Monday, January 30, 2012

Lord of King Named in Mitchell Report as Famicom Steroids Scandal Widens

NEW YORK - Former Senator George J. Mitchell released a blistering report Monday that tied 23 former Famicom and NES action/adventure game characters, including the Lord of King, to the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs. The report relied upon a mix of informant testimony and documentary evidence to provide a richly detailed portrait of what Mr. Mitchell described as "the genre's steroids era."

The Lord of King, pictured above, was the most prominent name on a list that also included Lance "Scorpion" Bean of Contra, Soda Popinski from Mike Tyson's Punchout, and a number of henchmen from the Double Dragon series.

The report directly contradicts the claims made by the Lord of King in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee looking into allegations of doping among action/adventure lead characters in 2008 when he declared: "Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH. Never."

The Lord of King, best known for his role as the lead character in the 1988 Jaleco release that bears his name, was unavailable for comment Tuesday morning as a small army of reporters descended on his Malibu residence. He did however issue a comment through his Twitter account, stating:

"I never took HGH or steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the allegations contained in the report in a court of law and I hope my fans and the retro gaming community will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. Peace, Out."

Ralf Jones Vindicated

The allegations contained in the report seem to validate claims made by former Ikari Warrior Ralf Jones in his controversial 2006 tell all book "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits and How Video Games Got BIG". In the book, Jones claimed that he and Lord of King injected each other with steroids in the locker room while the two were training together for the Nintendo World Championships in 1991, an allegation that Lord of King has vehemently denied.

"I've been saying this for years" Jones, who has been out of the video game world for seven years now, was quoted as saying by a Rolling Stone Reporter. "These twenty three guys named in the report are just the tip of the iceberg, I would guess that about eighty percent of them are juiced. I mean, just look at them. You don't get arms that are wider than your chest naturally."

Records Called Into Question

The revelations contained in the report have also provided more fodder for those who claim the steroids era in video games that began in the late 1980s has tarnished the much revered video game record books.

"I mean, back in the late 70s or early 80s high scores on the most popular games like Space Invaders would barely break the 100,000 barrier" commented Dr. Paul Winterhoffer, professor of American History at UCLA "then these guys in games like Contra came along in the late 80s and suddenly they are clearing that many points in the first stage alone. I mean, come on, you didn't have to be a genius to know that something was going on."

A number of bloggers and video game writers have suggested that all records tainted by the steroids era should have an asterisk placed next to them in the Twin Galaxies record listing. Though the records remain as they are, this movement has gotten support in recent months from noted anti-steroids crusader Snake from Metal Gear.

"I played the game the way it was supposed to be" Snake said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on a Minneapolis area radio show "I mean, I never put any of that stuff into me. Never. I knew other guys were doing it. It'd be like this rookie would go from barely being able to lift a rifle to having a neck the size of a frigging basketball overnight. And suddenly he'd be ripping people's heads off - literally - left, right and center. I didn't play that way though. I can sleep at night knowing my records are clean. Those guys who didn't, well they don' t deserve to have those records if you ask me."

In the meantime the release of the Mitchell Report has led to greater calls for performance enhancing drug testing amongst game characters, a move that the character's union has steadfastly opposed in the past.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blue Steel: The Double Dragon - Derek Zoolander Connection

Above: The guy from Double Dragon III The Rosetta Stone as he appears on the game`s label.

Now look at:
Derek Zoolander flashing his patented Blue Steel look.


That Hansel is so hot right now.

Conclusion: Double Dragon III is intended as an allegorical representation of the rough and tumble real world of male models. Not the kind of thing you see in public, but the actual gritty parts - the walk offs in abandoned Members Only warehouses, the assassination of Micronesian dudes, the orgies with Finnish dwarves and Maori tribesmen and, last but by no means least: breakdance fighting.

Class dismissed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Famicom Stuff: Super Mario Bros Stage Figures

Another day another post about some Famicom stuff I recently acquired.

