Monday, February 26, 2018

[YouTube] Microbots


Liftor
I'm taking a jump back to the '70s with this post that is about a line of die-cast robot toys called Microbots. Kenner released eight of the robots in 1971, all named after the function they perform with the suffix -or added to each one. Bullzor can bulldoze, Liftor can lift objects with two arms, Kranktor can use a winch to reel in items, Fliptor has spring-loaded arms that can flip an item over its head, Hooktor can lift things with its hook, Griptor can clap its hands together to grip something, Krushor can smash the ground, and Klawbor has three arms, one a "lever arm" that can clamp down on something. 

There is also a multi-platform Microbots playset that is built with accessories that could be purchased with each robot. Gold Key even released a single issue comic book about the toys with the cover description indicating the Microbots were created by Dr. Micron and the story is set in a grim future. The comic book shows that the Microbots can shoot lasers from their faces as well.

The Microbots can all be linked together to form a train.

I've got six of the eight, though Fliptor is broken and the two Kranktors I have are both missing the winch. They were originally my uncle's as I salvaged them from my grandparent's basement sometime in the '80s. I was able to find the name of each one from a blog about the '70s called Plaid Stallions that has some nice catalog images of the Microbots. The only markings on the toys themselves is the word Microbot with 1971 and Hong Kong written below it.

Bullzor
Bullzor

Bullzor
Liftor

Liftor
Liftor

Kranktor (both missing winches)

Fliptor (with no arms!)


Hooktor
Hooktor




Griptor
Griptor

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gaming Ads: Imagineer America and IMN Control

Imagineer America was a North American publishing branch for the Japan-based Imagineer that was founded in 1986. The parent company developed numerous games, including Super Nintendo ports of popular PC games, such as Populous, SimCity 2000, and Wolfenstein 3d. Not all of its games were published overseas by Imagineer America, however, as other publishers were involved in the localization process. Although Imagineer continues to do business in Japan today, it doesn't appear to be involved in games any longer as its last release was a 2008 boxing fitness game for the Wii. I could not locate much information on Imagineer America. The ads I've got are for three games, one of which was planned for 1994 but never released so I'd guess the publisher closed around that time.

Like Imagineer America, there is limited information about IMN Control so I will rely on what is in the ads. IMN Control was a division of Helix, Bannister, and Newel, a company based in Columbus, Ohio. It made accessories for 8-bit and 16-bit consoles; its primary product was the GameHandler joystick. According to one ad, the GameHandler can perform some unique functions such as teleporting characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES).

Flickr album: Imagineer America
Flickr album: IMN Control

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Gaming Ads: Hudson Soft

Hudson Soft was a Japanese company founded in 1973 as CQ Hudson, a seller of radio telecommunications items before getting into software a few years later. It became the first third-party publisher for Nintendo's Famicom (NES) console in 1983 and opened Hudson Soft USA in 1988. Although Hudson Soft developed and published many games in Japan, Hudson Soft USA only released around 30 games and all of them were for Nintendo platforms. Hudson made hardware too, including the Super Multitap (SNES) and the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) console in collaboration with NEC. NEC marketed the TurboGrafx-16 in North America so those platform ads will show up later when I post about NEC.

Hudson Soft USA closed in 1995 though Hudson Soft would continue to publish games in the U.S. out of Japan and this time not only for Nintendo platforms. It did open another North American branch in 2003 called Hudson Entertainment that lasted until 2011. It was in 2011 that Hudson became a subsidiary of Konami and less than a year later the Hudson name ceased to exist.






More ads can be found at Facebook: Hudson Soft

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Secret of Mana

Square Enix is releasing a 3D remaster of Secret of Mana this week so I grabbed some scans from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) about the original game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1993. Secret of Mana is actually the second game of the Mana series, the first being the Game Boy's Final Fantasy Adventure. It's a Final Fantasy game? No but it is a spin off of that series. Only the first game uses Final Fantasy in its title while every subsequent release in North America has the word mana in the title.

Secret of Mana was originally developed for the SNES CD add-on but Nintendo ended up canceling that so during development the game had to be altered in order to fit the cartridge format. Another interesting thing about the game is that it supports up to three players at the same time which was unusual for a role-playing game at that time. To take full advantage of the multiplayer option players needed Hudson's Super Multitap adapter that also happened to be released in 1993; the adapter was originally designed for Hudson's own Super Bomberman.

I've got scans of EGM's two-page preview from the November 1993 issue and the review from the December 1993 issue.

EGM #52

EGM scored the game quite highly which earned it game of the month. For comparison, other games in that issue that received Editors' Choice Gold recognition include Lufia (SNES), Aero the Acro-Bat (SNES), and Cool Spot (Game Gear).

