Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Revell Atari sweepstakes

If a full size Atari video game is inside that box, then Revell was making 1:1 scale models.


magnum p.i. 308 GTS FERRARI

The hottest video game in the country isn't at your local arcade. Its [sic] inside new Revell model boxes. And it's called Revell's Insta-Win Video Game.
But in this game, you don't merely get a chance to play a video game. You get a chance to win one. A full-size Atari Video Arcade Game. The same game you've been playing in arcades. Only now you could be playing it in your bedroom.
Just buy a specially marked Revell model kit. Rub the ink off three circles of the enclosed game card. And that's it. You could instantly win any one of three full-size Atari Video Arcade Games. Or any one of 50 Atari Video Computer Systems. Or any one of 5,000 Revell model building tool kits.
So the next time you're off to the video arcade with a pocketful of quarters, make a detour to your Revell model dealer.
And get a chance to win something rally impressive to put your Revell models on top of.
A six foot Atari Video Arcade Game.


I perused a cabinet-art gallery without success -- can anyone out there identify which Atari arcade game is depicted? More to the point, which contest only let you win a chance to play a game? That's crazy talk. Funny how the 50 VCSes are kind of tucked away as a kind of gooney prize, as are the 5 thousand Revell kits. "So: kids these days like video games, not model kits. But will they buy a model kit for a chance to win a video game?" My guess is: probably not.

Further hilarity: * The depiction of the game card (and here's a penny, with which you might find yourself scratching it, for those who suffer from a complete and total lack of imagination.)
* The closing of the blurb would have actually been pretty hilarious if the voice of The Man Without Irony hadn't crashed it with the closing sentence.
* And finally: Tom Selleck's visage. (Is it Mangum P.I. which is the trademark of Universal City Studios called out in the small print?) Certainly Tom Selleck enjoyed fame in an era when celebrities did end up in video games, but sadly for him his particular flavour of it locked him out of this digital immortality when less-manly successors such as Michael J. Fox ended up pixelated all over the place.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sears FunTronics, 1992.

Sears was kind of hoping that you'd forgotten just how badly they'd botched the job last time around. Here they come sniffing around a mere 4 years later.

Suddenly, the place with the games everyone wants is Sears.

Go figure.

Overnight, it seems, there's a place for video games like no other. It's called FunTronics, the new game department at Sears.

FunTronics is designed to have all the games you're looking for in stock. Incredible 16-bit games. By the dozens.

It has both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment systems. Along with Game Boy, Game Gear and every accessory you could imagine.

Not to mention the game stations where you're invited to get the feel of the hottest games available.

So come to FunTronics. The one place you can figure on having exactly what you're looking for.

Save $10 on Super Off Road or Bart vs. The Space Mutants

It's interesting to see all those classic company logos parading around the vertical borders of the ad, many of which represent concerns that are no longer with us (RIP, Software Toolworks and Mindscape!) There at 7:30 are Square and Enix sitting side by side, little aware of their future commingled fate awaiting them.

The cash value of the coupon was one twentieth of one cent? There must be a very good legal reason why its value was not nothing, even though that's precisely the value that the department's abysmal "nephew art" logo telegraphs. Also, any salespeson requiring those instructions ("use bar code to enter coupon") probably was better off being kept away from the public in the back warehouse.

The picture image could actually be a diagram of a killer games room with a superior wall of TV sets and a black door set in the middle of it (though really, why would you ever want to leave?) I like how the games are all shoveled together without regard for cachet (Street Fighter II and ... Where's Waldo -- one definitely fits the sobriquet "the games everyone wants" better than the other) and especially how one down from the top right corner we see two Paperboy 2 screenshots side by side, one for the by this point retrograde 8-bit NES machine otherwise left totally unmentioned in the ad. There must be other NES shots in the mix, just not conspicuously broadcast by sitting next to a SNES or Genesis shot of the same game. (Could they really not come up with a different game to fit in that cell? A total inventory of 55 different games for at least 5 different platforms? If that were the case, this ad isn't telling the whole truth.

(I must confess when I hear the ridiculous name "FunTronics" it makes me think of nothing so much as Sanrio's notorious Hello Kitty vibrator. Then when they advertise stocking "every accessory you could imagine", I get a perverse little frisson entirely distinct from the perverse frissons that usually accompany my expeditions into this digital midden.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sega IR 7000, 1994.

