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Blast from the Past: Scarab of Ra video game for Macs

Scarab of Ra game for Mac
Scarab of Ra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1987. Ah, the good old days. Guns ‘N’ Roses was just hitting big. Nintendo was at the top of the video game market. Spider-Man hadn’t yet been cloned (at least not that we knew of).

A couple of other things happened in 1987.

For one, Apple released its Macintosh SE personal computer, which was a big improvement over earlier Macs and quite a popular computer for the next decade or so even though Apple stopped making the SE in 1990. Sure, the SE was a dull gray and had a bulky mouse, but it came with its own hard drive! Yeah, doesn’t sound like such a big deal now, but it was huge back then.

Another thing that happened in 1987 was a company known as Semicolon Software released a Mac game for shareware. That game? Scarab of Ra. Continue reading Blast from the Past: Scarab of Ra video game for Macs

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Blast from the Past: Adventure video game for Atari 2600

“Adventure” for the Atari 2600. It looks simple, and was, but it still provided plenty of fun.
The original box for the “Adventure” video game. The Atari 2600 cartridge came inside.

There was a time when video games were pretty much just sports games, shooting games or some variant of sports or shooting games. Action games weren’t around yet and most RPGs were years away.
When was such a barbaric time? The late 1970s.

But into that age came a little game known as Adventure. It came out in 1979 and was made for the Atari 2600 home video game system.

By today’s standards, Adventure would be a pretty dull game. Simplistic, blocky graphics. Next to no sound. Gameplay so easy it could be considered laughable.

But that’s today. In 1979, Adventure was … in a word … awesome!

Atari 2600
The cartridge for playing “Adventure.”

How do you play? You control a little blip on the screen that goes around castles and through mazes to find various objects that are needed in a quest to garner a golden chalice and return it to the main castle. Such objects included a sword to fight off three dragons, keys to enter castles, a magic bridge and a magnet. The basic version of the game could be played in just a few minutes, a long, long way from today’s video RPGs that sometimes take weeks upon weeks to finish.

Adventure also goes down in history. For one thing, it is the very first video game to include an easter egg. What is this easter egg? In a secret room there are the words “Created by Warren Robinett,” who was the maker of Adventure for Atari. How do you get to this secret room? I’m not going to tell! What fun would that be?

Another innovation with Adventure is that it is the very first action-adventure video game!

Being a simple game, once you’ve played Adventure a handful of times, you’ve done just about everything the game has to offer. But it’s still plenty of fun. Or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking. Either way, it was a blast to plug in the old Atari 2600 and warm up Adventure one more time.

Atari 2600
Yes, that’s a dragon in the middle of this screen shot from “Adventure.”
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Blast from the Past: Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series

blast from the past dungeons & dragons animated
The first 9 episodes only cost me 99 cents. May you be so lucky, if you choose.

1983 was a big year for me. Over the summer I turned 14, and in the fall I would begin ninth grade, kicking off my high school years as a freshman. But more importantly, it was a big year for my role-playing habits.

TSR’s sci-fi game Star Frontiers had been out for a year and was coming out with new products left and right. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was riding high with a ton of new modules, including the original Ravenloft module (the maps!), and even the D&D Basic Set was getting a slight reworking with a new boxed set. Then towards the end of the year there hints of something major coming from TSR in 1984, and eventually that would be known as Dragonlance.

So, 1983 had a lot happening in the worlds of D&D. But perhaps the most noticeable, at least for the 13-soon-14-year-old me was the Dungeons & Dragons animated TV series.

blast from the past dungeons & dragons animated
Our heroes. Yep, that’s Bobby the Barbarian at center.

Saturday morning cartoons were a huge deal then, and TSR big shot Gary Gygax had pulled off the unthinkable when he traveled to Hollywood and got Marvel Productions (yes, of the comic book Marvel company) and Teoi Animation of Japan involved with this new animated show. Continue reading Blast from the Past: Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series

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Blast from the Past: Transformers: The Movie

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The Transformers in all their heroic glory. Oh, how soon the mighty would fall.

With the live-action Transformers movies of the last decade, it can be easy for some fans to forget the franchise was originally a cartoon series back in the 1980s, a series based upon a line of toys produced by Hasbro. Also, some fans might be too young to know about the old cartoons, and they might have missed the spectacle that was Transformers: The Movie from 1986.

When the movie hit theaters, the TV cartoon already had been running strong for a couple of years along with a comic book series from Marvel. Autobot characters like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Jazz had become fan favorites while everyone loved to hate the evil Decepticons, such as Megatron, Thundercracker and Soundwave.

Most of the fans were young at the time, and soon many of them came to trust the world of and the storytelling about the Transformers.

Which was why more than a few fans were surprised by the events that took place in the 1986 movie.

This is Megatron. You can probably tell he’s a bad guy.

Transformers died. No, they were killed, out-and-out murdered. This film was a no-holds-barred match between the Autobots and the Decipticons, and both sides paid a heavy price. The nice little television cartoon about robots wanting to protect the world and save the universe had become something of a bloodbath on the big screen.

There was some little outcry, but this was a decade or so before the Internet and it wasn’t as easy to voice one’s opinion publicly, let alone stir up any serious outrage. So, viewers made their opinion known the old-fashioned way. They voted with their wallets.

The Transformers movie pretty much tanked in the theaters. According to author Stephen Kline’s 1993 book Out of the Garden, about marketing to young people, Hasbro lost more than $10 million between The Transformers film and a My Little Pony movie.

Things didn’t look good for Hasbro, or the Transformers.

Apparently Hasbro had wanted many of the Transformers killed off in the movie so the company could bring out a new toy line of the robot warriors. Even the famous Optimus Prime was killed off, though Hasbro eventually brought him back in the animated TV show.

That really big ball is Unicron. He’s a giant robot that can change himself into a planet. So that he can eat other planets. Gulp.

Still, several decades later, Transformers: The Movie has something of a fan following. Though one might argue the artistic worth or entertainment value of The Transformers in general, or individual Transformers projects, there can be little doubt that these robot protectors continue to hold popularity. Every few years there’s a new live-action film or animated special. Despite Hasbro’s best attempts in the 1986 movie, The Transformers just won’t die.

Nowadays Autobots and Decepticons alike are killed off time and time again, only to rise once more at a later date, but all the butchery started with a movie back in the ’80s.

But the next time you watch some Transformer action on the tube, the big screen, or the computer monitor, remember to Stay Nerdy!