Saturday, June 30, 2018

Gaming Ads: Mattel

I've decided to put all of the Mattel branches into one album; that includes the original toy company Mattel, Inc., the division responsible for the Intellivision console, Mattel Electronics, and all of the software brands, such as M Network, Mattel Interactive, and Mattel Media. The company was founded in 1945 by Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler as Mattel Creations. Some of Mattel's most successful toys released in the late 1950s and '60s, including Chatty Cathy, See 'n Say, Barbie, and Hot Wheels. Masters of the Universe (He-Man) was a big hit for Mattel in the '80s, and during the '90s it purchased both Fisher-Price and Tyco (Matchbox). I know that was a really quick summary but this post is primarily to cover the gaming portion of the company.

In 1977 Mattel Electronics was created to manufacture its own console, the Intellivision, as well as video games for other platforms. I'm going to link to my Intellivision post and video as I already covered the life of the console there. To summarize, the system was test marketed in 1979, released throughout North America in 1980, and had its own game subscription service through select cable television services from 1981 to 1983. In 1984 Mattel closed Mattel Electronics and sold all of the Intellivision assets to a group of investors known as the INTV Corporation. While INTV shut down in 1991, just last month a new company was unveiled called Intellivision Entertainment. It has plans to release a new version of the console which is something I will be keeping an eye on.

Mattel, Inc. continued to be involved in gaming following the closure of Mattel Electronics. It released a unique controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) called the Power Glove in 1989. The device is worn like a glove, hence the name, and contains a D-Pad, standard NES gamepad buttons, programmable buttons, and motion control functionality. Two games, Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler, were made specifically for the controller, though those games can also be played with a regular gamepad minus extra features only usable with the Power Glove.

Under the Mattel, Inc. name, as well as the Mattel Interactive division and Mattel Media brand, Mattel has released numerous software titles from the '90s into the early 2000s, most of which were based on Barbie toys. It also licenses its properties, like Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Uno, to other game developers and publishers. Mattel continues to publish games itself, primarily for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

Mattel albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Year 2: June Update

Battletoads Trading Card
The big story this month was of course E3 and it was a solid show. While many of the expected games were on display, I didn't fair too well on predictions aside from Battletoads. Sony stuck to trailers without discussion and so skipped unveiling the PlayStation Hits but did announce them last week. Unfortunately, Firaxis was quiet as was its owner Take-Two Interactive. With all of the release dates made official October is going to be the busiest month for myself. The end of the year is always overloaded with too many games while the summer months tend to be lacking.

Today I finished a game of State of Decay 2 which I'd say is more of an upgrade than a full sequel to the first one. This past month I also finished Detroit: Become Human; it reminds me of the show Humans (I've only seen the first season though). I have played a fair amount of Star Wars: Battlefront II multiplayer the past few weeks as well. My nephew loves it and that is the only reason I'm playing because the multiplayer is the type I do not enjoy. Like the modern Call of Duty games, it's fast-paced and I don't survive for very long. I'd probably fair better with a mouse and keyboard, and I do wonder if some of the players I encounter are using that instead of a gamepad. I did try LEGO The Incredibles too and while I didn't get far, it seems like a good family game as the LEGO games usually or always are. I was surprised to find that after the opening tutorial level the game has an open world city setting with small quests littered about. Unfortunately, local split-screen is the only multiplayer option.

LEGO The Incredibles

Since I'll be playing a lot of games later in the year I'm thinking I should start prepping a few blog posts now that I'm hoping to have done before the end of the year. One is for the 20th anniversary of the Tribes series and the other would involve Sega. I want to do a week of Sega-related content when I reach its ads; I have so many ads I'm thinking of spreading them out over a few days while I also write one or two original posts. Updating the YouTube channel continues to be slow as it's a big time commitment. I'd like to do a LEGO video soon but that may require some building and finding all of the pieces of what I want to show might not be possible. The items could still be together though, I just won't know until I dig them out of the basement. I've still not got the Commodore 64 repaired or replaced either which is a problem.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the summer!


