Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gaming Ads: American Technos

Technos was founded in Japan in 1981 and made a number of popular titles in its 15 year history, with the biggest hit being Double Dragon. The Kunio-Kun series is quite well known as well; that includes Renegade, River City Ransom, and Super Dodge Ball among others. American Technos was founded in 1987 to publish localized arcade and console versions of the Japanese games to the North American market. However, not all Technos console games were published by American Technos in the U.S. as the properties were licensed to a number of other publishers. That's why you won't find Double Dragon ads in today's upload but you can find some in the Acclaim album and will see more when I get to Tradewest.

In 1996 Technos filed for bankruptcy and its properties exchanged hands a few times before Arc System Works acquired the rights to Technos' catalog in 2015. Before the acquisition took place the River City Ransom license was in use by Conatus Creative Inc. who just last month released River City Ransom: Underground for PC and Mac. River City Ransom: Underground is a sequel to the original River City Ransom, complete with retro graphics and a chiptune soundtrack.

Flickr album: American Technos

Sunday, March 19, 2017

G.I. Joe: The Video Games

It's the 35th anniversary this year of my favorite toy line, the 3 3/4" G.I. Joe action figures. Of course, when I was a kid I loved the cartoon as well but in the '80s there weren't many home video games to play based on the license. In the '90s there were a couple but if you didn't have a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) you were out of luck. There have been six official games released in North America, as well as a couple of Action Force (international name for the license) games released in Europe. There was an unofficial fan made game released in 2012 and updated in 2015 that is free, and not a bad effort for a smaller scale game. My hope is for the license to one day receive the same treatment that Transformers received from Activision and High Moon Studios not long ago. Before I get into more details on that let me first go over the games that do exist:

  • G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike (1983) - Atari 2600 
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1985) - Apple II, Commodore 64
  • Action Force (1987) - Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum
  • Action Force II: International Heroes (1988) - ZX Spectrum
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1991) - Nintendo Entertainment System
  • G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (1992) - Nintendo Entertainment System
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1992) - Arcade
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) - PlayStation 2 & 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Xbox 360

Electronic Gaming Monthly #18

Cobra Strike is a rather generic game. If you removed G.I. Joe from the title you might not even realize it has anything to do with the franchise. A large cobra snake moves side-to-side horizontally shooting downward while soldiers run across the bottom of the screen. Two players can use the paddle controllers to shoot the snake with stationary guns at each side of the screen and slide a shield back and forth to protect the soldiers. A third player can join the game as the snake which is a nice touch. I own this one and it's not a great game; it could use some more content but then it is an Atari 2600 game. At the very least they should have had cobra planes dropping bombs instead of a giant snake.

Electronic Gaming Monthly #19
I've played a fair amount of the 1985 Commodore 64 game too. That one has two modes with one being a shoot out between a Joe and a bad guy. While not an amazing game, for myself in the '80s I thought it was cool to be able to control 16 characters from the cartoon. It's not a deep game by any means and I didn't care too much about the other mode that involved driving a vehicle from an overhead perspective. The only other official G.I. Joe game I've played is The Rise of Cobra and I didn't enjoy it much at all so I didn't play it for long.

Taxan is responsible for the first G.I. Joe game on NES and that's considered to be the best home release while Capcom made the other NES game and that received above average reviews. They're both somewhat late 8-bit releases though considering the Genesis released in 1989 and the Super NES hit the U.S. in 1991 so the 16-bit age was upon us at that point. I'm sure it made sense from a business standpoint since there were a lot of NES' in homes but a Genesis version certainly would have been welcome.

