Saturday, May 25, 2019

Year 3: May Update

I didn't get a whole lot done in May with this being only the seventh post of the month. There was some Star Wars coverage for May 4th and with Star Wars celebration last month a large part of the April update was about that as well. Unfortunately, at the end of April we lost Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew. Of course, being a Wookie in all of the films his face never appeared onscreen in Star Wars so he may not be as recognizable as Carrie, Mark, and Harrison but all big fans of the franchise certainly know who he is. Also, today marks the 42nd anniversary of the first movie that debuted on May 25, 1977.

Peter Mayhew towering over George Lucas, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill,
and Kenny Baker at the Royal London Premiere of the Star Wars Special
Edition release in 1997 (Star Wars Insider #34).

I've tried a handful of games over the past month, such as A Plague Tale: Innocence, Days Gone, Rage 2, Rogue Aces, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Team Sonic Racing. Most I only briefly played though I did complete What Remains of Edith Finch which took maybe two hours which is too short for $19.99; fortunately, I received it for free earlier this year for being a subscriber to PlayStation Plus. Perhaps price shouldn't matter when it comes to length but two hours is very short. The writing is solid, however, there isn't a lot to do in the game as the style of play is what some would call a walking simulator. I'll probably complete Team Sonic Racing's Team Adventure mode and should record a "Let's Play" video this weekend. At this point I'd say it's a solid kart racer and the new team aspect is a nice addition. There are plenty of tracks and a lot of items to unlock using gold rings collected during races. I do wish it was more than Sonic though as I miss the other Sega characters from Sega and Sumo Digital's previous kart racers.

E3 2019 is right around the corner now and I've not put anything together yet for that. I'll try to do some predictions though I expect this to be a rather tame show in that the current PlayStation/Xbox generation is winding down and Sony isn't even attending. I'm going to be posting Sony ads the Saturday before and after E3 so at least you'll get to see something of Sony that week. Microsoft news will likely dominate as it's a prime opportunity to show off the next Xbox. Some other gaming news since I last wrote includes the announcement of an Earthworm Jim game for the Intellivision Amico and a new handheld system coming next year from Panic, a company that assisted with Santo Campo's Firewatch. It's a tiny, yellow box called Playdate that plays digital games on a black-and-white screen. At $149 I'm not entirely sure of the market for this since smartphones can handle more advanced games so there will have to be some very unique experiences to gain a fair amount of interest.

In toy and game news Hasbro released its first wave of action figures based on Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch. Back when the game released in 2016 I played for about two weeks and had fun with it but for myself it didn't have lasting appeal. There were plenty of characters then and more have been added since, though there weren't a lot of maps or modes, competitive mode hadn't been added yet, and I was playing with strangers which certainly didn't help. I expect it would be a lot more fun playing with friends where you can work together but also not take it too seriously. Some people were insulting even on day one as I'm sure they played the beta and for some reason expected everyone to be seasoned veterans at launch. My favorite characters when I played were Pharah and Lucio, and I played a fair amount of Reinhardt and Zarya too. In any case, the action figures look nice though at $19.99 each they are expensive and some are only available in $39.99 dual packs.

Thanks for stopping by,

Gaming Ads: Sofel and Software Simulations

Japan-based Sofel, which is short for Software Engineering Laboratory, was founded in 1979 and opened a U.S. branch in 1981. It is still in business today developing business software and RFID systems, and this is a company that doesn't hide its video game past. If you've read all of my gaming ad posts, or at least a portion of them, I've noted how some official websites of former video game companies make no mention of games on the corporate history pages. Sofel's website states that it published its first software for Nintendo as well as a program called Super Paint for Mac in 1987. The Nintendo release might be The Money Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, though most sources put that in 1988 so I'm not sure. All of its games, whether as developer or publisher or both, were only available for Nintendo platforms with the last one being released in 1994.

Software Simulations was based in Stratford, Connecticut and appears to have specialized in sports simulations and educational software. The company name is rather generic and all of the information I can find is from the three ads I have. It was active in the late '80s and one ad states that it was a division of Munson Electronics.

