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Offbeat Hall of Fame

Final Fantasy photo
Final Fantasy

Disney Princesses get Final Fantasy jobs

Have you ever seen a Snow White-Mage?
Nov 05
// Abel Girmay
Have you ever been so angry you tackled a horse? Have you ever been so happy you hugged a pigeon? Hello and welcome, ladies and gents, to today's edition of weirdness brought to you by Imgur user GimmeSomthinToShop. Today, le...

Offbeat Hall of Fame: Nintendo Super Power Supplies

Dec 09 // Tony Ponce
It's easy to forget just how great we have it these days. In the early 90s, aside from the rare Mario or Sonic merch, there was next to nothing on store shelves to feed our gaming appetites when we weren't actually playing games. The Internet has helped to turn the once isolated gaming community into a powerful network linked via cyberspace. Serving such people is as simple as making goods available anywhere. If it exists, we'll find it. This is why digital storefronts like Fangamer and Meat Bun can be so successful. Literally anything you may want in order to express your gaming passion, from toys to music to clothing to the odd bit of paraphernalia, can be yours with a quick Google search and a few mouse clicks. Toss it all in a virtual basket and punch in a credit card number or PayPal password, and within a week your newest gadget or fashion statement will be in your hands. Back in the 90s, ordering anything from the comfort of your home meant suffering the dreaded six-to-eight-week delivery period. If you phoned in your order, you might shave a week or two off that delivery time. Either way, you were waiting at least a full month before anything arrived. By then you probably forgot you had ordered anything at all! On the flip side, coming home to a strange parcel on your doorstep was a little like Christmas. You wondered, what could it be? It's only when you saw the sender's address that you remembered what it was, then you tore open the box like a feverish child. There's nothing quite like being pleasantly surprised by something you forgot was coming in the mail. Nintendo Power's Super Power Supplies catalog was really something out of a young Nintendo child's wildest fantasies. In many ways, it was the precursor to Club Nintendo. Only you spent real money instead of virtual coins. And there was more stuff to buy. And the selection wasn't shit. After launching in 1994, new editions of the catalog would arrive seasonally, swapping out older items with newer ones that ranged from practical to downright strange. I mean, there was a 6.5' Donkey Kong Country inflatable raft shaped like a giant banana! I would love to meet the dude who still has one of those stuffed away in his garage! Of course, there were always items to help with your ever-growing NP library -- plastic protectors, magazine binders and racks, and a full suite of Player's Guides. For your hardware storage needs, you had travel bags for handhelds, organizers for home consoles, and cases to keep the dust out of loose game cartridges. Nintendo gave us the means to fortify our gaming collection against any and all types of damage and degradation. I paid an extra close eye on the available soundtracks. To this day, physical game albums are treated as a pointless novelty by most Western publishers, while Japan gets CDs for even the crappiest of C-grade filth. Nintendo seems especially averse to selling its music -- we're lucky that the Super Mario Galaxy games got the full CD treatment, but it still took a lot of teeth-pulling just to convince Nintendo to bundle the first Galaxy's OST with American Wiis. It wasn't always like that. There was a time when Nintendo happily produced albums for all its biggest software hits and made them available for the NP army. You wanted Killer Cuts, the aptly titled Killer Instinct soundtrack? It was yours! You wanted a trilogy set that included the music from Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, and Mario Kart 64? No problem, son! You wanted Play It Loud!, a compilation CD that pulled tracks from Super Nintendo titles like F-Zero, Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, and more? Ain't no thing but a chicken wing! My very first game soundtrack purchase was DK Jamz, the Donkey Kong Country OST. I bought that sucker on cassette -- remember those things? You had to rewind them and shit? I loved it! I didn't even own an SNES, much less the game itself, but combined with my copy of the DKC Player's Guide, I felt like I knew that game inside and out. But the best were the special goodies brought out to commemorate Nintendo Power's 100th issue. You could score an "NP100"-stamped watch, T-shirt, or set of collector's coins, or you could hold out for the limited-edition gold N64 controller and Game Boy Pocket. I skipped out on the Game Boy (kinda wish I hadn't) but snatched up the controller. When that hotness showed up at my house two months later, I became the god of GoldenEye 007. I was invincible! Suck on THAT, Gold Nunchuk! I never did buy all that much stuff from Super Power Supplies -- there was no way my parents were buying anything over the phone with a credit card, and they saw mail order offers as not quite a scam but close enough to one. I was lucky enough to receive the items that I did; for the rest, I gazed longingly upon those pages. Take usual fare such as shirts, hoodies, jackets, watches, plush dolls, action figures, wall clocks, console decals, hats, and posters, then toss in amazing pieces of gaming memorabilia like Yoshi's Island animation cels or Donkey Kong Country Blockbuster Video competition carts, and you've got Super Power Supplies. And when you consider that this was merely supplementary to the Nintendo Power reading experience, you can understand how it was so easy to get caught up in Nintendo mania. Nintendo Power was a phenomenon, plain and simple. There will never be anything like it ever again, and that makes me incredibly sad. At the same time, I'm thankful that I was able to be part of a movement that literally changed my life and the lives of millions of others. And if I was able to score some sweet gaming swag out of the deal, so much the better!
Super Power Supplies photo
Nintendo Power had awesome merch
[Offbeat Hall of Fame is a showcase of the cool, often bizarre products and media from years past that celebrate videogames and gamer culture.] Have you picked up your copy of the final Nintendo Power yet? Looking through it ...