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Gaming Ads: Malibu Comics Entertainment and Malibu Games

Malibu Comics was founded in 1986 and entered the video game business in 1992 following a merger with Acme Interactive that lead to the formation of Malibu Interactive. Malibu Interactive developed a number of games that were sometimes published by Malibu Comics Entertainment but also by other publishers. While researching Malibu I came across multiple sources stating that Sega is the publisher of Dinosaurs for Hire, a Genesis game based on a Malibu comic book. However, the ad (below) for that game says it is published by Malibu Comics Entertainment so I'm placing the ad with Malibu Comics. It's possible the small print is stating the publisher of the property the game is based on but I think it's more likely Sega is the distributor or co-publisher.

Initially I didn't think Malibu Games was connected to Malibu Comics Entertainment but then I saw a screenshot for a Sports Illustrated game that states "Software Copyright ©1993 Malibu Games, a division of THQ, Inc. and Malibu Interactive." Malibu Games was a subsidiary of publisher THQ that must have been created through an arrangement with Malibu Comics. Perhaps Malibu Comics needed assistance in publishing its games after getting into game development. Between 1993 and 1995 Malibu Games released around 15 games, including games based on the TV shows SeaQuest DSV, Family Dog, and Time Trax.

Malibu Comics Entertainment albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Malibu Games albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EGM's Jurassic Park Previews & Reviews

With the release of the second Jurassic World movie this week, I flipped through some issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) to find coverage of the first Jurassic Park video game that released on a variety of platforms. I've got previews of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Genesis versions, and reviews for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and Sega Game Gear releases. The logo on the NES preview is tough to see since it's the bone outline that didn't scan well and my adjustments of the brightness/contrast caused it to almost completely disappear.

Electronic Gaming Monthly #48

Electronic Gaming Monthly #48

As always, for EGM reviews I piece together multiple scans to have the review paired up with the review crew. For issues with Mike Weigand, he's not part of the four scores as he did separate, smaller reviews of other games in the sidebars of the review pages. While most people view licensed games as bad, and many from the '90s are, these Jurassic Park games all scored rather well. The games are all from different developers as well; Ocean Software handled the SNES game, different Sega studios were on the Game Gear and Sega CD versions, and BlueSky Software developed the Genesis one.

EGM #50
EGM #54

EGM #51
EGM #56

For a bonus, here are the three ads I've got that haven't been posted to the Vault 1541 Flickr albums yet:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Gaming Ads: Lucasfilm/LucasArts

Lucasfilm and LucasArts are the same company so I decided to combine them into the same ads group despite the company name change in 1990. The Lucasfilm Games division was created through a deal between the Lucasfilm movie company and Atari in 1982. Its first games released in 1985 and none of them were Star Wars games if you can believe that. Star Wars games had been developed before 1985 by other companies, such as Atari's Star Wars arcade game and Parker Brothers' Empire Strikes Back for the 2600. Most of its early games were original properties aside from a game based on Jim Henson's Labyrinth. In 1987 Lucasfilm released Maniac Mansion which was the first in a line of adventure games that used SCUMM (Script Utility Creation for Maniac Mansion), created by Ron Gilbert and Aric Wilmunder.

SCUMM did receive upgrades and redesigns over the following years for the other point-and-click adventure games, such as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Secret of Monkey Island. In the early '90s all of the original Star Wars trilogy movies had console action games based on them but again, Lucasfilm's games division, which was now LucasArts, was not involved as JVC Musical Industries published most of those games. However, LucasArts did begin making Star Wars games at the same time for home computers and CD-based consoles. The first was Rebel Assault, a movie-like adventure with flight and on-foot action sequences. In the late '80s/early '90s Lucasfilm had developed a few World War II flight simulations and in the '90s took that experience into space.

