Rollergames: The Nintendo Game

For this post, we’re going back to 1990 to look at an ad featuring a Nintendo game I found under the tree that year. That’s all the reason I need to consider this a Christmas-themed post.

Now as for the ad itself, it’s pretty swank. It does its best to make the game sound exciting by throwing out those blurbs about what you’ll face in the game. Unfortunately, some of those things just don’t sound exciting. The Karate Creeps and Combat Copters sound great, but when you have to start naming off things like Open Manholes and Vicious Dogs, it could be an indicator that your game isn’t exactly Contra.

But it does highlight some screenshots, and the shots they chose to show make the game look really good. The broken highway in particular makes it look like a game you’d want to play.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the game. I really liked it. The fighting aspect was fun in its own way, and the skating aspect added a degree of difficulty not often seen in side-scrolling games. Like, after you landed a jump you had to instantly react because your player would just keep going. While that doesn’t sound all that bad, think about all the spots in games where you have to make numerous consecutive jumps and land on little spots between them.

The problem this game suffered from was false advertising. I mean, if you were watching Rollergames on television, you were expecting a roller derby on a figure-eight track with the massive wall of death and alligators potentially on the track. But what you go was a side-scrolling fighting game. It’s like they had a game designed that they felt they needed to attach a brand to, and Rollergames was it.

They did keep the teams from Rollergames intact, as you had your choice of three playable characters. A girl from the Hot Flash, a guy from The Rockers, or “The IceBox” Robert Smith from the world-famous L.A. T-Birds. The managers of the heel teams were also represented, as they were featured as level bosses throughout the game.

The Rollergames TV show didn’t have a large following. I mean, it only lasted 13 episodes. So Konami was already drawing from a limited pool and the fact that the video game wasn’t like what was seen on TV further limited its appeal. But none of that stopped me from enjoying it. I liked the game for what it was and spent many hours on it. Especially on Christmas day in 1990. There…that last sentence reinforces that this is a post for Christmas.

Highlights From the 1988 Sears Christmas Wish Book

Christmas is coming up quickly, so I thought it would be a good time to open up an old Sears Christmas Wish Book and relive some great old memories from the past.   I’m going back in time to 1988 with that year’s edition of the Wish Book to pick out some of the cool toys I wanted.

I was 10 years old in 1988, so it was right at that perfect time of still being into toys, but at the same time, starting to have an eye towards some gifts that were a little more “grown-up”.  The 1988 edition of the Wish Book was loaded with so much cool stuff, and I want to share some of them with you in this edition of Retro Ramblings.


G.I. Joe Locker Bag Kit

Oh my goodness!  If you’ve got to start a personal grooming habit as a young man, what better way to do it than with G.I. Joe?!?  This kit has everything a 10-year-old young man would need too.  G.I. Joe approved toothbrush and toothpaste (ADA be damned), mini soap with its own case to keep it from getting all slimy, a brush and comb for whatever stylish ‘do you are sporting, and a cup to go along with that toothcare set.  To top it all off, there is a small pocket-size pack of tissue to take with you wherever you go, and a cool ass locker bag to store it all in.  You would be the envy of your fellow gym mates if you walked into a locker room with that bag slung over your shoulder.  And on top of all of that, how cool would it be to see this puppy hanging up in your bathroom at home.  It would almost make coming in from playing outside to get cleaned up enjoyable.  Almost. 

Rock Tumbler

This rock tumbler is still my holy grail of never gotten Christmas gifts.  I circled this thing in every Wish Book from as far back as I can remember all the way up through the early nineties.  Never once did I find it waiting for me under the tree at Christmas.  I had all these dreams about using it to start a profitable business making gemstone jewelry and price gouging the other kids at school.  Just yesterday I was out doing a little shopping and had to make a stop at Hobby Lobby.  I’m browsing the aisles and minding my own business when I turn a corner and BAM!  There’s a display full of Rock Tumblers!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  After all these years I could finally have one of my very own.  But then I saw the price tag.  $119.99.  Are they serious?  How is anyone supposed to turn a profit on cheap gemstone jewelry with overhead like that?  Not this old boy, no sir.  I’ll just have to continue to circle this thing in every catalog I come across hoping one day to be gifted one. 

