Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sears Nintendo ad, ~1988

There are a few problems with this ad. I am not the first to notice it, but it bears repeating. As a schoolboy attending a rich kids' school with only a Radio Shack TRS-80 CoCo to his name, it was critical for me to glean information about contemporary trends in kids' culture from whatever sources I could find; I may not have owned a console but I darned well knew what the hot games were; similarly, I didn't see the hit movies but I did manage to piece their plots together from the trading card series. Taking up a position at the magazine rack at the grocery store while my parents shopped for essentials allowed me to learn vital hints and tricks needed to pass games I didn't own and wouldn't play for years to come. Things like a Warp Whistle took on a mythic proportion in my imagination, unconstrained by mere 8-bit games limiting their proportions in the actual. So when ads like this absently mixed up three quarters of their screen shots (but thanks for including each cartridge's identical weight, guys), that really messed with snots like me for whom such second-hand details were a vital pulse, a key link to a world I didn't live in but had to be conversant with.
Zelda II - Adventure of Link. Wt. 8 oz. 49JB64785 - $44.83
Super Mario Brothers II. Wt. 8 oz. 49JB65957 - $42.97
Simons Quest Wt. 8 oz. 49JB65982 - $37.97
Blades of Steel Wt. 8 oz. 49JB65989 - $39.97
Nintendo video game cartridges provide some of the most sophisticated arcade-quality games with impressive graphics, color, music and excitement. Imported. Warranted. Wt. 8 oz
Nintendo Action Set$99.99
Action Set is all you need to play with power! Challenging system's base unit has two microchips to provide superior graphics and sound effects. Ultra-accurate Zapper light gun operates up to 16 ft. from TV by receiving light from the screen; it's so accurate, if you're a fraction of an inch off target, you've missed! Includes Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt game, 2 fast-action controllers, 6-ft. cord and hookup accessories. High-impact plastic housing. Warranted. For ages 8 years and up.
49JB65951 - Wt. 7 lbs. 4 oz. Now $99.99

I know, when you're not the one playing them, all platformers look the same. As you've no doubt noticed by now, they've mixed up the shots to Simon's Quest and Link, and bizarrely used a Super Mario Bros 1 screen shot to represent SMB 2 (it's just more of the same, right? Maybe in Japan...) Now if you don't get a chance to play these games in any kind of depth, it can be deceptive: you can be made to ask yourself if there's a whole aspect to a game you've managed to overlook, or worse yet, if you had misremembered which was which. Either way, misleading illustrations aren't a good thing: hey, Zelda 2 looks just like a Castlevania rip-off! May as well not bother with it.
And yes, there's something distinctly "off" about the illustrations of King Bowser and his troop of chicken-ish Koopas chasing the wild-eyed Super Mario, spokesperson for the performance-enhancing mood-altering properties of 'shrooms.
Now, I must confess to some curiosity over who, at this time, is offering more sophisticated arcade-quality games than Nintendo, barring arcades. "With impressive graphics, color, music and excitement." Sorry, but you know the old rule about video games: graphics, color, music, excitement: pick three. (And which of those descriptors is the "impressive" intended to refer to? Do these games have impressive excitement? And, more worryingly, is the mere presence of color intended to be a selling point at this time?)
On to the Nintendo Action Set. I'm having a hard time categorizing how the word "challenging" is used there, as though I might slap the NES with a glove and propose a duel. Two microchips, eh? Call me when you hit three. You know, if a fraction of an inch is all it takes for me to miss the shot, I think that light gun's accuracy perhaps exceeds my requirements. Good to know it comes with the fast-action controllers, because the lethargic-tedium ones my Colecovision shipped with were really the pits. Which of the unit's many cords are 6 ft.? The controllers'? The power cord? And how kind of them not only to include the necessary hookup accessories, but to crow about it! No soldering required! When they say "high-impact plastic housing" that doesn't mean that the NES will sustain bludgeoning damage, does it? (Perhaps that it will sell well in pre-fab suburban subdivisions.) And then the ad ends with really sad news for your 6-year-old cousin.
One final note; I couldn't be arsed to write up the name and price of every game in their list (though apparently, neither could they -- Dr. Jekyell?  Wizzard and Warrior?), but it's a bit odd to me that the most expensive ones are all sports conversions, among my least-favorite genre. (Is the premise that you get more competitive re-play value out of them, so price them higher?)
OK, that's all here. Mixing up the screen shots is really all it needs to forever live in infamy; all the other oddness is just gravy.