Saturday, April 29, 2017

Gaming Ads: Atlus

Atlus Co., Ltd. is a Japanese developer and publisher founded in 1986. Its North American branch opened in 1991 and today is known as Atlus U.S.A.* but it was originally called Asuka Technologies, Inc. The history of the company gets a bit complicated in 2010 when it was merged with Index Holdings and more or less ceased to exist as each Atlus location was renamed. Atlus the corporation was no more but Atlus the game publishing brand was still used for a while. In 2013 things took yet another turn as Index Holdings faced bankruptcy. Sega Sammy Holdings acquired Index which led to a return of Atlus that now operates under Sega.

The U.S. division localizes games from Japan and is best known for role-playing games having most recently released Persona 5. Persona is part of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise that also includes Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. Although I played some Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) on Sega consoles and the first PlayStation, I don't play many these days so I've not experienced a lot of Atlus' recent games. However, early this year I borrowed a PlayStation TV device and started trying out a bunch of Vita games. I don't play handheld games very often (another reason I've missed many of Atlus' games) but Persona 4: Dancing All Night, which despite being a combination of two genres -- visual novel and rhythm -- I don't typically enjoy, hooked me. The characters and music are so good that I couldn't stop playing until I earned my first platinum trophy.

Unfortunately, I didn't come across any Persona ads in my magazines. There are a variety of types of games in the ads though with most of the games being for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or the PlayStation.

Atlus albums: Facebook - Google Photos

*Sega of America has since absorbed Atlus U.S.A. and now Atlus is only a publishing brand in North America.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Super Mario Kart

With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe releasing on Friday I dug around for some articles on the original Super Mario Kart but only found one review from GamePro. My Electronic Gaming Magazine subscription appears to have lapsed for a few issues at the end of 1992 when a Super Mario Kart review would have most likely occurred but I also didn't see any previews. The other couple of magazines I have don't appear to have covered the game in their previews or reviews. There were a lot of games releasing in the early '90s and magazines have limited space so maybe a kart racer didn't sound too appealing at the time. While Super Mario Kart wasn't the first kart racer, its popularity did lead to a surge in kart racing games.

Super Mario Kart released in September 1992 and the GamePro review appears in the December 1992 issue. The review was written by Bro. Buzz; a quick Google search indicates the author's real name is Wes Nihei. It should come as no surprise that the game received the highest marks possible in nearly all categories with only sound falling short of perfect.

GamePro - December 1992

I also thought it would be fun to check out the timeline of the Mario Kart series so here is a screenshot from each game:

Super Mario Kart - 1992 - Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Mario Kart 64 - 1996 - Nintendo 64

Mario Kart: Super Circuit - 2001 - Game Boy Advance

Mario Kart: Double Dash!! - 2003 - Nintendo GameCube

Mario Kart DS - 2005 - Nintendo DS

Mario Kart Wii - 2008 - Wii

Mario Kart 7 - 2011 - Nintendo 3DS

Mario Kart 8 - 2014 - Wii U

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - 2017 - Nintendo Switch

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Gaming Ads: Atari

While Ralph Baer and the Odyssey came first, most think of Nolan Bushnell and Atari when they think of the beginning of home video games due to the success of the company in the late '70s and early '80s. Atari was founded by Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1972, the same year the Odyssey went on sale, but Atari did not release their first console until 1977. Before that occurred they made arcade and pinball games and were acquired by Time Warner, and not too long after that Nolan Bushnell left the company. The first Atari console was named the Video Computer System, or VCS, though it's best known as the 2600. Other consoles include the 5200, 7800, and Jaguar, plus they made home computers (400/800/ST/XE) and the Lynx handheld system.