Slot-less “Slot” Car Track

Now here we go!  I am an old slot car fiend from way back, and this track just looks awesome.  Now I know it doesn’t have all the cool twists, turns, loops, and the other bells and whistles that various other slot car tracks have, but it has one feature that one-ups all of those.  Do you see any actual slots on this track?  Nope, not a single one.  That’s because you have to steer these cars yourself.  There’s no slot to guide you on your way or to keep you from slamming into your opponent.  You have to have the skill to avoid, or ram, your opponent yourself.  That makes this track set so awesome.  I can totally see myself mimicking “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt and “rattling some cages’ to put other racers in the wall….or cheap plastic guard rail as the case may be here. 

Now while I never did get an awesome slot-less track, I DID actually get the slot car track above.  It was a pretty badass track in its own right though.  I thought the lap counter was just the coolest feature I had seen on a track before.  You could set it to however many laps you wanted to run (up to 50 I think), and then the first car to clock that many laps would have a little winner’s flag pop up on their timer.  I’m pretty sure I got the track for Christmas ’88, so there is a very good chance it was ordered from this very catalog. 

LEGO Sets

LEGO was really my cup of tea throughout my whole childhood.  Heck, my kids still play with all my old LEGOs even today.  Luckily, it was one of the toys my Mom kept for all those years.  Some of the pieces still in my childhood collection come from that Hospital pictured at the top of the page.  It was a pretty cool set as it gave you a building to add to your LEGO city. 

But while that was cool, it’s the bottom two sets that really get my motor running.  First of all, that Truck Stop is just dripping with manliness.  If you had this set as a kid, you probably grew chest hair before all you’re friends who didn’t have it.  With two rigs and a big rig wrecker, you were ready for some heavy hauling.  And when the hours got too long, you could pull into the truck stop itself for a hot cup of Joe.  Life couldn’t be much sweeter.  Since my Dad drove some big trucks like these, this thing was on my list for a couple of years.  I had to make do with creating my own versions though.  Since I never had it, it’s going on my list again. 

To finish it off, there is the Super Speedway.  My old man picked me up the small version of this one at some point.  It had only one base plate though instead of two, and only two race cars instead of the four pictured here. My small set was super fun, so I can only imagine how much fun this mammoth set would have been. 

Nintendo Games

How could any self-respecting kid not just circle the entire page?  Do you see the selection of games just ready for the taking?  And this is only one of a two-page spread! Even though a kid can’t restrain themselves, as an adult, I can.  That, and I don’t have the space or time right now to write about every game on the page, so I just circled a select few. 

A couple of my absolute favorite games featured on this page are Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest and Pro Wrestling!  I had gotten Pro Wrestling the night I got my Nintendo, and I saved my allowance for what felt like forever and bought Simon’s Quest.  So to narrow this list down a little further, let’s just go with the rest.  There’s RC Pro-Am, Rad Racer, Ghosts and Goblins, and the legendary Legend of Zelda.  Those are some hall of fame titles right there.  And I’m sure every game on the page has its hardcore fans, making this a page with probably more circles than any other in the whole catalog.  Back in this time period, if you were a kid whose parents had any means whatsoever, you generally found a new Nintendo game under your tree.  I know I was fortunate enough to find one most years, and any of these games I had circled would have entertained me for the rest of Christmas break. 

Now from this page, I’ve circled several of the ones I really want.  You’ve got the all-time classics Contra and ExciteBike, the much-adored Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, and the underrated Goonies II.  But the one on this page that would really pique my interest is Tag Team Wrestling.  Pro Wrestling is one of my all-time favorite games for the console, so I really want to give this game a go. 

You really couldn’t go wrong getting any of the games on either of these pages for Christmas.  Let’s face it, a Christmas day spent playing a new Nintendo game was going to be one hell of a day regardless of what the title was. 