Offbeat Hall of Fame: The bizarre Mega Man TV soundtracks

Dec 11 // Tony Ponce
Well, that's not entirely true -- the songs were featured on the show very briefly. During the first season, the end credits theme was just an instrumental version of the title theme. During the second season, songs from various artists of the time played instread. It was these credits themes, which had no connection to the show whatsoever aside from these brief appearances, that were compiled for the official soundtrack. Yeah, it's one of those "inspired by" deals that a lot of record labels love to shove onto folks to squeeze them out of their hard-earned money. Whether the music is good or not is irrelevant when the publishers are obviously trying to cash in on a popular name, and this practice needs to stop. They are glorified mixtapes, the kind that teenagers would make to remind themselves of a particularly uneventful summer or to impress their latest high school fling. [embed]217605:42039:0[/embed] The Mega Man soundtrack, released in April 1996, consists mostly of rock and is rounded out by a hip hop joint, a couple of house tracks, and one hilariously out-of-place reggae number. (Someone explain to me exactly what element of the show that was inspired by. Rasta Man? I must have missed that episode.) I would be seriously impressed if anyone could recognize half the artists represented. The biggest name on the list is probably Skid Row, contributing "Eilieen" as heard above. Beyond that, though? Pfft. [embed]217605:42031:0[/embed] Good gracious, this CD is strange. Listen to the lead track "Driver" by The Hollowbodies. There was that one episode where Mega drove a sports car; I guess that counts as an inspiration. He was escorting a trio of high school troublemakers to their community service assignments, so his actions don't quite synch up with the themes from the song. Doesn't matter. Whatever tenuous connection I can make, I'll make! [embed]217605:42032:0[/embed] Here's "Sinnerman" by Extra Fancy. Remember that Robot Master? From that one game? Sinner Man gave Mega the Debauchery Cannon and was weak against Bible Man's Hail Mary Shield. Or am I remembering things incorrectly? Yes, I probably am. I don't know why, but this song reminds me of Ghost Rider for some reason. Since Ghost Rider is in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Mega Man's face is on a poster in one of the levels, they totally were in the same game together. By that logic, "Sinnerman" is three degrees from Mega Man, and that's close enough for me! [embed]217605:42033:0[/embed] Let's talk about that hip hop track, "Realms of Junior M.A.F.I.A. Pt. 2" by Junior M.A.F.I.A. Ever heard one of the group's cuts? They aren't exactly family-friendly. For this album, every other word got bleeped out, yet the record label still botched the job by missing key phrases like "blunt," "dick," "getting high," and "your girl's slobbing me." Wouldn't make a difference anyway -- the song is about dealing drugs. The only way to properly sanitize it would be to not include it on a friggin' kids' album in the first place. Maybe this song was included to serve as an allusion to Dr. Wily's gritty lifestyle. He's gotta make the money to maintain his Skull Fortress and all his equipment after all, and I highly doubt any legitimate business would accept his resume. His only option is to deal on the streets. Dude is straight thuggin'. [embed]217605:42034:0[/embed] Oh goodie! The "Mega Man Theme" is the closing track! The album is redeemed! Ha. No. This is misdirection at its finest. You think you are getting a full version of the show's opening theme song, but instead you get kicked in the nuts. Fifteen seconds in, you hear some deep-voiced brute speak "Mega Man," then He repeats that one line throughout the six-minute runtime. Congratulations on making a "theme song" with even fewer lyrics than the original theme. Really, you guys should