To keep this somewhat brief, I'll just say the Jaguar and Lynx did not sell well and the Atari name and assets would eventually be acquired by Hasbro Interactive in 1998. Hasbro Interactive was then acquired by French company Infogrames in 2000. Infogrames used the Atari name as a publishing brand for a short time before making the decision to rename most of the Infogrames divisions to Atari in 2003 and the whole company in 2009. Atari also had a number of branches and subsidiaries over the years, including Tengen (1987), a publisher we'll take a look at much later. While Atari still exists today, after all of the changes its undergone it's obviously very different than the Atari of the '70s and '80s. It mostly deals in digital games now and leverages assets from its past, including those of classic Atari, Hasbro Interactive, and Infogrames.

For ads I've primarily got Lynx and Jaguar coverage due to the time they released and I included a couple ads from the aforementioned Hasbro Interactive days. I've got a few ads that predate those and hopefully I can find some more in the future as I explore more of my non-gaming sources.

Atari albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Gaming Ads: ASG Technologies and Asmik Corporation of America

ASG Technologies appears to have made a single game accessory called the Video JukeBox (VJ) that according to Sega Retro was never released. I cannot locate any additional information on the company beyond the five ads I have for the VJ. There is a company by the same name that operates today but it is unrelated to this ASG. It's surprising it would advertise so heavily but then not release the accessory, though the same has happened for games and it does look like a somewhat useless device. Based on the ads it's easy to see that the VJ was to be similar to a music jukebox; users were to load the VJ with six cartridges that connect to the Sega Genesis via the accessory's cartridge. Up to six VJs would have been able to link together to allow up to 36 cartridges to be loaded at one time and ready to select from a menu. At $49.99 each I can't imagine anyone buying too many of these as the only benefit appears to be not having to stand up to swap games. One ad states that the VJ was planned for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari (presumably the Jaguar).

Japan's Asmik Corporation was founded in 1985 and later opened a branch in the United States aptly named Asmik Corporation of America. Asmik was a publisher and distributor of games for nearly 20 years. Even if you've never played Asmik's games, if you played games in the late '80s/early '90s then you'll likely recognize its pink dragon mascot named Boomer. He appears alongside the Asmik logo on many game boxes and starred in his own game as well. In 1998 Asmik joined Ace Pictures to create Asmik Ace Entertainment and today the company is known as Asmik Ace, Inc. There is a mention of games on the Asmik Ace website but they appear to primarily be a distributor of films and home video now.

ASG Technologies albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Asmik Corporation of America albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1980 LEGO Assortment Guide

Considering that this catalog is 37 years old it's in decent shape. I still had to do a fair amount of editing though as it does have some stains on it, likely from spending part of its life in a basement. The staples are rusty too, there is some crinkling in the paper, and when scanning the paper yellows a bit so I raised the brightness and contrast to whiten the paper. The front cover had the most problems and my clean up messed up the shadows a bit. I wasn't sure if I should combine the pages that face one another but opted to leave each page as a single image.





I own a few of the products here and might have to try to reassemble them some time for the blog if I still have all the pieces. That said, I probably don't have too many of the manuals but they could be online somewhere. Mostly I had the town sets, some space, and a few castle. Those were the main three themes in the '80s though as you just saw there are no castle themed items in this catalog. Of course, today there is a much wider variety of sets with all of the licenses LEGO uses, such as Star Wars and Batman. Plus, a number of small sets featuring TV and movie licenses have popped up the past year and a half for the LEGO Dimensions video game.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Gaming Ads: ASCII Entertainment Software

ASCII Corporation was founded in Japan in 1977 and opened the U.S. branch ASCII Entertainment Software in 1991. The publisher didn't release a lot of games in North America but it did publish some versions of well known titles, such as Wizardry, King's Field, and Armored Core. ASCII also released a variety of gaming accessories with the majority of them being gamepads and joysticks for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis, though they also made Game Boy gear and PlayStation controllers. In 1991 it was merged with another ASCII Corporation subsidiary, Nexoft, to form ASCII Consumer Products, though the ASCII Entertainment name continued to appear on game and hardware packaging. As mentioned back in February when I posted Agetec ads, the American branch of ASCII became the independent publisher Agetec in 1998.