Merlin the Magician Magic Kit

I’ve probably talked about it before on here somewhere, but I’ve been fascinated with magic ever since I saw Lance Campbell perform in the 4th-grade talent show at school.  Matter of fact, a lot of the tricks he performed can be found in this very set.  They may even be a good chance that this is the set he used in the show. 

Regardless, this thing is full of cool tricks that would amaze your friends.  That is if your friends are eight years old.  But if I had this thing, I’d force my kids to sit on the couch and pretend to be amazed at the astounding acts of magic I was performing. 

Willow Toys

When the movie Willow hit, I was all about it.  Even though I never saw it in the theater, I was hooked by the trailers alone.  Well, that and those cool Willow Magicups that came in Wendy’s kid’s meals as part of the promotion for the movie. 

Even though I hadn’t seen the movie at the time, I would have LOVED to have all of these toys.  I’m a sucker for fantasy realms and their toys, so these look like they’re right up my alley.  The only problem I see with them is that they don’t appear to be articulated.  I still like the idea of setting them up in battle settings, but it would be even cooler if you could “play” with them. 

Micro Machines Toys

If you know anything about me at all, then you should know that I simply adore Micro Machines.  I have ever since the day Marcus Callis showed up at school with a pocket full of the little things.  It only took a few moments of marveling over them to know that I wanted some of my own.  And while I had my fair share of the cars, I was always enamored with the play sets that were available for them.  There are a couple of the small playsets pictured at the top of the page, and those were the ones that you could connect together to make much larger sets, construction a whole town or small city if you had enough of them.  Let’s go ahead and put both of those on my list. 

There’s also the Micro Machines Transport Truck pictured.  I had it once upon a time, and it was great as a carrying case that you could also play with.  It would hold 11 cars, so it was a nice option to tote along when I was heading to Grandma’s house for the day. 

Playmobil

Oh, how I loved Playmobil toys.  Especially their western-themed sets like this.  It seemed like I only ever got Playmobil toys at Christmas, and usually only from aunts and uncles at the annual family Christmas party.  I had a lot of the cowboys and Indian-themed sets, and the toys shown above just go right along with them. 

That train would be awesome, but it came with a very hefty $219.99 price tag.  That’s $462.00 in today’s money!  That sucker was one expensive toy.  But it does look really cool, and I know from experience that Playmobil toys were as durable as they came. 

Besides the train, there is the Western Station which comes with 8 figures!  It has a big price tag on it too though.  Anyway, I’m going to just circle this entire page and hope for the best. 

Marvel Comics Pack

You’d always find listings like these every year in the wish books for things like comics, baseball cards, stamps, and other collectibles, but this collection right here looks astounding!  This pack is brimming with cool 80’s properties.  I can see ALF, Willow, GI Joe, Silver Hawks, and even Transformers comics.  Those alone would probably make the pack worth the price of admission, but then you throw in the classic Marvel titles like Avengers, Hulk, Thor, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man and you’ve got yourself a super fun way to spend a few afternoons. 

PXL 2000 Deluxe Video Camera

And this my friends, is one of the coolest Christmas gifts I ever received.  This thing was a real, honest-to-goodness, video camera designed for kids.  But the really unique thing was that this camera recorded onto cassette tapes.  Don’t ask me how.  The description says it records a unique black-and-white image called Pixelvision, with sound.  I remember it having decent quality on playback, and the whole thing was really easy to set up and use.  I sure wish I still had the tapes I recorded with it, as I would set it up and record myself dancing to 1989 hip-hop tracks.  I’m sure that would be a sight to see today. 

Whew. That just covered a lot of ground, but in truth, I could fill this blog with nothing but things I want from this 1988 catalog. We better cut it off here before I overload the server.

Highlights From a 1988 Toys ‘R’ Us Sale Paper

On this week’s episode of The Retro Network Podcast, Jason and I scoured through an old Toys ‘R’ Us sale paper from 1988. Even at just sixteen pages, the thing was loaded with all kinds of cool toys from the past. You can listen to us salivate over everything in the ad on the show, but here are five things from it that I want to highlight in this edition of Retro Ramblings.