I found a set of these the other day at Mandarake. Super Mario Bros stage figures they are called. The pictures speak for themselves, basically they are just little scenes from various levels of Super Mario Bros.
The figures, via the wonders of magnetic technology, can be repositioned wherever you want them. I`d like to say that this significantly enhances their appeal, but it doesn`t. Moving a maximum of two figures around on a 10cm by 10cm piece of plastic is an activity that gets old real quick. Unless, you know, you are into that sort of thing.

To each his own.

I do like these though. Generally I don`t like faux retro stuff, but these ones I like. They capture the 8-bit look quite well and remind me a lot of the Pepsi bottle caps with Mario figures that I have.

I have five of them, which is a good number as there are five rows on my favorite Famicom cart shelf so they fit rather well atop that:
Hammer time. I`m sorry, its the wittiest thing I could think of to say about this one:
I do like the boxes they came in too. They are a pretty faithful recreation of the Super Mario Bros Famicom box:
Their best feature though is their portability. As they are pocket sized you can take them with you wherever you go for hours of entertainment moving the two plastic figures around on that 10 by 10 board (again - assuming you are into that sort of thing).

At the train station:
At the bus stop:
Whilst shopping for bananas:
Or picking up a six pack:
Its the perfect gift for the modern woman on the go. Or for the modern man on the go for that matter. Again, assuming they are into that sort of thing.

Related Posts:
-Super Mario Bros Bottle Caps

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Famicom Fright Night: A Most Hideous Freak of Nature!

Yes, readers, you may well cower in fear. For I am about to unveil the most hideous freak of nature human eyes have ever been exposed to.

Just a dirty old Famicom console you say? Well then, let me show you a little something else:
Agggghh! Evil!! Spawned in the pit of ultimate darkness by the nefarious Sir Simon Milligan and his manservant Hecubus! A Famicom with both a square button and a round button controller!

Well, OK. Not that evil. Just kind of.....interesting I guess.

I found this in the junk bin yesterday at Omocha Souko. I was quite psyched when I saw the two player controller and thought `Oh great, a square button Famicom! Those things are really hard to find and.....GASP!`

The glass of sherry I had been sipping while strolling the aisles slipped through my fingers at that moment and smashed into a thousand pieces on the floor below, splattering droplets of the fortified wine on my shoes and a partial boxed set of Full House DVDs (seasons 1, 2 and 4) that had the misfortune of being displayed nearby.

It was the other controller, which had round buttons, that startled me so.

It also made me curious - was this a round button Famicom that somebody had added a square button controller to or the other way around? As there was only one way to find out, I bought it.
There are a few clues on the outside that suggested it was a square button Famicom. It didn`t have the `FF` mark on the front nameplate. Then I had a look underneath:
Yup, a smooth bottom, just like a square button Famicom.

These weren`t really proof though as some of the early round button Famicoms also sported these features. I had to open it up to check out the revision number:
Somewhere on there it had the number 3 printed, which meant that this was in fact originally a square button Famicom that at some point had its 1 player controller replaced with a round one.

I`m curious about what the story is behind this. Did somebody break their 1 player controller, send it in to Nintendo and then get it back like this? I was always under the impression that Nintendo had recalled the square button Famicoms and replaced both controllers on them rather than just one.

Or, did somebody do this on their own - cannibalize an extra round button Famicom`s controller and use it to replace the broken one? This seems more likely.

Anyway, it is now another Famicom on my pile of Famicoms. I`ll have to clean it at some point as it really is filthy. And filthiness is after all the root of all.....evil.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Whole Lot of Baseball Games

A few days ago when I walked into Omocha Souko I found that somebody had re-arranged the Famicom carts in one section of their rack so that the cart facing out on each peg was Jaleco`s Moero Pro Yakyu baseball game.

I thought that was kind of amusing and made for an interesting photo opportunity. It isn`t often that you see so many copies of the same game in one place.
Moero Pro Yakyu (released as Bases Loaded on the NES) has got to be the most common Famicom game out there. They are just everywhere. The first Family Stadium is about the only other game I can think of that is anywhere near as easy to find.