More ads can be found at Facebook: Sofel, Software Simulations 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Gaming Ads: SNK Corporation of America

Originally founded as Shin Nihon Kikaku (translates to New Japan Project) in 1973 and reorganized in 1978 as Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation, the company released its first game, the scrolling shooter Ozma Wars, in 1979. In 1981 it abbreviated its name to SNK as well as opened SNK Electronics Corporation in California to distribute arcade games. The SNK name was made official in 1986 at which time SNK Electronics was renamed SNK Corporation of America. Throughout the '80s SNK released more than 20 arcade games, including the Ikari Warriors series, and many of its games were ported to video game consoles and home computers.

SNK may be best known for the Neo Geo that launched in 1990 as a cartridge-based arcade system called the Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System). This allowed an arcade cabinet to hold up to six games; users could navigate a menu and select which game they wanted to play. Later that year SNK unveiled the Neo Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System) that was available first to rent and then hit retail in 1991. The console's debut price was $599.99 and was bundled with one game, and additional games typically cost $199.99 each! During the '90s SNK also became well known for the Metal Slug shooter series and its 2D fighters, such as The King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, World Heroes, and Art of Fighting.

In 1998 the Neo Geo Pocket (NGP) released in Japan. NGP has a monochrome screen and didn't fare too well, though SNK quickly replaced it in 1999 with the Neo Geo Pocket Color (NGPC) that did release outside of Japan. While it is a fine handheld system, it faced stiff competition and with SNK already struggling financially, the handheld didn't stick around long. Pachinko/slots maker Aruze acquired SNK in 2000, closed the U.S. offices, and then SNK went bankrupt in 2001. SNK employees had begun leaving the company before it closed and many founded other game developers, including Dimps and BrezzaSoft. SNK founder Eikuchi Kawasaki went on to found Playmore and reacquire the rights to numerous SNK assets as well as hire former SNK employees.

I've reached the end of the original SNK and don't want to drag this out too much so I'll summarize quickly by saying Playmore become SNK Playmore (there was an SNK Playmore USA too), and in 2015 a Chinese investment group acquired controlling interest in the company. In 2016 Playmore was dropped from the SNK Playmore name and so we have a new version of SNK Corporation now.

More ads can be found at Facebook: SNK Corporation of America

Sunday, May 12, 2019

[YouTube] The Children's Discovery System

Released in 1981 from Mattel, The Children's Discovery System is an electronic educational toy that Mattel calls a programmable computer system. It has a 16 x 48 matrix liquid crystal display (LCD), keypad, cartridge slot, and is powered by either six AA batteries or an AC adapter, neither of which are packaged with the system. Included in the box with the computer is a 120-page manual and the Discoveries in Math I module. Each module comes with an activity book, cartridge, and keypad overlay but if you don't have any modules you can play the built-in activities that are split between Type, Music, and Art modes. A variety of modules were sold separately, including more advanced versions of music and art, as well as geography, words, nutrition, memory and logic, arcade games, and a few others.

The original price was $119.99 with modules selling for $20.99 a piece. Although it was released by Mattel Toys, the tech support was handled by Mattel Electronics which is the same division responsible for the Intellivision console, and there are a few similarities. One is that when first turning on the computer a character, called Cursor the Great, runs across the screen that resembles the Intellivision's running man in motion (it looks different but reminiscent). Also, the keypad overlays are not unlike those for the Intellivision controller, though they are, of course, much larger. The early Intellivision game boxes and Discovery System's module boxes both have a very comparable design too.

After my photos and scans below I'm adding two more videos from other sources. One is from YouTube channel Pocket Legion whose video shows the Arcade game modules and the second video is a commercial featuring the Smothers Brothers that was posted by YouTube user MassRepeater.


The last image is my floppy disk drawing from Art Mode.

These photos aren't great but I didn't want to spend time scanning each page so I took a few photos of the opening pages. I added a couple pages from Art Mode here as well to show some of the things can be drawn, including Mt. Rushmore!


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