EGM #53

The new version of Secret of Mana is releasing February 15th for PlayStation 4 and PC (on Steam). A physical version for the PlayStation 4 will be available exclusively at GameStop stores. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Gaming Ads: Hot•B USA

Hot•B was a Japanese company founded in 1983, though it originally released games under the name GAMU. The Hot•B name began appearing on games in 1987 and the USA branch opened in 1988. The "B" may or may not be short for bass (the fish) as Hot•B released quite a few fishing games during the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Hot•B's Japan location closed in 1993 while the USA branch actually stayed in business after its parent company shut down. I'm not sure when Hot•B USA closed but its last game appears to be Graffiti Kingdom which was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.

Flickr album: Hot•B USA

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Games: Winter Edition & Winter Challenge Reviews

Epyx released its first Winter Olympics game, Winter Games, in 1985 and I'd say it's still a great game just as the first two Summer Games are. Maybe it's the simplicity of them, in both the graphics and gameplay, that many future games based on the Olympics from other publishers couldn't match. Those early games were not officially endorsed by the Olympics but Epyx was able to acquire the license for both of its follow-ups, the Summer and Winter Editions of "The Games." The Games: Winter Edition's release hit in 1988 to coincide with the Calgary '88 Winter Olympics. I've always enjoyed the "Games" series from Epyx and as I mentioned a few times previously, I had hoped to do a "Let's Play" video for this one during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, my Commodore 64 broke at an inopportune time so instead, I've got some magazine scans. One review is for the Epyx game and the others are for Accolade's very similar release for the '92 Olympics called Winter Challenge that was published in 1992 for the Sega Genesis under its Ballistic label.

The review for The Games: Winter Edition is from Commodore Magazine. They provide quite an in-depth review as they detail each one of the seven events included in the game. One thing I never quite figured out in this game is how the judges score the figure skating. It's a rather intricate event as you choreograph your routine before performing it and while I always felt like I performed well, my scores were always dismal.

Commodore Magazine - December 1988

Before I get to the Winter Challenge reviews I've got a preview of Accolade's DOS version called The Games: Winter Challenge from the January 1992 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. I decided to scan this one because I couldn't find a review of it and quite a few Internet sites seem to believe it released in 1991, which is what the title screen displays as the copyright (title screens being off by a year is not uncommon). However, that seems unlikely as this preview is based on an incomplete beta that didn't even have the sound in it yet. Magazines did have to write articles in advance and sometimes issues hit newsstands a month or so ahead of what the cover says but it still makes more sense that 1992 is the release year. In any case, I find it to be a fun, if brief, read due to the PC hardware that is mentioned: "...it gets pretty hot on a 33 MHz PC." Also, you can see bits of Elvira II and SimAnt previews on the parts of the two pages that are included.

Video Games & Computer Entertainment - January 1992

For the Sega Genesis' Winter Challenge I've got reviews from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), GamePro, and Game Informer. There is quite a range of opinions here with EGM disliking it, GamePro giving its "FunFactor" category the highest possible rating, and three Game Informer staff scoring it 6, 7, and 8.5 overall.

EGM #35 
GamePro - March 1992

Game Informer - January/February 1992

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Year 2: February Update

I'm going to continue my monthly updates throughout 2018; I'll put a "Year 2" in front of each one since this is the second year of the blog. I know I've been a bit slow to get things posted this year, sorry! While I was hoping to one day make a few bucks from YouTube advertising, new advertising rules this year basically crushed that possibility but I'll keep going. Previously 10,000 total channel views was the requirement and I was around 2,000 after six months. That has since been changed to 1,000 subscribers plus 4,000 hours of content viewed per year I believe. Both of those will be tough for the average person to reach so it would seem ads will be limited to the very popular user channels and those run by companies.

Analysis of YouTube's latest channel advertising requirements.
(This image is from the January 1993 issue of SI for Kids.) 

Something I'll probably expand on for the YouTube channel are the old commercials. They will all be from the '80s and '90s but like the Facebook page, they won't all be related to video games and toys (not finding as many of those as I'd like). I've got so many that I feel as if I should share them. However, I will not share all of them because I think they simply aren't all fun to view. I'm thinking I need to be more selective on the Facebook page and will do the same on YouTube. What I'm leaning toward is food-related products since those are likely what people would enjoy the most, such as commercials about breakfast cereals, snacks, sodas, and fast food restaurants. Maybe various ads that feature celebrities or someone noteworthy will work as well. Facebook will still have more than that but I'm contemplating deleting some of the ads I've already posted to get a bit more focused. I've been scanning Sports Illustrated for Kids most recently and do have a lot of scans piling up so there will be many more updates as I slowly get them posted.
If you saw the post on day one I did have a different
image here but decided to use it for the next post.