If you're wondering what ASCII is short for it is American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It might seem like an odd name for a Japanese video game company but ASCII started as the publisher of a microcomputer magazine.

ASCII Entertainment Software albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Play Ball!

The 2017 Major League Baseball season begins today so I scanned a handful of baseball game reviews from the earliest issues of magazines I have which is why many of these scans are from 1989-90. In the '80s sports games rarely had official licenses, full seasons, or statistics tracking, instead they often featured generic athletes and minimal play modes. Sports video games, and baseball in particular, really took off in the 16-bit era and continued to be strong on the 32-bit consoles, in no small part to Electronic Arts' EA Sports brand. Along with EA (Tony La Russa, MLBPA, Triple Play), Sega had Sports Talk Baseball before World Series Baseball, Acclaim published Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball and then All-Star Baseball, Konami developed Bottom of the 9th, Interplay released VR Baseball, The 3DO Company started High Heat Baseball, Crystal Dynamics made an attempt with 3D Baseball, Sony made MLB, Nintendo had a couple Ken Griffey Jr. games, and series that continued from the '80s included Hardball! (Accolade), Bases Loaded (Jaleco), and R.B.I. Baseball (Namco/Atari).

First up are three reviews from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) written by Steve Harris, Ed Semrad, Donn Nauert, and Jim Allee. Reggie Jackson Baseball is for the Sega Master System which the magazine doesn't actually mention. The second game, Baseball for the Game Boy, has appearances by Mario and Luigi as pitchers. Lastly is the Genesis launch title Tommy Lasorda Baseball. I played a lot of sports video games when I was younger and I do still own all three of these. I agree with most of their scores, though Reggie Jackson Baseball and Baseball for Game Boy are probably closer to a six.  

Electronic Gaming Monthly #2
Electronic Gaming Monthly #3
Electronic Gaming Monthly #4

Next is a review for Tommy Lasorda Baseball from GamePro before they implemented their ratings scoring system. The "proview" for Bases Loaded reads more like a preview though their reviews were part of this section before the magazine added their ratings. I do own Bases Loaded as well; it's a solid game and better than the basic Baseball reviewed by EGM above.

GamePro - February 1990
GamePro - February 1990

From Game Player's magazine is a review of Baseball Simulator 1.000 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've never played this one though I've heard good things about it. Although it can be played by standard rules, it's popularity comes from the mode with power-ups. After that is a review from Game Informer for Super Bases Loaded. The ToeJam & Earl tip next to the review does look out of place but this particular Game Informer issue has ToeJam & Earls tips located throughout it.

Game Player's Vol. 2, No. 4
Game Informer - Nov/Dec 1991

Last up is a review of The Sporting News Baseball from Commodore Magazine. This is yet another baseball game I own that I enjoyed quite a bit in my youth. It only has exhibition games but it does have the MLBPA license for real players, including baseball greats, and the ability to create a team. If you're unfamiliar with The Sporting News name, it was a newspaper and later a magazine that dates all the way back to 1886. Like many other print publications, it has since become an online only news source. 

Commodore Magazine - January 1989

Unfortunately, there are not many baseball video game options today, especially those with the MLB license. If you want to play an in-depth, officially licensed baseball game where you control the action then Sony's MLB: The Show 17 for the PlayStation 4 is really the only choice. MLB brought the R.B.I.  series back to life a few years ago but those games have been very basic and not too good. PC players can try their hand at managing a team in Out of the Park Baseball 18 but you can't control the players as it's purely a simulation. That developer, Out of the Park Developments, also released a mobile version this year titled MLB Manager 17. If you just want to play baseball and don't care about using MLB teams and players, Nintendo's newly released 3DS game Mario Sports Superstars has a baseball mode in it. There is also a Super Mega Baseball sequel planned for later this year.