Two of LucasArts' best and most well-known Star Wars games are Star Wars: X-Wing (1993) and Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994). Both are space combat simulations that allow players to fly either the X-Wing or TIE Fighter, plus a few other signature Star Wars spaceships. Another Star Wars series was born in the '90s as well, the Jedi Knight games that began with Dark Forces in 1995. It's a first-person shooter series starring a new hero named Kyle Katarn, a mercenary who happens to later discover he is powerful in the Force. Aside from Star Wars, in the '90s LucasArts did develop a couple other Indiana Jones games and more adventures games like Sam & Max, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, and of course sequels to Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.

However, after the movie division brought Star Wars back to theaters in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, the game group made Star Wars its primary focus with just the occasional non-Star Wars game (Armed and Dangerous, Thrillville, Mercenaries, etc.) popping up every once in a while. The company had significant layoffs in 2008, four years before being acquired by Disney. Unfortunately, Disney shut down the game studios in 2013 which resulted in the cancellation of the in-development Star Wars 1313, and from then on the Lucas name was only used as a publishing brand, mostly on mobile games.

Lucasfilm/LucasArts albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Gaming Ads: LJN

Based in New York and then New Jersey, LJN Toys was founded in 1970 by Jack Friedman who named his company after the reverse initials of a previous employer, Norman J. Lewis, who also ran a toy company. LJN manufactured a variety of types of toys, including water guns, talking baseball cards, and numerous action figures based on popular properties, such as Indiana Jones, Thundercats, AD&D, and the World Wrestling Federation. Acquired by MCA in 1985, LJN began publishing video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. Acclaim Entertainment purchased LJN from MCA in 1989 and proceeded to phase out all of its toy lines in favor of video game publishing. Like its toys, LJN's games were often based on licensed properties, like movies and comic books.

In 1995 LJN was completely absorbed by Acclaim and ceased to exist as a separate entity. However, Acclaim did use the LJN brand name on the Dreamcast game Spirit of Speed 1937 which released in 2000. I posted some of LJN's ads last year as part of Acclaim's multiple brands ads; those are ads that feature two or more game publishers that were owned by Acclaim, the others being Flying Edge and Arena Entertainment.

LJN albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The 1992 Summer Consumer Electronics Show Recap (VG&CE - September 1992)

If you're interested in what happened at E3 19 years ago check out last year's post about Next Generation magazine's coverage of the 1999 E3 that can be found here. Since the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) did not begin until 1995 many of my magazines don't mention E3 so this year I've decided to post about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which is where video games appeared before the game industry created its own show. Below are scans of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine's six-page recap of the 1992 summer CES. Before 1998 CES was held twice a year, with the winter show being held in Las Vegas (still is) and a summer show in Chicago through 1994 before the organizers experimented with that for a few years, ultimately canceling the summer event.

On the first two pages below you'll see Nintendo was completely focused on the SNES as it was ready to leave the NES behind and concentrate on its battle with Sega's Genesis. Sega on the other hand was looking to push its 16-bit console forward with the Sega CD. Sonic 2 demos were on display as well and Sega announced price drops to match Nintendo. Page two also mentions Atari showing the Lynx behind closed doors and George Foreman was in attendance to promote Acclaim games.

1992 Summer CES - Page 1
1992 Summer CES - Page 2

Page three covers Data East (Shadowrun), the TurboGrafx-16, and Psygnosis' push for the CD-ROM, plus Jaleco and Hi-Tech. Konami is at the bottom of page three and continues onto page four, and is almost exclusively about Steve Peterson's game Champions, stating that it is nearing completion after numerous delays. However, today we know that this Champions game never released. Page four also covers Accolade (Centipede, 'Nam 1965-1975), Sierra On-Line (Betrayal at Krondor, Sierra Network), Impressions (Conquest of Japan), and Disney. The Disney paragraph is all about a game it was to publish called Unnatural Selection. From what I can tell, Maxis, which happens to be the next company on the page, developed and self-published Unnatural Selection.

