Why, Lord? WHY?
In the years I've partaken in video games as a hobby and source for journalistic inspiration, I've experienced a lot of buyer's remorse. In most instances, the effect wasn't immediate…otherwise I'd have returned the item (unless I inadvertently broke it while trying to use it, like the miserable Tiger R-Zone). But for one reason or another, I now completely regret purchasing, fawning over, or being even slightly excited about all of the following.
Sega 32X and the Sega CD (Genesis)
It's not very often that you get burned by the same console's add-ons twice in a row (unless you bought both the HD-DVD player and Kinect for the Xbox 360). So when the Mega CD released for the Sega Genesis, I happily nabbed myself one. I realized my mistake the moment I got it home. Let me spell it out by singling out one of the launch titles: Make My Video: Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch. This is a game where your entire directive is to make a music video for a Mark Wahlberg rap song.
When the 32X showed up, I hesitated, seeing how the last Genesis "upgrade" felt akin to installing Windows 3.1 on an Alienware computer. But I took the bait and added something to my ailing Genesis that looked like cancerous growths on both on its head and its ass.
And oh god, the wires. I couldn't even play the damn thing without either unplugging another add-on or buying a bigger power strip to accomodate three AC power cable. And for what? A Doom port that sacrificed a dozen levels in exchange for two extra tracks in Virtua Racing DX? A game, I should note, that looks exactly like what you'd see if you inhaled bath salts and stared at an origami book.
My dead grandparents have aged better than these things.
Revisited in 2012: I lost one of the many mportant 32x cables and cannot actually use it anymore. I do, however, possess a JVC XEye (a Sega Genesis and Mega CD combo console) because my earlier dissatisfaction apparently led to a drunken impulse buy.
I decided to confront an old nemesis and booted up Marky Mark two decades past its sell-by date (while writing my book Nintendon't
). I'd honestly forgot how poorly the Mega CD handled video compression. Just try staring at an over-compressed GIF of shirtless Wahlberg rapping about Sunkist. On a modern LCD, it looks like someone added bacon bits to lentil soup and dumped it on top of a Powerpoint presentation.
I think that's the first time anybody's ever used that phrase to describe Make My Video. I've accomplished something here.
Keyboard/web browser (Dreamcast)
There has never been a more star-crossed console than the Dreamcast. Its downfall remains a mystery to us all, but it clearly arrived before its time. It came with a built-in modem, what seemed like an entire spool of telephone cord stolen from an AT&T truck, and a CD curiously titled "Web Browser."
See, I'm a big fan of having the World Wide Web on a screen bigger than the crappy CRT that came with my Windows 98 brick, but I was never too fond of WebTV (which I am surprised to learn is still around today). The Dreamcast bridged the gap between a proper computer with Internet access and the clunky, quasi-broadband crap that was WebTV.
So naturally, I picked up a copy of Typing of the Dead and a Dreamcast keyboard. Only I could never get the Web Browser to work no matter which disc I used. So I ended up playing Sega Swirl until I became very, very good at it.
Revisited in 2012: SegaNet has been dead for a whole decade. Typing of the Dead is still a riot, though.
4. Transfer Pak (Nintendo 64)
I am notoriously spiteful toward Pokémon Snap, the North American debut Pokémon franchise title on the Nintendo 64. By the time Snap released in the United States, Japan already had Pokémon Stadium, and that simply didn't sit well with me. When Stadium finally arrived in the States, I was ecstatic. When Nintendo announced you could get a Transfer Pak to transfer your Pokémon Red and Blue teams to the Nintendo 64, I just about crapped myself.
That may or may not be hyperbole.
For the first few weeks, I relentlessly used the Transfer Pak to upload every single Pokémon I'd ever captured into Pokémon Stadium and meticulously stormed through the quests to unlock the fabled Surfing Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow. Then, as quickly as it started, support for the Transfer Pak vanished. Outside of Japan, the only other games that supported the Transfer Pak were Perfect Dark (with its atrocious Game Boy Color port), Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, and Mickey's Speedway USA.
Your options were essentially Pokémon or that shitty Mickey Mouse/Mario Kart 64 rip off. Over in Japan, the Transfer Pak boasted connectivity between Mario Paint and the Game Boy Camera. No thank you, Nintendo.
Revisited in 2012: I classify every single accessory released for the Nintendo 64 as a load of crap, and I can say that with a clear conscience because there were technically only two of them: the Transfer Pak and the Voice Recognition Unit for Hey You, Pikachu! The Transfer Pak still works fine for the purpose it intended to serve. I can still use it to trade my decade-old Pokémon into Pokémon Stadium or as an awkward middleman to play Pokémon Blue on my television. You know, in case I manage to misplace my Super Game Boy.
With the exception of being able to transfer my battle-hardened pocket monsters into another game, the Transfer Pak is wholly and entirely worthless to me. It's my own fault for not being a socially challenged 10-year-old or a child predator.
