Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gaming Ads: Irem America

Founded in 1974 as IPM (International Play Machine), the Japan-based company originally built arcade cabinets and machines. It developed its first game IPM Invader in 1978 and changed the company name to Irem (International Rental Electronic Machines) Corporation in 1979. Irem had a couple of arcade hits in the early '80s with Moon Patrol (1982) and Kung-Fu Master (1984), though it is best known for the R-Type series that began in 1987. Irem America was founded in 1989 and was based in Redmond, Washington for five years before closing due to its parent company having financial difficulties.

Irem temporarily stopped making games in the mid-'90s during restructuring. While it did return to game development, the company would eventually be absorbed by another Irem. Back in 1980 a company called Nanao became the majority shareholder in Irem Corporation and in 1997 founded Irem Software Engineering which took over Irem Corp. and is still in business today. 

Flickr album: Irem America

Thursday, March 29, 2018

It's Time for Some Hardball!

Cobra Commander
wouldn't play ball!
This will be the 5th and final baseball related post this week as today is opening day for the 2018 Major League Baseball season. While I wanted to make a video of talking baseball cards (from LJN and Topps), I failed to repair the device so I'm spotlighting the G.I. Joe action figure Hardball instead -- I needed more G.I. Joe posts anyways! Released in 1988, the file card for Hardball reveals his name to be Wilmer S. Duggleby who was born in Cooperstown, New York, home of baseball's hall of fame. He played five seasons of minor league baseball as a center fielder before calling it quits and joining the Joes. There is also a very slight connection to video games with Hardball as Hasbro recolored and reused the character's chest and arms for the M. Bison action figure in the G.I. Joe Street Fighter toy line.

Unfortunately, I cut out the UPC;
 probably for a mail-in offer.
Hardball's file card.

I'm not too sure how entertaining these photos are as I had to do most of this last minute. I've wanted to get into taking more photos of toys mixed with real-life or humorous types of settings, though these are just quick shots in my usual spot. The first batch features an old dart board that has a baseball theme on the back of it. I just realized I put the weapon in his left hand for these photos; I didn't do that on purpose and it probably would have made more sense in his right hand (just pretend he's a switch hitter).

Next is a bubble gum battle with Tomax and Xamot! I should have done different poses but they're mostly just different angles of the same set-up. Believe it or not, the gum is actually from old packs of Topps baseball cards; most likely from 1989-91.




Finally, Hardball visits a couple MLB stadiums.

Lifting Bank One Ballpark's roof. This is the Diamondback's
stadium that is now called Chase Field.

Center fielder for the New York Yankees (at the old stadium).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Old (8-bit) Ball Game

This year's baseball reviews post is a little on the small side as I've got scans of five reviews that cover four different 8-bit games. Three of the reviews are for NES titles which does make for quite a bit of NES coverage this week after yesterday's NES All Stars article. From Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) I pieced together two reviews from the same issue: Bases Loaded 2 (NES) and Baseball Simulator 1.000 (NES). I've got a second review of Baseball Simulator 1.000 from Video Games & Computer Entertainment (VG&CE). Also from VG&CE is a review of Baseball Stars for the NES. Last up is Sega Visions' review of the Master System's Reggie Jackson Baseball; I made a video of that game this week too.

EGM #9
VG&CE - November 1989

VG&CE - February 1990

Sega Visions - June/July 1990

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NES All Stars (GamePro - June 1990)

This post contains a rather lengthy article titled NES All Stars that originally appeared in GamePro's June 1990 issue. It's eight pages long and as the title implies, is all about baseball games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Charlie T. Aslan is the writer for Bases Loaded II: Second Season, Baseball Simulator 1.000, Bad News Baseball, and R.B.I. Baseball 2. The final two games, Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball and Little League Championship Series, are covered by Slo' Mo. Although they aren't necessarily reviewing the games, they do provide some opinions and, of course, since the article title says "All Stars" they do imply that all of the games are worth playing.





Monday, March 26, 2018

Electronic Pennant Fever (VG&CE - July 1989)

This week I'll have a few posts related to baseball as the 2018 MLB season opens this Thursday, March 29th. First up is a complete article titled Electronic Pennant Fever written by Arnie Katz and Bill Kunkel that appeared in the July 1989 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. The article is a little over four pages and provides an overview of the baseball games available in the late '80s for both home computers and consoles.