This fact acts as sort of a double edged tribute. On the one hand it indicates just how popular this game was back in 1987. They must have sold millions of copies of it for there to be this many still in existence 25 years later. Interestingly Family Stadium, the other most common Famicom cart, was also released in 1987, so that was quite a good year for Famicom baseball games.

On the other hand though it also indicates how poorly that popularity has held up over time. As with most sports games, I don`t think anybody has ever walked into a store specifically looking to buy a copy of Moero Pro Yakyu in years.

This also provides a little way of demonstrating how silly the pricing of games at Omocha Souko is. These are all the same game in basically the same condition, but the prices are all over the place. This one is selling for 100 yen (about $1.25), which is the cheapest price they normally put on any games (and it will be a hard sell even at that):
While this copy here they are asking 500 yen for (about $6):
The others all fit in somewhere between those two prices.

Anyway, I just thought that was interesting.

Related Posts
-Is it Possible to Stalk a Retro Game Store?
-Anatomy of a Japanese Video Game Store`s Retro Section

Monday, January 23, 2012

Little Family Computer Memo

I found something at Mandarake yesterday that I couldn`t resist plunking down a few hundred yen for. A teeny weeny Famicom, complete with a teeny weeny Ice Climber cart.
It isn`t even as big as a Famicom cart:
It is not, of course, a functional mini version of the Famicom. It is actually a memo pad holder:I love the fact that the memo paper has pictures of the Famicom on it:
The level of detail on something so small is quite impressive. It looks just like a real Famicom:The only thing missing is the controller wires, but otherwise its all there. Even the writing telling you where the expansion port cover is:
These were released in 2004. I have seen pictures of them on the internet from time to time but this is the first time I`ve ever actually found one. They came in five different versions: Ice Climber, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., Zelda and Dr. Mario. They only had the Ice Climber one available, which is cool as I probably would have gone for that one anyway.

The box is pretty cool too actually, very similar to the old Famicom box:
I only have 30 pages of that Family Computer paper and I doubt I`ll be able to find anymore, so I will use it sparingly.

Related Posts
-Famicom Cushions and Other Crap...Merchandise. I Mean Merchandise.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Famicom Box Art Battle: Twin Bee vs. Ice Climber

I have to say that Twin Bee and Ice Climber are two of my favorite Famicom game boxes.

The designs that Nintendo and Konami used on these early box arts are almost identical, which is a fact I find kind of interesting. They are of the same size, the artwork takes up almost the same amount of space and is in the same position on the front of the box, and the name of the game and the company name are also located in the same position.

The only real difference is that Konami made theirs orange while Nintendo made theirs gray. I`m not sure if this was due to a lack of originality on Konami`s part or just coincidence. It really seems like they just took the Nintendo design as a model for their game boxes and somebody in management said `OK, just be sure to write Konami on it and make it......oh what the hell, orange.`

I`m not sure which of these I like better. Twin Bee benefits from the strong contrast between the orange border and the blue sky in the artwork. One of the things (in fact the only thing) I remember from my high school art class is that the combination of orange and blue are supposed to be the most eye-catching mix of colors. That is why so many advertisements feature that color scheme. So Twin Bee has that going for it.

On the other hand, even though gray is generally a pretty boring color, it does seem to work quite well on the Ice Climber box. It is almost completely unnoticable when you look at it. All the viewer`s attention is focused on the artwork itself, which accentuates that most important of features. Whereas the orange of the Twin Bee box distracts, the gray of the Ice Climber box just fades into the background. We are thus left to evaluate it based mainly on the artwork itself, which I rather like. I`m not too sure why....I think it is the polar bear with the shades.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sega Mega Drive Adaptor and the Ridiculousness of 80s Sega Stuff

I fished another thing out of the Omocha Souko junk bin the other day: the Sega Mega Drive Adaptor: AKA yet another peripheral to add on to my already monstrously bloated Mega Drive confabobulatorionation.That, my friend, be a whole lot of Mega Drive. And I ain`t even put the adaptor on it yet.

