Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bubsy the Bobcat

In June Activision released Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy and then in August Sonic the Hedgehog returned to his roots in Sega's Sonic Mania. Now another video game mascot that got its start in the '90s is back: Bubsy! I was going to be sarcastic about the return of Bubsy but I don't know much about the games outside of what I've read, and my memory had me thinking the Bubsy games were considered  terrible. However, while putting together this post I found that the first Bubsy game was very well-received and its sequel, as well as the Atari Jaguar game, were decent too. Apparently it was Bubsy 3D that made everyone want to forget about the anthropomorphic bobcat. Bubsy did get a compilation in 2015 of the first two Super Nintendo Entertainment System games for the PC called Two-Fur. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is a brand new game that releases today and returns the title character to 2D, much like the aforementioned Sonic Mania did for Sonic the Hedgehog.

In light of Bubsy's return here are reviews of the first game from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) and Game Informer, and a GamePro review of Bubsy II. For the EGM review I included a couple bonus reviews allowing you to see the competition that Bubsy faced that month and one of them (Cool Spot) is a good comparison as it's another side-scrolling platform game.

Electronic Gaming Monthly #46

Game Informer - March/April 1993

GamePro - September 1994

Monday, October 30, 2017

[YouTube] Tomy Toys

                                                          https://youtu.be/b7jpyTiEOnE

The Japan-based Tomy was founded on February 2, 1924 as Tomiyama Toy Seisakusho by Eiichiro Tomiyama. It was best known for its toy airplanes for a few decades before the company changed its name to Tomy during the '60s, at which time it also opened offices in the United States and Europe. Tomy published video games from the '80s through 2010 as well; the last game it released is Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution III for the Wii. In 2006 Tomy merged with another big toy maker (and former video game publisher) in Japan, Takara. I mentioned Takara previously when I made a Transformers video as Takara is responsible for creating the toy robots that Hasbro brought to the U.S. and re-branded as the Transformers. Being the more recognizable name world wide, the post-merger company kept Tomy as its name in all locations except Japan, where it is called Takara Tomy.


All of the toys I'm sharing in the post/video are from the mid to late '70s and early '80s. My favorite Tomy toys are the wind-up characters that you simply wind up and place on a hard surface (or in water) to see them move. A few items are games of skill; some require winding and some are small pocket games. One toy is an amusing sentence maker where you shake the item a bit to mix up plastic squares with words on them and then jiggle the item to get five squares to drop into a window and form a silly sentence. I've also got a few Pocket Cars and accessories from Tomy's diecast brand that is named Tomica, itself a spin-off of the company's Tomica World trains. Many of the toys with internal mechanisms no longer work but I still find them a pleasure to view. Electronic toys like the ferry can probably be repaired with a new motor though I don't think it is possible to repair the wind-up toys as they are not meant to be disassembled.


Individual Wind-Up Toys

Robots (1977)

Mickey Mouses and Plutos (1977)

Dolphin, Penguin, & Turtle (None have a copyright on them;
the penguin is marked No. 4)

Ski Streak Racing Team 351 (1978)


Bumbling Boxing














Hop-A-Long Hoopster (1981)

























Skill Squares

Rescue Copter and Shootin' Gallery


Rescue Copter and Shootin' Gallery


Tomy Pocket Games

Feed the Frogs (1977)

Bi-Plane Battle (1978)

Don't see a name on this one; I'll call it Race Track (1975)

Sentence Nonsense (1975)

Pocket Cars & Accessories (Tomica Diecast)


American Truck (1978), Toyota Type HQ15V (1978),
Alpine Renault A310 (1978), Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (1978),
and Ferrari 308 GTB (1977)



Conveyer

Crane

Paint 'Em Perfect Paint Shop


Road Mates Auto Ferry
The ferry is battery operated and is not actually meant to be placed in the water. The wheel on the top is used to rotate the wheels on the bottom that are powered by two "C" batteries.





