Monday, March 30, 2020

The Konix Multi-System

Do you remember the Konix Multi-System? Although I read all my video game magazines cover-to-cover when I was younger, I'd long forgotten about its existence, or almost existence I should say. Based in the U.K., Konix started as an accessory manufacturer that was likely never too well known in the U.S. at the time though it did create the controller that Epyx sold as the 500XJ. In the late '80s the folks at Konix had some big ideas for a game console that used diskettes, so more or less a computer. The Multi-System appears to have been targeting racing and flight simulation fans with the built-in wheel/yoke, and was meant to bring the complete arcade experience home thanks to a motorized chair accessory. After reading these old articles again it sounds as if it was nearly ready to go but it never did release. Despite what was likely a large investment that didn't pay off, Konix is still in business today as it continues to make a variety of gaming accessories.

The primary article below is an interview with Konix president Wyn Holloway (and a bit with Jeff Minter) from Video Games & Computer Entertainment that was published in the November 1989 issue. Beyond that, I scanned any mention of the Konix Multi-System I came across which consists of only three other articles. If I happen to find others I'll add them to this post at a later date. I'm including the full articles even if the Multi-System is just a small part of them so you can read some coverage on systems from NEC, Nintendo, Sega, and Atari as well. The one-page article from Electronic Gaming Monthly #2 has a paragraph about a handheld system from Epyx. If you're unfamiliar with that it is what released as the Atari Lynx. Also, that same page states that "Namco has a machine comparable to the Super Famicom (Super NES) almost completed..." which I know nothing about other than it was never released.

Video Games & Computer Entertainment (November 1989)

Electronic Gaming Monthly (1989)

EGM #2
EGM #4

Electronic Gaming Monthly (#6 - January 1990)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Delay of Game

I'd like to say here is a baseball post because it is MLB's opening day but, unfortunately, I cannot. While today is supposed to be opening today, the start of the season is delayed due to the coronavirus. Maybe the season will start in a couple months, maybe in July, maybe not all. Of course, it is understandable as MLB and every other business needs to do what's best for the health and well being of everyone. We can still enjoy baseball in its digital form at least, from playing games to reading old magazine articles like the one below.

For this post I've scanned "Around the Bases: A Survey of Electronic Baseball" from the July 1990 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. It talks about the early days of action-oriented games and the rise of stat-based simulations. At the end of the story the author attempts to list every baseball computer and video game up to that point in time but I know of at least one that they missed: Steve Garvey vs. Jose Canseco in Grand Slam Baseball. Of course, I own that Commodore 64 game that released in 1987 from Cosmi. It's not a good one so it is best forgotten but if the disk still works I'll post a video of it one of these days.

If you'd like to read more baseball posts here are links from the blog's previous three years:

Play Ball! - Video game review scans.
Starting Lineup Talking Baseball - Coverage of Parker Brothers' electronic game with video.
Electronic Pennant Fever - Video Games & Computer Entertainment's July 1989 baseball story.
NES All Stars - An article about NES games from GamePro's June 1990 issue.
The Old (8-bit) Ball Game - More video game review scans.
It's Time for Some Hardball! - Photos of Hasbro's 1988 G.I. Joe action figure Hardball. 

Also, here are some links to my baseball "Let's Play" videos: Reggie Jackson BaseballSporting News Baseball, and Tommy Lasorda Baseball.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Year 4: March Update

While I like to keep the blog and everything related to it positive, it's difficult to avoid mentioning the coronavirus as it is impacting nearly everyone at this point. It took a while for it to ramp up where I am but now schools are closed for the next few weeks and people are being told to stay home if they can. I hope everyone is doing alright and we can return to a somewhat normal life by the summer but who knows what the future holds. I'm alright and will be working from home so I don't really have any extra free time but will try to keep up on everything here.

E3, like every other convention, has been canceled due to the virus which could impact the 2021 event and all others going forward. It's been on the decline for a while and since this will force game companies to either do nothing or move to an online-focused presentation this year, publishers may find that to be ideal and stick with it in the upcoming years. This happens to be a significant year, however, since PlayStation 5 (Sony was already skipping E3) and Xbox Series X are planned to release at the end of the year though I wouldn't be surprised if those are delayed as well. Many products, such as computer components, are manufactured in China which likely will disrupt the production of consoles. Both could still launch with limited quantities which isn't a bad idea. I expect both to be $500+ and it never hurts to wait a bit until some of the bugs are patched or corrected in later models.

This past week I learned of two video game related books that sound appealing. Admittedly, I don't read often and don't want more stuff so I don't know if I'd get either but I'm still interested. A pop-up book about Sega arcade games is available now from It ships from the U.K. and is a bit pricey at $42 + $11 for shipping. The other is Sid Meier's Memoir! that will release September 8th. Sid Meier is my favorite game designer which is probably obvious having recently posted about my favorite game: Sid Meier's Pirates!.

