Friday, August 31, 2012

"X-Men", 1990, NES.

UNCANNILY SMALL SCREEN SHOTS! It's a bad sign when your screen-shots are the same size as the Nintendo seal of quality in the ad, but maybe if we shrink down the on-screen characters to unrecognizable blotches, readers won't realise that the on-screen characters look like... unrecognizable blotches! This was the first X-Men game to make it out the door (Scott Adams' fabled fourth installment of the Questprobe series was lost in Adventure International's bankruptcy shuffle, though assuredly the screenshots to that text adventure game would be nothing special either) and apparently it took a while for the killer franchise to get the game it deserved -- the 1992 Konami arcade brawler I keep mentioning. (Their 1989 gamebook was apparently well-enough regarded, but no one counts these disparate diversions in the same breath besides your humble narrator.)

X-Men fans! Now the fantastic gang of heroes... Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Ice Man ... are at your command to save the entire human race. As Professor Xavier, you must choose the right X-Men to complete your colossal mission -- to stop the evil mutants. For uncanny and explosive Nintendo action and strategy, X marks the spot!

Coming soon, for a different system -- an unrelated game exploiting a different licensed property belonging to the same company!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fellow Traveler supplemental - Batman: Digital Justice, 1990.

Apologies for yet another non-video-game post (very comic-booky however, a comic advertised in a comic), mostly but not entirely unrelated to the blog's general theme. This is just a nod to the times revealing that the early '90s was as bumpy a time for graphics technology in comics and other media as much as it was for video games. I would say that it's a bad sign when Max Headroom out-performs your state-of-the-art visual presentation, except of course Max Headroom was intensely stylish and actually not computer-generated at all. (See also: the award-winning computer graphics in the BBC's Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series, made without benefit of computers. Ah, but I digress -- apparently my new official sign-off!)

PS, thanks for helping me achieve 1000 views to this improbable blog! I don't do it because I expect anyone else to care, I do it because I care! Your attention is just the icing on the cake. More comments are always welcome, however! They're quite few and far between. Of course, gamers and comics fans being what they are, I suppose every reply is redolent with holy war potential.

(A final note unrelated -- my blog here, consisting of scans from my archives, has inspired my partner to launch a blog of her own, of scans from HER archives. But while my archives are the very dudely long boxes of comix, hers are of '70s radical and revolutionary broadsheets. I like to say that hers is like mine, only about something real and important. Though it is proving, post for post, to be far more popular than my blog here, nonetheless I will give it a little plug here: you can find it at

"NBA Action 98", Sega Saturn, 1998.

Inasmuch as I'm generally disinterested in playing sports, it follows that barring gimmicks (eg. Pigskin, Mutant League Football) I don't much play them since, like driving or piloting games, they model and simulate activities in which I am not interested.

Typically they are marketed lazily: you liked last year's version, so you'll like this year's also. And so, though I have scanned many of them, I haven't gotten areound to posting them yet, for lack of much to say about them. This ad is an exception, from the psychedelic '90s, a basketball game ad seemingly torn from the pre-millennial pages of Wired:

Some people go to extremes to play NBA Action 98. They should. In this game, you're up again guys who'd like nothing better than to pound your puny torso into the court. We're talking every NBA player, every NBA team, all 29 Arenas. Team specific plays. Behind the back passes. Alley oops. It's all here. Chick Hearn even calls the plays. NBA Action 98. See how you measure up.
"Go to extremes"? I see what you're doing there, '90s. It is an impressive early Photoshop job Dr. Funkenstein has achieved in the back of his literally crooked office. I appreciate the detail of the line-up of customers waiting out front, and wish my scanner had picked up the small print on top of the doorframe (and will Stretch fit through? Just how tall is he?)

Of course, extra height won't actually help your performance in most video games.

Thanks! This post should push this weird little blog past a thousand pageviews, which isn't bad considering that the only place I actively promote its posts is on the empty Google+. I figure long-tail search engine traffic will eventually appreciate these scans and the commentary. With an infant held in one arm while typing this post one-handed, its update schedule will necessarily remain sporadic into the foreseeable future, but I still have a lot of scans to go through.

And if you are a current reader, you've already demonstrated an interest in video games and I encourage you to support the otherwise-unrelated the Indiegogo campaign for Deirdra Kiai's musical stop-motion adventure game Dominique Pamplemousse in its final few days.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time", Nintendo 64, 1998.

Admittedly not every game needs screenshots to be sellable; sometimes the mere announcement of their arrival does the trick. (I personally remember the era of screenshots on the back of the box being used to gauge whether a game was worth buying or not, an era that quickly passed as soon even the most bargain-basement publisher was able to hold their ugliest game still for a moment and take a couple of flattering shots of opening cinematics and FMV cutscenes.)

Calling it "the most anticipated game of all time" might be somewhat of an overstatement (clearly, that was ToeJam & Earl 3, right? Just kidding -- accounting for compound interest, that would of course be Cliff Johnson's The Fool And His Money.) But the bold claim does raise eyebrows and make skeptics wonder just what it is bringing to the table.

Potatoes of couch.
Prepare ye for a mashing.

