My G.I. Joe memories

In 2009 Paramount Pictures teamed up with Hasbro to make a live-action G.I. Joe film. It was loosely tied into the Michael Bay live-action Transformers film series. I personally enjoyed the film. I went into is expecting a science fiction action movie based on a cartoon, based on a toy, based on a generic Vietnam War soldier. Yeah, it was a complicated mess. I was never a big G.I. Joe collector. I was, however, very into the Transformers, Hasbro’s other popular action figure line.

This is just going to be me looking back on all of my memories of the G.I. Joe franchise.

As far as I can tell my earliest memories are sometime around 1987. I vaguely remember having a couple of random Joe action figures, to this day I couldn’t tell you any more about them, honestly even if I saw them in a catalog or on a collectors shelf I don’t think I could pick them out. What I do remember is the cartoon. Mostly because, at least where I lived, it aired immediately following the Transformers cartoon. I was such a huge Transformers nut that I didn’t want the show to end. I would keep watching G.I.Joe because it was close enough it almost had that Transformers feel to it. It had a good vs. evil plot, diabolical robots, a futuristic science fiction technology, and most importantly, many of the same voice actors. Even as a kid before IMDb or Wikipedia, I know that Starscream and Cobra Commander were voiced by the same guy. In a lot of ways the two shows were connected.

I continued watching G.I. Joe even after Transformers went off the air. My earliest memories, I think, were around 1987, I would have been 5 years old. I am not talking life memories, just these two shows. I do very distinctly remember watching Transformers episodes with a giant Optimus Prime robot and a little boy, I later learned this would have been the 1987-88 season, around the time the show was cancelled. I used to tune in to he same channel I thought Transformers had come on, never finding it but always looking. I kept watching the Joes in vain hoping that some day the Autobots would return to their war against the Decepticons. I remember watching the 3rd and 4th seasons of the cartoon with Cobra Commander becoming a real snake, then turning back into a man, and them introducing Serpentor, then the show got too weird for me, I didn’t recognize enough of the characters to stay interested, plus this was around the time I discovered the TMNT cartoon. This distracted me from the lack of Transformers, and was a satisfying alternative to G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, to the point I was able to finally stop tuning in. This was also around the time the Disney Afternoon cartoon block became popular so my interests had shifted. At this time I no longer had any connection to the Joes or Cobra. I would continue to pick up random action figures at flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales, always frantically looking for Transformers, or even Go-Bots figures, but I would pick up a Joe or a Cobra from time to time, if I came across them.

I wouldn’t come into full contact with G.I. Joe again until 1993. This was the time when Transformers Generation 2 launched on TV and just like before, Real American Hero was on immediately following. This time I watched the 5-part G.I. Joe: The Movie episodes, bought, or was gifted can’t really remember, one of those multiple puzzle murals featuring depictions of G.I Joe characters. It was one where if you had all 4 puzzles you could take off the edge piece and connect them into a large mural. I never complete the puzzle, let alone the set, but I did work on it day and night for a good couple of weeks or so. It was around this time I came across an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure for sale at a Good Will for like fifty cents or something, it was dirt cheap. I snatched it up, he was one of my favorite characters from the show, and wrestling too, which I was still sorta of into around this time.

Something else happened in 1993. I was introduced to the Mortal Kombat arcade game. I was immediately hooked and began playing that game obsessively for the next 2 decades. Yes I still re-play the original arcade games to this day. Mostly I switch back and forth between MAME and the collection on PS3, plus I also own Midways Arcade Treasures. Anyways, getting off topic. I also got into collecting comic books, trading cards and TMNT figures at this time. Plus I was just starting to get back into Transformers collecting full force with all of the G2 stuff coming out. In the summer of 1994 I started reading Wizard Magazine, and inside there were all of this kitbashed toys where someone would take one action figure and turn it into something else. I was super obsessed with Mortal Kombat. MKII was all the rage and Kung Lao was my favorite character. If you can’t guess where this is going let me assure you toy collectors, yes I kitbashed an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure to look like a Kung Lao action figure. Or at least, I tried. I ended up destroying the toy in the process. The ironic thing is, just months afterwards I was in K-Mart and there on the shelf was an actual MKII Kunk Lao toy, not surprisingly as they were made by Hasbro, they used the same style of figures as G.I.Joe toys, so needless to say I destroyed an 80’s classic trying to turn it into a $3 toy that was available for sale at K-Mart the whole damn time!