GamePro - February 1991
GamePro - April 1992

The poorly made movie tie-in is the only G.I. Joe video game we've received since 1992 and although that is disappointing, it is also understandable considering the license isn't as big as it was 25 years ago. While I'd like to make the argument that Transformers -- also a popular toy line and cartoon in the '80s -- has had quite a few games in the last decade so G.I. Joe should too, it's rather easy to see why that's not the case. For one, Transformers are giant robots that transform into vehicles which has much more global appeal than a license that is comparable to the U.S. military. Secondly, the Transformers movies, despite what you may think of them, have raked in a ridiculous amount of money worldwide and more are on the way keeping the brand in the spotlight in a big way.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear -- Black Thorn
For as long as I can remember, any time I play a military-themed video game I tend to think about how well the game might work as a G.I. Joe game. I played a lot of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (1999) and while that game aims for realism, replacing the Rainbow Six team with Joes and the generic enemies with Cobra soldiers would still make for a good time. Aside from squad-based shooters, the real-time strategy and first-person shooter genres are a great fit too. It's really not difficult to find a game that could work perfectly with the license.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I'm also a fan of open-world games and last year I found myself playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. That game, without a doubt, could be converted into an amazing G.I. Joe game. Set the game on Cobra Island with Snake Eyes and his wolf Timber replacing Big Boss and D-dog. As other Joes are rescued they can become playable, added as support characters, or join the base crew (on the U.S.S. Flagg of course).

I'll stop rambling off my dreams now and move onto one of my favorite games that you can actually sort of turn into a G.I. Joe game yourself. On October 9, 2012 2K and Firaxis Games released XCOM: Enemy Unknown. XCOM is a turn-based strategy game where a military force battles alien invaders, and players can edit their soldiers' names, including nicknames, and appearances. It goes without saying that I turned my team into a squad of Joes and while the aliens aren't quite Cobra, it worked well enough. That was good and it only got better on February 5, 2016 when Firaxis' sequel XCOM 2 was released.


XCOM 2 adds quite a bit more to the character customization, even offering voices in a variety of languages. This is one of the best choices G.I. Joe fans have to play an excellent modern game with the ability to create their own characters and get them to resemble the action figures fairly well. The base game has plenty to work with but users can also purchase downloadable content or download fan-created items for more customization options. Although the game begins with standard weapons you will need to upgrade them as the game progresses, making the combat a bit more futuristic but then in the cartoon the guns looked more like they were firing lasers than bullets.

XCOM 2 - G.I. Joe Action Figure Comparison

Most XCOM fans believe the only way to play is in iron man mode where you only get one save file and the game auto-saves with each move a player makes so soldiers that die stay dead. If you play that way you'll want a large pool of soldiers to draw from and I just happen to have one with 84 G.I. Joe characters that I'd love to share. It's easy to import and export the character pools for the PC version and the file size is small. If you'd like to try out my characters (created using only the base assets) just use the blog's contact form and I'll email the file to you. It's a great starting point even if you want to make your own characters. They're easy to edit and users can just as easily make any character appear only as a VIP to work at the base rather than take part in missions.

XCOM 2 - G.I. Joe Action Figure Comparison

Originally I created some Cobras to represent in-game enemy VIPs but they rarely made an appearance and don't really have an impact on the game. Plus, many of the Joes wear green and/or brown fatigues and were born in the United States, and I wanted some more variety. Therefore, I created quite a few of the bad guys and also took some liberties when creating the Joes, like changing their birthplace and having them speak in other languages. One thing I did not do is copy all of the action figures' file card information but there is room to do so. Instead I only entered what an action figure's file card lists as their role into the bio field. Also, I had to make up some nicknames and real names since a few characters, such as Snake Eyes and Zartan, have their actual names classified.

Toy Solders: War Chest
Hasbro has worked with Ubisoft (Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon) recently to bring their board games to consoles and PCs, and even licensed G.I. Joe to them for use in Toy Soldiers: War Chest so if a G.I. Joe game does get made any time in the near future Ubisoft could be the publisher Hasbro looks to first. If your curious, Toy Soldiers is a tower defense game where you can take direct control over some units to blast enemies with. The retail Hall of Fame Edition includes the G.I. Joe (and Masters of the Universe!) content or it can be purchased separately if you buy the digital version.

