Saturday, September 29, 2018

Gaming Ads: Natsume

In 1987 Natsume Co., Ltd. was established in Japan and the following year its North American publishing branch Natsume, Inc. was founded. It has released more than 125 games since then and  still publishes games today. However, in 1995 Natsume, Inc. split from its parent company to become independent and in 2013 Natsume Co., Ltd. changed its name to Natsume-Atari (no relation to the original Atari which itself is a Japanese word). Natsume's best known game series is Harvest Moon which was developed by Marvelous until 2014. Marvelous opted to self-publish its Harvest Moon games in North America through Xseed (aka Marvelous USA) under the name Story of Seasons. Natsume owns the Harvest Moon license so games continue to be released in the series even though they are no longer developed by Marvelous.

Unfortunately, I don't actually have any Harvest Moon ads as the series began in 1997 in North America which is late for most of my magazines. A couple ads also might have been handled by SVG Distribution but I opted to place them with Natsume.

Natsume albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Year 2: September Update

Last month I listed all of the games I'm going to try and play during the avalanche of titles releasing for the holiday season. I did manage to complete three of them thus far: Yakuza Kiwami 2, Marvel's Spider-Man, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Spider-Man could very well be the top seller for the remainder of the year (or the full year) as it's a great game and obviously has a popular license attached to it. There are a few dark moments in the game which is the primary reason it carries a "T" rating. I did post a video of Spider-Man that is kind of long but there are time stamps in the description so you can easily skip around.

Spider-Man swinging.
Spider-Man exploring the street.

New York City (photo mode).
The vintage suit.

Since the other two are rated "M" I won't post images but I will say I enjoyed them both and will go back to Yakuza when I have time since there is a side story I didn't get to. I'm a big fan of the Yakuza series though I never had a chance to play Yakuza 2 on PlayStation 2 so this story was new to me. While the Yakuza games are violent, the rating tends to come from the side activities because some of them have adult content. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and this whole reboot trilogy, really could have succeeded with a "T" rating and therefore have a larger audience. Of course, it has violence, plus Lara lets out a swear on some difficult jumps from time-to-time, but the main thing is the unnecessarily disturbing death scenes.

Last week also saw the launch of the Nintendo Switch's online service and the announcement of the PlayStation Classic. The PlayStation Classic is Sony's version of Nintendo's mini plug 'n play systems. It's a tiny version of the first PlayStation with two standard gamepads (no Dual Shock), requires a USB port to power, and has 20 built-in games. The price will be $99.99 when it hits stores this December 3rd. Only five of the games have been announced at this time: Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash!, Tekken 3, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, and Wild Arms.

PlayStation Classic
PlayStation Classic (left); original
PlayStation (right)

Perhaps the biggest game news of the past few days is that Telltale Games announced massive layoffs and the eventual closure of the studio. It appears all games have been canceled which is unfortunate as it was currently working on the fourth and final season of its Walking Dead game series, part of which was already released. I've played quite a few Telltale games and really like the Batman story told over the two seasons that were completed. However, I'm not a fan of episodic games so I typically wait for a season to be complete before playing. I don't know if that format is more profitable than selling complete games but I'd guess the closure has more to do with poor management, a lawsuit from the former CEO and co-founder, and the fact that most of its games are all based on other properties so a portion of any profits go toward covering the licensing fees.

Finally, I came across the instructions for the Energized Superman from Remco so I added that to the Superman & Wonder Woman Stuff post from last year. Thanks for reading!


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Gaming Ads: Namco

In 1955 Nakamura Manufacturing was founded by Masaya Nakamura and based in Tokyo. What seems to be a rather common theme among video game companies that were founded before the '70s, Nakamura began as a maker of amusement machines, specializing in wooden horse rides. The corporate website indicates the company changed its name to Namco in the '70s and entered the video game business with the release of Galaxian (1979) but that was its third game after Bee Gee and Bomb Bee. Galaxian is certainly well known but it was in 1980 that Namco became a household name with the release of Pac-Man, arguably the most recognizable video game character in the history of gaming.

Namco also released many Pac-Man spin-offs and other well known arcade games in the '80s, such as Galaga, Pole Position, Dig Dug, and Mappy. Some of its most recognizable game series that began in the '90s include Splatterhouse, Tekken, Ridge Racer, Ace Combat, Time Crisis, Tales, and Soul Calibur. While publishing home versions of its games for computers and consoles in Japan it used the brand name Namcot during the '80s and early '90s. It was in 1990 that Namco America opened which was an arcade sales division and Namco Hometek might also have been established that same year. Namco Hometek is responsible for the publishing of console video games in the North American market.

As I mentioned some time ago in the Bandai America ads post, Namco merged with Bandai in 2005. The company names from that merger have changed a few times and depending on the region each branch was based could be referred to as Bandai Namco Games or Namco Bandai Games before switching to Bandai Namco Entertainment on April 1, 2015. Normally I use the U.S. branch as the title for the ads post but these are close to evenly split between Namco and Namco Hometek, and Namco America appears as well so I'm just going to stick with Namco for this one.

