Archive for April, 2013

Zap Pax Video Game Cards

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

One of the relics of the 80’s and 90’s that I kind of miss seeing is the video game trading card. They were kind of like baseball cards, but for video games. Or, to put it another way, they were like Pok√©mon TCG cards, except you couldn’t play a game with them, and they covered more than one game.

So, totally rad, in other words.

Zap Pax Unopened Box

Enter the Zap Pax, pictured here in Unopened Box Form(tm).

These are trading cards that feature Battletoads, Adventure Island, and… probably others?

To be honest, I just couldn’t bring myself to rip open the plastic and kill the collector’s value of these things, so I don’t really know what they look like. The Internet is surprisingly unhelpful here. Outside of the odd eBay auction, there don’t seem to be too many pictures of these things floating around out there, either. That’s too bad, because after all this time, I kind of wanted to see what was in my box, without actually opening my box.

I suppose I won’t be able to do one without doing the other, but I can dream, can’t I?



Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As I’m looking back at the things I’ve collected over the years, I can’t help but notice that I’ve gotten a lot of Pac-Man stuff. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, even though I’m pretty sure he’s not as popular as he was a few years ago, he was absolutely huge in his day, and I was around for most of that day. But he’s still around, and tends to pop up from time to time in the most bizarre places. For instance, take a look at this:


What we have here is a couple of bears wearing 3D-glasses (you know, like everyone did in the 80’s), and on their bellies, we have… Inky and Pinky?

A closer look at the tags reveals that these are a product of the Peek-A-Boo Toy Company


Which has only been around since 1995, meaning that these can’t possibly be authentic 80s toys. They don’t appear in their current catalog, either, and I can’t find anything else on the Internet about them, so I’m forced to make the following conclusions:

  • These were made for a carnival or fair and distributed as prizes
  • They’re some kind of throwback, retro thing to get parents to spend money to try and win a reminder of their childhood
  • They’re totally rad to the max!

But now I kind of think I need to try and find the other two… assuming there are two more.


Doc’s Fix-A-System Plus

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Let’s suppose for a moment that you’re around in the late 80’s / early 90’s. Let’s further assume that you have more than one video game console (I know, that only happens to movie stars and oil barons, but bear with me). Let’s even further assume that you would want to keep your systems clean for some reason, and the thought of buying one kit for each system seems like a gigantic waste of your money. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were some kind of thing you could buy that would allow you to do all of that tedious maintenance on all of your systems?

Well, behold!


Once again, the third parties come to the rescue.

The solution here is actually pretty ingenious. You have a hunk of plastic that attaches to the end of a cartridge for each of the supported systems. You just attach it to the cartridge of your choice, insert and remove it from your systems a few times, and you’re good to go. It also has something called a ‘detergent-based cleaning solution’ that you add to the ‘cleaning wand’ to scrub the contacts of your games clean. This is a little more involved than the official NES cleaning kit method, and is probably not designed to have you buy refills of the cleaner over and over again.

Probably not.

But this thing definitely doesn’t hurt to use. Unless you leave a ton of the cleaning gunk on your games and it dries up in there, I guess. That could be bad.

So, don’t do that, okay?


NES Cleaning Kit

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

We’ve all been there. Practically since the old style NES was a thing, games almost immediately didn’t work right. The screen blinks, stutters, has scrambled graphics, whatever. There are lots of homebrew methods to get the problem fixed (most of which are not recommended) from blowing on the contacts (quick fix, not recommended), to cracking open the cartridges and using oven cleaner (quick fix, absolutely not recommended), to using high-grit sandpaper (substantial chance of ruining the cartridge immediately, not recommended except as a last resort in the most extreme cases), to a cotton swab and alcohol (generally recommended, but it’s kind of labor intensive, so most people hate to do it).

But let’s say you’re a kid in the 80’s and 90’s. You don’t really want to fiddle with any of the above methods. I mean, trying to find and use a security bit, then spend what could amount to hours taking apart and swabbing cartridges? No thanks! But, what if you had… This?!

NES Cleaning Kit Box

An actual cleaning kit? Manufactured and endorsed by Nintendo? Well, that could be just fun enough to be worth it.

Opening the box reveals a few interesting goodies.

NES Cleaning Kit contents

It’s got a usage manual, a little scrubber, and a vaguely NES-shaped cartridge thingy. The scrubber is made to clean the gunk out of your NES cartridges. You wet the dark end with either distilled water, or a 50/50 mix of water and isopropyl alcohol, then scrub your cartridge. Shockingly, this is the same method that I recommended above, only with a giant scrubby pad instead of a flimsy cotton swab.

