Article 47—VIC TOKAI CES BROCHURE (1989)

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For practically every video-game system that has ever been released, there exists a passionate group of fans who obsess over what might have been.

They pore over old game magazines, newspaper articles and press releases for nuggets of information about games that were announced for their favorite system but were
never released. In the case of the Nintendo Entertainment System, diligent fans have identified several hundred titles that were left in limbo for one reason or another. Some—like Tengen’s Airball or Seta’s Bio Force Ape—were documented so well that collectors have actually been able to locate prototype copies and share the games with the collecting community. Others—like Play Isle and the incomprehensibly named Yeah Yeah Beebiss I—may only exist on collectors’ “want lists” because of a single mention in a single magazine.

As you can imagine, titles in the latter category may not necessarily be games at all. An entry like Jaws Revenge might have been speculation on the part of a magazine editor, an early title of a game released with a different name...or even a joke dreamed up by a summer intern compiling a list for a Funcoland sales ad. And then there are games for other systems—like Cratermaze (TurboGrafx-16) and Taz-Mania (Super NES)—which were mistakenly identified as NES games by at least one source. But how could anyone make such a mistake?

In the scans I’ve linked above, you can see the exact origin of one such piece of misinformation: an oversight that led NES collectors on a wild-goose chase for over two decades. This Consumer Electronics Show brochure features Vic Tokai’s 1989-1990
product line; it describes eight different games and displays the Nintendo Entertainment System logo on Page 2. Unfortunately, the designer of this brochure forgot to mention that the two games on the last page—Daedalian Opus and Dweebers—were actually for Nintendo’s new Game Boy handheld system, not the NES. As a result, several sources reported both of these titles as upcoming NES releases, despite the fact that they were properly identified as Game Boy games in Nintendo’s own press materials from the same show (and in The Official 1990 World of Nintendo Buyer’s Guide, which you can see in Article 19 on this very site).

I have to confess that I actually played a small part in perpetuating the myth of Dweebers for the NES. In 2002, I volunteered to help my pal Joe Santulli by beefing up the NES “Rumor Mill” section of his Digital Press Collector’s Guide, a printed collection of checklists and information about classic video games. Previous editions had mentioned Dweebers as a rumored game, and as I was going through my ephemera collection for info about unreleased NES games, I found this brochure and blindly copied the game’s description into Joe’s database without much thought. Like everyone else who had seen it, I failed to notice the huge clue that was staring me in the face: the fact that Daedalian Opus was released for the Game Boy—and ONLY the Game Boy—in 1990. Sorry about that!

So I’ve managed to explain how Dweebers was misidentified as an NES game. But what was Dweebers, anyway...and what happened to it? Vic Tokai only published eight games for the Game Boy in Japan, but none of them features a hero with a “steam iron
face.” I did a little research online and found some Japanese Web sites that listed unreleased Game Boy games, and several of them mentioned a game called Gathers that Vic Tokai announced but never released. One site had a tiny screen shot of the game, scanned from Volume 2 of a publication called Game Boy Magazine. I got in touch with the proprietor of that site (a fellow named Shuji), and he gave me permission to post the scan here; you can view it by clicking this link. The description claims that Gathers was to be a “puzzle action” game in which players go around a maze to gather items while avoiding enemies and traps.

Are Gathers and Dweebers the same unreleased Game Boy game? The character near the middle of the screen does vaguely resemble the creatures in the Dweebers artwork, and the character at the top of the screen with the large, black eyes could be one of the “fish larvae enemies” that the brochure describes....

UPDATE: My pal Shuji sent me an earlier screen shot of Gathers, this time from Volume 1 of Game Boy Magazine, published by Tokuma Shoten in November, 1989. You can view it by clicking this link. As he correctly points out, the "steam iron face guy" is still there. Thanks for the scan!

© 2012 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.