Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite boxing video game of all time?
The Super NES / Genesis era coincided with a second golden age of third-party video game controllers and peripherals (the first golden age being the Atari 2600 era). If you browse through the Retro Scan archives, I'm sure you'll see quite a few.
One of the stand-out gimmicks of this era arrived courtesy of Triax Technologies: the Turbo Touch 360. Representing a series of controllers for various platforms (SNES, Genesis, and NES with IBM planned, but I'm uncertain if it launched), the Turbo Touch line relied on a touch-sensitive pad in lieu of a traditional D-pad.
Using the touch pad, you didn't have to physically push down on the D-pad to register movements; instead, you lightly slid your finger over the cross-shaped touch pad, sort of like a laptop touch pad. Ideally, this should result in quicker movements, but it could also result in more errors.
There was another supposed benefit to the touch pad technology as well. This 1993 Chicago Tribune article positions the Turbo Touch as a cure for game-induced thumb blisters (at the suggestion of Triax's marketing staff, as the article suggests).
I've heard a lot about people getting thumb blisters over the years while playing video games, but I've never actually seen it happen. That's because I've only heard about it through game peripheral advertisements. Such blisters are plausible, of course, but you'd have to push down on the D-pad very hard and rub it around over a long period of time. Maybe my thumb skin is just tough or something, but it's never been a problem for me.
(Full disclosure: I did get a blister in the middle palm of my hand by rapidly rotating a Suncom Slik Stick over and over for about an hour while playing Decathlon for the Atari 2600 in the early 1990s)
I'm not saying that no one ever got a thumb blister from playing a video game, of course (do a Google search) — just that it wasn't the epidemic that companies like Triax have led us to believe.
Call me skeptical, but I wouldn't be surprised if the the video game thumb blister meme originated as a marketing angle in an era that aimed to be loud, raw, and edgy (think "Play it Loud", Sega scream, etc.). What could be edgier than actually getting physically injured while playing video games? That's intense!
I actually own a Turbo Touch 360 pad for the Genesis that I never got around to trying for some reason (I bought it at a thrift store when my Genesis was packed away). Right now I have no idea where it is. Perhaps I should dig it out and put the promise of touch-fueled gameplay to the test.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever gotten a blister from playing video games? Tell us how it happened.
This ad is actually for an Apple II-themed creative writing contest, but you'd never know it. That's because the gobs of tiny, hard-to-read text are completely overshadowed by the nude man in a jungle holding an Apple II over his crotch.
And that man happens to be Adam from Genesis.
So there you have it, folks. The Apple II was responsible for the fall of man. You know — that time Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, casting all of humanity into sin. Here's a tasty quote from Wikipedia:
For many Christian denominations the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God.
You probably won't see me discussing theology on this blog ever again, but I find this ad quite funny because, despite its tongue-in-cheek cuteness, the biblical interpretations stemming from it are myriad and potentially wildly unexpected, making this a complete failure of marketing. But that failure was likely overlooked. This was 1979 — early in the life of Apple — and it was also before the Great Masses of the Offended had a strong enough voice (i.e. The Internet) with which to share and froth over everything that displeased them.
Discussion Topic of the Week: How do you think people would react if Apple published an ad like this today?
Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.
Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.
When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn't get to try it out myself.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.
I bought a Sega 32X for $30 new in 1995 or '96 at Toys"R"Us. They were on clearance because nobody wanted them. (I also bought a Virtual Boy for $30 this way around the same time.) There were good reasons why no one wanted them: chiefly, because better machines like the PlayStation and Saturn were out there, and most games for the 32X weren't very good.
Still, I have a soft spot for this system. It touches some fundamental nerdy part of me that likes convoluted electronic expansion modules — it means more to collect, and more to mess with. I have a bunch of 32X games, perhaps even half of the entire library for that system, but I rarely play any of them. I seem to recall the Star Wars Arcade title being pretty good for it. Virtua Racing wasn't half bad either.
By the way, the only explanation I can muster for the inclusion of the keyhole in the ad above is that it's some sort of sexual metaphor, much like those found in Sega's other 32X ads at the time (See "The Sega Mating Game," Retro Scan of the Week, 2008). In other words, I guess we're spying on a Genesis and a 32X having electronic intercourse.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In an alternate universe where there was no Sega Saturn, do you think the 32X could have held its own against the competition for a few years?
I own a few QuickShot joysticks, but I don't believe I've used any of these particular models. Third-party console controllers weren't all that popular in the age of the NES (relative to the 2600 days, at least), likely because the NES's own pads (and the NES Advantage and Max) were so good to begin with. Same with the Genesis and Super NES. That fact alone probably killed a few third party video game peripheral companies that were hanging on from the Atari 2600 era, although the QuickShot brand lived on until the late 1990s.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Did/do you commonly use third-party controllers for your classic video game systems? Which one is your favorite?
Splatterhouse 3 is by far my favorite entry in the Splatterhouse series. The other two just don't cut it for some reason. I prefer Splatterhouse 3′s room-based approach to the game, and its controls are pretty good. It incorporates an on-screen map too, which makes it feel more like an adventure game.
Happy Halloween, by the way!
Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the goriest video game you've ever played?