Sunday, April 29, 2012

"X-Men", Genesis, 1993

I've just finished up with splicing together some two-page ad spreads, so why not get back into the swing of things with one of them now? I never gave this ad its dues at the time, merely chalking it up to sensationalist "ugly art". In retrospect, it's a gutsy move (or in this case, one might say "a bold Gambit", ho ho) to advertise a comic-book game, in a comic book, with anything other than comic book-style artwork. It excellently conveys the gritty mood the '90s were trying on in preparation for millennial angst.

Hear the sound razor-sharp adamantium claws make as they extract their revenge.

Juggernaut is one tough mutant, even against Wolverine's fierce claws. Fire Gambit's energized cards and introduce Juggernaut to Storm's tornado force winds.
Sabretooth growls his defiance. Cyclops needs Archangel's razor sharp blades to help Nightcrawler send him back to his maker.
Cyclops watches for Sentinel attacks as Gambit uses Iceman's bridge to annihilate the hovering Sentinel.
The final battle takes place on Asteroid M. Defeat Magneto's Acolytes and the Master of Magnetism appears.
Welcome to the next level (tm)
Apparently completion of this game required abuse of the reset button (a "soft reset"), making it impossible to complete through emulation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Destiny of an Emperor", NES, 1989

Could this truly take the cake for the wordiest video game ad ever? Even ads for Infocom games (not that I've found any in comic books) dwelled less on the prose, and those games were entirely composed of it!
Conquering this game will take you centuries.
Over 18,000 years ago many of the men in China dedicated their life to the study of philosophy. And then applied it to a war to end all wars.
The country was plagued by a bandit hoarde known as the Yellow Scarves. Who amassed a power no one had yet to conquer. Fact is, no one could assemble a force strong enough to destroy them.
In Destiny of an Emperor, your challenge is to change the course of history forever. For the good of China. And the world.
This full scale, role playing adventure game for the Nintendo System will put you deep in the throes of that war.
The action is as real as it gets thanks to the discovery of authentic documents detailing the era. Characteristics of 180 warlords have been simulated based on the renowned text of Sanquozhi Yanyi.
Even 20th century strategists are destined to spend hours, even days on each game. And when you take a break to philosophize on your next action (if you can pull yourself away) you can actually save up to three histories exactly where you've left off.
You can put yourself in the place of Liu Bei, dedicated to raising an army for the restoration of the dynasty. Or Guan Yu, an exceptionally skilled warrior, match for a thousand soldiers and worshipped as a god.
But no matter who you are, it will be hard to win the war against Zhang Jao, the deadly leader of the Yellow Scarve revels and founder of the Tai Ping sect. Not to mention the most feared Chinese warlord of all time, Lu Bu, destined to be a traitor because of his great strength and courage.
You'll use every strategic cell in your brain to fulfill your constant requirements for weapons, food and manpower. You'll give important commands that could mean your life, and the life of your armies. And in true Chinese tradition, you'll engage in battle again and again to defend your honor. An honor certified by an oath signed in blood.
When all is said and done, there will be room for only one Emperor. Whether or not that will be you is your destiny alone.
Aside from the order of magnitude error in the first paragraph (should be 1800 years, not 18 thousand), that's pretty historical stuff. The puissance of the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history for video gamers is heartening -- throw together enough (pseudo-)historical personages and you can approximate a soap opera... and add enough bloodletting to the soap opera and you have a free, public domain source from which to derive endless games, manga, TV shows and films. The only question is why this extremely slow-paced game was being advertised in a comic book. If memory serves correct, I have a friend (one of those "Art of War"-readers for a business context) who, as an adult, spent a week playing a single campaign of this game. Not exactly one for juvenile delinquents with low attention spans.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Spider-Man", Atari 2600, 1982

This ad doesn't do much to distinguish itself except yet again, a comic artist uses drawn lines to simulate pixels drawn on a screen, simulating the lines drawn by a comic artist -- a mise en abyme, but toward what worthwhile end? Sadly, none. Spider-Man game trivia: apparently an unreleased Odyssey2 version of this game surfaced a few years ago in a collector's trove. Also: this game was the curious subject of a piece in Marvel Comics' "Blip" magazine about video games, where Marvel got Spider-Man to review Spider-Man in a weird photo spread wherein a man in a bad costume played this game with some kids. (All the while, driving sales for the Atari 2600, profiting Warner Bros., owner of Marvel's rival DC Comics. The things we do to strive for the appearance of relevance!)

