Vanguard was an arcade game developed by “shadow” developer TOSE, and released in Japan by SNK in late 1981 and licensed for North America by Centuri. It was an important intermediate step towards modern side-scrolling shoot-em-ups such as Gradius and R-Type, improving on a genre first formed by William’s seminal Defender.
Today in the Ad Game we feature a TV commercial for the Atari 2600 port of Vanguard:
Vanguard was definitely a great arcade game, and the 2600 version a spectacular port that demonstrates the amazing things Atari programmers were able to pull off with the platform as it matured. This ad, however, doesn’t do any of that justice. For instance, who trades off the joystick to their buddies in the middle of a game? Hard to keep your concentration and momentum going with some jerk begging for the joystick. Just wait until he crashes, it won’t be long. Try shouting “The wall, the wall!” into his ear, that oughta speed up his destruction. One of the big innovations touted in Vanguard was the ability to shoot in four directions, but in the ad the shooting looks pretty spastic. The key to any successful shooter is the precision of your shots, and here it looks like the gunner is having a seizure. Then, of course, we have the hulking Luthor, who’s sole responsibility is to defeat the Gond, the boss at the end of the round. A man of few words, it is rumoured that Luthor once, when a kid refused to give up the joystick to him, stuffed the poor bastard’s hand completely into the cartridge slot. We can only know his moods by his demented chuckling. Perhaps Luthor is related to Beavis?
Tandy’s TRS-80 computer, lovingly called the “Trash-80” by aficionados, was an early home computer released in 1977, that same magical year that established the idea of computers in the home with the Commodore Pet and a little number called the Apple II.
Nothing quite gets the nostalgic fires burning as a product catalog. So here we feature a link to a 1982 Radio Shack (owned by Tandy) catalog, profiling all the wonderful programs and games you could get for the system. Not only is the content great, but the whole thing is presented in such a tactile way that your can almost feel your grubby hands sliding across the slick paper, drooling over the new games rolling in for your machine:
Click to see catalog
I also recommend checking out the whole site, Radio Shack Catalogs. It is an astounding repository of promotional materials from Radio Shack’s history, and you can’t think of 70’s electronics without harkening back to the Shack.
Our ad today loads up a service that gave many people their first taste of electronic mass communication: CompuServe. Back in the “good” old days, you had a couple of options if you wanted to go online: a local dial-up BBS, or a nationwide equivalent like CompuServe, one of the larger players in the forming market. Here is the ad, from a 1985 issue of Compute’s Gazette:
The “videotex” mentioned in the copy was an early system to deliver interactive text to users. It’s funny to me how the base elements of the Internet were all understood and ready to be delivered to a potential user base: news, banking, online shopping, email, games… all the concepts of what we do on the Internet today. Of course, CompuServe has to couch things in a way people of the 80’s would understand, so they compare their chat service to a “multi-channel CB simulator”. 10-4 good buddy! I’m also impressed by the image of a Zardoz-type video warrior armed with not only a hand blaster, but a light-sabre as well. Guy’s ready for a fight!
Today the Visual Cortex hatches an ad for the Atari 2600 and 5200 versions of Williams’ arcade hit Joust:
Click to enlarge
Running in periodicals in 1984, it’s short on actual screenshots of the game, and heavy on artist renditions of the action. I also find it humourous how it tries to sex-up the “beasts of the air” you fly in the game, the ostriches from the original arcade game. The ad copy starts off with an unusual, confusing take on the classic opening words of the Star Wars movies:
Well, which is it? Long ago, or a distant future? Anyway, I don’t think I want to purchase a game that spits eggs out of my TV screen, from whence evil, sharp-taloned dragons attack me.
This is a holy-rolling TV spot from 1993 for id Software’s seminal FPS game Doom, which I’m sure Atari had pinned as a system-selling port for their 64-bit Jaguar console. I don’t think you’d get away with selling a video game with such imagery these days:
digthatbox.com has a compilation page featuring a plethora of links to video game ads featuring celebrity spokespersons. Everything from Carol Channel shilling Atari to William Shatner hawking the VIC-20 computer. There’s quite a few “before they were famous” moments, with Christian Bale dancing to Pac-Man cereal, and Jack Black espousing the daring tales of Pitfall Harry.