered the Movies Unlimited catalog, which was essentially a listing of all movies available to buy on VHS.  I decided to buy all the Godzilla movies on higher quality pre-recorded VHS that I did not own and possibly replace my home recorded tapes.  Toho Video has a very good series of articles giving VHS covers to Toho's science fiction films from the 1950s to the 2000s :

I bought the Paramount Gateway series (GKOTM, GvM, GvMZ, GR, ToMG), Varan (2nd), Mothra (2nd), KKvG (Goodtimes 1st), GvSM (Video Treasures), GvSmG (Orion), GvG (Star Maker), GvMG (StarMaker).  I do not recall buying Son of Godzilla on VHS and I am unsure of Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.  The version of Ghidrah I purchased was from a public domain label.  I kept my GvMe public domain release I acquired when I was younger.  I am also unsure whether I bought Destroy All Monsters when it finally came out on tape or relied on my taping of the film from the Sci-Fi channel.  I do recall taping GvSM and SoG.

Around this time (1996) when I went on a buying spree, I believe I acquired the Video Treasures release of Godzilla Raids Again.  I am not 100% sure if I bought it or if I actually played the video.  I have been informed that this release has the original title credit "Gigantis the Fire Monster".  But I have no memory of the original title card.  I only discovered what it looked like a couple of years ago, long after I had replaced my VHS with DVDs.

At some point during the 1990s, Toho had the title card redone.  Other than the title card, the version is identical to the theatrical release.  So in "Godzilla Raids Again" the word "Godzilla" is never mentioned.  Even during the stock footage presentation of the original Godzilla, the creature is referred to as "a member of the Anguirus [sic] family."  This version appears on all DVDs.

So I have a memory of buying Godzilla Raids Again on VHS, but I have no memory of the Gigantis title card.  I can offer two explanations for this :

1.  I did not buy Godzilla Raids Again on VHS and relied on my Disney Channel taping, or

2.  I bought Godzilla Raids Again on VHS and it had a version of the film with the new title, or

3.  I bought the Video Treasures release but never actually watched the tape.

Guybrush and Grog

My second false memory has nothing to do with movies but with computer games.  In the Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood's first goal is to become a pirate.  He must do this by completing the Three Trials.  He must master the art of Swordfighting, the art of Thievery and the art of Treasure Hunting.  You can accomplish these in any order.  Finally he must drink grog with the Pirate Leaders.

I remember that when I originally played The Secret of Monkey Island back in the mid-1990s, Guybrush could drink grog with the Pirate Leaders after he had finished the Three Trials.  His reaction to the drink was humorous.  I was playing the IBM PC 256-color VGA version as found on the LucasArts Classic Adventures collection.  The game belonged to my friend, but thanks to LucasArts cracking their own copy-protection, I never saw the Dial-a-Pirate copy protection screen.

I tossed the computer that had the game installed and did not have access to SoMI for several years.  Once I had learned about the joys of abandonware, I decided to play the game again.  But this time I could not trigger a cutscene where Guybrush drinks grog with the pirate leaders.  Later I was able to acquire every version of the game off floppy disks.  I have looked at every version, even the 16-color versions, and there appears to be no way to trigger it.  What happens is that once you finish the third trial, you will see the cutscene where LeChuck's pirate ship sails away after capturing Governor Elaine.  At that point all the pirates have left the bar, including the pirate leaders.

Eventually, I tracked down the LucasArts Classic Adventures version and could not make it happen in that version.  I tried looking in the Manual to see if the walkthrough, told by Guybrush in the first person, included that scene.  It did not.  You can, however, go to the pirate leaders periodically to report on your progress.  You cannot drink grog with them in between quests.

Fusion's Flicker

When I first obtained a Game Boy Advance, one of the first games I bought for the system was Metroid Fusion.  The last 2D Metroid released was Super Metroid in 1994, a full eight years had passed since any Metroid game had been released.  2002 saw the release of both Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime, making the most memorable year of the franchise to date.

When I first played it, I had a regular GBA.  In fact, I had actually imported a Japanese GBA from Lik-Sang, knowing the system was region free, prior to the US launch.  I suffered through the non-backlit screen of the original GBA, despite buying an Afterburner frontlighting kit.  However, once I acquired a GBA SP and lucked into returning it for a backlit screen, I believe I noticed something different about the game.  Spoiler Alert!

At the end of the game, after you defeat the Omega Metroid, you pilot the station into SR388 to eliminate the threat of the Metroids and the X parasite.  After you escape in your ship, you see a screen display showing a plasma cloud where planet SR388 used to be.  I recalled that on my original GBA, the cloud flickered rapidly to give a translucent effect.  But when I played the game again on my GBA SP, it redrew the cloud with a Venetian blinds effect.

I figured that this the flicker was a feature of the older GBA screens that was not carried over into the backlit screen.  In the brief time I owned a GBA SP frontlit screen, I seem to recall that the flicker did occur.  But I tried the game on my Game Boy Player and got the Venetian blinds effect on a CRT TV.  Emulators also show Venetian blinds.

At some point, I lost, gave away or sold my original GBA.  I acquired another GBA (translucent blue) around that time and I never liked my original GBA's color (translucent pink).  One day recently I decided to beat the game again, which was not too difficult because I had a save file at the end of the game, on the blue GBA.  Instead of the flicker I was expecting, I got Venetian blinds.

There was only one version of Metroid Fusion released in the U.S. and I bought the U.S. version.  So for this issue I can think of two explanations.  The first is that my memory was false and what I was remembering was flicker from some other graphics in the game.  The second is that my pink GBA's  screen was different from later screens, non-backlit and backlit alike.  Nintendo could very well have used LCDs from multiple suppliers that differed subtly in their timing characteristics.

These images give you an idea of the effect, imagine the blank bar in the middle of the explosion cloud cycling rapidly through the cloud (I couldn't find enough images for an animated GIF) :


  1. I may have one possible explanation for the case of The Secret of Monkey Island: Some Sierra adventures such as Space Quest and Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory gave player an option to buy and drink alcoholic beverages in local bar with sometimes humorous results - especially with Troll's Sweat and Dragon's Breath in HQ/QFG.

    It is possible that one of these games got confused with the first Monkey Island in your mind especially since they belong to the same genre and often had somewhat similar tongue-in-cheek style.

  2. Quite possible, I drank the Dragon's Breath and had some not-so-fun times at the Ulence Flats' bar.

  3. Yeah, as I remember it, it's quite important that Guybrush never drinks the grog given how obviously destructive it is and his status as a not particularly tough greenhorn. It'd have outright killed him, and is only good for melting cups and (spoilers...) exorcising evil ghosts. There's a lot of wacky stuff happens in the game, and grog does play a central part, but you don't ever drink it. There's plenty other contemporary games where you can experience interesting effects from taking a drink, though... (e.g. the Elevator Action rip-off "Mission Elevator" where buying booze from the hotel bar, or finding it in one of your searches, reverses your controls for a while)