be proud. I'm super grateful that I picked this album up as an adult, because I can only imagine how heartbroken 10-year-old me would have been had I received it when it first came out. At least now I can laugh at its absurdity and novelty, but I feel bad for kids who were duped into thinking a Mega Man CD would actually have anything to do with Mega Man. You may be wondering why I wrote "soundtracks," plural, up in the header as if to insinuate that there was more than one of these accursed relics in existence. Well, have I got a surprise for you! While the self-titled Mega Man album is already fairly obscure, Mega Man Dance is even lesser known. I only discovered it by chance one day way while browsing the music section on Amazon. Being the crazy Mega Man collector that I am, I had to order it and give it a listen. The reason you probably never heard of Mega Man Dance is that it was only available in Germany. Released in March 1996, it is even less of a soundtrack than the American album -- none of the songs with one exception are heard on the show, not even during the credits, at least to my knowledge. As its name implies, it is a compilation of dance and club music that was latched onto the hottest cartoon on the airwaves at the time. Despite being similarly detached to the source material, I think it's much better package than the American CD. [embed]217605:42036:0[/embed] Why is it better? Because I'm a sucker for Eurodance, for one. Better still, the "Mega Man" theme on this album is the actual theme from the show. It's not the "Super Fighting Robot" rock anthem we remember but instead the electro-charged version from the German dub. It's not as endearing to one groomed on the original, but I like it a lot. No matter which flavor you prefer, however, the dance album automatically wins for actually giving the fans what they expect. [embed]217605:42037:0[/embed] The remainder of the album is an acid trip like none other. There's an extremely hillbilly remix of "American Pie" by Just Luis, as heard above. I get flashbacks to "Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex, and I'm reminded of how hilarious foreign stereotypes of America can be. Then we got a butchered version of "Aquarius," a contribution by Bemani regular Captain Jack, Mission: Impossible techno, and just a train of the most curious musical oddities around. [embed]217605:42038:0[/embed] My favorite track has to be "King of the Ring" for the fact that it's a Sonic the Hedgehog song on a Mega Man album. Sonic and Mega Man together, how mind-blowing is that? The song is off a Sonic the Hedgehog dance CD that coincidentally happened to be released by the same music publisher in the same month as Mega Man Dance. I guess somebody in marketing was really gunning for those cross-promotion sales. Either that or the person figured, since Sonic and Mega Man are both blue, no one would be able to distinguish between the two characters. If you had to pick one Mega Man album of the two, try to track down the German release. It consists of 38 tracks versus the American album's 12, so you easily get more for your buck. On top of that, since no effort was made to tie the musical selections to the TV show in even the slightest, Mega Man Dance is free to be as off-the-wall and insane as it wants to be; there are no expectations attached. Buy it for the laughs, but only buy the American CD if you are a masochist who enjoys having their childhood dreams reamed deep within their ear canals. I'm resigned to the truth that a true Mega Man cartoon soundtrack will never be never happen. At least I can always count on the geek music community to give me what I want to hear.
Mega Man TV OST photo

[Offbeat Hall of Fame is a showcase of the cool, often bizarre products and media from years past that celebrate videogames and gamer culture.] I love videogame soundtracks. Audio is such an integral part of the gameplay expe...


