Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", 1994.

Before my customary analysis, which in the case of this ad is fairly meager, I thought that given the general theme of the blog you might be interested in my upcoming birthday party -- not necessarily in attending it, just in the nature of the festivities. Like perhaps many of you, I have an electronics graveyard in my basement, one I actively cultivate. When I see an old computer or games console at a thrift store or garage sale, if the price is right, and if it's reasonably likely to be in working condition (hence, no red-ring'd Xbox 360 in this lot), I acquire it. In effect, this is a transfer of a dust-gathering obsolete machine from one man's basement to another, where the dust collection continues almost uninterrupted. My thoughtful and gracious partner suggested that this year, I bring the lot up into the stark, unblinking daylight of the living room, and have some nerdy friends over to travel down memory lane with these nostalgic piles of transistors. I once had a lot of fun at a fundraiser event Video In put on, the all-night "video game orgy", where the entire facility was taken over by various makes and models of 40 years' worth of entertainment electronics. (They raised very little money -- I made an in-kind donation of an NES and a Genesis assembled piecemeal from thrift store finds, in addition to a set of video game music my band performed, and the whole setup took volunteers ages to get up and running... so they never did another one, but me being me, I never forgot it.)
So here's what I'll have on tap for my friends to use as time machines with me:
A VIC-20, with games-on-tape (and the deck required), plus a handful of cartridges. A mighty C=64 with no disk drive, capable of running the most powerful program we care to type into it. An epic Amiga 2000 that we can pretty much mint new disks for as needed. A curious Compaq MS-DOS laptop that will run Win 3.x if needed, though that platform's only "killer app" game was somewhat of a ... solitary pursuit. There's a 1994-era Mac desktop machine I keep on ice in case I want to bust open some Hypercard stacks, which modern Intel Macs can no longer even pretend to care about. I just about crapped myself when I saw the 3DO in a thrift store, and ever since we have mistakenly bought three or four Windows games by its successor, the 3DO Company, thinking they might run on this machine and provide us with an excuse for continuing to own it. (The 3DO story is actually funnier: I got very excited when I saw it in the store, but passed it up because of cool financial calculation and a rare window of rational thinking. But when I was more solvent, I had second thoughts -- to date, it's the only specimen I've ever seen in the wild -- and my partner suggested I go back and get it, knowing full well I wouldn't find it... because she had bought it for me! I was pretty baffled when I re-entered the shop and found that someone else had bought it. But why would they have? That would require the rare combination of knowing what they were looking at AND assigning a positive value to it. But I digress.) Sega is well represented, with a Genesis, a Game Gear, a Saturn, and a Dreamcast. The competition similarly, with an N64, a Gamecube, and even a DS in effect. (My SNES is lent out semi indefinitely, alas.) The ruler of the roost is the PS2, with a ton of games, and which also plays terrible terrible PS1 software, which is also present in abundance.
I don't have enough screens to demonstrate these all on simultaneously, since several of them are devoid of games to play, it evens out. (Of further consideration: the wiring in my townhouse is sufficiently aged that our fuses certainly couldn't handle all of them turned on simultaneously. It would be vindicating for the old machines to go out in a blaze of glory, but not yet. My baby daughter needs a proper education first.) I've only got three screens for our use (including one projector: maybe we'll be seeing some Big Pixels, writ large) so getting some multiplayer options on-tap will be the order of the day. Scorched Earth and Bump 'n Jump have already been installed on the laptop (along with the handful of games my ANSI art group "published"); I should rustle up a port of M.U.L.E. for the Amiga, though we've already had a request for Jeff Minter's Llamatron. I think The YaK warrants projection.) Additionally, we've got the fabulous Q-bert board game (which, from the looks of things, plays exactly like the video game, except with players doing all of the tedious housekeeping the computer is so good at doing), and a weird 2-player gamebook from my extensive gamebook collection, so there should be something for everyone. Well, for every nerd, at least. Now, let's look at some video game ads!
Sega, Sega, Sega. You've betrayed your cool evangelists. This is not a game on the system whose name rap stars would holler at each other backstage as a shibboleth of hipness. Just because something is successful in some medium does not mean that it will bring success to your medium. If your platforms were the only ones featuring games starring mega kids' celebrities Barney and Elmo, you would be well-advised to conceal that fact rather than to shout it from the rooftops. Yes, the Power Rangers made someone a pile of cash. Yes, they do a lot of fighting on their show, and yes, people love Street Fighter brawler clones. But the sum is inequal to the parts: think back to the expression that though the French are funny, sex is funny and farces are funny, no French sex farce is funny. Though the genre fits, these are characters who I am sure never turned up in any MUGEN fan-creation. It's just fundamentally an embarrassing combination, like Angry Birds Star Wars (though admittedly, it's hard to say which party that's more embarrassing for.) This is an ad that says: buy a Super Nintendo, a Game Boy or a Nintendo 64. (And this from a regular Power Rangers viewer -- things were pretty thin on the ground for a kaiju fan in the early '90s, and their ridiculous antics squirted a final injection of fuel into my elementary-school giant monster tabletop wargame, Godzilla Eats Everything, or G.E.E. for short. But then my access to computer games increased, after writing a poem celebrating a BBS named "Forged Reality", and consequently my own game-creating brainstorm declined -- since, after all, there are only so many hours in a day. But that's enough of that digression.)
I was always irked by the absence of the apostrophe in "Morphin". But I suppose if you're a stickler for detail the series has higher-calibre inconsistencies to be irritated by. You can bet your sweet bippy they made sure to include the little "Saban's" slug. I am given to understand that the Sega CD is a totally different game from the other two, though making use of the same license, more of a Dragon's Lair FMV spectacular. These fine points fall beyond the scope of this blog, which is really here to provide me with an excuse to go on about tangential anecdotes from my feckless youth.