The Curious Case of the PlayStation

You can judge a game system by how much unnecessary merchandise it inspires. The good ol’ NES had a market nearly to itself in the late 1980s, so companies swamped it with accessories: dust covers, rolling TV carts, turbo switches, eighteen different brands of cleaning kit, and even locks so concerned parents could control their Nintendo-addicted children. In contrast, you won’t find a great deal of third-party knickknacks for the Sega Saturn, the Atari Jaguar, or even the TurboGrafx-16.

The original Sony PlayStation was an obvious success by 1996, and ancillary goods appeared rapidly. Extension cables, boomerang-shaped controllers, and unreliable high-capacity memory cards weren’t necessary, but I found one specialized item helpful: a PlayStation game carrying case.

CD cases are commonplace even today, as the format slips into the digital ether, yet most of them are mere wallets that hold otherwise naked discs. In the 1990s, it was easier to find transporters that let you haul CDs still inside their jewel cases. Sure, they were bulky and held about 30 discs at their largest, but even the 15-CD models offered extra protection for your complete discographies of The Shaggs, New Radicals, Ursa Major, One Dove, The Pulsars, Young Marble Giants, Operation Ivy, The Grays, Leviathan, 4 Non Blondes, Kak, The La’s, David and David, Mother Love Bone, and The Sex Pistols.

That’s the idea behind the PlayStation game carrier from Smart Pouch, which assumed that consumers would be more concerned about damage to $50 game discs than any scuffs incurred by that Spacehog album no one ever played past the first track.

Outwardly, the case sports a nondescript design, affixing the PlayStation logo to a pattern commonly seen on metal floors and pickup truck mats. It’s largely the same product as a tote for regular music CDs, but there’s one key difference inside.

Blaster Master: All About Eve

Comeback attempts are a big part of Blaster Master. Sunsoft’s original game is a near-classic of the NES library for two things: mixing side-view gameplay with overhead on-foot stages, and having a storyline wherein teenager Jason follows his pet frog down a hole and ends up driving a high-tech combat tank in a world of hostile mutants. That's how most remember it, too. No matter how many sequels or remakes Sunsoft attempts, Blaster Master always comes back to the frog.

The series returns yet again with Blaster Master Zero this week. It remakes the original game with new visual flourishes and gameplay, overseen by the throwback specialists at Inti Creates (Mega Man 9 and 10, Azure Striker Gunvolt). The trailer makes sure to exhibit catchy revamped music, sharp graphics, and my favorite part of Blaster Master: a mysterious woman named Eve.

To tell the truth, it’s not Eve herself that I like so much. It’s the way Sunsoft adopted her from the Worlds of Power book based on Blaster Master.

Altered Banner

Yes, the site has a new header image. I stuck with a simple one for years on end, but I grew jealous of other sites with big, fancy logos that proclaim their nerdery outright. The new spread comes from the artist known as Bratwurst, so please check out his Tumblr and badger him into updating it.

This won’t be the only change to the website. You may see some advertisements here in the near future. I know they can grate, but this site needs to pay for its own keep. While it’s currently running for free on Blogger, I still buy hosting for the domain and server, and I’d like to move things back to a more independent platform. I don’t miss the days of coding everything in HTML and having no comments section, but I do miss having a website that stood on its own.

Anyway, new banner. It’s full of things I’ve written about over the years. Even the two human figures pay tribute to my favorite action-RPGs in their hairstyles, and my hat goes off to anyone who can pick out the references. I left a lot of the characters represented there up to Bratwurst, though Rygarfield’s inclusion is all my fault.

Of course, the banner evokes Altered Beast, Sega’s silly 1989 Greek-werewolf action game, more than anything. This may make me a hypocrite and poseur, because I’m not a huge fan of Altered Beast.

I like the aesthetic of the ruins and all, but I’ve never had a strong connection to Altered Beast. I grew up a Nintendo kid who didn’t go nuts for any Sega series beyond Panzer Dragoon and Phantasy Star, and I didn’t get a Genesis until the mid-1990s. That was well after Sonic had replaced Altered Beast as the system’s pack-in game and everyone had forgotten about it.

By the time I played it, Altered Beast was just an old curiosity, worth playing just to snicker at the grotesque monsters and the homoerotic bellows of “Power Up” as the centurion hero bulks up into an Athenian lycanthrope. If you asked me to name my favorite Sega games, Altered Beast would be way down there below Arrow Flash but probably above the version of Fighter Vipers that doesn’t have Pepsiman.

But if I’m going to borrow Altered Beast’s aesthetic, I should find its best side.