Friday, September 27, 2013

C-3PO at Dallas Comic Con: Fan Days

Like many of my articles these days, this one about C-3PO/Anthony Daniels first appeared in AntiqueWeek.

IRVING, TX—Anthony Daniels may not be a household name, but the character he played in all six Star Wars films—the golden droid C-3PO—most certainly is. If you want to get the autograph of the “man inside the metal” and even have your picture made with him, you can do so at Dallas Comic Con: Fan Days, a geek fest being held October 4-6 at the Irving Convention Center, which is located between Dallas and Fort Worth.
With Daniels in attendance at Fan Days, you can bet there will be numerous Star Wars items for sale, including C-3PO action figures. Many have been produced for the various films over the years, but the Holy Grail of C-3PO action figures remains the original, which was produced by Kenner in 1978, the year after Star Wars debuted in theaters. Today it is worth more than $2,000 when graded 90 or better by the Action Figure Authority (AFA).
Daniels collects C-3PO merchandise, but only in the casual sense. He recently told geek-news.mtv.com he has “quite a few” C-3PO collectibles that “you wouldn’t see on display, but tucked away in a cupboard somewhere.”

Daniels also revealed that his favorite C-3PO item is as soft and as furry as an Ewok.

“The one I like very much is a Beanie Baby C-3PO, because it’s so charming,” he said. “He’s a cartoony type figure, he’s floppy, he’s cute and you can throw him at people and whatever. But I have other things and some quite expensive one-off things. I don’t know what to do with them, and one day I’ll wake up and do it.”

In Daniels’ opinion, the goofiest C-3PO collectible is a ceramic tape dispenser made by a company called Tastesetter. “It features C-3PO in the semi prone position with his knees in the air and his feet on the ground with the roll of tape between his knees and thighs,” he said. “It’s like the position of giving birth. It makes me laugh, because it’s so repellent and so dreadful.”
 In an article called “12 Craziest Pieces Of Star Wars Merchandise” published on www.smosh.com, the C-3PO Tape Dispenser earned the dubious top spot. Despite (or because) of its crazily awkward design, the dispenser is worth more than $100 in near mint condition.

Ever since Disney announced the purchase of LucasFilm in October of 2012, speculation has run rampant on whether or not actors from the original Star Wars trilogy would appear in the next film, which is scheduled for release in 2015. If you make it out to Dallas Comic Con: Fan Days, you can ask Anthony Daniels if he will be reprising his famous role.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Sega Master System Encylopedia

My review of The Sega Master System Encyclopedia is in the latest issue of the Digital Press fanzine. I've reprinted it here for your perusal. Enjoy! 

The Sega Master System Encyclopedia
Author: Derek Slaton
Self-Published through Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
435-page trade paperback
Available in color, black-and-white, and as a digital download and PDF File.
Self-published books about classic video games are an increasingly common sight these days. Some are indispensable, such as Marty Goldberg and Curt Vendel’s Atari Inc.—Business is Fun (2012, Syzygy Company Press), while others, such as Derek Slaton’s newly released The Sega Master System Encyclopedia, are merely entertaining.

According to Merriam-Webster, an encyclopedia is “a work that contains information on all branches of knowledge or treats comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge usually in articles arranged alphabetically often by subject.”

The Sega Master System Encyclopedia is indeed categorized alphabetically—by game title—and it is comprehensive in terms of featuring every U.S. release for the system (more than 100 games in all). However, with words like “comprehensive” and “encyclopedia” thrown around, it should be more than a mere book of reviews.

Approximately four pages are devoted to each game, which should leave plenty of room for more detailed production history. For example, in the After Burner chapter, the book says that the cartridge is a “passable port of the popular arcade game,” but fails to mention that the coin-op version came out in 1987 and that it was available as a standard upright cabinet and as a sit-down model with a rotating seat and cockpit.

Slaton rightly complains that SMS After Burner is “incredibly choppy” and that the Sega Genesis version is “far superior,” but he doesn’t explain that the Genesis cartridge is actually called After Burner II and that After Burner itself was released for the Genesis add-on, the 32X.

As a book of reviews, The Sega Master System Encyclopedia works pretty well (despite some grammatical problems, such as missing commas). Slaton does a thorough job describing gameplay while pointing out positives and negatives. He’s obviously a fan, but he clearly knows a bad game when he plays one. He even gives reasons to fire up certain undesirable titles, such as to experience just how bad an aspect of a particular game can be.

Slaton’s stated objectives are to entertain, inform, and “make sure that the memory of these games live on for future gaming generations” all of which are fine goals. In the book’s introduction he states, “While the purpose of encyclopedias isn’t to be entertaining, the purpose of gaming is. Given that playing games is incredibly fun, I believe that reading about them also should be.” As such, he infuses his reviews with humor, some of which might give you a chuckle or two.


A contributor to Retro Gaming Times (www.retrogamingtimes.com), Slaton has more book ideas in the works, including a TurboGrafx-16 encyclopedia. Assuming he follows through with this project (which I believe he will), here’s hoping he infuses it with more encyclopedia-style information than can be found in his freshman work, The Sega Master System Encyclopedia, while maintaining that book’s fun style and tone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Collecting for Dragon's Lair and Space Ace

My article on Dragon's Lair and the new book, Collecting for Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, is in the new issue of AntiqueWeek. I've reprinted it here for your perusal. Enjoy! 
Released during the summer of 1983, Dragon’s Lair was the world’s first fully animated laser disc video game, breathing new life into the arcade industry, which was starting to lag and needed a big hit.