I skipped G.I. Joe Extreme or whatever it was called. I had grabbed a few Transformers comics along the way during my comic book collecting days, including some of those Transformers and G.I. Joe cross over comics. By 1997 I was pretty much done buying toys altogether. I lost interest in Transformers once Beast Wars came on the scene, TMNT had fallen into the toilet by this time, and I was never that into G.I. Joe to start off with so I was done with it for the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 2001 with the launch of the Robots in Disguise toy line before I would slowly start to get back into collecting Transformers. I was also discovering retro game collecting at this time, mostly NES, SNES, and SEGA, so my money was spread pretty thin. I 2003 my sister married a guy who told me about his G.I. Joe collecting day when he was a kid and I started to learn more about the toys from him, not much but more than I had ever known. This wasn’t enough to spark any interest in me or desire to collect but it was enough to read up on the newly popular internet about the history of the franchise and how it intersected with Transformers and Star Wars. Since I was already a huge fan of Star Wars also, this knowledge started to pique my curiosity so I began learning more about the history of the toy line.

I didn’t have any further connections or experience with the toys until sometime in 2004 or 2005. I remember buying one of my nephews one of the Joe figures for Christmas. He was kind of excited for it for a while, then, he wasn’t. I did end up picking up a copy of both Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: The Movie, the original cartoons. This was around 2007 I think. This sparked some nostalgia within me and pretty soon I learned about the upcoming film. Since the Transformers movie just released that same year, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact I bought an HD-DVD player and a copy of the movie to watch it in HD on my new HDTV in 2008. This was right around the time they announced they were discontinuing the format so I was able to get the player and movie very cheap. Actually free, because a guy bought it for me as payment, or thank you, for fixing his computer.

Then in the summer of 2009 I dragged a few of my unwilling friends to go see this new movie and, I loved it. I shouldn’t have,  didn’t have very strong ties to the series, I didn’t have much nostalgia for it, but I thought it was a fun movie. By this time I had also picked up a Blu Ray player so I was able to get the film on Blu Ray when it released. A few years later I watched the mess of a sequel, which I still can’t stand and refuse to re-watch.

Since this time the most I have connected with the series is reading the entire Transformers cross over comics, buying a couple random action figures for nephews over the years, and watching some Angry Video Game Nerd videos where he reviewed the old games based on the cartoon.

My most current tie was about three weeks ago when I picked up a sealed 25th anniversary figure of Storm Shadow, sealed, at a yard sale, for $5. Based on preliminary research on ebay/Amazon/craigslist, this would appear to be a fairly good deal. I am not going to sell the toy, but also I am not going to start a collection either. I just thought it was an interesting piece to add to my collection.

And there you have it, my 30+ year history with the Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow/Paramount franchise known as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Does the Switch success actually hurt Nintendo?

Right now the entire internet, at least the segment of the internet that pays attention to video games, is paying close attention the Nintendo’s newest gadget, the Switch. I have to say since November when they first showed off what the Switch was capable of I have been taken in. Full disclaimer, I love Nintendo and I typically do buy their machines. But I can safely say my buying habits do reflect the larger gaming audience as a whole so I will use that as a measure to make my point.

Each subsequent home console generation from NES, to Game Cube, Nintendo seems to lose some of their market share. As I have previously pointed out, while their home console base has shrunken over the years, their overall base has grown, partly because they have continued to find success in their handheld divisions. They had 1 outlier, the Wii, which was the first time they not only increased sales, but surpassed their previous record holder, the NES. This was a big deal for the industry because it proved that Nintendo’s philosophy they weren’t competing directly with Sony or Microsoft could be true.

Here is where my question comes into play. I already assume the Switch will be a success because it combines the handheld market with the home console market, obviously that is part of the draw. The reason that could spell success is not because you can take the home console games on the go, that IS NOT a new concept there have been plenty of other systems that did just that. The first notable one was the Turbo Express which let gamers play their Turbografx-16 console games on the go. Then there was the Sega Game Gear which had a converter that allowed you to play Sega Master System games on the go. This was followed by two more portable home console devices from Sega, the CDX which was a sort of, portable Sega CD player, it could connect to a portable screen if you had one, and the Nomad a truly portable Sega Genesis complete with 6-button layout.