It's nice to see Sega getting back into the hardware business.
IR 7000


Send messages up to thirty feet away, safe and private-like.
BP: 32700
Play the Brain Drain game against the computer, or with a friend.
SALLY ROSS 867-5309 151 Nugent
Record your friends' numbers and create faces to match.
Organize every minute of your day, or at least the important ones.
Whispering's pathetic. Exactly why Sega made the IR 7000, with fourteen different features. So you can communicate with your friends in class without making a sound, via its invisible infra-red beam. You can even play a game with someone across the room. Plus, the IR 7000 keeps numbers, addresses, has weekly and monthly calendars, speaks ten languages, and more. So check out SEGA's IR 7000. Unless, of course, you like to whisper. Yeah, right.
Who is this product really being marketed to? How many kids in the '90s had a burning need for an electronic Rolodex? I read a review of this product that noted how it would beep every time a button was pressed, making communicating with friends in class somewhat less than soundless. (Also noted there: the ad's layout is identical to another Sega ad for Snatcher.)
Don't get me wrong: it is nice to see Spinnaker's Facemaker technology being revived. I'm sure the bundled Brain Drain game is much better than anything Tiger ever manufactured, especially to the kind of person who's likely to have scheduled a baseball game for 10 pm at night. And, who knows, perhaps I will harbour a deeper appreciation for the 14 features if you only mention less than half of them in your ad. I need this product because I am not a gutless weasel. This ad speaks sarcasm just like me, because I am a teenager! That twist-of-the-knife ending, "Yeah, right." Just a step away from the epic hipness of Wayne World's "NOT!"
In short, if Sega published their own version of Star Tropics for one of their machines, this would be the robot piloting the mini-sub.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Prince of Persia", SNES, 1991.



And legs. And even wits. Because in Prince of Persia from Konami, only a fast mind and fit muscles can conquer all 20 Super NES stages, including 8 you've never seen anywhere before.

Once sealed inside the desert palace maze you'll hardly have time to appreciate the awesome high resolution graphics, incredibly cool life-like player animation, and mood setting Arabian melodies. Because when you're not hanging by your fingertips over spiked pits or leaping through razor sharp guillotines, you'll be saber dueling with skeletal remains and vicious turbaned terrors.

The sands of time are against you, so you must be constantly on the move, making split second decisions with no margin for error. Is that vessel filled with poison or life giving nectar? Will that floor cave in or open a secret passage? Only the sultan of sin Jaffar knows, for sure. And he'll even use magic to keep you from rescuing the princess and becoming the Prince of Persia.

Emphasising the lack of pew-pew shooting must have been considered a gutsy advertising gambit, one that I imagine might have resonated with parents averse to their children glorifying graphic violence over and over again. (Weren't these parents pleasantly surprised with PoP's spike-impaled ragdoll and the smear appearing on those neatly-bisecting metal jaws?)

I am not convinced that adding 8 levels to Prince of Persia improves it. If you sit down to an essay and are told that you have 60 minutes to write a 20-page essay when you were only expecting to write a 12-page one in the same time period, is that an improvement? The level design may reflect sheer brilliance on the part of Konami's best, but overall it still represents considerable additional squeeze to an already-tight time constraint.

I like the shout-outs to the "awesome" high resolution graphics and "incredibly cool" life-like player animation, both of which were getting a bit long in the tooth by this point, when Konami ran rampant over them with a bedazzler. "Mood setting Arabian melodies"? I don't know if they added a soundtrack or just kept the original's Wagnerian leitmotifs, a brilliant suggestion by designer Jordan Mechner's father, an eminent classical musician.

Would it be too much to describe the "saber"s as scimitars? Is the player any less turbaned than the vicious turbaned terrors? (Looks like the Prince is sporting a piece of bling in his! I thought he was thrown into the dungeon in rags?) If they'd been tighter with their turns of phrase, Konami might have cleaned up with UbiSoft's later "Sands of Time" re-imagination of the franchise. Could this be the first time that subject and description were paired? The examples of game developments that might be good or bad enshrine a certain exploration element of the game's appeal -- can't know if what's there is good or bad until you go there!

I always remembered the villain as the vizier Jaffar, not the Sultan of sin Jaffar, but perhaps my memories are just getting overwritten by Disney's Alladin, also the subject of an excellent platformer beyond the scope of this post.

Finally, that Prince sure doesn't look Iranian to me. But I love the Escherian cubism in the ad's layout -- how can we see the platform the Prince is jumping from, the sheer face at its edge, the inside of the passage below it, the spike-platform next to it (actually, those look like sword blades poking up from the floor), and the irate neighbour (sorry, "vicious turbaned terror", who looks at least somewhat less Japanese) peeking out from an adjacent lower passage at a weird 120 degree angle the likes of which we wouldn't see until Tomb Raider, itself cited as Prince of Persia in 3D (a rank truly reserved for the earlier intermediate "Prince of Persia 3D". But I digress for the second and last time in this post.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

"DooM", SNES, 1995.