Offbeat Hall of Fame: Video Game Director's Cuts

Dec 03
// Tony Ponce
[Offbeat Hall of Fame is a showcase of the cool, often bizarre products and media from years past that celebrate videogames and gamer culture.] The Internet was a wildly different place at the turn of the century. Social medi...

Offbeat Hall of Fame: A Link to the Past, the comic

Nov 18 // Tony Ponce
Imagine coming home from school and finding the latest Nintendo Power peeking beneath the stack of mail on the counter. Imagine racing to your bedroom with mag in hand, plopping on the bed, and flipping through that glossy tome. Now, imagine stumbling across a full-color, 16-page comic smack in the middle. How's that for a surprise? This was the January 1992 issue of Nintendo Power; the comic was an adaptation of A Link to the Past, obviously meant to promote the upcoming release of the game itself. This was no cheap cash-in, though! It was a year-long adventure by one of Japan's greatest manga artists, Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of Cyborg 009 and the first two seasons of what would become the Super Sentai (Power Rangers) series! Have no doubt in your mind that there was love poured into these pages. Want to the know the best part? The Zelda comic ran concurrently with another serial based on the Mario series. Remember, these were bonuses included on top of regular game coverage. Even if you ignored all the other features, these comics alone made picking up the latest volume worthwhile. Perhaps I'll talk about Super Mario Adventures some other day; for now, it's all about Zelda. The first thing you'll notice about ALttP is the artwork. Ishinomori is a legend from that burgeoning era of manga when the influence of Western animation was still readily apparent. Like Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka, Ishinomori had a style reminiscent of old Disney cartoons -- characters squash and stretch, limbs are bendy and lack joints, and clothing and backgrounds are simple but eye-catching. There's a habit these days in a lot of comics, both Western and Eastern, of artists' obsessing over the minute details and creating an overly complex spectacle. That's fine and all, but sometimes you have to scale back in order to draw the readers' attention more effectively. When the comic first hit, the only characterization of Link we were familiar with was the one from the DiC Entertainment cartoon. Though good at his core, this Link is overly self-confident, incredibly sarcastic, and more than a little bit of a horn dog. These aren't exactly the qualities one would associate with the champion of all the land. ALttP's Link feels much more in line with the character presented in the game -- a mere child who knows little of the world and lacks formal combat training but puts others before himself. During any given battle, he goes from resolute to frightened, to confused, to shocked, to perplexed, and back to resolute. It's all written on his face, which I liken to Wind Waker Link's. That game's exaggerated cartoon style lent itself well to a wide spectrum of expressions that added personality to a previously humorless machine (at least when it comes to Ocarina of Time's Link). Comic Link cycles through those myriad expressions as he struggles to grow in mind, body, and spirit at a rate no other person would be expected to do. Though based on Link's SNES journey, the comic understandably omits a lot of content while introducing elements of its own. Link begins his quest by answering Zelda's telepathic summons and taking up the sword and shield from his fallen uncle, and from there, the story moves along at an incredible clip. Rather than having to navigate though puzzle-laden dungeons, Link merely visits the resting places of the Pendants of Virtue and engages in brief confrontations with the domain guardians. Once he enters the Dark World, you only ever see him rescue three of the seven maidens (I can only assume the others are found during the sporadic time skips). Reading through the entire comic run in one sitting gives the sense that the project was rushed through, and I know that's not the case at all. The story is split into 12 chapters with 16 pages each, spread out across 12 months. When there's a 30-day waiting period before the next episode, you take more time reading each panel, each text bubble. You absorb the content and let it digest, and you are more appreciative of the pacing. The comic might have been better if it was twice as long, but I doubt many kids would have been able to retain interest for another year, especially considering the game would already be several months old by the end of year one. Even with the story's rapid pace, a few original characters were introduced to spice up the mix. In Kakariko Village, Link meets a young boy and the town librarian, both curiously remaining unnamed. They provide Link with modes of flight to get around Hyrule, and once Link enters the Dark World, they continue to offer assistance via a trans-dimensional walkie-talkie of