They spend more time on the computer games and dedicate a lot of space to the more strategical games as computers had a few that focused on managing teams over actually controlling the players. Console baseball games exploded in the '90s as I mentioned in last year's baseball reviews post but in the '80s there weren't nearly as many and the actual MLB and MLBPA licenses were not used as often either.



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gaming Ads: Interplay

Interplay Productions was founded in 1983 by Brian Fargo. The California-based developer quickly made a name for itself in 1985 with the release of the role-playing game (RPG) Tales of the Unknown: Volume I -- The Bard's Tale. Electronic Arts (EA) published The Bard's Tale, as well as The Bard's Tale II (1986) and The Bard's Tale III (1988). Another one of Interplay's well known RPGs published by EA in 1988 is one of my favorite games of all time, the post-apocalyptic Wasteland. Interplay would also begin self-publishing its own games in 1988 and by the mid-'90s was publishing games from other developers as the company became a significant publisher in the industry.

Although best known for its PC games, during the '90s it published many of its games for consoles too, including Earthworm Jim titles, a variety of Star Trek games, and the Clay Fighter series (based on the number of ads I came across I'd say it put a lot of money into marketing this one). It also published Blizzard Entertainment's (then known as Silicon & Synapse) first games and got into sports game development like so many publishers did in the '90s, and released them under a label known as VR Sports (later renamed Interplay Sports). However, computer RPGs were still a major part of Interplay's library and in 1997 it released Fallout, the spiritual successor to Wasteland (EA owned the rights to a Wasteland 2). In 1998 it had another huge hit on its hands when it published the Bioware-developed Baldur's Gate. Following Baldur's Gate, Interplay's internal division Black Isle Studios developed two more Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale.

Despite having developed and published numerous successful games, Interplay was struggling financially in 1998 and the company went public, at which time it also changed its name from Interplay Productions to Interplay Entertainment. Although a version of Interplay still exists today, this was essentially the beginning of the end for the company that released more than 300 games in a 20 year span. Titus Software purchased controlling interest in Interplay by 2001 and Brian Fargo eventually left Interplay to found inXile Entertainment (Fargo got the rights to Wasteland back and released an official sequel in 2014). In 2005 Titus Software ended up going into bankruptcy and while Interplay retained rights to most of its assets, it also faced backruptcy in 2006 leading to a deal with Bethesda Softworks to use the Fallout license. That Fallout deal had a clause in it that Interplay ultimately failed to live up to. Bethesda sued Interplay in 2009 and after going to court acquired the complete rights to Fallout.

Today, what remains of Interplay primarily publishes digital versions of its back catalog for modern computers.

Flickr album: Interplay

Friday, March 23, 2018

Year 2: March Update

It's almost baseball season!
I posted the last update in early February and now March is nearing an end so it has been a while. Of course, more electronics have failed me which is a reoccurring theme here. One is another older item, not exactly a toy but something I had hoped to base a video on for the start of the Major League Baseball season on the 29th. A grounding wire inside of the device did detach but my soldering skills are painfully bad and I've not been able to reattach it (can't be certain that would even be enough to fix it). Also, when I first opened it I found that I left batteries in it that expired in 1993 so there was a lovely gift inside to clean up. Obviously I had not tried to turn it on in quite some time.

The other item that broke is only eight months old and that is my PlayStation 4. It was only the hard drive though so I didn't need to repair it exactly, just had to reinitialize it from safe mode but of course my save files were not backed up. Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to PlayStation Plus in order to use the cloud back-up service whereas Microsoft offers that to all of its Xbox One users. It is possible to back things up on a flash drive though I did not think I needed to. Due to my frustration I stopped playing games for a while as I let it sit in the non-working condition for about three weeks before erasing all of my game saves.

Other than the usual posts and videos, I've not been up to much. I did take apart both of my Sega Genesis arcade sticks to see if I could do anything to make them work better. Not sure if that was successful as I've not tested them but I did find the older one could use replacement parts under the buttons since they are damaged.

Sega Genesis Arcade Stick 
Sega Genesis 6-button Arcade Stick

I do continue to scan non-gaming magazines and sometimes find game ads. Mostly I'm trying to sort through stuff to get rid of and figured I should scan most of the ads, gaming or not, before I toss them. I've also started scanning and photographing some G.I. Joe items for It's a nice site that aims to preserve the art of G.I. Joe and has fully rotating images of the toys. While I've mentioned a few times that's my favorite toy line, I have yet to actually do a video of any G.I. Joe things. There are some great videos out there of the toys already that I couldn't hope to even come close to matching on my own so I'm not sure what to do with the toys. A large setup might be the only interesting thing I could put together but I do have one video idea for a tie-in product. 