Micro Machines World Series
Surprisingly, the upcoming Micro Machines World Series has some G.I. Joe items in it as well. I don't know that you can control anything Joe related though; they might just be background objects that act as obstacles in races. In any case, it's good to see the license continues to be used in video games so there is at least some reason for G.I. Joe fans waiting for a game to have hope that it is still possible to get a new, complete game. Even an official computer game mod for XCOM or another great game could be enough to satisfy fans like myself.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March Update

Sonic promoted a lot products in the '90s.
Hi! This past week I added some images to the Facebook page. They are mostly the non-game ads I scanned while going through my gaming magazines. There are some game-related ads over there though if you want to check them out, like a Keebler ad with Sonic the Hedgehog and one for Zap Pax trading cards. Those ads will eventually find their way to Flickr but not until after I've posted all of the game ads. Right now I don't have a lot of interesting toy ads and haven't decided if I will put them on Facebook or at Flickr (or both). I had wanted to keep Flickr strictly for games but other items might not get in the way if I place them after the game albums. Flickr allows users to sort by collections as well, though I'm not sure if people notice the collections link as it's in the upper right on the albums page and not obvious. They really should place it in the link bar where photostream and albums appear.

This morning I posted another set of ads and tomorrow I might get a G.I. Joe games post up. It's not exactly about the toys but I'll count it as my first toy post since the toys did exist before the cartoon and any other product so everything is mostly based on them. I currently don't have any other articles lined up as I continue to edit the game ads and go through some non-gaming magazines for other ads and the occasional game ad. Work and playing games takes up a lot of my free time as well, and with Mass Effect: Andromeda releasing in a few days it will probably become more challenging to make time for the blog but I'll definitely stay on schedule with the Saturday ad posts.

A few days ago I added Google AdSense ads to the site. They shouldn't be obtrusive as I'm not placing them in or between the posts; there are two on the sidebar and one at the bottom of a page. I understand using ad blockers though I will appreciate it if you choose to disable the blocker on Vault 1541! I disable mine on sites I visit regularly, though I will admit that I have to block ads for a game site I like to read. Some of their ads cause my browser to freeze and crash so often that after six months or so it got too frustrating. Like I said, I don't think AdSense will interfere with the enjoyment of this site. The way AdSense works is it uses browser cookies to determine ads relevant to each user. You can manage your ad settings yourself here: (you'll need a Google account for that). I did disable most of what Google classifies as sensitive ads (political, religious, dating, etc.) as I do want Vault 1541 to be a family friendly site and so that no embarrassing ads will pop up if you are viewing the site with a friend or child.

As far as family friendly, one thing that is tough to avoid is mentioning M-rated games as I just did with Mass Effect. However, I won't ever use bad language or post excessively violent images. Also, since the site is about game ads I'm going to show many of those in posts and some of the game ads from the '90s do contain violence, models, and suggestive text. They did originally appear in general magazines so I wouldn't say any are too bad. There is one ad Sony created for Cardinal Syn that pushes the violence boundary and it's likely the worst one I've currently got so there's an early warning. I'll provide another when we get to Sony as that's a long ways off since I'm going alphabetically by publisher.

As always, thank you for visiting!


Gaming Ads: American Softworks Corp. (ASC Games)

American Softworks Corp., better known as ASC Games, was a publisher based in Connecticut that was founded in 1992 and closed in 2000. The best known game it published is the original Grand Theft Auto by DMA Design (known today as Rockstar North) for home computers. Some of ASC Games' other well-received games include One and Sanitarium. I've played the publisher's bowling game Ten Pin Alley, which also had a version starring the Animaniacs, and the overhead shooter Mass Destruction. Both of those games don't have a lot of depth but are fun to play.

Flickr album: American Softworks Corp.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gaming Ads: American Sammy

Sammy was founded in Japan in 1975 while the American Sammy division was opened in California in 1988. Between 1996 and 2002 the U.S. branch underwent a couple name changes and moves between Illinois and California. American Sammy no longer exists but the Japanese company does and in 2004 they purchased a majority stake in Sega to create Sega Sammy Holdings that now acts as the parent company of both Sega and Sammy that operate as separate companies.

American Sammy published around 20 games primarily for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Game Boy platforms. Some of its more recognizable games include Rolan's Curse, Michael Andretti's World GP, and the home port of the arcade game Twin Cobra.