The game that needs no marketing, id software's Doom. (Why no marketing needed? First off, its existence was news enough -- I came of age in a time when people excitedly downloaded tech demos of the 3D levels without interactive opponents just to see (as prop-giving demogroups appreciated) what kind of unprecedented performance it was possible to milk out of PC architecture -- and second, because it was a brilliant success of a pre-freemium era where a solid, substantial and self-contained chunk of the content was given away for free as promotion for the commercially-available rest of it.)
Doom.  Super NES.  22 levels.  All the original monsters and weapons.  Plus the new FX chip.  So strap on your ammo and start spitting lead because the only thing that sucks worse than the pay are the odds.  DooM
More surprising than the existence of the ad (the product was notorious and ubiquitous across the PC landscape, but admittedly its presence on a home console would have been unexpected and warranted some small horn-tooting) is that it doesn't boast any screenshots to demonstrate its technological dominance or note-perfect '90s mood of gritty nihilistic horror-SF. But this image is a good one, especially given the varied kinds of black ant types surrounding "you".

Not much to say about the ad copy. Yes, that is how "understand?" is spelled in Italian, heard in all sorts of movies but rarely seen in print; the FX chip isn't that exciting if all it does is allow you to enjoy a castrated version of the computer experience. The bit about the pay sucking is good, but seems transplanted from a different ad that does more talking from an in-game perspective... nothing in this one had ever led me to contemplate Doomguy's salary.

(I found this ad in one comic, scanned it, saved it over the wireless network to my netbook, but the save failed and I didn't discover until well after the comic had already left my custody... so I looked up another copy of the ad someone else scanned online and ganked it. Full disclosure.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Cybernator", SNES, 1992.

This ad stars two popular characters not licensed by the publisher and not appearing in this game.

Introducing Cybernator, the 21st Century's biggest hero and the baddest cyborg ever to blast onto your Super NES. Standing five stories tall and loaded with stunning graphics and firepower, this mechanized marine overshadows and outguns all other 16-bit metal heads. From the Cybernator's command cockpit you'll control five tons of tail-kicking, Axis-annihilating battle armor and the Enemy Eliminator with 360° firing range. You'll also power a hyper-space propulsion pack that launches Cybernator through seven levels of digitized devastation. So if nuts and bolts busting action is your game, check out Cybernator. The future of 16-bitwarfare today!

Though I don't have good grounds on which to believe it, I always fancied that the art in this ad was done by the same thankless hack who cranked out the Ultra ad in my last post. Of course, Ultra isn't Konami, which this is, only really they were. (Got it?) I really dig the frontier-style way the ad briefly borrows The Terminator and Robocop (not just name-checking them, but actually depicting them) -- there was lots of mud-slinging and baseless direct comparison in the early days of game advertising, but this is awfully late for that sort of thing to be going on. I do see, barely, that their trademarks are acknowledged in the small print; the legal department very likely dictated just how close to the line the ad could toe and still clear a lawsuit. (No full frontal depictions, only their backs!) (Hopefully the only time I will ever use the phrase "full frontal" in this blog, Bowser willing.)

I don't have much to say about the ad beyond that, and have no experience with the game (hm, apparently part of a series, and lacking anime dialogue portraits in the North American localization. Thank you, Mobygames!) Much is made of the hero's stature, though it appears quite standard in the screenshots -- perhaps the scale is suggested on-screen by tangles with monuments and natural landmarks. It's worrying when the ad writer mixes up qualities the protagonist boasts and features of the game -- is Cybernator the hero really loaded with stunning graphics? Also, the phrase "metal head" was in wide credence at the time, virtually all of it totally out of any context. The enemy empire is really named the Axis? Pro tip: name yourself after winners, not losers. That's... OK, that's all here for today. Keep on keepin' on!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ultra, 1989.

I always like it when characters from disparate properties are presented side-by-side as though they're all in one big, strange game together. And the TMNT are an easy gateway to that assumption, as they're far from strangers with the sport of skateboarding or time travel.


Ultra, the hottest new game generator in town, is about to unleash 3 of the most thrilling games of all time.

Take sides with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in a nunchuking, karate chopping sewer fight through the villain ravaged streets of New York (coming in October).

Then, slash past black hearted knights and rescue beautiful maidens in "Defender of the Crown," an unbelievable movie-like adventure with tons of strategy, swordfights and nearly 30 animated screens (coming in November).

And finally, cruise down back alleys in "Skate or Die," a knockdown-dragout, multi-event spectacular that pits you against a friend or Bionic Lester in the freewheeling Jam & Joust (coming in October).

So be psyched for Ultra's best. And be prepared to see video games in a whole new light.

For more information on Ultra's great line of games, send your name, age and address to: ULTRAGAMES(tm)
240 Gerry St.,
Wood Dale, IL 60191
(312) 595-2874.