1992 Summer CES - Page 3
1992 Summer CES - Page 4

Maxis continues on page five with the only game mentioned there being El-Fish, an aquarium simulation that Alexey Pajitnov (Tetris) helped conceive. Page five of the article highlights NovaLogic (Maximum Overkill, Battlefield 2000), Electronic Arts (Michael Jordan in Flight), SSI (Dark Sun), and Virgin (The 7th Guest). I'm not sure what NovaLogic's Battlefield 2000 is as there does not appear to be a game released by that name; that screenshot could be very early and it's possible that is the game called Armored Fist that released in 1994. The article ends on page six with coverage of adventure games and Mantis: XF5700 Experimental Space Fighter from MicroProse and Paragon. XF5700 was published under the name XF5700 Mantis Experimental Fighter which is still a mouthful.

1992 Summer CES - Page 5
1992 Summer CES - Page 6

I probably should have posted this article last year (and the 1998 E3 article this year on its 20th anniversary) as this was the first CES to allow the public in, something E3 tried last year for the first time and is doing again this year. Another one of my 2017 posts was about my time at the 2003 E3 show and that's where I provided some thoughts on how it might go with the public. For CES the public really would not have known what to expect as much as the E3 crowd since there was no Internet flooded with videos covering previous years of the convention. Today we are bombarded with so much E3 coverage online that it is almost like being there...almost!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

E3 2018 Predictions

The 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is next week and I thought it might be fun to attempt some predictions again (last year's predictions). I feel like there have been more significant leaks ahead of E3 this year though there are a lot every year so it's hard to say. Hopefully surprises still await as that is the best part of the E3 press conferences. I'll see if I can keep this a bit more brief than last time as I'll just cover the console makers and then some random stuff.

Microsoft continues to drag its feet on Xbox One exclusives and new properties so it seems unlikely it would unveil any original games but it really needs to. It's a good bet we'll get announcements for another Forza Horizon and Gears of War, possibly something Halo related, and a better look at Crackdown 3. Last year my long shot pick was a new Age of Empires which is actually in development now so we could see some footage of that too. With Xbox One's backwards compatibility putting original Xbox games back in the spotlight there could be renewed interest in a sequel or two for some of those games. How about Sneakers 2? Just kidding. Perhaps Microsoft can publish a timed third-party exclusive, like Jade Empire 2, even though there is less than a 1% chance BioWare is working on that.

New Game Prediction: Crimson Skies
Long Shot: Battletoads

Last week Nintendo announced a few new Pokémon games coming out soon, and we already knew about Pokémon, Smash Bros., Metroid Prime 4, and Yoshi games in development for Switch. Nintendo is also publishing Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Wolfenstein II for Switch soon. A rumor hit earlier in the year about a Diddy Kong Racing game which could be legitimate. Aside from possible ports or remakes, I'm not sure how many more new games Nintendo itself could have in development. The safest best would be an Animal Crossing game for Switch and maybe another Labo kit. Switch is a much bigger focus than the 2DS/3DS these days since Switch is a portable console so I'm going to skip predicting any handheld games.

New Game Prediction: Animal Crossing
Long Shot: F-Zero

Sony will more than likely be showing more of the games that were announced two or more years ago that still aren't out: Spider-Man, Days Gone, The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and Dreams. Wild is another that could make an appearance though I wouldn't count on it. That's already quite a few games so how many other new games could be in development? Probably not too many and while I love new announcements, Sony might be better off waiting until some of the aforementioned games have been released before revealing even more big budget exclusives.

Outside of games, I do expect Sony to unveil something I learned about a month ago that I do not believe is widely known yet. It's not a big deal but there was an embargo on it from the third-party publisher I first heard about it from. However, a week later I got similar information from a retail distributor with no mention of an embargo and one game listing related to it can be found on some retail websites so I believe it is safe to discuss. Now that the PlayStation 4 is close to five years old, Sony will be starting up a Greatest Hits line again, this time simply called PlayStation Hits. The games will cost $19.99 when the program goes into effect on June 28th. Thus far I know of 11 games that will be in the first wave of PlayStation Hits but I will hold off mentioning those just in case it would upset a publisher.   

