Beware the Pixelated Heart

Some things are forgotten by accident. Some things people wish they could forget. Some things need to be forgotten for the good of us all. But some things… refuse to be forgotten. Buried decades in the past, they still haunt us, a shared curse. Myself, Professor Icepick, and everyone in our circle of friends have encountered this… thing. This abomination, this symbol of horror and despair. A shared childhood trauma, and we aren’t the only ones burdened with the memories, God only knows how many others had the misfortune of encountering this. While it officially died more than 20 years ago, things are never that simple. Its spirit, its curse, lives on in the minds and souls of everyone who played one of its “games,” and it may be more than that soon… I will now show you the symbol that, if you are lucky, you will not recognize:

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Behold: the face of fear.

That’s right, I’m talking about Hi Tech Expressions. Some people fear the LJN rainbow, the High Voltage danger sign, or the 989… 989. But those people are lucky fools. The pixelated heart of Hi Tech is what they should have feared, and what they should still fear. Nothing can truly kill such a profound evil, it still lingers and may be getting ready to return. Now some of you may still not have any idea what I’m talking about, all I did was show you a heart being sucked pixel by pixel into a void of perpetual suffering and warn you of great evil. So what did Hi Tech Expressions actually do? Behold what is probably the best known game they published:

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More terrifying than 1,000 exhausted old men in yellow spandex.

Yes, that was them. But that’s far from their worst crime, they unleashed many equally terrible or even worse games unto the world. The “port” of Street Fighter II on DOS? The SNES Beethoven game? The NES Barbie game? All them. And although you likely haven’t heard of it unless you’ve read my previous rantings, they were responsible for The Flintstones: Dino Lost in Bedrock. That game alone would make them worse than 1,000 LJNs. There are others, the best efforts are a completely average Tom and Jerry game on SNES and a 1990 Chip and Dale DOS game that was a decent clone of a Game and Watch title. Most of the other games, though, are perfectly capable of traumatizing any impressionable children who encounter them.

However, their most infamous games (Mega Man DOS and Mega Man III DOS, in a display of eldritch horror so foul, they broke the numbering system) are why we are in danger, why this warning is so dire. When Hi Tech gained access to Mega Man, a connection was formed. It wasn’t an especially strong connection at first, no different than the ones formed with Street Fighter or Ninja Gaiden (another DOS version they published). However, circumstances conspired to deepen the Mega Man bond. The Mega Man DOS games getting more attention was a factor, but we are in danger now because of a much darker event. As I may have mentioned a couple hundred times, I was very, very happy when Mega Man’s hibernation (hibernation being the best case scenario) ended with the announcement and release of Mega Man 11. It was a moment of pure joy, light (right?) dispelling the darkness that had hung over the franchise since Inafune’s departure and the multiple cancellations in 2011. One of gaming’s most beloved franchises had been rescued from the abyss, it was alive again.

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Even a moment of pure joy can be corrupted by the curse of the pixelated heart.

But those dark years still happened, those long and frustrating years where many feared Mega Man was dead for good. Where gloom and pessimism overtook the fanbase. Where people were so desperate for a new Mega Man game that they were at the Beck and Call of anyone who promised something that was even similar. Despair and desperation; as these negative emotions swirled around the Mega Man franchise, a certain entity latched on. Hi Tech Expressions attached itself to the Mega Man franchise while it was comatose and unable to fight back or even notice. Hi Tech and Mega Man’s fate became intertwined, and we have to face what that means:

When Mega Man was revived, so was Hi Tech.

Yes, Hi Tech’s spirit once more roams the world. They haven’t found a vessel yet, but if you have as much experience with them as I do, you know without question that they’re back. The feeling is unmistakable, nothing else could cause this kind of chill. Hi Tech is here and constantly searching, searching for a series to latch on to and regain its unholy power. Now it can’t just claim Mega Man again, or most game series with the presence to make Hi Tech a threat. The risk of letting random companies have their most valuable IPs has been realized by most gaming companies. No self-respecting series would let Hi Tech form a pact with it, so we’re safe, right?

Of course we aren’t. Think about it, what series would cause the largest catastrophe if Hi Tech got its otherworldly tentacles on it? The most powerful IP in gaming, hundreds of games and countless spin-offs? Yes, Hi Tech becoming attached to Mario would be truly disastrous, imagine what they could do to gaming, to the world, if they could absorb that much energy and spread to so many people. But this is Mario we’re talking about, he’d never have anything to do with Hi Tech, right? Well, of course Mario wouldn’t. But what if there was someone in his universe who would? A force of negativity and resentment who would be the perfect herald for Hi Tech? Is there anyone like that….?

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Don’t let his hollow smile fool you, his heart is darker than you can imagine.

Yes, as you may remember from last year, Luigi has been in the shadows for decades, watching and waiting for his chance to really cause some terror. If Luigi opens the gates and lets Hi Tech in, he may finally have the power needed to topple Mario. If that happens and Hi Tech can absorb the series’ power, there is no hope for us. I said before that the fear of Luigi was something we could never be safe from, and it may be about to come full circle. The enigmatic negativity of Luigi may be the key that allows the profound evil of Hi Tech Expressions to return stronger than it ever was before, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. God help us all.

Standard “I’m not really insane, this is a Halloween article, hope you enjoy your Halloween” disclaimer: Actually, that pretty much sums it up.

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