Flickr album: American Sammy

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Gaming Ads: American Game Cartridges & American Laser Games

There isn't a lot to say about American Game Cartridges and I only have one ad for them. It was a subsidiary of ShareData that remained open for just a few years and published four games. The single ad features three games and mentions that Crossbow is coming soon but that game was never released. It appears that Crossbow was going to be based on Exidy's 1983 arcade game.

American Laser Games is best known for its arcade games from the early '90s, most of which are light gun shooters that use full motion video. Mad Dog McCree is likely the most recognizable of them while some others include Who Shot Johnny Rock?, Space Pirates, and Crime Patrol. The publisher also ported most of them to consoles and home computers that were equipped with CD-ROM drives. In 2000 Digital Leisure acquired all of American Laser Games' properties and released its games for DVD players. The DVD releases were compatible with any platform available at the time that could run DVDs, including home computers, Sony's PlayStation 2, and Microsoft's Xbox.

Flickr album: American Game Cartridges
Flickr album: American Laser Games

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bomberman: Dropping "B"s Since '83

Tomorrow Nintendo's Switch releases and one of the few launch titles is Super Bomberman R. Konami is working with Osaka-based HexaDrive on the new game and they've done some good work, mostly as a co-developer or on ports. Hudson Soft, the developer of many of the previous Bomberman games, was absorbed into Konami in 2012 so they don't technically exist any longer.

The first console Bomberman game released in 1985 for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan and I had thought that was the first game but I found that there are two games before that. In 1983 a game was released for home computers featuring the Bomberman character, though the game itself is titled Bakudan Otoko in Japan and Eric and the Floaters in Europe. There is also a Japan-only game released in 1984 for the MSX computer called 3-D Bomberman.

For this blog post I've got scans for the TurboGrafx-16's Bomberman (1990) and Bomberman '93 (1992), and Super Bomberman (1993) for the Super NES. First up are reviews of Bomberman from GamePro and Game Player's magazines. This GamePro doesn't have numerical scores to go with their images so I will do some translating: the ecstatic orange image is a four and the more mellow guy over green is a three (5-point scale). Game Player's didn't score their reviews and while there is nothing wrong with that, this review in particular is more or less stating facts rather than opinions so it reads more similar to a preview. They used some low quality, newspaper-like paper in their magazine too which is why it looks yellowish in the scan.

GamePro - March 1991
Game Player's Vol. 3, No. 4

Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) scored Bomberman '93 three eights and a nine, enough to earn a gold award and game of the month. All four reviewers commented on how it's best when playing the game with others which is the main draw for all of the Bomberman games. Bomberman '93 didn't have much competition that issue to earn game of the month as the only other gold award winner was Super Turrican (SNES).

Electronic Gaming Monthly #45

Also courtesy of EGM are a preview and review of Super Bomberman. This release scored four nines resulting in a platinum award and game of the month. To earn game of the month it topped gold award winners Plok! (SNES), NHL '94 (Genesis), and Final Fantasy Legend III (Game Boy). Of course, the reviewers all love the multiplayer mode of Super Bomberman but the single-player mode varies between them, with three of their differing opinions being "above average," "kinda cool," and "great."

Electronic Gaming Monthly #49
Electronic Gaming Monthly #51

Bomberman is a series I have some experience with as I have a distinct memory playing one on the TurboGrafx-16 and I know I've played at least one or two others but I don't know exactly which versions they were! The TurboGrafx game stands out because it was at the EGM & Hero Illustrated (comic book magazine) mall tour in 1993. The version of the tour the nearest mall to myself got was on the small side, likely just an extra piece from the New York set up. I played a bunch of Sega games at the event but Bomberman was the highlight as it was part of a competition to win a TurboGrafx-16 console. It was my first time playing and while I didn't win the competition, or even get out of the first round (last to be eliminated in the first round!), I still had a lot of fun. Let's hope Super Bomberman R continues the series' addictive multiplayer and maybe even pull off an entertaining single-player mode.