Namco albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Tokyo Toy Show 1990 (Electronic Gaming Monthly #14)

The 2018 Tokyo Game Show is happening right now but 28 years ago it didn't exist as the first one was held in 1996. Instead, video games appeared at the Tokyo Toy Show, much like how in the U.S. games were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show before E3 kicked off in 1995. Below are 10 pages scanned from Electronic Gaming Monthly's coverage of the 1990 Tokyo Toy Show that appears in issue #14. They did squeeze in a few tiny photos from Japan but not much is said or shown of the show floor. Also, Nintendo skipped the show so Sega and NEC are the highlight, though there are some third-party games for Nintendo platforms.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Batman: Return of the Joker Reviews

DC has declared that today is Batman Day so I've scanned a few reviews for Batman: Return of the Joker. Although I've played quite a few Batman games, I've never played this one which was well reviewed. Sunsoft released Batman: Return of the Joker in 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and in 1992 for the Game Boy. A 16-bit update titled Batman: Revenge of the Joker also released in 1992 for the Genesis but the Super NES version was canceled..

If you're interested in Batman I had a few posts about the Caped Crusader last year during a week of DC. There is one with random Batman stuff and another about the Joker Cycle toy from Kenner.

Gaming Ads: Motown Games, Multitude, and Naki

Motown Games was a video game publishing label of the Motown record company. Some sources refer to it as Motown Software though both of my ads say Motown Games. It only released two games, both for the Super NES: a basketball game starring rappers called RapJam: Volume One and a side-scrolling combat game based on the animated film Bebe's Kids.

Multitude was founded in April 1996 by Ned Lerner and Art Min. FireTeam released in December 1998 and is the company's only game, though it is an interesting one as it's an early online only competitive game. The game is a third-person shooter for two teams of four with a strong focus on teamwork and community. With built-in voice chat players were encouraged to communicate with their teammates during matches and could chat in-between matches as well. Inside the game's community section players could find statistics, post on bulletin boards, and manage their teams. Although the game play is different, the ideas Multitude implemented sound quite similar what Dynamix did with Tribes, especially the second Tribes game (the first Tribes game actually released in the same month and year as FireTeam). FireTeam was well received but Multitude opted to concentrate on developing its voice technology rather than create another game.

California-based Naki was founded in 1989 as Naki Industries and was later renamed to Naki International, though I'm just going to refer to the company as Naki. It was a maker of video game accessories, such as controllers, cleaning kits, and battery packs. Website Sega Retro believes Naki went out of business around 2004 which would be just before the Xbox 360 kicked off a new console generation. The lastest press release I could find is from 2002 so 2004 makes sense.

Motown Games albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Multitude albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Naki albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Gaming Ads: Mindscape

Founded in 1983 by Roger Buoy and originally based in Northbrook, Illinois, Mindscape was a major computer software publisher throughout the '80s. Some of its earliest games include Déjà Vu: A Nightmare Comes True!!, The Haley Project: A Mission in Our Solar System, Infiltrator, and titles based on James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Rambo movies. In 1988 Mindscape became a Nintendo licensee allowing it to publish games on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy. Two years later the company was purchased by The Software Toolworks and moved to California. Over the next 10 years Mindscape would change hands many times as it was owned by Pearson, The Learning Company, Mattel, and Gore Technology Group. 

Throughout the '90s a number of international branches were also opened before Mindscape was acquired by Jean-Pierre Nordman in 2001. Mindscape's headquarters were moved to France and it actually began purchasing other companies, such as Montparnasse Multimedia and Coktel Vision. In 2011 the company closed but I'm not entirely certain for what reason, most likely financial difficulties as that is often the case. There is currently a Mindscape BV and its website says it has been a publisher since 1991 though it must just be the latest owners of the Mindscape name. The "About Us" page doesn't say a whole lot but it does take credit for classic Broderbund and Learning Company titles that were associated with Mindscape at one time. 

In the ads album you will see a few related to Sega as Mindscape distributed home computer ports of popular Sega arcade games. They appear here since Mindscape is responsible for the ads.

Mindscape albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Monday, September 3, 2018

[YouTube] Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

Released in 1987, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a television show from Landmark Entertainment and a toy line from Mattel that could interact with the show for about 3-5 minutes per episode. The television show was not a cartoon and although it was meant for kids, themes of the show were sometimes adult in nature as the setting was that of a post-nuclear future, characters had romances, and there was plenty of violence. Although the setting is post-apocalyptic, it is a distant future with advanced weapons and the toys feature technology that resembles that of a video game light gun. Captain Power VHS tapes were also sold so that kids could play when the show was not currently airing. The tapes are not episodes but training games and they do feature animation rather than live action for most of the video. A player's actions cannot actually impact the show, they simply shoot at marked targets to earn points and the show could shoot back.

Each light gun toy could also be used to target another toy, and when one of the ships is hit enough times to deplete all of the PowerPoints the pilot will be ejected. The star of the show is, of course, Captain Power who pilots the PowerJet XT-7 while his nemesis Lord Dread flies the Phantom Striker. There are also action figures for the supporting characters, a Power Base playset (interacts with show), and a variety of accessories and a toy gun that can interact with the show as well. A Captain Power comic book and computer game were released too, and in 2011 all 22 episodes were made available in a DVD set. To actually use the toys with the TV show today you'd need an older cathode ray tube (CRT) television since modern TVs cannot be used with light gun toys or video games.

I only own the XT-7, action figures of the two main characters, and a VHS tape which is rather brief at just over 15 minutes in length. The PowerJet is powered by one 9-volt and two AA batteries, and despite my leaving the AA batteries in it for 30 years it actually still works. Price tags are on the packaging for the action figures indicating that they cost $4.37 each at Kmart.

PowerJet XT-7 Fighter

Captain Power & Lord Dread

Battle Guide Rules Booklet

Bio Dread Strike Mission VHS Tape & Interactive Videotape Rules Booklet