Tomy Pop Cycle

The racer is missing his legs!

Thanks for visiting the blog and I hope you enjoyed this look at some Tomy toys. 

-Jonathan

Takara's Penny Racers which also appear in the video.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Gaming Ads: Empire Interactive and Enix America

U.K.-based Empire Interactive Europe was founded in 1987 as Empire Software while the Empire Interactive publishing brand was created in 1989. The company did develop some games at in the U.K. but primarily published games via numerous offices based throughout Europe and North America. Empire also acquired a few developers, most notably Cunning Developments (Pro Pinball) and Razorworks (Ford Racing). In 2006 Empire was purchased by Silverstar Holdings and in 2009 the publisher went out of business. Empire did publish more than 150 games during its 22 years of business but more in Europe than North America, and I currently only have one ad.

Yasuhiro Fukushima founded Eidansha Boshu Service Center in 1975 as a publisher of real estate papers before entering the video game publishing business and changing the company name to Enix in 1982. Enix is best known for publishing the Dragon Quest games that were renamed to Dragon Warrior when released in North America. The Dragon Quest games were actually developed by Chunsoft, a developer founded as a result of a programming contest sponsored by Enix.

Enix had two publishing branches in North America during the '90s. The first was Enix America Corporation based in Redmond, WA that was in business between 1990 and 1995. In 1999 Enix America, Inc. opened in Seattle and closed in 2003 when Enix merged with developer Square to form Square Enix. Today Square Enix develops and publishes many popular game series, such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex.

Flickr album: Empire Interactive
Flickr album: Enix America

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wolfenstein 2d to 3d

With the upcoming release of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus this Friday I thought it would be fun to take a look at some reviews of id Software's first Wolfenstein game. Since I've said numerous times that I do aim for a family friendly environment at Vault 1541 I should point out that the most recent Wolfenstein games are rated M largely due to violence. The first release of Wolfenstein 3d and the games I'll mention from the '80s do pre-date the ESRB and that's what I am focusing on here but all of the games are violent as they are set during World War II.

Well before there was id's Wolfenstein 3d, developer Muse Software released a game called Castle Wolfenstein in 1981 and a sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, in 1984. Muse's games are what inspired id but they play quite differently as the two Muse games are viewed from a 2D side perspective and while you can shoot enemies, the best course of action is typically to blend in and sneak past the enemy guards whenever possible. Developed by id and published by Apogee Software in 1992 for DOS computers, Wolfenstein 3d is a first-person shooter where players control Allied soldier B.J. Blazkowicz. Both of Muse's games, as well as Wolfenstein 3d, require players to escape from the castle.

Wolfenstein 3d has since appeared on numerous platforms, including the Macintosh computer, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) during the '90s. Later the game was ported to the Game Boy Advance, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and mobile platforms. I've got one review each for the DOS, SNES, and 3DO versions, and two for the Jaguar. As is often the case, I did some edits on the scans from Electronic Gaming Monthly (to line up with the Review Crew) and Video Games & Computer Entertainment  (multiple pages turned into one).

Video Games & Computer Entertainment - September 1992

Electronic Gaming Monthly #55
Electronic Gaming Monthly #77

Electronic Gaming Monthly #63
GamePro - September 1994

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Gaming Ads: Electronic Arts

I'll do my best to keep this as short as I can, though Electronic Arts (EA) has a long history and one could write quite a bit about the company. I've got 135 ads which I believe is second only to what I have for Sega. EA Sports ads could be separated but for now I'm leaving them with the rest of EA.

EA was founded in California in 1982 by former Apple employee Trip Hawkins. A few other Apple employees joined EA and the company quickly grew as it recruited more staff from the likes of Atari and Xerox. In 1983 EA released its first games on home computers, including one of the most significant games in the history of the company. That game is Julius Irving/Larry Bird Go One-on-One, or simply One-on-One. This was the first time professional athletes appeared in a computer game, it was an important income source for EA, and it was the first stepping stone into the sports genre of video games that would shape the future of the publisher.