The other piece is for cleaning on of the neglected bits when people clean their NES games, cleaning the connector inside the system itself. All that funky junk on the contacts of the games you’re wedging into your NES is also getting on those contacts inside the NES, keeping them from making good contact. And, if you’re like me, you don’t really want to take the whole NES apart if you don’t have to, so this lets you at least attempt to clean the innards of your system with a minimum of fuss.

And, given that the NES is coming up on 30 years old, I think that’s something that I can get behind.

Super Mario Bros. Electronic Pinball Game

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

The pinball machine I talked about the other day was pretty awesome, and practically anyone with a passing interest in the Mario universe would love to have one. But arcade quality pinball machines are big, expensive, and kind of a pain to maintain. That’s why things like this exist. Or, rather, used to exist.


It’s the home version!


Okay, it takes a few liberties with the design and simplifies it a bit. All you really have are bumpers. But you have 3(!) flippers and a working scoreboard. That’s pretty rad, right?


That reminds me, I need to get some batteries for this thing so I can play it and try to set a high score. Shouldn’t be too tough… right? I mean, getting 4 D-Cells shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

Super Mario Bros. Mushroom World Pinball

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I’d like to set a scene for you. It’s summer, I have a week off work, and no plans. I decide to go to a little pizza joint in a small Indiana town for a little pizza and just to see what I can find. Like most pizza joints, this place has one video game: a Super Mario Bros. pinball machine?

Mushroom World Pinball

Mushroom World Pinball

Mushroom World Pinball

It’s kind of hard to tell from these pictures, but the machine is a little on the small side. It’s apparently something called a “Kid’s Size”. Which means that the playfield is smaller, and a bit simpler than your standard pinball machine. It also has a spot on the side where it could dispense tickets, if it was so equipped. This one had it covered up, so I doubt it did much.

And I really wanted to play it, but I stuck in a quarter and… nothing. Called the manager over who reset the machine, put in another quarter and… nothing.

So, I didn’t get to play this machine, which was kind of a shame. I really wanted to (and still do want to). I should probably go back up there some day and see if the machine is still in place and if they ever got it fixed.

But until then, here’s a video of someone else playing one.

Allright! Road trip time!

Nintendo Game and Watch

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

If you’ve spent any time at all with the Smash Bros. series of games, you’ll have dealt with Mr. Game and Watch. Which is a really weird for a video game character. And it kind of fits, since Mr. Game and Watch is a weird video game character in his own right.

But what is a Game and Watch? This! Behold!

Game and Watch

I admit, it’s bigger than I expected.

This specific Game and Watch is Donkey Kong, and with its two(!) screens adequately recreates the basic Donkey Kong experience. So, Game: Check.

Game and Watch open

It also has a built in clock to help you tell time. I’m pretty sure that in the 80’s you were legally bound to put a clock in anything that had an LCD display. But I’ve been conditioned to think of ‘wrist watch’ when I think of the word ‘watch’, so the size of this thing caught me a little bit off guard. But, trying to get a serviceable Donkey Kong experience on a device that would fit on my wrist would be pretty difficult, especially with the limited animation these things could do. My guess is that the clock was added mostly because it could be sold as a game that is also a clock, so it’s a useful tool.

And 30 years later, it’s still fun… assuming you remember to buy batteries for it. Who decided that this thing would use button batteries, anyway?

Final Fantasy Map

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

You may or may not know the story behind Final Fantasy, and why, if it’s got ‘final’ in the name, that there are more than 14 games in the main series and lots of offshoots. And why most of the games aren’t actually sequels to anything. And lots of other questions. It’s interesting reading in its own right, but that’s not really what we’re here to talk about today. Today we’re going to talk about the first Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy. Pedantics would like to remind you that the game is not called “Final Fantasy 1″, since most games that aren’t conceived as a series start out with a 1 in their name, but that’s an argument for another time.

The first Final Fantasy was your prototypical fantasy hack ‘n’ slash / adventure / light role-playing game that introduced us to pretty good idea of what a JRPG could be. In your box you got your game, your manual, and a few helpful maps and charts on a poster. Like this:

Final Fantasy Map Side 1

Final Fantasy Map Side 2

It’s kind of interesting how I got this thing. I was making my typical rounds around the city on a cool Saturday morning looking for a yard sale, when I found one that had a bin full of video game goodies for $2, this map included. I thought that was a pretty sweet score, so I held on to it. Even though this guy didn’t have a Final Fantasy cartridge, I actually already had one from another transaction, so I’m most of the way to having a complete set.

Oh, I’d also like to make some higher-resolution scans of this thing, but my scanner is too small and it won’t fit. So, sorry about that. But, hey, this is better than nothing, right?