1. Vanguard – Before my NES, I had an Atari 2600. There was no shortage of games available for the 2600 (I was particularly obsessed with Montezuma’s Revenge), but the game that sticks out in my mind as my favorite at the time was one that I didn’t even own. Our neighbors across the street, the Hundleys, were an older couple. They had no children my age, but they had a great cocker spaniel named Gypsy who I loved and would cross the street to play with on a pretty regular basis. The husband, Charles, was an avid computer fan and a gamer (a rarity for an adult in the early 80s), and through my visits I was exposed to PC programming, PC gaming, and the Atari 5200. The 5200 was like a Cadillac compared the the 2600’s Ford Taurus, and I was hooked from the start. One game in particular, Vanguard, really got me.
Vanguard was a thrilling space odyssey, with a host of different worlds to encounter. I was really impressed at the time by both the visual variety of the levels and the relative freedom you were given within them; it was a side-scrolling shooter, but you were able to move in all directions. I loved it. I tried to play it recently and made myself stop. Some things are better left to nostalgia.
Here’s a Japanese flyer for the arcade release. What!
And here’s a video featuring some of the gameplay:
2. Balloon Land – Here’s a pretty fantastic cartoon produced in 1935 by Ub Iwerks between his periods of employment to Walt Disney.
3. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders – One of my favorite MST3k episodes, Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is actually a Frankenstein of several worse movies. These movies mixed together into a sort of bad-movie stew, stirred by Ernest Borgnine. The gist of it was that Merlin ended up running a shop in 1980s America; the shop was pretty big and had dragons and trolls and forests in it. Some of the humans that came in would take some of the magic out of the shop with them, and that would cause them some trouble. Another story is shoehorned in where a freaky devil-monkey-toy of Merlin’s goes missing, and causes some problems for a kid and his dad and their dog. Deliciously terrible movie. I found the poster for it this week:
That babe clinging to Merlin is his wife. Why is she painted as a vixen like that? She’s a total Mrs. Claus in the movie. Also of note, Balloon Land is shown on the tv in one shot of this movie!
“Remember to believe in magic, or I’ll kill you.”
4. Wuzzles – One of the weirder toy ideas from Disney in the 80s were the Wuzzles, a series of stuffed hybrid animals that defied anatomy and common sense. The matchups were strange; there was a lion/bumblebee, a butterfly/bear, a rhinoceros/monkey… it’s tough to figure out just how their bodies might have worked. There was also a cartoon. Here’s the intro:
5. Video Game ads – Bringing it back to video games, Retrospace has some ads that span the years. There’s some great stuff here. Here are some of my favorites, but be sure to hit the link and check out the rest:
That guy LOOKS like a Jedi Master!