Army Gear Playsets from Galoob

Until we recorded the show, I was completely unaware of the existence of these incredible looking toys. They’re kind of like Transformers in that they’re two distinct toys in one. Like the M-16…you could play with it as a machine gun while running around chasing the neighbor kids, but you could also open it up into a playset for the Combat Troops.

Besides the M-16, it looks like there was also a flashlight that transformed into an air defense station, a watch that transformed into some kind of missile base, and a pistol that turned into a 3-level silo…and they had sounds!

Not to mention the combat troops themselves which you would obviously need to ramp up the fun with the playsets. And for just $3.99 you got ten good guys and ten bad guys to battle it out. This is a line I’m going to have to look into further.

Bone Age from Kenner

Way back when, well I guess in 1988 as it turns out, I saw commercials for what I thought were pretty cool-looking toys. I never ended up having any of them, and they gradually slipped from my mind until just a few years ago. I searched high and low for a name for the toy line with no luck. Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I turned to Twitter for the answer and got it pretty quickly. Bone Age.

I had been enamored with the “vehicles” and the like from the line, and still am today. So when we flipped the page in the sale paper and happened upon these things, I was ecstatic. These aren’t even the best representations of the toys in the line. It wouldn’t fit this post if I started adding images from other sources, so you’ll just have to google them yourselves.

But the gist is that you’ve got these big skeleton dinosaurs and the cavemen that ride on them I guess. But some of the other toys in the line are net launchers and other such fancy weapons. Maybe the coolest thing about them was that you got to put the dinosaur skeletons together before you played with them, adding another layer of fun to the toy.

Crossfire from Milton Bradley

Raise your hand if you remember the badass commercial promoting this game. I can’t really see if you’re raising your hand or not, but if I could, and you weren’t raising your hand, I would pretend I didn’t see it out of pity for you. That commercial kicked seven kinds of ass and had more ass lined up down the street waiting to be kicked.

Besides Fireball Island, Crossfire may be the most fondly remembered board game from the era. It was pretty simple, as you and your opponent both were equipped with guns that shot small ball bearings across the surface of the board. You had to use those ball bearings to knock a couple of pucks into your opponent’s trench. At the same time, you had to keep your opponent from knocking them into your trench.

This game was just so much fun. It usually went quickly with someone winning after just a few minutes, but what a few minutes it was. Your hand would get sore from pulling the trigger so many times in just a short span. And loud. Holy crap was this a loud game to play with the ball bearings bouncing off the plastic sides of the game board at high speeds. I’m sure a fair number of parents second-guessed their decision to buy this for their kids.

G.I. Joe Toys from Hasbro

As you already know, G.I. Joe was my bag back in the ’80s. I had more than my fair share of Joes, Cobras, vehicles, and playsets, and I loved every one of them.

One of the bigger pieces I had was this Mobile Command center pictured on the left side of the image. That thing was massive with its three levels that would fold out. And when it was closed up, it actually rolled along. As Jason said on the pod, it looked like a sand crawler from Star Wars.

But the playset was filled with every kind of nook and cranny you needed. There was a jail cell for captured Cobras, a command center, gun turrets, missile launchers, and even a “trap door” that would allow the Joes to slide down from the top level to the ground in somewhat of a quick deployment mechanism.

I never had any hands-on experience with any of the other vehicles pictured in the ad, but I did have the Road Pig figure pictured in the set. He was instantly one of my favorite figures and was the resident badass on the Cobra side of things. He and Sgt. Slaughter went on to have numerous knock-down, drag-out battles in my bedroom.

Nintendo Games from Various

I never get tired of looking at old Nintendo game ads. Whether singular titles or ads like this featuring a glut of gaming goodness. Nintendo was the undisputed king of playtime in this era, and these games are the reason.

I see several that I actually owned featured in this ad. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dribble, Contra, Defender of the Crown, and my all-time favorite game for the system, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.

