Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite Tetris spin-off game?
I remember seeing a playable demo of Air Zonk in my local Toys 'R' Us around the time it came out (probably early 1993). I remember it being marketed as a pack-in for the TurboDuo. Upon playing the demo, my first thought was along the lines of: "Wow, the TurboGrafx-16 is still around? They must be desperate."
(For those of you who don't know, my brother and I took the TG-16 plunge circa 1990 or 1991.)
By 1993, the SNES and Genesis were in full force — I owned a SNES and enjoyed it quite a bit. I was deep into Street Fighter II fever at that point. I drooled over the TurboDuo when it came out, though, and I always had a soft spot for the TG-16.
My second about Air Zonk was, "Hmm, this game isn't very good." So I released the controller and didn't play it again until perhaps 20 years later on an emulator. I still don't like it very much.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which do you like better: Air Zonk or Bonk's Adventure?
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite boxing video game of all time?
In September 1990, Kodak announced a brand new system for storing and viewing photographs: Photo CD. At a time when Compact Discs represented the vanguard of consumer electronics technology, Kodak capitalized on the excitement by blending digitized photos with a custom CD format.
Kodak designed that format for viewing through special a Kodak CD Player device (think DVD player for still photos) that hooked to a standard TV set. Using such a player, one could view the digitized photos via a virtual slideshow.
With a base image resolution of 512 x 768, Photo CD was far from an archival medium. It tried to offer convenience, but instead ended up adding needless cost and encumbrance to the photo viewing process. In an era before most people were equipped to view, edit, or print digital photos from a PC, the fact that the photos came in an electronic format did not add anything notable to the experience. Predictably, adoption of the Photo CD system never gained much steam. (Wikipedia's article on Photo CD has some pretty good additional analysis of why Photo CD never took off.)
I personally remember encountering a Kodak Photo CD player in either a photography store or a Radio Shack as a kid. I thought it was amazing — your own photos on a TV set! But my dad, an experienced photographer, never bought into the system.
P.S. For more CD history, check out my Compact Disc 30th Anniversary article that I wrote back in 2012.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever use the Kodak Photo CD service or own a Photo CD player?
I took this photo around 1992 or 1993 not long after Super Mario Kart came out. I had rented the game from Blockbuster (See "Secret Cartridge Messages"), and I was amazed to see that the cartridge would save high scores (in this case, track records) between sessions.
That blew my mind a little, because it meant that the scores I saw on the screen came from previous renters of the game — I was playing against previous renters' track times! So when I set a new record on a particular track, it carried a little extra weight.
(It struck me, even then, that this sharing of scores between players formed a sort of primitive pass-along gaming network, and coming from a BBS background, that excited me.)
In retrospect, I am positive that the track record you see in this photo is nothing record-breaking in the broader competitive Mario Kart universe. But just getting first place — as a 12 year-old, first-time Super Mario Kart player — filled me with enough pride to take a photo of the game screen as viewed from my family's 1983 TV set.
Remember that this was the era when people used to take photos (with film cameras) of high score screens and physically mail them to Nintendo Power so they could be listed in the magazine. I'm sure that's where I got the idea to snap the photo.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever take photos of your video game high score screens?
NWC made some great games, and I always thought they had the best logo of any game developer at the time. Of all their titles, Might and Magic II got the most love in our household.
(I've enhanced the contrast of this image a bit so you can see the logo detail, which is quite subtle otherwise. It also brings out vintage stains and a stray pencil mark.)
This notepad served as a nice sorta-"feelie" pack-in, one that my brother actually used quite often for notes.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite New World Computing game?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Which system has the best game library: NES or SNES?
Valentine's Day is this week, and boy do I have a neat retro valentine for you. When I was growing up in North Carolina, it was traditional for kids in elementary school to give valentines to every one of their classmates regardless of gender. I'm not sure how it is these days (it may be the same), but I thought I'd explain it for folks who may hail from overseas.
One year, a friend of mine named Eric gave me a Dr. Mario-themed valentine, which you see scanned above (front side on top, rear side on bottom). Amid a scene of Dr. Mario himself throwing a vitamin pill (don't do drugs, kids) at a group of viruses, we see the words "Friendship cures all! Be my valentine."
The valentine itself was torn off from a larger sheet of valentines, as evidenced by the perforated tear on the left side of the paper and the "fold in half" inscription near it. I've put it away somewhere since I scanned it last year, but I recall that it measures about four inches on its longest dimension.
The printed image bears a copyright and trademark date of 1990, which coincides with the publication of Dr. Mario for the NES. That doesn't mean the valentine was printed in that year. In fact, a much younger Benj — ever the historian — wrote the year he received the valentine: 1992. I was in fifth grade at the time.
Good 'ole Eric never knew his compulsory elementary school valentine to me would one day be famous on the Internet. So 21 years after I received it, let his vintage valentine be my gift to you, dear readers, this Valentine's Day.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you trade valentines in school? Were any of them video game-related?
It's Black History Month once again in the US, so I thought it would be timely to share this Apple PowerBook advertisement from 1992.
The ad appeared in the February issue of Smithsonian Magazine; I don't think it is a coincidence that it prominently featured people of African decent. It also prominently featured the PowerBook 100, which had just been introduced a few months prior in October 1991.
The obvious racial focus of this ad brings to my mind a couple of interesting, if racially-charged questions: What percentage of black Americans, historically, have used Apple products versus other computer brands? Do African Americans, like other demographic groups, have their computer or tech brands of choice?
Today, Apple is such a mainstream company that the answer to the first question is most certainly larger than it likely was in the pre-iPod era. It would be interesting from a cultural standpoint to peek back into private demographic customer studies that Apple no doubt commissioned at various points in its history.
As for an answer to the second question, I have no idea. But I would love to hear from African American computer users to find out.
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite PowerBook model?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever received a Nintendo console for Christmas? Tell us about it.