Category Archives: Video Game Articles/News

Don’t Worry – His Sega-Phaser was set to stun!

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Every Sega fanboy knows that outside of Japan the one country where the Sega Master System was loved the most was Brazil. This country kept their beloved 8-bit system alive until 1997 long after other countries had not only moved on from it but the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive too and were now on the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. One of the accessories of the Sega Master System was the Light Phaser.

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The Light Phaser was intended to compete with Nintendo’s Zapper and there was even a similar game to Duck Hunt, the most iconic Zapper game ever, for Sega’s rival. Known as Safari Hunt (well imitation is the highest form of flattery), the game had the player shooting at all kinds of animals such as ducks, monkeys and endangered species such as the Jaguar (perhaps someone had a premonition about Atari on that one). At the end of the game there is a message that would never appear in a game today (see image on the right).

Classic Japanese-English translation spelling mistakes aside; the game actually says that the player is ready to go hunting with a real gun now. Can you imagine the response this would get today? Anyway, moving back to Brazil a minute the message must have lost a little more in the translation into Brazilian and came out as “the light phaser is now a real gun” because in 2009 armed Police went rushing to a 60 year old woman’s house after she had been taken hostage by a man brandishing a “long barrelled gun”. The Police tactical response teams sealed off the house and began negotiations by which time they had realized that the “gun” was in fact a Sega Light Phaser with the cable cut off. At this point however he had ditched his Light Phaser and was now brandishing genuinely lethal knives he had taken from the woman’s house. Fortunately after a 10 hour stand off he gave himself up.

Thank God he was a Sega fanboy however. Imagine how the Brazilian Police would have responded if he was a Nintendo fan and used one of these…

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Time Travelling Games for the Master System

Its no secret that I am something of a fan of the Sega Master System. Its the console I have the fondest memories of from growing up and its the console that I like to prioritise when it comes to getting games for my retro gaming collection. However if there is one thing about the Master System I am not overly keen on it was their early case designs. Often they were comical when the game was meant to be serious but above all they were quite bland. Fortunately they only went this route for a short time and to encourage sales they started making their cases far more interesting.

However just for fun I thought I would take three iconic games of the more recent era and make an early style Sega Master System case for them (I had a spare hour). This is what I came up with.

East vs. West – whose consoles looked better?

In the late 1980s Japan well and truly conquered the video game market but no doubt they were quite fearful of a repeat of the 1983 North American video game crash (click here for my article on that event) because they must have felt that their console, the Famicom, was too Japanese for Americans. As such they redesigned its look and this was a fashion that Nintendo followed up with the Super Famicom and indeed so did their main rival Sega. In this article I am going to compare the looks of the Japanese versions of consoles to their western counterparts and then offer an opinion as to which looked better. Please bare in mind this is MY opinion only.

So let’s go…

Famicom vs. Nintendo Entertainment System 

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The Famicom (Family Computer) was launched a full two years before the NES but let’s be honest for a minute it certainly looked better. The NES’ design is Nintendo clearly playing it safe again most likely as a result of the 1983 crash. Three tones of grey (see, I managed to avoid a 50 Shades of Grey reference) gave the NES  rather bland look compared to its Japanese brother and it is for that reason that Japan wins this round. It seems as I am not alone here in thinking the NES could have done with a splash of colour. Just click here to view my article on custom NES consoles.

WINNER – Famicom


Sega Mark III vs. Sega Master System

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Nintendo’s biggest rival, Sega, also felt their 8-bit answer to the Famicom, the Mark III, needed to be westernized. They too must have thought their console was too bright for North American and European eyes because the Master System emerged in a rather menacing black and red colour with a front cover designed to emulate the trend in VCR designs. In fact the Master System wouldn’t look too out of place on a TV cabinet with the VHS or Betamax player alongside it and that was probably the intention. In choosing a winner I have to say the Master System looked the better of the two designs. It was meaner looking than either the Mark III, Famicom or the NES.

WINNER – Master System


Super Famicom vs. Super Nintendo (US)

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This is an American-only affair. Somehow Nintendo North felt only North Americans needed a redesigned Super Famicom. Everyone else such as Europe had the same design of Super Famicom (rebranded as the Super Nintendo or SNES) as the Japanese did. Instead of the rounded and smooth design of the Japanese/European model, American consumers got a clunkier looking machine with hard straight surfaces. In this instance its kind of like comparing a Toyota Supra with an American muscle car. The winner here is obvious.