Then there is the reverse, which has many gamers also excited, playing portable games on the big screen. This has a big draw because hand held games tend to be reminiscent of retro or classic games. Typically handheld machines were running on last gen hardware or two gens back. The Game Boy was sort of NES hardware and was released during the NES lifespan, but it was black and white only and ran on a much smaller resolution, so compromises had to be made. Game Boy Advance, released at the same time as the Game Cube, PS2-era power, was basically running on SNES levels of power with slight tweaks. Even the Nintendo DS, released just before the Xbox 360-era, was running on essentially N64 hardware in portable mode. This is key because to keep costs down developers have had to make compromises. This means that mobile games running on Switch don’t have to be targeted towards lesser hardware, but they can be tweaked for the mobile experience. I suspect Switch will attract those typical mobile and handheld games that have made past Nintendo handhelds so popular among their target audience. But again playing mobile games, or handheld games, on the big TV is also not new.

In the mid-90’s Nintendo themselves first dabbled in putting portable games on the TV via the home console, they did is with the Super Game Boy cartridge that ran on SNES hardware. They perfected this in the Game Cube era with the Game Boy Player which ran the ENTIRE Game Boy library ranging from Game Boy, Game Boy Color and the then current Game Boy Advance. Sony has even found some limited success with this by putting TV outputs as an option on their PSP and PS Vita devices, especially if you look at the PS Vita TV. So putting portable games on the TV is nothing new, and taking the home console games on the go is nothing new, then what does excite people about the Switch?

This is where it gets messy for Nintendo. Most gamers are banking on the Switch being IT from now on. The belief is Nintendo will merge their portable and home console divisions into a single development platform, they have already stated this as having been done. The reason this is exciting is simple. If you look at a Nintendo release schedule in a given year, they make a TON of great games and attract a TON of great 3rd party and indie support. They do, just not on a single machine. If you divide their handheld and console into TWO machines, releasing separate games and having two divided release schedule you force gamers to make a choice, buy the less expensive, lower powered portable expecting it to have the games that will satisfy you. Another option that fewer people have been making, buy the home console machine for the grander experiences and sit through long periods of droughts with nothing to play. The third option, something fewer people do but what Nintendo really loved, buy both systems to get the entire library. This is key because typically, or traditionally that is, the portable games differed greatly enough from the console games you really had to chose which experience you preferred. Starting with Wii U Nintendo began merging the two libraries. First instead of releasing separate versions of some games, a home versions and a scaled down entirely different portable version, like Super Mario World vs. Super Mario Land, Donkey Kong Country vs. Donkey Kong Land, Kirby Adventure vs. Kirby’s Dreamland, etc. This time they gave you ONE game and released it on both systems. They did this with Super Smash Bros., NES Remix 1 and 2, Super Mario Maker, and a host of others. Another reason the Wii U failed was the library was too similar to the 3ds, which was selling much better and had far superior support. Super Mario 3D World didn’t really offer much different of an experience as Super Mario 3D Land.

So what happens if Switch just gets ALL the games going forward does that automatically mean it will get ALL the gamers going forward too? Here is my pause for concern. If you take this through logically it can mean only 1 thing. Nintendo has basically given up on the true home console market and doubled-down on the portable scene. Their hedging their bets on a dedicated portable machine that can connect to a TV. A few years ago I suggested Nintendo should just make a gaming tablet that used real buttons on the sides and could connect to a TV via HDMI out and I was called crazy for that. My logic was Nintendo’s consoles suffer from lack of releases because Nintendo cannot support two machines, they do not have the resources, money, man power, tools, etc, to do that. If they had all of their teams making all of their games for one system, then they will have the BEST software library in the world and could dominate the gaming industry. They did this twice before, the first time was with NES, they had 90 percent of the entire gaming market during those years. Granted the market was smaller and vastly different then, they dominated because they had so many great games on the system. It was beginning with SNES they had to split their attention between developing games for two machines. It wasn’t as noticable then because the Game Boy was basically just a watered down NES, they could get their summer interns to port NES games down to the Game Boy while sparing a smaller team here and there to pad the schedule with original games. If you look at the classic Game Boy library it really was just an NES port machine those first few years. Even if Super Mario Land was a truly original game, that was about it, and even that was very small scale compared to their console games. Also console games didn’t require as much of an investment to make.