I think this latest acquisition of mine provides a rather decent (and, for only 300 yen, cheap) way of illustrating the complexity of playing games on Sega Consoles from the 1980s.

To begin with it perfectly illustrates Sega`s Mega Drive-era policy of making you buy what amounts to almost an entirely new console to attach to the Mega Drive every time they introduced some new feature. In the adaptor`s case that new feature was backwards compatability with the Mega Drive`s predecessor, the Sega Mark III (AKA the Master System).

Note the complexity. If I want to play a Mark III game, I have to take the 32X attachment off. If I want to play a 32X game I have to take the Adaptor off. If I`m feeling really frisky and just want to, you know, play a regular Mega Drive game, then I have to either take the adaptor off or leave the 32X on. Everybody got that? Good.

In addition to that, for me personally at least, it also illustrates Sega`s rather silly pre-Mega Drive policy of just making you buy new consoles all the time period, at least in Japan. First they released the SG 1000 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia because I don`t have one of these):
Then they released the SG-1000 II, which I do have and I do love it so:
Then (finally) came the Mark III:
I think all of these were released over the course of a long weekend in the summer of 1983, though I`ll have to double check that.

Anyway, since my SG 1000 II cannot play carts released for the Mark III, my acquisition of the adaptor means that I can finally play the one Mark III game that I possess, baseball:
After only about 3 hours of fumbling around, PRESTO! My Mega Drive was conveniently switched from ready-to-play-32X games mode to ready-to-play-Mark III games mode:
I have to admit that I really like this adaptor. I think it looks rather sleek:
I also like the fact that the Mark III carts stick WAY out of it. No wait, I hate that fact. It means that I have to take them out every time I want to put the thing back on its shelf because the whole contraption with the CD, Mega Drive, adaptor and Mark III cart is almost waist-high.

At least it looks neat though. Yet another piece of weird 80s video game history from Japan.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mandarake Finds: Kousenjuu SP Gun and Old Japanese Star Wars Stuff

I had a nice stop in at Mandarake this afternoon, replete with purchases. Nothing makes for a nicer day than finding a few bargains. The best part was the Kousenjuu SP Light Gun, complete in its original box!
This is a light gun made by Nintendo in 1970 as the package shows:
About a year ago I found a Kousenjuu SP Electro Safari , which is basically a big target for these light guns:
You just aim the gun at the little light detector on the leopard and if you hit it, the leopard spins around. I never had a gun to test it out with though so I was psyched to find this.

Actually, I still don`t have one. This one doesn`t work, which is kind of too bad. On the other hand though I got it quite cheap and really just wanted it to look at rather than to use so I think it was a cool purchase.

Open the box up and here you go:
It even came with some pretty ancient looking Toshiba batteries.

Anyway, I love the box art:
And check out the pearl handles, John Wayne style:
It is actually quite similar to the original Famicom Light Gun:Not quite the same though, they definetely used different molds for them.

I picked up a couple of other cool, albeit non-gaming related, things while there. First, this thing, which is awesome:
A partial set of Japanese 1977 Yamakatsu / Topps Star Wars cards. I LOVE original old school Star Wars stuff like this, and I especially love finding Japanese old school Star Wars stuff. This is a little booklet and inside are a bunch of envelopes, each containing one card. A couple have been removed but most are still in there. You can`t see what cards are in the envelopes so I`m not sure which ones I got. These things are insanely rare to find still unopened like this so I`m going to keep it as is for the time being.
I also picked up a copy of the Japanese version of Starlog from 1983. The Return of the Jedi preview issue, complete with a back cover poster ad for the upcoming release:
All in all a great day. Check out Erik`s post here on Before Mario for a bit more info on this old Nintendo light gun. His is in a bit better condition than mine and probably works too!

Related Posts:
- Flea Market Finds: Nintendo Batting Practice with Koichi Tabuchi and Sadaharu Oh
- Nintendo Color TV Game 15
- Mega Bargain of the Day Kousenjuu SP Electro Safari