Sunday, October 31, 2021

[YouTube] Tomy Art Sets

Back in 2017 I tried to jam all of my Tomy items into one video but it turns out I have a few more, including three art sets from the late '70s/early '80s. Being Halloween, the primary focus in the video is on the Mighty Men & Monster Maker set. This one was my toy when I was a kid along with the much smaller van set, whereas Fashion Plates was my sister's and I'm not sure I ever used it until I did for this video post. All three sets work the same way: mix and match plastic plates, put a piece of paper on top of them, and then rub a special crayon over the plates to create an image. Images can be colored with the pencils that were included in the larger sets or kids can use any other art supplies. The backs of some plates contain patterns that can add more detail to a creation during the coloring phase, such as scales on a monster's skin or a floral design on an article of clothing.

The Mighty Men & Monster Maker (1979) features a total of 18 plates with head, upper body, and lower body parts to select from. As the name suggests you can make monsters but also "mighty men" which are basically superhero types. Of course, since parts can be mixed users can place a human head on a lizard body or a monster head on a Superman-like body. Parts cannot easily be mixed between sets, however, as they are all different sizes. Fashion Plates (1978) offers 15 plates, and it has both individual head and upper body plates as well as combined head and upper body pieces to match with a lower body plate. 

Little Van Goes is a miniature set and I'm unsure of the year as I could not locate a copyright on the box or toy. The box still has a price on it so we can see it originally retailed for $4.95 at Service Merchandise and was discounted to $3.27 at the time of purchase. This set is about creating passenger vans by combining front, middle, and rear plates that are stored in a removeable tray. I'm wondering if Tomy chose the name to state that children who play with this are getting their start to become an artist like Van Gogh, or maybe not. 

Looking around eBay I found a few other related items. Tomy made a Fashion Plates add-on kit simply titled More Fashion Plates, a 1987 edition of Fashion Plates, another fashion related toy for making paper dolls called Kimberly Kut-Outs, and a greeting card set called Great Greetings. There is also Hot Styles Fashion Plates (1992) from Hasbro and five years ago Kahootz released Fashion Plates and Action Plates which are nearly identical to Tomy's. I'd guess that Hasbro worked with Tomy to bring new versions to the U.S. but I've no idea if Kahootz officially licensed anything. It might have copied the idea and made its own original plates or purchased the rights as it did bring back Spirograph and Lite-Brite in the last decade as well.

For the phots and scans you'll see I am missing the pencil box (and most pencils) for Fashion Plates and only have documentation for the Mighty Men & Monster Maker set. The box for Fashion Plates is a mess too as it spent a lot of time in a basement which shows. I was pressed for time and did a rush job on coloring so the images I made are sloppy but I at least wanted to provide some examples outside of the video.

Mighty Men & Monster Maker

Fashion Plates

Little Van Goes

Created in the Video

Friday, October 29, 2021

Year 5: October Update

As usual, I probably should have done more posts this month but I've been relaxing more or less and playing games. I should have a new toy video up this weekend though I haven't recorded it yet or even started the blog post so I could fail to get it done. Maybe I should be doing that instead of writing this but the month ends in two days and I need to get the monthly update done! The video will be about a few Tomy art kits from the late '70s/early '80s as it sort of relates to Halloween. I also chose them now because I recently received a comment on a previous Tomy video that indicated the person's interest in seeing more Tomy products.

Today I tried the Hot Wheels Unleashed game that released at the end of September. It has a fair amount of content, lots of cars and tracks to unlock, and there is a track editor. There aren't a lot of locations for the tracks, just a variety in each spot like maybe eight or more set at a basement, garage, college campus, skatepark, and skyscraper. You're basically driving the toy cars through full-scale environments. Not sure if I'll do a "Let's Play" video or not but I have posted gameplay footage on the Game Boys & Girls YouTube channel I run.

There was some interesting G.I. Joe video game news since my last update. Hasbro's Wizards of the Coast division has opened a game studio and its first project will use the G.I. Joe brand. That's about all the information there is on that so I'm sure it is years away as they are just getting started. The holiday shopping season appears to be starting next week based on the ads I've seen. Also, news reports indicate some toys could be hard to find due to all the shipping issues so you may want to get started soon. Since I have to mail my gifts to Arizona and I've also got to cover birthdays in November, December, and January, I have already begun putting together gifts. 