Blades of Steel always piqued my interest, but I never got to play it. Bayou Billy had a lot of hype around it if I remember correctly, but I never was around it either. Skate or Die was a perennial favorite of my best friend Geoffrey so I got to dabble with it a little bit too. But like I said, these games were the reason Nintendo was king, and I don’t even know if I could figure up all the hours I spent on the games I mentioned above.


So that’s just a little sampling from the sixteen pages of awesome that was the Toys ‘R’ Us sale paper that Jason and I covered on The Retro Network Podcast. You can give it a listen to hear us talk about everything in it and share old memories. Before you give it a listen though, you can view the entire 16-page ad here.

Tetris for Nintendo

We all know the story of this game. Several different odd-shaped blocks fall from the top of the board, and you had to rotate them, move them left or right to get them to drop into position to complete a line and make it go away. If you weren’t quick enough or smart enough to do that on a consistent basis, your board would be full and your game would be over.
My first experience with the game came with the launch of the Game Boy.  A local department store had the Game Boy demo set up in their electronics department.  Every weekend while my mother would do her shopping, I killed time playing Tetris on the demo machine.  It wasn’t long until I had enough money saved up to buy the game for the NES, and then a much bigger, and full-color version of the game was mine.

It was so simple of a game, even an adult could play it too!  And that’s exactly what happened at my house, and why this game is so high up the list. My father never would play video games. He didn’t even like to sit and watch me play a game. So when he saw how easy Tetris was, he wanted to give it a try. For months afterward, we would play it together, seeing who could get the highest score and the most completed lines. He would even be the one most times to suggest us playing. Those times spent with my Dad, doing something that I loved are ones that I’ll never forget, and Tetris gets a high spot on my all-time list because of it.

My Origin Story: Nintendo

Nintendo was a big part of most kids’ lives who are now my age. I’m sure we had all spent our fair share of time in arcades pumping quarters into machines, and probably even took a few turns playing Atari, ColecoVision, or other earlier systems. But when Nintendo came along, it turned the video gaming world on its head and changed the business forever. We probably have it to thank for the continued video game obsession today. But for every one of us who loved Nintendo, there was a singular point in time when we first got to experience playing a game on one. This is the story of my first time.


Let me set the stage for you.  It was spring or early summer 1987.  I’m 9 years old and hanging out at my grandparent’s house on some lazy day.  My uncle Ernest is there visiting too, and somehow the conversation turned to him talking about this new thing called Nintendo that he had gotten for my cousin Tim.  I’m sitting and listening in puzzlement and amazement at the same time.

I’ve not heard of this Nintendo thing.  Somehow, someway, all the marketing and hype for it had completely eluded me.  Heard about it at school? Nope. Talked excitedly about it with my friends? No, missed out on that one too.  In what was surely a massive marketing blitz and rampant fever for Nintendo, I had somehow been completely oblivious to its existence.

So continuing to listen to Ernest as he spun intriguing tales of this game called Super Mario Brothers, I am becoming increasingly jealous of Tim and this “wonder box” that he now owns.  Then it happens. Ernest looked at me and said that I should come over and play it with Tim. He promised I would love it. The man had no idea what he had just unleashed upon me.

Going to visit Tim wasn’t any kind of chore since he lived right beside me.  When I got home that afternoon, I strolled next door, and what I found there left an indelible mark on me for the rest of my life.  This slightly odd-shaped gray and black box had me hooked from the first moment I picked up the controller.

Tim explained to me the basics of how it worked….how there were cartridges that contained the games that you inserted into the system, and hand-held controllers with which to play the games.  You didn’t need quarters or anything. You just turned it on and played arcade-like video games!

He gave me the basic rundown on how to play Super Mario Brothers, and let me watch him play for a while.  A LONG while. Eventually, he asked if I would like to play and I’m sure my answer was something along the lines of “HECK YEAH!”.  Sadly, he set us up in two-player mode which meant I would be Luigi. At that moment, I didn’t really care. What I didn’t know then was that Mario went first, and got to keep playing until he died.  Tim had already gotten quite good at the game, so I had to wait impatiently for quite a while before I got my turn.