While EA did develop some of its own games, it also published games for other developers which led to a large number of releases annually beginning in 1986. EA published nearly 20 games in '86, then more than 25 in '87, and over 30 in '88. In such a short span EA became the largest third-party game publisher. Here is a brief list of some of the best known games that EA published in the '80s: John Madden Football (quite different from what would appear on consoles), Populous, Archon, Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer, Earl Weaver Baseball, Starflight, Skate or Die, F/A-18 Interceptor, M.U.L.E., the computer versions of Marble Madness, and some of Interplay's role-playing titles, such as the Bard's Tale sequels and Wasteland.

In 1990 EA entered the console games market as a publisher; previously it had only licensed its games to other publishers. Around that same time Trip Hawkins left EA to found The 3DO Company. The '90s was another successful decade for EA as its sports games became so popular during the 16-bit era that EA created the EA Sports brand that is still used today. As I said above, I want to keep this relatively short so I'll just mention a few more things as the company is still going strong today and it's likely many of you are quite familiar with EA. Along with EA Sports, EA Games became a publishing label EA used for a while and there was EA Sports BIG for the more arcade-like games, such as SSX. Jane's Combat Simulations was yet another publishing label EA used as it licensed the Jane's Information Group brand from 1994 to 2000.

The last thing I want to mention about its past are some of the most recognizable developers that have been acquired by EA (along with a major game each made before the acquisitions): Origin Systems (Ultima), Bullfrog (Populous), BioWare (Baldur's Gate), Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer), Maxis (SimCity), Digital Illusions CE (Battlefield), PopCap Games (Bejeweled), and DreamWorks Interactive (Medal of Honor). There were many others of course, though I'd say those are the most noteworthy due to the popularity of the games each one developed for EA. Unfortunately, some have since been closed or merged with other studios, and some have been renamed. This post also happens to fall during the week EA announced the closure of Visceral Games, one of its internal studios that was originally known as EA Redwood Shores. Visceral had been working on a single-player Star Wars game that many were looking forward to so I suspect EA's popularity is at an all-time low.

Regardless of what you may think of EA today, for better or worse, it's been a very important company in the history of computer and video games. If you were gaming in the '80s and/or '90s EA likely played a big role your time playing games. For myself, I was a big fan of EA during those two decades, especially the EA Sports titles released for the Sega Genesis. 

Flickr album: Electronic Arts

Sunday, October 15, 2017

October Update

Here's another monthly update when I should be making videos! I'm set up for my next toy video but I like natural light and lately it's been overcast and rainy where I am, and today is no exception. If the sun pops out I'll try to get that filmed though I probably can't complete everything today as I still need to take photographs and this time I'll be recording audio separately which means I'll need to spend more time editing. That seems like the way to do it because even after recently acquiring the microphone made for my camera there is still too much white noise. The reason I did not acquire that microphone earlier is that it was discontinued years ago and typically sells for $100+ despite it being a rather standard stereo microphone. Fortunately, I found one in an eBay auction and since nobody else bid I got it for about $34. My thought was the adapters I was trying for the microphones with the 3.5 mm connection were the problem but it turns out my camera doesn't record good audio even with a 2.5 mm microphone.

While I don't have this item, I do have a Batman
RPG book from Mayfair Games that I plan on
sharing in a Batman video.
For the remainder of this month I'm aiming for some game magazine review scans in relation to Wolfenstein and Bubsy since both have new game releases at the end of the month. Actually, I have those written and ready to go so they'll definitely happen. I'd like to have some videos that tie into them as well which is up in the air still. With the Justice League movie releasing next month I'm also hoping to do one or two toy videos on some DC Comics stuff I've got in early November. Looking farther ahead I have one idea for a December holiday video that ties into Star Wars and maybe I can begin Star Wars toy videos too though I'm sure there are tens of thousands of those out there already.

