Article 32—KEMCO-SEIKA VIP NOOZ (1991)

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Here’s another NES-era company newsletter, the Winter 1991 edition of the Kemco-Seika VIP Nooz. (The “VIP” apparently stood for “Very Important Player.”)

You’d think that news about Nintendo Entertainment System games would be eagerly
lapped up by all players, regardless of importance. But any potential excitement is stifled by the presentation of this piece. For one thing, the format is unwieldy. It’s a two-sided piece of paper that unfolds to a length that rivals Santa’s “naughty and nice” list; it’s literally taller than the Wall Street Journal. And the artwork is weak. Why print in four colors if you’re going to convert all of the game screens to monochrome images? Worst of all, the majority of the content consists of long paragraphs of boring text, two of which have been arbitrarily rotated 90 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction. (If you want to read these sections without tilting your head, I have straightened them out here.)

It’s a shame that the layout is so unappealing, because there is some interesting stuff within. In addition to background information about the development of the game, the
Déjà Vu article includes some type of cryptic puzzle that’s tied into a contest on the reverse side of the page (and something on the back of the game’s packaging). There’s also a breathless article about the yet-to-be-named Super NES system; it refers to the unit as the “SFX,” even though it had already been released in Japan as the Super Famicom. I had almost forgotten that SFX was a code name used by video-game magazines to refer to the mysterious new system before its release (and for a while thereafter). It was not unlike the “PSX” code name that some people still use to identify the original PlayStation.

I’m interested in the etymology of using the letter “X” to represent the unknown, the experimental and/or the mysterious. It’s a practice rooted in previous millennia (ancient Greeks supposedly used “X” as an abbreviation for “Christ”), but it seems to have been used often in Japanese entertainment media as a way to signify something newer, more exciting and more advanced than a previous iteration. Earlier examples include Osamu Tezuka’s Big X, the tokusatsu TV series Kamen Rider X and the MSX home computer, while subsequent usage can be seen in Mega Man X, Castlevania: Dracula X and Sega’s 32X add-on for the Genesis. One significant precedent in the U.S.: Before its release in 1982, the Atari 5200 SuperSystem was originally code-named the “Atari Video System X.”

Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.

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