Eventually, my time came.  I was so excited and barely able to contain myself.  The only thing I can even remotely compare that moment to is the first time I got a girl in the back seat of my car.  The nervousness and awkwardness of the moment were overwhelming. Much like when I had the girl in the backseat of the car, I hit the wrong button and it was over just as quickly as it had begun.  I had watched his moves intently and thought I was ready to run through the same levels I had just watched him complete. I mistimed the first jump and died a horrible death at the hands of a mutated mushroom.  After roughly 5 seconds of play, I was relegated back to the sidelines to sit and watch Tim and Mario dominate the playtime for another 15 – 20 minutes.

The afternoon continued on like this up into the evening, and when it was time to go, I was feeling a lot less enthusiastic about the whole video gaming experience.  In 4 hours of time spent with him, I had amassed about 20 minutes of total play. I went home thinking that it seemed fun, but I wasn’t really sure since I didn’t get very much hands-on time with the game.  

The following day, however, was a different story.  I showed back up at his house early and wasted no time in asking if he wanted to play Super Mario Brothers some more.  He darkened my whole world when he said, “Nah, I don’t want to play Mario today.” Just as quickly as he darkened the day, he lit it right back up when he said: “Let’s play Pro Wrestling instead.”  PRO WRESTLING?!? There was a game for Nintendo about Pro Wrestling?!?

Tim and I were both HUGE fans of pro wrestling in general and the NWA in particular.  We watched it together religiously and were huge fans of the Rock & Roll Express. He showed me the cartridge, and I’m surprised I didn’t wet my pants with excitement right then and there.  I may have, but I don’t really remember. When that game started up, it was like a choir singing Hallelujah!

We went through the cast of characters and were excited about the possibilities of matches we could have.  Since Tim hadn’t played the game much yet, we were pretty much on even footing when it came to experience. And throw in the fact that this was a game that both players played at the same time instead of taking turns meant that I got a whole lot more hands-on time with this than I ever would have gotten being Luigi on Super Mario Brothers.

We spent the entire day playing Pro Wrestling and I personally didn’t care at all about not getting to play Mario anymore.  The next several days were like that, with us playing Pro Wrestling by day, and me begging my parents for my own Nintendo by night.  

About a week later, my family went to the Hills Department Store in Bristol where my Dad picked up my first Nintendo Entertainment System for me, along with the Pro Wrestling cartridge, and a Space Invaders-type knockoff called Alpha Mission.  But I’ll save the details about that game for another time.

I can remember getting it home that night and being anxious as hell for my dad to get it hooked up to the television. By the time he had gotten everything hooked up and in place, it was getting late into the night. My mom let me play one quick match on Pro Wrestling, but then it was time for bed she said. I was like a kid going to bed on Christmas Eve with so much excitement coursing through my veins that it was hard to sleep. I’m sure I spent the night with visions of brain busters and somersault kicks dancing in my head.

I got up the next morning before the sun was up, and was immediately in the living room to play more Pro Wrestling. This was a Saturday, so that meant I was choosing Nintendo over my Saturday morning tradition of watching cartoons. But that was ok. I had watched cartoons my whole life. Nintendo was a new thing, and it wasn’t going to take a backseat to anything that day, even the glory that we now refer to reverently as ’80s cartoons.

I probably spent the entire day playing Nintendo. Most likely I played Pro Wrestling for most of that time, but I also popped in that Alpha Mission cartridge and gave it a go as well. My dad bought it because he thought he might enjoy playing it. I can only remember him giving it a shot one time, and from then on, it was mine all mine. His interest in Nintendo faded within the first 24 hours of having it in the house.

Within a seven-day period, I had gone from not knowing what the hell Nintendo even was, to playing one, owning one, and becoming obsessed with it. I bet if I thought about it, I could put that week in my life up there in the top 10 weeks in my life overall. I’ve been a Nintendo enthusiast since that point in time, and it all started with that first trip to Tim’s house. And Pro Wrestling will forever hold the distinction of the game that originally stole my heart, and I still keep a pristine copy of it on display in my home. Right behind it, you can see pictures of my kids.