New Game Prediction: Horizon 2
Long Shot: Uncharted spin-off

The third-party publishers have been experiencing leaks and making quite a few announcements the past few weeks. Some of those games include Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Fallout 76, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Battlefield V, Rage 2, LEGO DC Super-Villains, and Team Sonic Racing. Last year some of my predictions that didn't happen were The Elder Scrolls VI, Dragon Age 4, Borderlands 3, more LEGO Star Wars, a second season of Telltale's Game of Thrones, a new Splinter Cell, and another Prince of Persia. I'd guess Elder Scrolls and Borderlands could be good guesses for this year, and I'm still surprised there hasn't been another LEGO Star Wars as there have now been three more movies since The Force Awakens.

There is a very good chance that Warner Bros. reveals what Rocksteady is working on, which is more than likely another game based on a DC comic book character (Superman?). Two of my favorite developers are Firaxis and Remedy; Firaxis could be readying XCOM 3 and Remedy is expected to show something new at E3. I'm also still waiting for a great G.I. Joe video game which was one of the things I wrote about early in the blog's life. Unfortunately, I know that's probably not happening any time soon but I have to always bring it up to keep the hope alive! Perhaps the property will gain some traction when another movie hits, though I want a game based on the cartoon and toys from the '80s rather than a movie.

6/6/18 UPDATE: I made a couple changes as Sony has stated Death Stranding will make an appearance at E3 and today I received more information on the PlayStation Hits from a second distributor which listed eight Sony-published games that would be joining the label/price cuts on June 28th.

6/13/18 UPDATE: Last year I added my thoughts to the comments but I'm going to toss a few here as an update now that all of the conferences ended. The show is about half over as well so I don't expect any major announcements at this point. As far as the non-expected announcements, my predictions were 1 out of 6 as Microsoft is indeed working on a new Battletoads game. Sony primarily stuck to showing the games we already knew of which is what I thought might be best course of action though I did expect it to at least have some people on stage and reveal the PlayStation Hits line. Unfortunately, it was just a lot of trailers like last year which I find odd because this is E3, the world is watching so why not speak to the people and engage them. Nintendo had the usual pre-recording and about 90% of that was Super Smash Bros. As far as other companies I was hoping to hear from: Remedy's new game is Control; Firaxis was quiet (all of 2K has been quiet after announcing the next NBA 2K last week); nothing from Rocksteady; Ubisoft's conference was entertaining but no Splinter Cell; Sega is finally bringing Yakuza to PC; Bethesda is working on a new property called Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls is in development though it's a long ways off; and there was a mention of a new Star Wars game from EA and Respawn titled Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with a release window of holiday 2019.

I'm not sure it's worth ranking the conferences but I can easily say, regardless of quality or quantity of games, Microsoft and Ubisoft were the most enjoyable to watch. EA is really only good for those that like to compete in sports games, Square Enix was short and similar to Sony's trailer fest, and I'd put Bethesda in the middle. Seeing as how I'm not interested in Smash Bros. there wasn't much to see from Nintendo and I don't care for Sony's presentation, even if it does have one of the games I'm most looking forward to (Ghost of Tsushima).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Gaming Ads: Legend Entertainment and Backfilling #4

Bob Bates and Mike Verdu founded the Virginia-based Legend Entertainment Company in 1989. Legend released 15 adventure games games for home computers between 1990 and 1997. It also developed the strategy game Star Control 3 and first-person shooters Wheel of Time and Unreal: The Awakening. In 1998 the company was acquired by GT Interactive with GT then being purchased by Infogrames in 1999. Legend assisted with the development of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines before being closed in 2004.

Since I only have three ads for Legend I'm going to upload six more ads to the Electronic Arts album this week as well.

Legend Entertainment albums: Facebook - Google Photos