First things first: if you're not up to speed yet, "Ultra Games" was just a sock puppet corporation allowing Konami to publish more games for the NES annually than Nintendo's quality control policy would permit. We can't publish six games in 1989, but if we call ourselves something else, we can publish three and they can publish three... Hence when they refer to themselves as a game "generator" it's a conspicuous smokescreen for their departure from traditional developer/publisher/distributor roles.

The biggest obvious seller here was the TMNT game, though in retrospect it's probably the biggest disappointment of the three games up for the offering here. Of course, in '89 you could put the grimacing turtles on a bag of broken glass and parents would line up around the block to buy it for their kids. I like how they are inaccurately described as "karate chopping" (all martial arts are the same, right?) for benefit of the parents who might not understand "nunchuking" (what, is that pronounced "none chooking?") Overall there is a conspicuous dearth of hyphens in this ad's copy.

Describing Defender of the Crown as "movie-like" is about as close as naming developer Cinemaware as you can get without actually doing so -- they're not even name-checked in the small print. Did they neglect to renew their trademark? (Even in their own mailing address, however, Ultra Games defends its tm!) I've got to say, when I think of something being movie-like, boasting "tons of strategy" isn't the first quality that comes to mind. "30 animated screens" (well, nearly 30) may have actually been impressive in 1989!

The copy for Skate or Die sounds hardcore, but the skater depicted is practically decked out in full plate armour. Can we be extreme and cautious at the same time? Is a computer player really a selling point? (If you don't have a friend... you can't play our game. Adding insult to injury! Quake 3 just re-opened those emotional scars.) Bionic Lester is a fun nickname, though -- every CPU player should hold him up as the ideal of their profession.

That's all for now! Not many posts lately, but fear not, I'm processing source material for future months to come. (Also, enjoying some family time before another run in the workforce.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Arcades in the landscape of the popular imagination III

Going through this new stash of comics, something odd is revealed -- virtually all of them date from the summer of 1990, as though a comic shop had closed down in August and the comics' former owner just took home all the unsold new merchandise on the shelves at that time. This means that there isn't much of a variety of game ads represented, just the same six over and over again. Fortunately, this was a moment in time where video games and especially arcades were still part of the cultural scene so I've been finding plenty of references to them in comics which, if made today, would not involve video arcades.
This one is interesting, showing the seamy heart of NYC before Giuliani "Disneyfied" it, another bygone sign of the times. In addition to neon signs proclaiming such lurid delights as "XXX CLASSIC", "FUN FUN FUN", "SEX" "STAGE" and "ALL NEW FILMS" (as well as "FAST FOOD AND DRINK" after you're done, and the puzzling "BRODERICK AND NELSON LIVE"), in the bottom right there's "VIDEO GAMES" "ARCADE VIDEO" and it looks like the sign says BOOKS TAPES on the awning also. Whatever you want, if it's dirty, they've got it! (Dirty arcade games: about the unsexiest thing there is.)

It's a glimpse into a receding history, when video games were a pimple on the butt of pinball, which were a wart on the back of other mechanical diversions (notably slot machines), which were a sideshow to mob-run live sex shows, prostitution rings and other vice squad business. Now there's far too much money in gaming to get mixed up with that nonsense. Besides, now you're far more likely to see strippers in a video game than video games in a strip bar. (The big question is: under which system do the pole dancers earn more?)

Monday, February 4, 2013

"NFL Game Day '97", PlayStation, 1996.

The Super What?

This isn't a game, it's a war. So be prepared for battle. Now, enough military analogies, let's talk football. This is NFL GameDay '97. It's better than any football game ever created. The artificial intelligence in this game is unmatched. Players on the field think, react and perform like they do in the NFL. Defenses and offenses learn your tendencies and key on them. In other words, there are no bread and butter plays to go to on third and long. You'll go head-on with real defensive coverages, including nickel and dime packages and Dallas' Cover 4. Defensive fronts attack your offensive line with stunts and swim techniques. And with new, larger players you'll see guards and tackles trapping and pulling. This game is loaded with features, too. This is real football, baby. So welcome to the NFL.
I have found a lot of ads for sports games and don't share them much because, well, they're not of great interest to me digitally or analogue, uh, -ually. But if not now, when? Their ads often fail to excite due to emphasis on unsexy selling points: "the game of football - we really simulate it effectively! Our guys are real guys, and they move like the humans who occupy their roles would move on a real field!" Consequently I don't have much to say about this one, whose prose very quickly veers away into the incomprehensible to me, as though the copy was produced by Markov chain techniques:"Defensive fronts attack your offensive line with stunts and swim techniques." Stunts and swim techniques sound interesting but challenge my understanding of how the game is played.

MobyGames tells me that this was the second installment in a long-running series, released less than a year after the first, and one of the features distinguishing it is "season-ending injuries". (Put that in your ad! "Expanded camera control" maybe not.)

This was one ad that prompted my partner to snicker at the fundamentally ridiculous task I've set before myself here.