Baseball is another topic I bring up from time-to-time, especially around opening day. Although the season is not going to start on time I'm thinking of putting together a post or two for baseball fans to have something to enjoy while they wait. I'll probably still do some posts the week E3 was supposed to be as well. Also, this month I heard from a game company in relation to the Vault 1541 YouTube channel for the first time. 3DClouds offered a digital code for All-Star Fruit Racing and asked if I would post a video and so I have: Let's Play All-Star Fruit Racing. Lastly, I just posted some activity book and other similar scans to Facebook, many of which have already appeared on the blog. I thought this might be something for people to do if they're stuck at home due to the current events and this puts them all in one location for easy access: Activity Scans.

Be safe and thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, March 8, 2020

[YouTube] G.I. Joe Color-Vue Pencil by Number

If you're reading this you can probably skip the video as it is primarily showing the images that are scanned below. These are three color-by-number boxed sets released by Hasbro in 1984 that it calls Color-Vue Pencil by Number. Every set includes six images and three pencils that are each split between two colors. The box covers feature Duke, Storm Shadow (or simply Ninja as the box refers to him), and Zartan. While those characters do appear on the most images within their respective sets, many other characters get images to themselves as well.

I had to photograph the boxes and because I use a wide angle lens and am not perfect at lining up the camera, there may be some distortions in those images. Both the boxes and papers were too large for my scanner but I did scan the art. One side of a border on each is almost completely cut off and five of the images were colored by my sister and myself back in the '80s.


Ninja (Storm Shadow)


Sunday, February 23, 2020

[YouTube] Sid Meier's Pirates!

As I'm sure I've mentioned a few times, MicroProse's Sid Meier's Pirates! is what I consider to be my favorite game which is why it is getting special treatment in this post rather than simply a quick "Let's Play" video. The four videos cover a 10-hour full game edited down to around 3.5 hours. It's not easy to show a full game as the pace is often slow, there isn't much music, and most of the sounds are of the wind/water. As I say in the first video, I recommend at least watching the first half of part one and all of part four if you just want to see what the game is about.

Released in 1987, Pirates! is the first title to feature Sid Meier's name in it and that did become the norm going forward, and it worked from a marketing perspective. I certainly had (and still have) confidence in any product with his name in the title. As a teenager I got pulled into the virtual Caribbean many weekends; it's a game with a world one can easily get lost in as most open-world games are, and this is an early example of the open-world style found in many of today's games. It was like nothing I had ever played before, though admittedly I hadn't played many computer games at that point in my life having inherited the Commodore 64 (C64) in the latter half of the '80s, and that was my first computer.

This is an interview from the March/April 1989 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment.

Of course, being from 1987 the graphics and sound effects are fairly basic but those things never seemed to matter as much back then. Maybe it just feels that way when someone is nostalgic about the past, however, there is something special about the visual and audio simplicity of many games from two or three decades ago (though again, perhaps that only applies to those of us that lived it?). There isn't a lot of story in Pirates! outside of rescuing four family members which actually works quite well. The game is more of a sandbox where players are the star of the game as they create their own stories. Players go where they want, attack who they want, take what they want, and select a new nation to take over towns they conquer. Also, as you can see in my videos, the randomness of the wars can impact the success of the player.

There are a variety of options to select before setting sail: users choose a time period, skill, and nation to represent. While a player might choose Spanish there is nothing preventing them from being an enemy of Spain and supporting the opposition instead. The game has some scenarios as well but I don't think I've ever spent too much time on those. Also, another highlight is the game's 84-page manual that contains quite a bit of information and hand-drawn illustrations. While I play the C64 version, the game is available on many computers and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). An updated version called Pirates! Gold was published in 1993 for home computers and the Sega Genesis as well. I actually didn't play too much of the update despite improved visuals and mouse support.

In 2004 the game was remade by Firaxis Games, a studio Sid Meier co-founded, under the title Sid Meier's Pirates!: Live the Life. It is a light-hearted take on the time period with a vibrant art style and sometimes comical characters. The graphics are an obvious upgrade over the 1987 game with other new features including famous historical pirates to defeat and a dancing mini-game when courting the governor's daughter. The scans below are all from my C64 version and I probably have the silliest of the game's box covers. I'd prefer one of the two with art work instead of a model but this is what was available when I got the game. There are just a few samples from the manual as I couldn't scan the whole thing -- I recommend reading the last two pages. I'll post all the ads I have for the game too even though they've appeared in the blog's previous ad posts and Facebook albums.

Magazine Ads

I'm posting this the day before Mr. Meier's 66th birthday and on the off-chance he stumbles upon this article, happy birthday!