Oh I suppose it began when I was a child. I used to get under the table and listen to my father and his friends talk about the battles they had been through in their struggles. First these impress you deeply. […] You know, when you’ve heard your father fighting day after day, night after night, and having nothing to eat but parched corn. A group of people fighting desperately against great odds. Great sacrifices. Suffering. Death. It was a great struggle, a great story.
— D.W. Griffith
1914, The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) begins to lobby aggressively for government regulation of films. The WCTU claims that films are “addictive,” that they glorify war and violence, and that they cause crime, delinquency and immoral behavior. They were one of several religious organizations that began to rally against films for their content.
The motion picture has entered every city and town of the country. It makes a widespread and subtle appeal to people of all ages and all degrees of mental development. In the short period of fifteen years it has established itself beside the book, the school, and the church as an instrument for moulding opinion.
— Orrin Cocks
The issue of censorship gained even more steam in April 16, 1913, when the state of Ohio passed an ordinance that allowed them to enforce censorship of films released in their state. This formed an organization which stated that their objective “is to improve the moral quality of motion pictures.” A fee had to be paid by film distributors in that state in order for it to be under consideration by the Ohio state commission, who would determine if the film should be released theatrically (the only way films could be seen at the time) in the state of Ohio. If the commission deemed the film unfit or immoral for audiences in their state, it would be illegal for the film to be released there. And any attempt to release the film in the state without approval would result in the arrest of the film distributors.
Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.
— Thomas Edison
Carrie Nation, a radical feminist and member of the temperance movement (against alcohol before prohibition), went about busting up saloons in 1900 for a few months in protest of alcohol; she usually did this wielding a hatchet. A year later, Edison would capitalize on her popularity with the film Kansas Saloon Smashers. It’s only inevitable that films would cover topical subjects outside of boxing. Carrie Nation would later die in 1911, with her last words being, “I have done what I could.” In 1919, her dreams of national prohibition would be realized. One year later, women would be given the right to vote.
But political fear is more than an individual experience, and it affects more than personal lives. The morals contributing to it descend from tradition and popular belief, and the rational calculus underlying it reflects the realities of social and political power. Whether by design or consequence—for sometimes the outcome is intended, other times not—political fear reinforces a society’s distribution of power and resources, influences public debate, and compels public policy.
— Corey Robin
In 1894, one of the first films ever was censored by the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. The films is titled Carmencita. It was censored because, during the dance, the woman’s underwear is (briefly) visible. But this was a minor act of censorship compared to what would happen three years later.
So a while back, listening to the Slaughterfilm podcast (again), Forrest Taylor brought up the subject on how many were bitching about “the death of cinema.” And Forrest basically stated that these complaints are nonsense. Well, this instigated a multi-step response from me over the course of a few of their podcasts. Below I list each entry I made in response to each podcast.
“Where’s this ‘death of cinema’ coming from?”
You’re looking at it the wrong way. Financially? Nuh uh. A film can be the highest grossing film of the year, and still be a piece of shit, which dumbasses who are easily entertained with money to spend go and see. For example, in the year 2000, the highest grossing film of the year was Mission Impossible 2. As another example, in 1979, the highest grossing film of the year was Moonraker.
The point being, just because a film does well financially doesn’t mean, long-term speaking, it’s going to do well culturally (ex: March 1990, Pretty Woman did better financially than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, yet it’s the latter that had the bigger cultural impact). And that’s where people are coming from when they state that cinema is dying.
Television shows, whether on network television or on streaming services, are doing far better from a cultural impact standpoint than films are. And before you get your feathers in a ruffle over that statement, I’m aware of The Last Jedi (which is coasting on the cultural impact setup by the original and prequel trilogy) and the Avengers films (or any Marvel film in general, which have been coasting on Iron Man and The Avengers’ cultural impact since 2012), and their cultural impact (which is about as negative as it is positive in some cases). But the problem with those films is that they are a glorified series. They don’t stand on their own. You are required to see previous episodes/movies for the sake of understanding what is going on a good portion of the time. They’re not movies, they’re a glorified episode of an ongoing series.