The most anticipated game of all time cometh to Nintendo 64. Use thy wits in 360 degrees. Or be torn to bits in 360 degrees

Zelda. Have ye what it takes?

Best of all, we get it in patented Lord British-style Selective Olde Englishhe. "Forsooth! Mine electronic diversion doth mop the floor with thine competition! Eateth mine shorts, Station of Play!" By all accounts, this was a winning game on a losing platform, hence perhaps the emphasis on the console rather than any salient details about the game (beyond its being in 3D, which at the time was somewhat of a given -- unfortunately, as the graphical sophistication made more extensive use of the consoles' extended hardware capabilities, justifying them to a certain extent, even in games in genres which were in no way improved by the trip to the third dimension.) Announcing a Zelda game "coming to" a Nintendo platform is admittedly redundant, since they will never again repeat the mistake they made with the Philips CD-i. In a sense, then, what this ad is really saying is: Nintendo 64 -- if you like to play Zelda games, you will have to come here to do it. Nintendo is admittedly sitting on a pretty formidable IP library, however uncommon it is for them to dig deep into it beyond each generation's installment of Super Smash Bros... because their cute and charming IP is not of great use in a time when the measure of a game is the realism of its headshots or the polymorphic perversity of its NPC relationships.

Ah, but I digress (lookit that paragraph! do I ever!), which is my cue to set this post aside and move along.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Silver Surfer", 1990, NES.

Something always rang fishy about this ad to me. In a comic book, I see people talking about video games, but all I see are comic book illustrations of comic book characters. Why no screenshots? Why is the copy so elusive, gushing about such abstracts as how many levels the game has? (How many keys on the C64 keyboard again, Mr. Shatner?) And even if the number of levels is a selling point, it's a bit odd to illustrate the number 12 by displaying five bosses. The other levels? Yeah, those are just filler.




The non-stop action of this high-energy, inter-galactic battle game will challenge all of your combat skills. With 12 levels of outrageous game play, amazing graphics, music and radical sound effects, it's the hottest game in the galaxy!

If the illustrations tell me that the game is too ugly to portray in screenshot form (ironically, by the team who would later capture the eyes and imaginations of all and sundry with the CD-ROM hit the 7th Guest!), the prose tells me that the person in charge of the ad hasn't actually played the game either. Really, I have some concern that at press time, the game didn't actually exist in any form yet, and they just ran the ad to measure fan interest in seeing such a title developed.

I like how they run out of adjectives -- "outrageous" game play, "amazing" graphics, "radical" sound effects... but the music, well, it's just kind of "meh", you know? I also question the editorial decision of slipping into surfer superlatives just because the silver gentleman in question happens to surf -- it likely has more to do with four green fellows who were making a big splash at the time. Just as well the music wasn't praised as "tubular", though who knows -- there are some great C64 SID conversions of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells!

Ah, but I digress. And speaking of digression -- "3 mega firepower"?

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Sonic Heroes", 2003.

Ah, SEGA. It takes some guts to go into the belly of the beast -- the very pages of a superhero comic -- and put forward the thesis that costumed superheroes are a tired and worn-out trope. The position isn't that controversial, but certainly the choice of locale to set up this soapbox is conspicuous.

It's Sonic Heroes, the all new game with an all new way to play. A revolutionary team-based system will have you switching characters on the fly. Twelve different heroes, four different teams and three different consoles make for one new game that never gets old.

Typically being released for three consoles isn't an explicit selling point -- it tells you "instead of focusing on making the game great on one platform, we allocated resources to finding a lowest common denominator on three." And then they cut more corners by selling all three with the same ad!

In any case, in 2003, Sonic wasn't exactly a fresh new flavour of hero. (Nor unknown to comics himself -- Archie published a long-running Sonic series.... speaking of milieus in desperate need of a breath of fresh air! All right, let's be fair -- when's the last time anyone in the Sonic universe had a gay marriage?)

(Final note: isn't it uncanny the way those extreme new heroes have mouths twisted into Nike swooshes?)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ghost Rider: The Road to Vengeance phone game, 1992.

The bigger comics companies must have had kinds of expenses the smaller companies didn't, but they made up for it by apparently engaging in bizarre revenue schemes the smaller companies didn't also. Periodically you'd see these "phone games" advertised in a comic book's pages -- I always imagined that they were a bid to trick readers into spending a few minutes paying egregious 1-900 number rates in order to hear something that some Marvel interns came up with after work and a few beers, speaking goofily in the voices of their favorite characters to come up with some non-canonical adventures callers could direct by pressing 1 or 2 on their touch-tone phone.
This is all pure speculation, as I would never call such numbers. I know that there were some schemes such as I describe, such as Steve Jackson's F.I.S.T., but from the looks of things this one was more of a trivia-by-phone game. I can't speak to its precise gameplay details, but gee whiz, that's a lot of small print!
Audio games aren't video games, but they share a lot of territory (that liminal "computer game" intertidal zone: if you can make a phone maze, you can make a game.) And of course, unlike most "video" games, these ones could be played by the deaf! (somewhat expensively...)