WINNER – Super Famicom


By this point Sega had decided on adopting a universal design for its answer to the Super Famicom/SNES. The 16-bit Mega Drive did have to change one thing however and that is it was rebranded as the Sega Genesis. As far as I can tell even in the States a large number of people refer to the console as the Mega Drive so was it really necessary? Who knows?

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Thanks for reading…

GAME ARTICLE: Atari’s “Hot” commercial on the eve of its downfall

Tony Wilkins spies an old Atari 5200 commercial released on the eve of the 1983 video games crash.


“Nobody’s hotter than Atari this summer.”

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Two ridiculously beautiful girls and three obscenely masculine men stomp across a beach in what appears to be an early MTV video to a soundtrack proclaiming that nobody was hotter than Atari that golden summer of 1983. The footage culminates in the five of them playing an Atari 5200 on the beach with the images projected in the sky and I will be honest here for a minute; that looks like a pretty awesome idea. But behind the cheese of this macho 1980s scene the truth was that the home video games industry was on the verge of its equivalent to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.

You can understand why Atari thought it was the hottest thing. Between 1977 and 1982 the home game console market exploded and there were more consoles around than ever with Atari’s iconic 2600 leading the charge. Supporting these consoles were numerous third party developers bringing out game after game with some console libraries being truly immense. Then in 1983 everything went wrong. The market collapsed in spectacular fashion to the point where had it not been for Japan’s growing games console development it would have been very likely that games consoles would be remembered in the same way we remember laser disc players now.

So what happened?

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There were numerous reasons the market went bust in 1983. One big reason was that personal computers could play games as well as handle your taxes and compose letters and offered new threats to the console market. This was a bigger thing in Europe rather than the US where marketing campaigns told parents that game consoles rotted their children’s minds while PCs could open their minds. Another factor was US inflation which was damaging the economy as a whole.

The truth is though the market itself was to blame. As I said there were more consoles than ever and more games than ever to the point where the market was truly flooded and many stores actually found themselves lacking the space to store the latest titles. This meant that in the age before online buying many game developers failed to make a profit on their games because not enough people were buying them. The real problem was that console manufacturers such as Atari lost control of the games developed for their console. Anyone who had the means to produce a game and publish it on a cartridge could make a game for an Atari 2600 and often the games made were very clear rip offs of more successful games. To add insult to injury many of the high profile games that came out flopped quite publicly the most notorious of which was the now legendary ET – The Extra Terrestrial game.

The collapse lasted between 1983 and 1985 but it in that time the casualty list read like a World War I battle;

  • Atari 2600………………………………………………………………………….Wounded In Action
  • Atari 5200……………………………………………………………………………….Killed In Action
  • Bally Astrocade………………………………………………………………………..Killed In Action
  • CollecoVision…………………………………………………………………………..Killed In Action
  • Commodore 64…………………………………………………………………..Wounded In Action
  • Emerson Arcadia 2001………………………………………………………………Killed In Action
  • Fairchild Channel F…………………………………………………………………..Killed In Action
  • Magnavox Odyssey²………………………………………………………………….Killed In Action
  • Mattel Intellivision……………………………………………………………………Killed In Action
  • Vectrex…………………………………………………………………………………….Killed In Action

…to name but a few. Incredibly there were a host of games consoles that were simply rebranded as something else like the CollecoVision Gemini which is in fact an Atari 2600. Both the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64 did survive the crash but their glory days were effectively over especially with the arrival of the all-conquering NES.

Nintendo did effectively save the home console market with its NES but even that felt the damage caused by the crash. Even being called a home games console was a hindrance with many toy retailers fearful of a repeat of the 1983 crash refusing to sell it at first with those that did doing everything they could to call it something else. NES proved one of the most successful consoles ever. With much of the competition dead and buried and its performance being noticeably better than the pre-crash machines it went on to outsell everything with Sega’s Master System struggling to catch up.

Atari would never fully recover however. It continued making Atari 2600s and its clones until the early 1990s but every new console it came out with never really challenged Nintendo (and the increasingly hostile Sega). The Atari Jaguar was a sad end to Atari’s line.