I've been trying to repair my Game Boy screen for a while though I'm having a hard time getting about 20% of the left hand side back. My goal was to have that fixed by now and do a little unboxing video with that and some accessories. After I complete or give up on getting the full screen back I'll attempt to replace a fuse on the Sega CD which will hopefully get it to power on again. Other than that, I'll work on getting some "Let's Play" videos recorded of retro games when I can. For modern games I'll definitely be playing the next Assassin's Creed and Wolfenstein games but since those are M-rated I won't be uploading footage of them. Recently I completed Inside and Raiden V: Director's Cut. Raiden V has unlimited continues which is the only reason I succeeded in finishing it and it wasn't too long either at around 45 minutes.

One thing I forgot to mention last month is that I saw the documentary Viva Amiga. Going in I really didn't know a lot about the Amiga outside of what I wrote for the Commodore ads post. As a Commodore 64 owner the Amiga was always the Commodore computer with amazing screenshots that appeared on the back of the game boxes; computer games didn't always show screens of the version you were buying, or they'd show a screen from each computer the game was available for, such as C64, Amiga, Apple II, IBM, etc. The movie shows some gaming but it's predominantly about the computer's multimedia functions; for the time it was a great computer for making videos and making music. In fact, people still use Amiga computers to make music as the documentary shows people performing at what are essentially MIDI music concerts. However, the Amiga never caught on like IBM PC compatible machines did since it wasn't marketed properly and many businesses saw no reason to not use computers from IBM.

A scan of the Viva Amiga DVD back and cover. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'd have family visiting this month and was hoping to make a video with my nephew. He was here and then the whole family went to visit more family in another state and then they'll be back here for about a day before flying home. I had ideas that fell through and I re-shoot so often that it is rather difficult to complete a video with him since he is six and doesn't sit still or listen too well. Now I've got one more video idea for something that could be simple so perhaps a video will still get made with him. It's likely nobody cares but he does seem to want to make one and I thought it couldn't hurt. Once again, thanks for reading the blog and watching my YouTube videos, it's very much appreciated!

-Jonathan

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gaming Ads: Electro Brain

Electro Brain was a publisher based in Salt Lake City, Utah that released games throughout the '90s before declaring bankruptcy. While a couple of its games released on the Sega Genesis, the majority of them were released on Nintendo platforms, including the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy. I've not played any of its games and browsing the titles none of them really jump out at me, though it did publish a game in the Raiden series and a Fist of the North Star fighting game. There isn't too much else to say about Electro Brain but it gets this week's ads post to itself since I have 26 ads for the publisher.

Flickr album: Electro Brain

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Gaming Ads: Eidos

Originally founded as Eidos Technologies, the U.K.-based company focused on video compression for computers before becoming involved in video games. It was through the merging of Domark, Simis, and Big Red Software that Eidos Interactive was born in 1996. Shortly after the creation of Eidos Interactive, U.S. Gold was acquired and that acquisition included developer Core Design. The acquisition turned out to be huge as Core Design was working on Tomb Raider at the time; Tomb Raider released on November 14, 1996 and Eidos quickly became a household name after that.

Eidos would publish more than 200 games between 1996 and 2009. Aside from Tomb Raider, it published numerous other well known properties, such as Deus Ex, Hitman, Legacy of Kain, Thief, and Commandos. It also published the PC version of Final Fantasy VII and Traveller's Tales' first LEGO Star Wars Game, and co-published the first game in Rocksteady's Batman Arkham series with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. In 1998 Eidos acquired Gex creator Crystal Dynamics and in 2003 it had Crystal Dynamics take over development duties of the Tomb Raider series from Core Design.

Despite owning so many popular video game series, it ran into financial difficulties and in 2005 Eidos was taken over by SCi Entertainment. Under SCi the development studio Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) was founded in 2007. In 2008 SCi changed its corporate name to Eidos and in 2009 it was purchased by Square Enix.

Flickr album: Eidos