This split wasn’t really noticeable until the N64 and Game Boy Pocket years. This was when Pokemon gave the Game Boy line a second life, remember Nintendo’s intention was for the Virtual Boy to replace the Game Boy, when that failed to take place they scrambled to double-down on saving the Game Boy to stay in business. Then N64 games took a much larger level of investment and a longer time and manpower commitment to get made. They were GRAND, they were large, epic masterpieces, for the time, that rivaled the games Sony and friends were making. The problem was they took so much effort to develop instead of having 7 teams working on 5 console games and 2 portable games, you had 2 teams working on 2 console games and 2 teams scrambling to work on 1 portable game. These numbers are not exactly literal, I don’t know the inner workings of Nintendo, but I DO know from reports at the time and talking to developers over the years, they did consolidate teams and if you read the end game credits you start to see proof of this. N64 was desperate for games so Nintendo handed out licenses to so many partners to help out, which is why you had Rare, Hudson and even Midway making games for Nintendo using their characters, they had no choice they were understaffed and over worked. Thing’s only slightly improved with the Game Cube, droughts were less common partly because Nintendo designed the Cube with their developers in mind, to make developing as easy as possible to streamline the process, they also purchased some new developers to pad the schedule and reached out to even more 3rd party partners to get Nintendo games made using their characters but made by other companies. This time they had Namco and Sega and even Square and Capcom helping out. This was even noticable on the portables when Nintendo handed their most prized IP, the Legend of Zelda, over to Capcom! This was all proof Nintendo couldn’t make enough games to support their systems by themselves.

The issue came about as console sales declined, they couldn’t continue justifying paying developers for support and as costs increased due to going HD and games becoming more complicated and advanced, developers had to be more cautious where they put their money. Again it takes even more resources to make games in HD than SD, even the same exact scope of a game, so that is where Switch comes in.

IF Nintendo can once again consolidate all of their teams to making games for just a single machine, effectively killing off the home console division and merging the two into a single portable first with TV play as an option, then they have succeeded in solving their BIGGEST issue, release droughts. Even now the Switch is seeing fewer games up front than Wii U did, it does have more games announced and in development then Wii U did during the same time frame and from the looks of it, many more 3rd party partners are on board. The key is portables sell better and are easier to develop for and don’t directly compete with the other home consoles, so this allows Nintendo do finesse developers to make games locked to a console, say an exclusive like SF5, because if the contract says console exclusive they could argue Switch is not a console it’s a portable, they have done this in the past, Sony and Microsoft have allowed their games to be released on Nintendo portables at times neither of them had portables in the market. Sony moved away from this once PSP and Vita came along, but even companies that never make games for the home console, still make games for the portable because 1, its cheaper, and 2, the sales potential, thus profit margin, is greater.

In the short term this could spell great success for Nintendo, a unified machine that does everything, gamers have been wanting this ever since PC gamers got their wish with the coveted gaming laptops and even the rise of gaming tablets. This is where the concern comes about, can Nintendo compete directly with Tablets and Laptops and Mobile Phones if say Sony decides to make PS5 a dedicated gaming tablet with multi media features, 4K output, and a Blu Ray disc support? History has indicated that in direct competition Nintendo handhelds do better than Sony while Sony consoles do better than Nintendo, but that is because Sony has ALL the 3rd party support while Nintendo just does well on their franchises and key 3rd party support while being cheaper. In a scenario where Sony had all their games on a machine that was equal parts home console, Playstation dominance, and equal parts portable, PSP tablet but with Playstation support, and instead of asking gamers to chose which machine to get, which they chose the Sony console and Nintendo portable, largely because the Sony portable mostly plays the same games as the console, this could backfire on Nintendo.

In direct head to head competition with hardware parity, 1 device that plays ALL the games no separate machines, and all the franchises land where they land, Sony wins because a dedicated gaming tablet that has Playstation controllers and Playstation level of games and Sony levels of multimedia, would KILL Nintendo because let’s face it, Nintendo survives on their franchises alone but they struggle to get 3rd party support. If Nintendo finds success with this model, Sony does have the resources to play the same game but this time could win. Here is why.

PSP struggled to take out DS despite having better hardware not because it was too expensive or the market just preferred Nintendo but BECAUSE the PSP library was not different enough than PS2. Even though it has a few select exclusives, basically every game on PSP is just a perfect or near perfect portable version of the same Sony Playstation home game. Basically what the Switch is but PSP had to also compete with PS2 and PS3 not just DS. DS was it’s own thing, it played entirely different games or different enough versions of franchises it would stand on its own. It didn’t directly compete with Wii, it complemented it. Switch replaces the home console basically putting all of their eggs in one basket. This could eliminate the edge that makes their portables so attractive. It already removed the SINGLE most attractive selling point, low cost of entry, because it is trying to be both a console and a portable.