sorts. There's also Epheremelda, a fairy with a jealous streak and an obvious crush on Link -- not unlike Spryte from the cartoon. The most notable addition to the cast is Roam, a dead ringer for Jet Link from Cyborg 009. Like Link, he is descended from the Knights of Hyrule and came to the Dark World to kill Ganon. In their first encounter, Roam challenges Link for the right to wield the Master Sword and is soundly defeated. Then he runs off in search of the Silver Arrow in the hopes that it'll bring about Ganon's downfall. Of all the original characters, I feel that Roam added the least to the story. He is introduced as a rival to Link, but there is no reason for his hostility other than the fact that he's just a stuck-up jerk. His is a role that needed to be given proper motivation and incorporated right from the beginning. Instead, he is introduced very late in the comic and only impacts the story in the penultimate chapter. He doesn't impede Link's journey nor does he do anything of worth off-panel. It's cool that Ishinomori wanted to toss in a reference to his most popular manga, but Roam was a forced inclusion. That particular hiccup aside, the comic succeeds at providing an alternate take on the game's canon. All the stylistic interpretations are a joy to take note of, such as Ganondorf's human form. I'm pretty certain that this is the first depiction of non-beast Ganon prior to Ocarina of Time. Far from being a dark-skinned man with an air of regality about him, the comic's Ganondorf extremely brutish in appearance, much more fitting of a desert bandit. There are wonderful full-page or two-page spreads that can't be done justice by computer scans and have to be appreciated in physical form. In keeping with that "less is more" ethic, these scenes really grab your focus. From Link's battle with the Lanmola to his stare-down against Aghanim, from his extraction of the Master Sword to the sight of the bizarre floating sphere that is Ganon's Tower, each perfectly encapsulates the grandeur of Link's quest. It's a daunting world that would overwhelm weaker men with feelings of insignificance, yet Link never strays from his destined path. ALttP may be a comic intended for the young readers of Nintendo Power, but behind the characters' comical reactions and colorful environments is a tale of discovery, struggle, and loss. Ishinomori had this talent of balancing levity and gravity without letting one overtake the other, very much like an animated Disney film. It's a very subtle technique that only masters of the craft can pull off. In contrast with the game's celebratory finale, the comic ends on a heavy, heartbreaking note. Having saved two worlds and won the affections of the princess, Link assumes the position of Master of the Hyrule Knights under the newly appointed Queen Zelda. Unfortunately, their new roles prevent them from following their hearts' desire. The final image of Link is not of a proud hero with visions of a brighter tomorrow but of a forlorn child who was forced to grow up way too quickly, gained a burden no man should have to bear, and has now lost the only person who could connect with him spiritually. I still fight to hold back the tears. A Link to the Past is a great game, and that greatness is reflected in the pages of this comic. It's a must-read for Zelda fans and people who love simple, effective, powerful art. I have a copy of the standalone compilation published in 1993, but that can be a little tough to come by at decent price nowadays. Thankfully, you can find scans of the comic all over the net, but there really isn't anything like holding the pages in your hand and just soaking in the atmosphere. However, there is another, more recent A Link to the Past manga that can be had on the cheap. Made by the female comic duo Akira Himekawa, it was released to capitalize on the Game Boy Advance port. The artwork is more detailed, though not what I would consider a very distinguishable style. Curiously, most of the events that receive chief focus are the same ones found in Ishinomori's comic. They even play out in a similar fashion -- Link receives the Pendant of Courage directly from Sahasrahla in both, Link turns into a wolfish beast in both Dark Worlds rather than a bunny as in the game, and the depiction of Ganon's Tower as a spiked moon is identical. There's even a female thief name Ghanti who is essentially a combination of Epheremelda and Roam, though a bit more fleshed out than either. It makes me wonder if the comic is a legitimate remake, if Nintendo requires adaptations to follow a shared template, or if Akira Himekawa just copied Ishinomori straight up. In any case, nothing beats the original Nintendo Power comic. Read it and get lost in the adventure.

All this week, Destructoid will be posting Zelda-themed features to celebrate this weekend's release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It's Zelda week! If you were a gamer growing up in the States during the late 80s / e...

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