Article 42—BANDAI NES BROCHURE (1989)

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Even though this site is called “Video-Game-Ephemera,” it’s mostly about video games and not often enough about ephemera. So before I talk about the contents of this brochure from the 1989 Summer Consumer Electronics Show, I wanted to point out something unusual about its design and production.

Most modern color printing is done with four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), so any other color you might see on a printed page is usually produced by combining two or more of these four colors in varying degrees. But sometimes a project might
require an additional “spot color” (or “fifth color”) to be added after the four primary inks are applied. When I was working on Tips & Tricks magazine, we would occasionally be allowed to use a fifth color on our cover as a gimmick to attract the reader’s eye on the newsstand. This was usually done with special inks that produced colors with metallic or fluorescent effects. We always had to request fifth colors well in advance of the production stage, and my understanding was that a fifth color added several hundred dollars to the printing expense for a magazine with our print run (number of copies manufactured). I was jealous when my pal Wataru Maruyama told me that his art director was allowed to use six colors on one particular issue of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine; we had that luxury only once, and it happened years later, long after the magazine’s sales started to decline.

So what does this have to do with today’s article? It’s hard to tell from the scans I’m showing here, but this Bandai brochure went through the printing press eight times. In addition to the standard four colors, its designer used a metallic gold (for the Mask Rider and Street Cop logos), a fluorescent green (for the Monster Party and Golf logos), fluorescent orange (Monster Party, Xevious) and fluorescent red (“Mr. Hyde” and three of the four controller logos on page 4). Quite an extravagance for something that most people would discard a few days later!

Now, let’s look at the contents:

• Right off the bat, page 1 is fascinating because two of the three games pictured on it were never released. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was canceled not long after this brochure was distributed. A nearly complete prototype copy was recently discovered
and circulated among NES collectors, but by most accounts, the game is no long-lost classic. Fans have long known that Mask Rider was also announced and canceled by Bandai; it seemed obvious that the game would have been a localized version of a Japanese game that was based on the popular Kamen Rider TV series (known as Masked Rider in North America). But which one? Bandai released three different Kamen Rider games for the Famicom (the Japanese NES). Some NES historians have assumed that Kamen Rider Black was the game that would have become Mask Rider in the U.S.—probably because it was the only one that featured realistically proportioned characters as opposed to the inexplicably childlike “super deformed” heroes of the other two games. However, based on the gameplay description (“Ride with Mask Riders on their deadly mission into the nuclear-active Shockerland to beat down and destroy its ruthless leader”) and the telltale screen shot, it’s clear that Mask Rider was going to be a conversion of the juvenile action game Kamen Rider Club: Gekitotsu Shockerland instead.

• I never really thought about it before, but isn’t it funny that Bandai published two Namco games (Xevious and Galaga) back in 1989? That contract must have planted the seeds for future relations, because 16 years later, the two companies would merge into a single entity, Namco Bandai (known as Bandai Namco in Japan, for some reason).

• Of the four controllers on page 4 (well, the Super Controller is technically a controller accessory), only two were released under the Bandai name. The Hyper and Hyperstick
controllers are credited to “Shinsei Corporation” (apparently a Bandai subsidiary) in the fine print at the bottom of the page, and that was the name under which they were marketed here. I’m guessing that the Shinsei controllers had lower production numbers than the Mega or the Super Controller, because the latter two seem to be easier to find at flea markets and on eBay.

• Speaking of the fine print: When I was scanning page 4, I noticed that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has a Toho copyright. Like most people, I always assumed that the game was inspired by the famous novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. Could this mean that the game is actually based on some kind of Dr. Jekyll movie from Toho, producer of the Godzilla films? Nope—the copyright notice is there because the game was originally published in Japan by Toho; Bandai simply licensed the rights to release a U.S. version. But I remain intrigued by the line at the very beginning of the game that reads “Toho Cinefile-Soft Library.” It seems to suggest some kind of movie or TV connection, because this same description appears on other Toho games like Godzilla (based on a movie) and Moeru! Onii-san (based on a TV show and manga).

After a little digging, I discovered that Toho did indeed produce an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It was a TV series that was filmed in 1969, but did not appear on television until 1973 because of some controversial sexual and/or violent content. Could this obscure TV show be the source of some of the game’s the mad bomber, the woman with the deadly singing voice, the annoying child who repeatedly attacks Dr. Jekyll or the surreal enemies who battle Mr. Hyde? I wish there was an easy way for me to find out.

While researching this topic, I did watch the silent film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde starring John Barrymore. Without having seen Toho’s made-for-TV version, I might go as far as to say that the NES game could have been based on the 1920 film, because of two notable features. The first is a giant spider that appears during a fever dream, crawling over Barrymore’s body...and as you may know, giant spiders are among the enemies Jekyll faces in the game. The other is a character named Millicent who is described as Jekyll’s fiance, just like in the game. (She’s called Millicent in the original Japanese version of the game as well.) I don’t know of any other adaptation of the Stevenson story in which a character named Millicent appears; Jekyll didn’t even have a love interest in the original novella.

Anyway, I thought this would be of interest to fans of the NES game Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if such people exist. I know, I know...I’ve never met one, either!

© 2011 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.