Nintendo Game Packs
Oh, Nintendo... you poor, poor bastards. You still dominate the handheld market, but you're getting assfucked in the console market. The GameCube is a distant #2 in the global console market and it's #3 in the United States, where XBox is the #2 console. It pains me to see Nintendo trail the XBox because the XBox has no heart, no history, and only a handful of exclusive games that I'd ever bother playing. I probably should resent Nintendo for all the stupid crap that I was duped into buying over the years: the pointless How To Win At Nintendo books from the Scholastic catalog, the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda trophies from Hasbro, Mario Teaches Typing, Legend of Zelda: Molblin's Magic Spear (sic) by Golden Books, a Mario game watch that was damn near impossible to play, a set of Happy Meal prizes that included Eye-Gouging Raccoon Mario, the Nintendo Cereal System, Mario party favors, and even a Super Mario Bros. Super Show! tape or two. I don't think any other video game company has ever been in such a position that it could put its name on absolutely *anything* and be reasonably confident that the product would sell. When was the last time some impressionable young kid threw a tantrum until their mom bought him a book just because it had the Sony logo on it? Hint: NEVER. All of the merchandise mentioned above was at least somewhat redeemable. Kids want Happy Meals anyway, why not throw a poorly made Mario toy in there? And if you're gonna learn to type, Mario's a much better teacher than that annoying bitch Mavis Beacon. I have very few regrets about the mediocre Nintendo products that I accumulated over the years. Sure, Mario Is Missing was repetitive and educational, but its random information about landmarks in major cities did help me complete a travel brochure project in Social Studies one year. However, there is one licensed Nintendo product that I severely regret buying to this very day, so much so that I bought a whole box of the crap on eBay just so I could share its sheer horror with all my readers. In 1989, Nintendo struck a deal with trading card giant Topps to produce something that was at least ten times lamer than Chip from Transformers and it was called the Nintendo Game Pack.
What was the Nintendo Game Pack? A pack of 5 cards that retailed for 50 cents and came packaged in one of three different wrappers: Mario, Link, or Princess Toadstool before she was renamed Peach. Peach is such a stupid fucking name, except when it's preceded by James and the Giant. Unlike Topps baseball cards or the 1989 Topps Batman cards, these were not trading cards. In fact, you didn't even get a piece of that chalky pink substance that card companies claimed was gum. No, the Nintendo Game Pack was comprised of two sticker cards with TOP SECRET TIPS on the back, and three Nintendo scratch tickets. Yes, that's right. Scratch tickets:
It wasn't until a few years ago, when the super sexy Game Boy Advance SP with its built-in backlight was introduced, that it truly became possible to play Nintendo anywhere. Well, I guess you can't play underwater, but only an asshole would try that shit anyway. Before that, you were pretty much fucked as far as portables went. Nintendo's Game & Watch series were LCD games, so they were near-impossible to play in low light environments. The same held true for original Game Boy and those shitty Tiger Electronics games. So while portable gaming was certainly possible in 1989, it was far from optimal. If you wanted a full color gaming experience that could be played in poorly light rooms, you were pretty much out of luck. That is, until the Nintendo Game Packs by Topps were introduced. Released at roughly the same time as the Game Boy, Game Packs were high in color and low in fun. By using a scratchcard format, Topps hoped to recreate the action and excitement of playing an actual video game. Needless to say, it didn't fucking work. There were 60 game cards altogether, ten card sets from six classic games: Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out, Double Dragon, Mario 2, and Zelda II. The cards, which referred to themselves as screens, took simple game objectives such as beating Abobo or jumping over a pit and turned them into a game of chance where the odds were horribly against you. Even when I was nine, I felt rather insulted and incredibly irritated when I'd lose on a card where the goal was to stomp three Goombas. Come on, a friggin' four-year-old could do that without much trouble.
It's hard to say what the purpose of the Nintendo Game Packs was. You couldn't trade them, because who the fuck wants a card that's already scratched? They weren't particularly fun either; they were frustrating and stupid. So how could anyone have ever bought multiple packs of these goddam things? The answer is rather simple. At the time that these came out, my friends and I were in 3rd grade. Since we were so young, most of us had grandparents or other elderly relatives who were still alive. Now ask yourself, what do old people love more than pills, cigarettes, Social Security, and cats combined? That's right, scratch tickets. And when old people played their fucking scratch tickets, they won stuff. Assuming that we would win free rentals or Cokes from the video store where we got them, we bought at least two dozen packs of these between us. One of us finally won a King Hippo card and we all rushed back to the video store to see what prize he had won. Much to our dismay, the girl at the counter had absolutely no idea what the fuck we were talking about. After examining the scratchcard, she picked up one of the packs and pointed out that the clearly read THIS PRODUCT IS FOR FUN - NO PRIZES AWARDED. Yes, we had been so blinded by the shiny red Nintendo logo and our collective desire to win fabulous cash prizes that not a single goddam one of us had bothered to read the packaging. I was pissed, so pissed that I went back there later in the day and stole four more packs as vengeance for my wasted money. If I had been smarter, I would stolen something that was actually worth two dollars. Like candy. With these scratchcards, Topps and Nintendo had created perhaps one of the most evil products ever: it was designed to be as addictive as gambling, but with no actual payout and none of the alleged fun promised on packaging. Not only that, but it was specifically being marketed to children, who just happen to be the most impressionable demographic there is. Along with IBC and the candy cigarette companies, Nintendo was sending us down a morally corrupt path of fake gambling, fake smoking, and fake beer-swilling. Damn you, Nintendo. It's kind of funny though. In the 80s, parents got all fucking upset about things like candy cigarettes, Boglins, and Garbage Pail Kids. Today's parents would kill to have problems like that. When your twelve-year-old daughter wants to wear JLO brand clothes that make her look like a goddam whore, suddenly Bomber Snaps don't seem quite so bad, do they?
Though they were largely terrible, the Game Packs weren't all bad. While the scratch tickets sucked ass, you did get two stickers in each pack. Although they were so cheaply printed that the heat from my scanner smudged some of them, they were still pretty cool. Where else could you get a Hammer Brothers sticker? Probably about a dozen other places actually, but this is the only one I remember. I am fairly certain that no one else was selling WIN WITH LINK stickers though. Unfortunately, these decals were a double-edged sword. While one side provided up to several minutes of sticker-related merriment, the other side was swimmingly in retardedness. For on of the other side of these stickers, there were game tips. Bad ones. Please brace yourself for the stupidity that follows...
A shady man in a trench coat warns us not to share these Nintendo-sanctioned tips with others. That's actually a good suggestion, because if you ever told one of your friends to talk everyone you meet or watch out for bats in caves in Zelda II, that friend would probably smack you upside the head. Those aren't so much tips as they are BASIC FUCKING REALITIES OF THE GAME. If you didn't already know how to talk to people in Zelda II, chances are pretty good that you didn't make it real far. Chances are also pretty good that you're not fucking smart enough to play video games. And since you actually need to press B to talk to people, this hint can't even help the borderline retarded children that it was intended for. As for the warning about bats, they're not a particularly threatening enemy, especially once you get obtain the magic candle that's in the first fucking palace. I can't believe Topps and Nintendo made money off this shit. Why couldn't they give us Zelda II tips that might actually be of use? You know, like where to find the mirror that you need to get the Life spell or perhaps the hidden town of Kasuto? In a shameless attempt to make money, here are my Emmy award-winning Legend of Zelda tips. If you read them, you totally owe me sixty cents. After you're done with those, feel free to browse through all 33 of sticker/tip cards. Just try not to have an aneurysm.
Posted by: Syd Lexia