Sony could easily out do them, they already have years of developing mobile tech and making a truly dedicated gaming tablet, even higher priced say $399 or even $449, people would buy. I think a single Plystation device that doubles as a portable would sell more than a Nintendo device that does the same thing, when you consider how the Sony machine will get ALL of the games and Nintendo will just have their games and select partners. Nintendo’s portable machines would start selling less each generation and Nintendo loses the edge they had. This is of course assuming Sony follows up with a Switch-like device. I think Sony would do better to stick with home consoles and concede the portable market to Nintendo, a return of the favor Nintendo just handed them the home console market.

See with Nintendo, the other Japanese developer out of the home console space, Sony wins by default. Japanese gamers and console gamers that enjoy Japanese games have had to chose get the Sony machine first and pick up the Nintendo second down the road when price comes down, pick up the Nintendo machine first for the 1st party games and get the Sony machine for the 3rd party stuff later when price comes down, or do what MOST people do anyways, get the Sony console and Nintendo handheld. In a world where every gamer buys a Sony home console AND a Nintendo portable, Microsoft either loses or is forced to compete harder. Sony can handle Microsoft but in a world with a united Nintendo core base, 100-200 million strong die-hard loyalists, Sony would be facing trouble. So Nintendo needs to concede the console space to Sony and concentrate entirely on making Switch a TRUE 3DS successor and let the Wii U and console line rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer movie challenge:60 movies in 60 days

Here is the challenge, to watch 60 movies during the month of May and June. I will have considerable downtime beginning with the end of school so I will try to make use of all the dvd’s I have been buying lately. This is not a one movie a day challenge, that would be impossible as I have no time to watch movies on certain days of the week. Instead I will rely on weekends to make up for lost time, possibly fitting in 3 or 4 on each Saturday and Sunday.

The goal is to get through as many of the films in my DVD collection that I have never seen, or have not seen in a very long time, or have only seen once and have forgotten the majority of. I am going to only count the movies I watch on DVD, including Blu Ray, but not streaming so even if I watch a film on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, etc, it will not count towards my goal. Only feature length, live action films count so if I end up watching a Shrek or Pixar film it won’t count towards the challenge. Exception to this is the TMNT film from 2007 as it is part of the live action set, even though it is animated.

I will keep track of the movies I watch and log them in a note book. I will write a brief summary of the film, my impressions of it from the perspective of this challenge weather it was a waste of time or worthy of my viewing. I am planning on getting through all of, or as many of, the films in my collection that I have never seen. Mostly I have movies in those 4 packs or other boxed sets where I have only seen certain movies in the collection but want to get through the ones I have missed, or a few rare instances where I picked up a movie I was told was good but haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. I will avoid things like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean, as much as I can considering I watch them so frequently as it is. Also movies I see in the theater will not count towards this challenge, although I do have quite a few I intend to see this summer.

There are a couple exceptions. First as is tradition I will be watching the Friday the 13th films in the month of June as I do every year. Since I finally have a complete Jason collection now I am hoping to view all 12 Jason films including Jason X and the remake. Hopefully between now and then I can come across a decent copy of Sleepaway camp on DVD to add to the collection as I really want to squeeze that into my summer camp slasher collection this year if I can.

What inspired this challenge? Well partially as a film lover I enjoy watching movies. I collect movies on DVD, VHS, LaserDisc, 8mm (film and tape), CED, Beta Max, iTunes, UltraViolet, Blu Ray, HD-DVD, and I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all for the film catalogs. With work and school these last couple of years keeping me busier than ever I haven’t had the time to do much of anything. Well I have shuffled things around, finished with school for now, and am in a job that is very flexible on the hours. So this is the best time for me to pull something like this off. It won’t be easy as many of my Saturday nights are going to be devoted to school functions for the newspaper, but I am okay with that. Inspiration also comes from being a member of the Blu Ray forum community on the film-fan devoted website Blu-Ray.com where the various users there do these sorts of challenges all the time. But I am also doing this because I want to see how many films I haven’t seen I can get through.

It will not be a literal 60 days, I will begin May 1st and end June 30th. But I will keep track of the films I view for the challenge and write my impressions of them and make a report on my progress as I go along. This is also something for me to do to get inspires to write some stuff for the very neglected blog here. Be sure to check back once in a while to keep up with the progress as I go.

So what happens if I complete the challenge? Aside from getting to watch 60, hopefully good movies, I will also be forcing myself to write content for the blog. This aspect is to get me inspiration so I can start doing more with this thing. Also if I do complete the challenge then I also will have written several movie reviews for the site. If I fail to complete the challenge then it isn’t a big deal to me, I might not have the time to make it work so this is more for fun not that I have anything to prove. Especially if I get busy with living then I won’t have the time to waste watching so many movies.