From 2001 to 2003 I lived in Mexico as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You know, the Mormons. Aside from wearing a dark suit, white shirt, tie, and name tag and walking for miles every day in the suffocating Yucatan Peninsula heat, Mormon missionaries also abstain from video games. So for two years, I didn’t pick up a controller once and most of the time I wasn’t even sure what was going on. I didn’t really know what an Xbox was or how Grand Theft Auto 3 would change everything or the appeal of Halo. Plus, the internet was around but I had no real access to it and while my Spanish was and is impressive for a gringo who never took a class, I didn’t have much occasion to check out foreign gaming mags. It was basically a complete gaming black out.
Cut to December, 2001. My missionary companion and I were in the middle of a transfer and decided to camp out at the apartment of our area leaders. It just so happened that this coincided with a big batch of mail arriving, a lot of it for me. My parents love Christmas and tend to go all out, so I had a large package from them: books, treats, letters, new clothes, and a truly excellent inside joke from my mom. There was also another package, postmarked from Honolulu, from my best friend who was concurrently on a mission there. We had been swapping mini audio cassettes (It was 2001, okay?) but this was a large manila envelope. Puzzled, I ripped it open and dumped it out. American gaming mags came sliding out. Holy crap.
I can’t remember the exact publication, maybe EGM or GamePro, but the main story was a head-to-head breakdown comparing the Xbox to the GameCube. This was the first time I had ever even seen a GameCube. It had a handle? It was purple? Whoa, what’s up with the buttons? I gorged on gaming news for the first time in nine months and the main title that caught my attention was Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2.
As a GameCube launch game, Rogue Leader looked amazing. I had been obsessed with Rogue Squadron on the N64, and this looked like more of the same but bigger, bolder, more complex, and did you see those graphics?! I couldn’t wait to get home and slide back into the cockpit, shoot down some Ties, wrap up some AT-ATs, and win some gold medals. I fantasized about the game for over a year, and once I had returned home, saved up some money, and purchased a GameCube, it was the first game I played. I was not disappointed.
Even now, whenever I pine for another Rogue Squadron game, I’ll boot up the old GameCube and pop in the Rogue Leader minidisc. My hands wrap around the GameCube controller like they were meant for it. The score swells. And without fail I’m back in Merida, Mexico, sitting on a cool concrete floor, gaming mag in hand, reading my first Nintendo news in months by the lights of a small, plastic Christmas tree and transported to what feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…