This month I watched a new documentary called Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story. It's from the same people that made Video Games: The Movie in 2014, and while I've not seen that one, it got a lot of negative reviews. However, I'd say Playing With Power is worth checking out, especially if you're a child of the '80s that had a NES. It's broken into five parts and about five hours long overall, and the first part is definitely my favorite as it details the early history of the company, shows a variety of Nintendo toys, and had a few tidbits here and there I didn't know. Most everything else is about the NES all the way up to the Switch and will likely be familiar to most knowledgeable gamers. 

The biggest disappointment is that there are no interviews with Nintendo of Japan employees, only those that helped build up Nintendo of America. Plus there are other people from the industry (Nolan Bushnell, Trip Hawkins, Phil Spencer, etc.) featured throughout, as well as Wil Wheaton and some people I'm not familiar with. A lot of the non-industry folks are there to recount their childhood memories about playing Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda for the first time. Of course, I couldn't relate to those stories as I had Sega and other platforms rather than a NES, SNES, or N64, but I still found it fun to watch. There are two hours of extras that don't add much as they are primarily about making the video and a few things are repeated. 

I've posted a McDonald's image a few times in the October updates and here it is again!

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 24, 2021

[YouTube] XBAND Video Game Modem

The XBAND Video Game Modem was created by Catapult Entertainment and distributed by THQ in November 1994 for the Sega Genesis and in June 1995 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Although no 16-bit games were designed for online play, the modem allowed two players to compete with one another online. It fits into the console's cartridge slot with a supported game cartridge being plugged into the top of the modem. Subscriptions for online play cost $7.95/month or $39.75 for six months and had a limited number of credits (one game session per credit) per month. Those prices are stated in the manual but when I acquired the device in 1995 the cost had been reduced to $4.95/month. It also appears as if the modem was originally $69.95 but within about six months the cost was reduced to $19.99. 

From within the XBAND network users could also read news, check stats, and send messages, and to assist in typing messages an optional keyboard accessory was available for purchase as well. I only subscribed for one month, primarily because it didn't work well where I lived. It's not too surprising since at the time I was living in the outskirts of a small town. I expect it faired much better for those that lived in or nearby major cities as the review below from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) indicates the service ran quite well for them. NHL 95 would have be the only game I played on XBAND since I loved EA's hockey series. Maybe Madden would have worked better since it isn't as fast as hockey and you aren't trying to deke a goalie to score but I never tried that one. Every player had their win-loss record tracked for each game and the best players sometimes appeared in the pages of game magazines.

The above scans are all from 1995 issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly.

It's a unique product for the time period as it is one of the earliest online gaming devices for consoles, perhaps the first in North America. The XBAND was available in Japan and Brazil too, and Sega actually had its own online service called Meganet in those regions but that never materialized in North America. The XBAND service ended in April 1997 as the 16-bit generation was winding down. All of the supported games on Genesis were either sports titles or fighting games which makes sense since this is about competing. I expect having two-player same-screen multiplayer would be required but the SNES did support Super Mario Kart which would have had split-screen multiplayer. I'm not sure if the following supported games lists are completely accurate; Wikipedia also mentions NHL '94 for Genesis and Kirby's Avalanche for SNES.

Supported Genesis Games: Madden NFL 95, Madden NFL 96, NBA Live 95, NBA Live 96, NHL 95, NHL 96, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Primal Rage, Super Street Fighter II, and Weaponlord. 

SNES Supported Games: Madden NFL 95, Madden NFL 96, NHL 95, NHL 96, NBA Jam T.E., Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Super Street Fighter II, Weaponlord, Killer Instinct, Doom, Super Mario Kart, and Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball.

When doing some research I was surprised to find a XBAND Twitter account run by a former Catapult employee but he hasn't posted in a couple years. SNES Central has a variety of pictures of that console's purple modem taken from a variety of other sources here. I took some photos and scanned the box and some paperwork, though I didn't scan the whole manual, only a portion of it. A couple of the inner box sides have facsimile autographs of the development team.