The bigger cultural impacts come from shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, Last Man Standing, The Big Bang Theory, Vikings, House of Cards, etc. People know more about those, and are more inspired by those, than they are with films in theaters.
For more on this, I suggest viewing this 10 minute YouTube video that primarily discusses how a remake should be done, but delves into the death of cinema too for a respectable length:
Well, I wouldn’t say everyone loves Marvel films. The amount of people starting to hate on them has been growing since Captain America: Civil War (yes, that includes me as one of the haters). And I mean a consistent growing hate across all their movies. It’s small now, most would consider insignificant. But, by the time the Captain Marvel movie hits (at the earliest), or after the 4th Avengers film comes and goes (at the latest), this hate won’t be insignificant anymore. It will be for reasons I’m sure you find silly and childish. However, if you feel strongly enough about it (which I doubt, considering the “not giving a shit” attitude you tended to have with regards to Star Wars), I’m willing to debate the subject. But be warned, when I debate, I do it aggressively and methodically.
In any case, I’m ready and waiting for Hollywood to fall down, while the Independents swarm in to help pick it back up, like they did throughout a decent portion of the 90s and early 2000s. I expect this fall to be the biggest one since the Hay’s Code went away. I hope for a semi-film revolution the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 70s. I will be disappointed if this doesn’t happen within the next 5 years (I calculate this will happen no later then 2043; just hoping it happens a lot sooner than that).
Regarding where I got that date from, it’s an estimation based on how long the Hay’s Code lasted. The Hay’s Code was put into place in 1930, but wasn’t fully enforced until 1938. Basically, between 1930 and 1938, more and more films became more and more self-censored by adhering to the Hay’s Code during that time until it came to a head in 1938, when it remained in full effect until 1967 where it thematically (but no less officially) died with the release of Bonnie and Clyde. If we state that the whole thing started in 1930, then that’s a lifespan of 37 years.
I predict 2043 to be when the film industry goes through an independent reformation because I suspect this current trend of safe PC liberal films began around 2006, possibly earlier. But there are 2 factors that make me believe this reformation will occur sooner than that.
1.) This trend likely began earlier than 2006.
2.) The Internet, where much information is spread about the state of things at a far more rapid rate than was possible in the 30s-60s. Which makes it possible for things to change faster.
But it’s like Cory said, there are so many films and shows being made that it’s basically impossible to track them all, let alone know which ones are supposed to be good. And social media sites like Letterboxd, and various sites where so-called film critics review films, and Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, were initially meant to not only track/rate/review all these diverse films, but to also allow one to know if it is something that would appeal to them or not.
But that has now, heavily. Letterboxd has largely become an echo chamber for liberal-minded PC viewers (they greatly outnumber alternative voices, who are never the most popular reviews, and thus are largely ignored unless you search hard enough for the good ones). Film critics are either paid off or just as liberal-minded. And Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes have become a joke like IMDB. As a result, as things stand now, even if a non-liberal, non-PC film was released that appeals to those of other political/social/cultural tastes, those sites and critics will do everything in their power to bash it to pieces, or even worse, attempt to silence its existence by ignoring it.
So because of those factors, while it is possible for the reformation to happen sooner, the masses who have been brainwashed by teachers and critics, and spend most of their time in safe-spaces where group-think is not only encouraged but mandatory… That could make the reformation happen later rather than sooner.
I warned you about this, and gave you hints about this with my bashing of The Last Jedi. And to be honest, I’m more worried that society will fall before the counter-culture grows big enough and gains enough influence to even matter. And at that point, awaiting good films to be made will be the least of our worries (though it is a symptom of the overall problem).
The key word is culture.
Hey! You! Hey you! Where Do You Go?