Unlike most other games of the time, which employed sprite-based graphics, Dragon’s Lair was essentially an interactive cartoon. Gamers, cast in the role of Dirk the Daring, set out on a journey to rescue the beautiful (and scantily clad) Princess Daphne, who was held captive in the wizard Mordroc’s castle by an evil, fire-breathing dragon named Singe.

Instead of directly controlling the action, players would watch animated sequences and intermittently press the joystick for directional movement or the button to swing Dirk’s sword at just the right moments. If the player’s timing was off, a humorous death sequence would follow.

Produced by Cinematronics, Dragon’s Lair was conceived by Rick Dyer and animated by Disney alumnus Don Bluth, director of such classic cartoon features as The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), and The Land Before Time (1988).

When it was new in the arcades, Dragon’s Lair cost 50 cents to play, which was double the price of other coin-op video games. In addition, its non-traditional, quick-time gameplay was befuddling to some. However, that didn’t stop many, many people from lining up to play it. By February of 1984, the game had grossed $32 million.

Dragon’s Lair inspired such arcade offshoots and sequels as Space Ace (1984) and Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp (1991), and it spawned a surprising amount of merchandise, including action figures, comic books, magazines, and T-shirts. It’s also one of only three arcade video games housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (the other two are Pong and Pac-Man).

Syd Bolton, author of the newly released Collecting for Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, which was published by the Personal Computer Museum to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the franchise, compared the success of the game to other pop culture icons.
“The loyalty and nostalgia created by Dragon’s Lair is not unlike the fandom created by science fiction hits like Star Wars and Star Trek,” he said. “Virtually every year since Dragon’s Lair’s initial release, new ways to purchase the game have emerged,” including releases for such home consoles as the NES, Wii, Super Nintendo, and Sega CD.  You can even play Dragon’s Lair’s on your iPhone.
Bolton acknowledges that better, more beautifully animated games have come along since Dragon’s Lair, but there’s no denying the popularity and longevity of the adventures of Dirk the Daring and his cartoon cohorts.

“The combination of gameplay, animation, sound, and the time in it was introduced to the world is what makes the game memorable,” he said. “Certain players feel personal pride being able to complete the game, which is considered far too difficult and frustrating by some. Others just like being transported to a world with monsters and knights and treasures where anything can happen.”

According to Bolton, the Dragon’s Lair arcade cabinet is, of course, the most highly sought after Dragon’s Lair collectible, but there are two versions in particular that are especially desirable to collectors. “Dragon’s Lair serial number one, which was once owned by Don Bluth, sold at auction for $8,000 several years ago,” he said. “We can only guess at its value today.”

Bolton also referenced the Australian release of the game, which is worth $5,000 or more in working condition. “Only two are known to still exist today,” he said.

Other Dragon’s Lair collectibles of note include: original animation cels ($50-$5,000 each, depending on the scene, and whether or not the cel is autographed); the Korean version of the Panasonic 3DO game ($150); a counting target toy set ($200); the Tele-Story Presents Dragon’s Lair storybook ($150 with cassette tape); the Sega CD demo disc of the game ($100); the 2008 Blu-ray release autographed by creators Don Bluth, Rick Dyer, John Pomeroy, and Gary Goldman ($100); and How to Win at Dragon’s Lair by Laren Ferguson ($25 in good condition, $150 or more in very fine or better condition).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 - ON SALE!!! - $17.49!

My second book, Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988, is on sale for the crazy low price of $17.49 through Amazon.

A follow up to 2007's Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984, this reference work provides detailed descriptions and reviews of every U.S.-released game for the Nintendo NES, the Atari 7800, and the Sega Master System, all of which are considered among the most popular video game systems ever produced. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by substantive entries for every game released for that console. Video game entries include publisher/developer data, release year, gameplay information, and, typically, the author's critique. A glossary provides a helpful guide to the classic video game genres and terms referenced throughout the work, and a preface provides a comparison between the modern gaming industry and the industry of the late 1980s.

What they are saying about the book:

From Booklist

Weiss follows his 2007 volume (Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984) with this follow-up, which covers games made for the Atari 7800, Nintendo NES, and Sega Master System, with the bulk of the text devoted to the popular Nintendo system. The entry for each game lists the publisher, developer, possible number of players, and year of publication. Sound, graphics, and levels of play are briefly described, and the author--an experienced collector and gamer--provides his well-educated opinion on the quality of play. Arcade games and other systems for which the game was also ported are listed. A glossary and index provide further information. For as far as it goes, this reference is professionally executed and an obvious labor of love.

  Reviews

"professionally executed and an obvious labor of love" --Booklist/RBB

"this is a great book...information is spot-on...100% accurate...a must-own" --Video Game Trader

"a great tome of reference...excellent...a must-own for any avid 8-bit collector" --Retro Gamer


AMAZON REVIEW:
For anyone that is interested in the Nintendo NES, Atari 7800 and Sega Master System this book is well worth purchasing. This guide does a good job of providing a quick and informative overview of all US licensed games for each system. Considering that there are over 700 games for the Nintendo NES alone, a guide like this helps the potential gamer to home in on games that fit their taste. That way you can only purchase games that you might enjoy. Overall, the book is an interesting read and I doubt that anyone who plays video games wouldn't find it interesting.

AMAZON REVIEW:

Just like this book's companion, this book is a must own for any gamer out there. It is laid out extremely well and gives a nice description of each game that is spot on. I loved reading about all the different games for each system. I was surprised to see how many games the author and I agree on. I can spend hours going over each system and all the games for them. It is a great book that will help you build a better collection. Highly recommended, I love both books and plan on getting the third in the series.

4 books and counting...Look for more next year.