The last couple ad updates haven't been too interesting but there are some good publishers coming up soon and a little backfilling too on some popular companies. Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

1977 Playmobil Catalog

Maybe I should have said the blog is about the '70s too as I've got a lot more stuff from the '70s than I realized. Of course, the toys in this catalog post were also sold during the '80s which is when I would have played with some of them. This Playmobil catalog is more like a brochure as it folds out and has six panels on both sides. The front side describes the toys while the flip side focuses on individual sets.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gaming Ads: Intellimedia Sports, Interactive Magic, and IBM

Intellimedia Sports was a company based in Atlanta that specialized in instructional multimedia software and published products under the IntelliPlay brand. Of the ads, which might include all of Intellimedia's products, only the poker software appears to have gameplay. The other products provide educational videos about soccer, baseball, golf, and football from athletes and coaches, and were marketed with ESPN.

Interactive Magic, also known as I-Magic, was founded in 1994 in North Carolina with offices in the U.K., Germany, and Japan as well. The chairman of the board was MicroProse co-founder J.W. "Wild Bill" Stealey so it should come as no surprise that Interactive Magic focused on simulation and strategy games.

International Business Machines, better known as IBM, was founded in 1911 as Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company before changing its name in 1924. Based in New York, IBM has made a wide range of products throughout its history, though it's best known for it contributions to computers, including the creation of the term personal computer (PC). The IBM PC released in 1981 and typically used DOS, which was originally created by Seattle Computer Products but later purchased and modified by Microsoft.

Of course, there is a lot that can be said about IBM, though I'm going to keep this brief and jump ahead to the software since that is what the blog focuses on. IBM actually released a handful of games for mainframe computers in the '50s and '60s, and dozens during the '80s and '90s for the PC. It released a variety of original educational games and some computer ports of well known games, like King's Quest, M.U.L.E., Jumpman, and Mad Dog McCree.

6/22/19 UPDATE: IBM fell into the post because I was originally listing it under International Business Machines. However, everyone simply knows it as IBM so I decided after I moved the ads to Facebook that IBM made more sense.

More ads can be found at Facebook: Intellimedia Sports, Interactive Magic, IBM

Sunday, March 11, 2018

[YouTube] 2-XL

2-XL is an electronic toy from Mego Corp. first released in 1978. Designed to look like a robot, the toy speaks and interacts with users by reading 8-track tapes. One tape was included with the robot, which I believe was "General Information," and a variety of others were sold separately. You can see in the box and toy side-by-side photo below that that my 2-XL doesn't match the box image exactly, namely the eyes. I've got the second version of the toy that released in 1980, though they obviously didn't update the packaging. There is a price tag on the top of my box that indicates it retailed for $69.99.

2-XL box (1978) and toy (1980).

Although it may appear to be just for kids, there are many tapes for all ages and some that might only appeal to adults, such as "50's and 60's Nostalgia" and "TV and Movie Challenges." In most cases the tapes include questions that can be answered using the buttons on the face of the toy. Some tapes do require users to follow along in a tape's instruction manual, use a pen and paper to solve problems, or complete activities in the manual. 2-XL often spouts jokes and makes humorous comments in between questions or while waiting for answers.

Answer panel and "Talking Calculator" tape.

Mego Corp. stopped making the toy in 1981 and would declare backruptcy in 1982 before going out of business in 1983. Tiger Electronics re-introduced 2-XL in 1992 with a modern look. Of course, 8-track tapes were a thing of the past at that point, replaced by cassette tapes in the music industry and that's also what the 1990's version of the toy uses. If you were a kid in the early '90s you might even remember seeing 2-XL on a television show called Pick Your Brain that was hosted by Marc Summers. The show featured a large version of the robot and was voiced by Greg Berg; the original toy was voiced by its inventor, Michael J. Freeman.

A 2-XL ad from Toys "R" Us (1992).

I've got a bunch of photos of my 1980 toy and scans of the few documents I still have. Also, since I opened it up to see if I could improve the sound I took a couple photos of what the inside of the toy looks like.