1. Robo Force – Created in 1984 by Ideal Toys, the Robo Force was a team of Dalek-ish robots that fought against a team of less noble Dalek-ish robots to keep the galaxy safe. Ish.
The toyline was centered around Maxx Steele, the leader of the Robo Force. The robot design is neat but all of the robots basically looked like different skins of each other.
What’s impressive here isn’t necessarily the toyline itself but the length to which Ideal took this franchise. There’s the obvious toy and toy-show tie-in, but also things like books on tape…
…punch-out (awesome) paper toys…
…and life-sized butler robots that you can either buy for tons of money or win through Alpha-Bits!
Here’s the half-hour special that aired in 1984, with a pretty awesome M&M’s live-action/animated hybrid commercial at the top!
2. The Legend of Zelda CD-i – It’s weird to think of a video game series as highly regarded as The Legend of Zelda as being fallible, but the franchise actually had some pretty huge missteps. There’s a way that this isn’t Nintendo’s fault; in the early ’90s Philips was launching a CD-based console and secured the rights from Nintendo to use their characters in third-party games. So Nintendo didn’t make these atrocities, they just sort of sold Link out. Whatever the cause, whoever the culprit, these games were made and they’re deliciously bad.
The first two, Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon are (poorly) animated interactive titles. There are arguably good RPG/Adventure game mechanics that are diluted by clunky gameplay and lengthy (poorly) animated cutscenes. Like these:
Here’s a Let’s Play of Faces of Evil – skip a bit in to see the gameplay.
Zelda’s Adventure, released in 1994, ditched the animation for something worse: live action.
The intro was acted out with actual people, and the game itself had sort of a photorealistic style:
I mean, it’s worth pointing out that this was the early ’90s, the technology hadn’t worked itself out yet, these were pretty ambitious projects for the time, etc…but the bottom line is that the products were bad. Really bad! They charged money for this!
3. UFO – From Gerry Anderson, he of Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds, comes a gorgeous 1970s sci-fi series called UFO.
The series takes place in 1980 (an ambitious projection of the level of technology we’d have just ten years from “now”), and focuses on an alien invasion of Earth. The Earthlings have an obvious interest in repelling the alien invasion and a slightly-less obvious interest in keeping the invasion from being public knowledge, so they hide a resistance force in a movie studio. Called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation), the Earthlings use air, sea, land, and space to navigate the alien threat.
There’s nothing about this that I don’t like! From the absurd premise to the Prisoner-like intro to the style and effects to the 1970s-level grassroots fandom, I can’t understand how this show wasn’t more popular than it was. The series made it 26 episodes, and was cancelled in 1971.
Here’s some of the licensed stuff for the series as well as the fan-based stuff. It’s all rad.
A magazine feature with the specifics of one of the ships:
A fan-made blueprint of another craft:
And a gorgeous tie-in comic.
4. Remco Drive In- A toy for the more boring among us, here’s a 1950s drive in playset that lets you adjust the marquee to promote a bunch of different movies!
But you couldn’t actually show those movies. Only promote them on the marquee.
That kid’s awful acting at the end is really charming, though!
5. EVE Soundtrack – I could never get into the gameplay of EVE: Online, but I loved the setting and the idea of it. And the soundtrack is something else. Ambient music fans, you owe it to yourself to hear at least a part of this but really, just put the whole six hours on.