Game Boy Printer (Game Boy)
I loved the printer that came bundled with my Game Boy Camera more than life itself. I promptly burned up an entire roll of paper printing all the pictures of mundane crap I took in those exciting first few days.
Then I realized you could make stickers out of all those mundane-crap pictures.
When I discovered an entire sticker menu locked away inside Super Mario Bros. DX (still the best incarnation of the game), the rest of my sticker paper promptly went down the drain. I still have the "Nintendo Entertainment System" banner I printed out on my wood VCR shelf (which hasn't held a VCR in years). Somewhere in a storage unit in South Texas sits a shoebox full of Pokédex printouts from Pokémon Yellow. That's how fond my memories are.
Revisited in 2012: For the longest time, my littlest printer sat on a small shelf with my other Game Boy stuff just because I liked the way it looked. I'd conveniently forgotten how needlessly intricate this thing was, which might be why I honestly asked it, "Are you shitting me?" when I took the battery door off of the Game Boy Printer and rediscovered it requires about $5 worth of AA batteries to operate. I could have a Pokémon-link battle with myself and pay someone else to take pictures of the occasion with my archaic digital camera for that many batteries.
Nevertheless, I switched the printer on, and it buzzed to life. Then I connected my Game Boy (with camera) to the printer and decided to print the first picture I ever took with the device: a photo of me making a goofy grin with my name improperly centered below it. The printer buzzed and hummed, and the paper emerged all blotchy and messed up.
As it turns out, thermal roll paper has the shelf life of a gallon of milk. Supposedly, you can use any old thermal paper roll, but you won't find any that make stickers. Screw that.
uDraw Tablet (Xbox 360)
When I'm not livid about what a rip-off Kinect was
or busy sperging it up about Pokémon glitches
, I enjoy funneling my creative energy into drawings and sketches. I've always been hesitant to use a tablet for my art because I'm old fashioned and I prefer traditional, handmade-on-real-paper artwork. No fill buckets, no color palettes for easy shading, no undo button. Just pure talent and self-discipline.
But then GameStop.com started selling uDraws for $20.
The tablet is nice. uDraw: Instant Artist, the bundled software, is not. I bought the uDraw to, y'know, draw. I know THQ designed it for kids, but I had no idea just how dumbed-down this thing was. First, if you draw fairly fast or use rapid hand movements common to sketchwork, uDraw can't keep up and lags terribly. Secondly, it lacks a layering function, so forget adding guidelines or finalized line art and color on sub-layers. Finally, you've got the Paint Meter. It gauges the amount of lines and color you can use on-screen at one time. That's right: your creativity is limited to a glass RAM ceiling.
No, you cannot use the eraser tool and refill the Paint Meter. In some bizarre catch-22 universe-shattering paradox, using the eraser also uses up paint.
Honestly, the uDraw makes a really nice peripheral for the Xbox, but the software makes it unusable.
Revisited in 2012: Considering I only bought the thing a month ago, not much has changed. Let me check.
Nope, still dissatisfied.
Everything ever created by Tiger Electronics
I can't say anything nice about this company. Sega might have fooled me twice, but I feel like a real goon for all the times Tiger Electronics and their shitty LCD gimmicks duped me. I honestly have no idea how a company like this becomes a multi-million dollar corporation, but it must involve Satanic rituals and virgins. Lots of virgins.
For today's lesson, let's start with the Tiger R-Zone. It's a glorified handheld LCD game you wear on your head — supposedly made to compete with the Virtual Boy.
Re-read that last sentence again so it sinks in. Tiger Electronics made an inferior knockoff to the biggest hardware failure in Nintendo history. End result? A red-tinted turd that made the Virtual Boy look positively brilliant. Not even Nintendo Power could do that.
Want another example? Try the Game.com, a brick that went up against the Game Boy Pocket despite being four times the size of the Pocket…or, in fact, pockets. The Game.com reminded everyone that a large piece of furniture is also technically portable if you have the insane desire to carry it around with you. That said, a ton of licensed titles and franchises buoyed the platform, all hilariously butchered by Tiger in increasingly bizarre ways. Its killer app, Solitaire, came pre-installed.
Revisited in 2012: LCD games still make me want to commit hate crimes. Even more inexcusably, I own an almost-complete library of Game.com games. Apparently, I really hate myself. They're all spectacularly flawed. Sonic Jam's blurriness. Resident Evil 2 not understanding its own save function. The broken characters of Fighters Megamix. The CPU nailing a triple-word score in Scrabble with "ZXJBQ." Good times.
The greatest thing Tiger Electronics ever produced was the puzzle game Lights Out. Yes, I have it.
André Bardin is a 20-something freelance writer specializing in video game and Internet culture. Once upon a time, he wrote a book about obscure and bad video games called Nintendon't (available from Amazon) and presently maintains a portfolio on the website GatorAIDS. André can be reached via email (andre [at] trackmill [dot] com) for any and all inquiries.