I do need to get some more video game magazine articles scanned. Right now I've got one ready to go and that will be for next week to tie into a game release. The Winter Olympics begin this week so I really should try to find some articles or reviews on Olympics games. As I mentioned previously, the plan was to make a video of The Games: Winter Edition but then my Commodore 64 broke and I've not been able to get it fixed yet. There isn't too much else going on as I've not been playing many games this year so nothing to really talk about there. I'll probably take a look at Dynasty Warriors 9 next week and at the end of March I'll be playing Far Cry 5 and should check out MLB: The Show 18. While I enjoyed most of Ni No Kuni, I don't think I'm going to have time for the sequel which also releases near the end of March.

As always, thanks for reading the blog!

-Jonathan

Sunday, February 4, 2018

[YouTube] Electric Football: Super Bowl Edition

https://youtu.be/EROhLNmKCHs

I didn't know the history of Electric Football until I decided to do some research for this post and video. It turns out the game is rather old and has been popular since the 1960s. Tudor Games, originally know as Tudor Metal, had a vibrating car game that the inventor Norman Sas based the football game on. It's essentially a football board game with a vibrating board that is turned on for each play. Users set their players' routes by rotating a plastic dial underneath each piece's stand, line them up in formation, and then turn the game on causing it to vibrate and move the players along the desired paths.

Some liberties have to be taken of course since the quarterback cannot throw on its own. The game must be turned off when the offense wishes to pass, at which time the "triple threat quarterback" has its arm pulled back and then released to throw the small, football-shaped piece of foam. If the ball hits a valid receiver it is a completion but if it hits a defender then it counts as an interception. Similar to throwing, that same player can be used to kick extra points and field goals. For the most part the game follows the NFL rules though users can also opt to play by college rules.


My version included the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots teams which was the match up for the 1985 season's Super Bowl (Bears won SB XX 46-10 -- ouch!; that was also the first football game I ever watched as far as I can recall). While the game includes sheets of numeral stickers for application, only 11 players per team were sold with the game so the same pieces are used on both offense and defense. More pieces could be ordered separately allowing consumers to acquire more players for the teams packaged with the game or to purchase sets with uniforms to match any of the NFL teams at the time. Other colored pieces without helmet logos were also available to provide an option of getting team colors for a favorite college or high school team.

Team Order Form
Back Side of Order Form



When I did a search on the toy it came as quite a surprise to learn that the game is still being made today. Tudor Games was purchased in 1990 so it's not the exact same company that is making it. There are a variety of editions being offered that range from $49.99 all the way up to $399.99; that expensive one has the game built into its own oak table. The game now runs on "AA" batteries rather than plugging into an outlet and instead of having a scoreboard users are expected to download a free app for their tablet or smartphone. Other than that, the pieces look very similar to the parts I have from the '80s, though the players do appear to be of a higher quality and the helmet logos are much more legible.






The video does add a few more things as I show off my 1985 AFC Champions shirt and William "The Fridge" Perry's G.I. Joe action figure makes an appearance. Today is also the day of Super Bowl LII (52) and being a Patriots fan I'm predicting a Pats win of 27-20! 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Gaming Ads: Happ Controls, Hasbro Interactive, and Hi Tech Expressions

Happ Controls, once known as Controls, Inc., was founded in the '80s and based in Elk Grove, Illinois. It made joysticks and gamepads for home computers and video game consoles through most of the '80s and '90s. My research took me to a company known as SUZOHAPP which details a Happ Controls founded in 1986 and currently headquartered in Mount Prospect, Illinois. It must be the same Happ which is now known as SUZOHAPP North America. However, it's possible that Happ Controls existed before 1986 when it was known as Controls, Inc. One ad mentions 1982 so it was either making "Competition Pro Joysticks" before 1986 or that is a brand it later acquired.

Hasbro Interactive was founded in 1995 as a game software subsidiary of the Hasbro toy company. It published the original RollerCoaster Tycoon and numerous computer games based on its board game properties. I touched on Hasbro previously in the Atari post because Hasbro acquired the Atari name and assets in 1998. At that time I did publish a few Hasbro Interactive ads under Atari, though I've decided to move those over to the Hasbro Interactive album as I believe that makes more sense. Hasbro Interactive was purchased by Infogrames in 2001 and renamed to Infogrames Interactive. In 2003 Infogrames decided to capitalize on the Atari name and changed the Infogrames Interactive division to Atari Interactive.

Hi Tech Expressions was in business from 1988 to 1997, and in the mid-'90s changed its name to Hi Tech Entertainment. It primarily published games featuring licensed properties, such as Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry, Sesame Street, and Barbie. Many of its games were aimed at children though it also released DOS versions of Mega Man games, Ninja Gaiden, and Street Fighter II.

Flickr album: Happ Controls
Flickr album: Hasbro Interactive
Flickr album: Hi Tech Expressions