[ Retro Scan ] Can You Take the Terror?

January 23rd, 2017 by Benj Edwards

Arena Entertainment Alien 3 for Sega Genesis and Game Gear advertisement scan - 1992A very good existential question for these times

I seem to recall Alien 3 being a fairly well-received game for the Super NES. But I'm not sure I've ever played the Genesis version. In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever even seen the Alien 3 film, despite being a fan of the first two films in the Alien series.

So what do I know about this game? Nothing!

But I like the art in this advertisement. Its headline question very clearly conjures up how I feel these days about uncertainties in life, the economy, and politics.

Speaking of the economy, I recently started a Patreon campaign to fund my work on this site. In fact, everyone donating $10 or more a month on Patreon is getting access to a 600 DPI version of this scan (along with access to full research interviews used in future articles). At some point I hope to make available high-res versions of all the previous Retro Scans available to select patrons as well.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, November 1992, p.23 ]

Discussion Topic: What's the scariest classic video game you've ever played (let's say pre-1997)?

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[ Retro Scan ] Game Boy, All Grown Up

November 2nd, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo Game Boy Political Campaign Speeches GQ 1992 Presidential Election advertisement scan - 1992"Have you had your fun today?"

So we've got this election coming right around the corner in the US. It hasn't been fun. In fact, it's been pretty nasty and stressful for everyone involved. But there's a solution: video games.

In this October 1992 ad from GQ magazine, Nintendo offers its Game Boy handheld console as an antidote to our grownup troubles during a long, grueling campaign season. Among displays of men's fashion, cologne ads, and strutting female models, you can find a rather remarkable sales pitch for this groundbreaking gadget aimed at adults.

In 1992, portable electronic entertainment pretty much meant one thing: Game Boy. There were no smartphones in everyone's pockets to twiddle away the time with. And the alternative handhelds like the Sega Game Gear, NEC TurboExpress, and Atari Lynx had such horrible battery life that very few people actually took them on the go. Of course, one could tote along a Walkman or a portable TV, but they weren't interactive.

The Game Boy was different. It was compact, light, durable, ran over ten hours on four AA batteries, and it had that killer app: Tetris.

I remember reading news reports, not long after the Game Boy's launch, about how adults were playing Tetris ("the jigsaw puzzle that fights back," the ad says) on long commutes. In retrospect, Tetris seems like the first video game for adults — especially since it had no cartoon protagonist, and its single-screen drama unfolded in four serious shades of gray (or green, technically). It was a thinking man's game, and it was addictive.

Or thinking woman's game, I should say, since we have this amazing 1993 photo of Hillary Clinton playing the Game Boy. While commuting, no less. So maybe the ad worked. Or maybe Tetris was just an essential, can't-miss game that finally legitimized video games for an older audience.

[ From GQ, October 1992, p.150 ]

Discussion Topic: Did your parents ever play console video games when you were younger? What games did they like the most?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] George Foreman's KO Boxing

June 22nd, 2015 by Benj Edwards

George Foreman's KO Boxing SNES Genesis Game Boy NES Game Gear advertisement - 1992It's not a grill, but it'll do.

[ From VG&CE, November 1992, p.29]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite boxing video game of all time?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Risk Bodily Harm with STD

September 29th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

STD Interact Handy Boy Attitude Push it to the Edge Wheelbarrow construction site advertisement - 1994Push your friends to the edge — literally.

There is a certain irony to this pair of products by STD: one of them, the Handy Gear, makes your portable game console more rugged and less likely to break. The other, the Handy Boy, makes your console less rugged and more likely to break.

And both of them make you want to kill your friends, as this ad shows.

But seriously. One of my friends as a kid (who is amazingly still living) owned the Handy Boy accessory that snapped onto and around your Game Boy. The controller extension part looked cool but was useless and made playing games more difficult. But the magnifying glass and light were genuinely useful (especially the light part), since the Game Boy was notoriously difficult to play in low light conditions — which meant just about anywhere indoors.

By the way, long, long, long time readers of VC&G might remember that I lampooned this ad eight years ago in a column for GameSetWatch. But I just realized that I never featured it as a proper Retro Scan, so here it is.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly - November 1994, p.87]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you (or do you) own any notable Game Boy or Game Gear accessories? Tell us about them.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Low-End Virtual Reality

January 7th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

PCVR Magazine Cover Jan-Feb 1994Every new idea is an old idea with more transistors.

A few years ago, a relative gave me a couple issues of PCVR Magazine, a low-circulation 1990s periodical dedicated to virtual reality. Here's the cover of the Jan/Feb 1994 issue, which features an illustration of the magazine's build-it-yourself head tracker project.

In the early 1990s, the "virtual reality" concept hit a peak in the popular media that coincided with dozens of companies pursuing motion-tracking head-mounted displays — both with honest attempts and blatant gimmicks.

If I had to guess why VR exploded in the popular tech consciousness at that particular time, I would trace it it to the emergence of small, relatively low-cost color LCDs — the kind that made portable consoles like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear possible. Compared to bulky, power-hungry CRT displays, the (relatively) thin, low-power LCDs could be worn on the head with mobility and without too much discomfort. That prompted a minor Cambrian explosion of VR headset hardware.

But the display technology just wasn't there yet. Affordable LCDs were very low resolution (think 320×200 or less), and higher-resolution LCDs cost thousands of dollars a piece.

In addition, the hardware and software required to generate convincing virtual reality experiences were neither affordable nor generally available. So genuinely immersive VR found itself stuck in corporate and university research labs; meanwhile, the public got trickle-down fad headsets like the Stuntmaster.

Today, we find ourselves in the middle of a VR renaissance thanks to Oculus Rift. But this time, we may actually be at the edge of mainstream virtual reality headsets because the technology has come quite a long way since 1994. I look forward to meeting your 3D virtual avatar in cyberspace soon.

[ From PCVR Magazine, Jan/Feb 1994, cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a virtual reality headset of any kind? Tell us about it.

See Also: Retro Scan of the Week Special Edition: "At Last! Reality For the Masses!" (VC&G, 2007)
See Also: The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming (PC World, 2011)

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tengen Game Gear Games

July 22nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Tengen Sega Game Gear Games Group Ad - 1993The Klax guy has too many arms.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1993, p.87 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Of the games listed in the ad above, which is your favorite? (Feel free to consider versions of the games for any platform, not just Game Gear.)

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