Green Goblin: I'll blow this town to smithereens -- TIME BOMBS! Try to get up THERE IN TIME, Spider-Man -- ha, ha, ha!
Spider-Man: Watch me climb MY WEB, Goblin! (THWIPP!)
GG: Watch yourself fall, SILK-SLINGER! (BLAM!)
SM: Got to stop the BOMBS IN TIME! (THWIPP!)
GG: If I don't get you, WEB-HEAD-- -- my GANG OF NASTIES will! (THWIPP!)
GG: And you're running out of WEB FLUID, BUG-BRAIN! Ha, ha, ha, ha! (BLAM BLAM BAROOM)
SM: Is this MORE ACTION than even SPIDER-MAN can HANDLE?!?!?
The Goblin's time bombs are ticking away. And his Super Bombs sit fiendishly up on High Voltage towers. The city is on its knees.
Only Spider-Man's spidey powers can get us out of this! Thwipp! He shoots his web and swings up the buildings to reach the bombs.
Thwipp! He shoots again, escaping the Goblin on his web-cutting jet glider.
But watch out! Goblin and his warped gang of criminals have more sneaky ways to cut your web and plunge you to the streets below.
Can you get Spider-Man to the bombs in time? Your web fluid is getting lower.
And time is ticking away...
I don't know if Spidey has ever looked more awkward than holding the 2600's iconic joystick in his striped mitts. Also, what kind of fey insult is "silk-slinger"? I would like to learn how to sit fiendishly. The whole bottom blurb reads a bit how one imagines a 6-year-old (who else would describe Spider-Man as possessing "spidey powers"?) might extemporize while playing the game, complete with sound effects.

"Virtual Bart', 1994.

No, I haven't forgotten about you, my handful of misguided devotees.  I've been trying to migrate and consolidate files from about five different computer into one centralized location and ... I've been losing track of data all over the place.  The good news is, I seem to have found it.  Now then...

What could better speak of the '90s zeitgeist than this confluence of The Simpsons, the Super Nintendo, and virtual reality all together in one package?

who needs reality?
Yipes! Bart's stuck in a virtual reality machine! Enter the Jurassic era as Dino Bart. Face a post-apocalyptic Springfield as Doomsday Bart. Deploy your diaper-chute as Baby Bart. Hog the spotlight as Pork Factory Pig Bart. Then there's the butt-squeaking thrill-ride down the dangerous Mt. Splashmore and more!
Like many aspects of their bizarrely long run (eg. the weekly cartoon), the Simpsons video games perhaps ought to have been better than they were (perhaps also a condition afflicting Acclaim generally.)  Barring some outsiders (eg. the Konami arcade brawler), they all looked good and were no fun to play. This appears to be a collection of mini-games thrown together in the hopes of kicking up some sparks and turning a license into gold.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Mario Bros.", Atari 2600, 1983

This ad is an unusual example of print ad as storyboard. Comic books are very similar to storyboards that filmmakers use to plot out the angles etc. from which on-screen action will be presented (one factor in the recent boom of comics-to-movies adaptions). So here is the print ad, and here is the TV version, essentially reading off the same script. It's curious!


Another smash arcade hit brought home only by Atari for use with the ATARI 2600 Game, Sears Video Arcade systems and versions exclusively for the Atari 5200 Super System.
Exciting 2 player action!
Something's gumming up the plumbing...
♫ Poor Luigi's in a bind...
♫ Killer turtles out to get him...
♫ Giant crabs are right behind...
♫ Fighter flies, holy cripes! They're all coming out the pipes!
Mario, where are you?!

You find that kind of cross-media brand campaign these days, but they're rarely so redundant -- more than once I've been totally baffled by something on a bus shelter referencing a TV commercial I haven't seen because, well, I don't watch TV.

This ad raises a couple of questions for me about the whole Super Mario franchise -- for instance, why they retained the turtles (as koopas) but ditched the crabs and other sewer-based enemies from this game?  Also, that turtles panel is a conspicuously ugly example of sprite art conversion. Further Mario Bros. contemplation -- his hitting the enemies from the lower level is presumably why Mario punches when he jumps up, enabling the brick-smashing in the SUPER Mario games.  Was anything else from here retained besides the pipes?  The POW brick turned up in SMB2...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fellow Traveler supplemental 1

Not a video game ad, but sometimes you just can't resist.

Take the Mortal Kombat/Night Trap-era moral crusade to save children from video game violence, then imagine turning back the clock.  Just what did comic books advertise before violent video games?

"Worms World Party", 2001

The cardinal rule of advertising is that the ad can't distract attention away from the product.  The Worms games are great: Scorched Earth with cute mascots, or otherwise put, multiplayer ballistic 2D deathmatches.  It's great fun, but let's face it: it's not better than sex, which is what this ad is really selling.  Here, the mascot is so small and subtly situated (perhaps the only subtle part of the ad?) that you probably don't even see it.   It's on the left rump cheek of the lady departing the pool; the gentleman swimming there has been distracted by it from his discussion about Strindberg with his African colleague there.

PS: though perhaps cute wordplay in the original Finnish, the slogan "Global Worming" when the only worm visible is emblazoned on a woman's posterior only brings to mind horrifying intestinal parasites, one level that this game doesn't feature.  (Try Life Force for that!)

PPS: "Stop playing" is also a very disruptive slogan for a video game.  Make up your mind!