So after thinking on the subject for a while, I decided to do a study on film culture. My initial intent was to simply study the Hays Code, its rise and fall, and what we could (or should) learn from it. Lessons we should have learned from it since then, yet showcasing evidence of censorship to conform to some government/corporate/religious view the eerily mirrors that of the Hays Code era. If nothing else, it would give me a better idea on how to predict events, and form superior arguments more prone to swaying opinions.
However, I didn’t expect to find elements during and prior to the Hays Code that end up being more relevant to the time period we’re in now than the Hays Code period. As if we’re not so much as living in an era similar to that of the Hays Code, so much as living in a time period similar to the oncoming rise of the Hays Code. And that is something I find more unsettling than what I thought we were currently dealing with.
There is too much information to condense into just one single post. So I will be presenting my findings over a series of posts. I intend to showcase events and speeches that occurred around a century ago, and how they mirror events similar to this day; demonstrating that we are regressing from free, liberated, artistically independent film-making culture, to a film culture controlled by politics and religion (sometimes religion disguised as politics). You may find them fascinating at the least, terrifying at the worst (or is it ‘best’ in this context?).
I currently don’t have all of the articles done. But I have enough of them done to feel comfortable to start releasing each of them now, one by one, on a weekly basis. You may find them not starting out all that exciting. Stick with them. By the time they get to the year 1915, you’re going to be in for some heavy-hitting stuff. And just when you think you’ve seen the craziest most controversial stuff, just when you think you know everything about that time period, it will get even more insane. The more I uncovered, the more I knew I had to write about this.
The next entry will hit on Sunday. And I will try to aim for the releases from each Sunday after that. Until then, here’s some older posts I made that should hold you over until then:
A bit too hard on him over the prequel films in my opinion (this isn’t a film capable of delving into the pros and cons of the prequel trilogy). Then again, it was mostly based on an initial reaction, plus it does take eventually consider the perspective/opinion of the new generation, the young kids, who didn’t mind the faults in the films. On the other hand, it only too briefly mentions websites that supported the prequel films after the backlash.
The main strength lies in the debate over Lucas altering the original trilogy, and the angry back-and-forth opinions generated from fans around that issue. Plus the mentioning of how Lucas became the very thing he was fighting against, and became a hypocrite against his own philosophies.
The film is biased, but for the most part it’s my kind of bias. Regardless, can’t give it more than 3 stars for that reason.
I wrote some notes during my viewing, and I figured I’d change things up a bit and just put out what I’ve written (with some additions as I type), as sporadic and messy as they are. I’d rather just let the film speak for itself rather than comment too much on it (as I believe I’ve had my say over this subject in my earlier review of The Last Jedi).
So, it starts. My trip back into the 90s, digging up old memories, returning to the nostalgia, and bringing it to light for those around today, who visit this site. At first I thought this was going to be an endeavor that would take a few months to do to cover the entire 90s decade. Nope. It’s going to take a lot longer than that in order for me to do the decade justice. Considering how much work it has taken just to do this month alone, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to complete the project. But I will do what I can, so long as I have the willpower and don’t allow other priorities to overtake this one (that’s inevitable).
This is not a definitive retro-trip. I’m not going to be covering every single thing. That’s nearly impossible, and it would get too muddled. Instead, I am going to be covering what I consider to be good (or even great) about each month, covering film theatrically released, games released, music albums released, and some tv shows that aired in the month. So this is going to be a biased coverage, to some extent, but for the sake of fairness I will also include a few things that don’t personally appeal to me, but were respectable hits back in the day. Except for music, because fuck anything that isn’t rock and roll or heavy metal.
Films released in theaters that are worth revisiting today:
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
“I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn’t let me, so I had to kidnap you so you could get to know me. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with me, just as I’m in love with you.”
This film is basically a more light-hearted remake of the 1965 film The Collector, and I found it to be quite fun. It has Antonio Banderas in it, a good amount of humor, suspense, romance, and thought provocation. But here’s something about the film that cements its place in film history: [Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!] was the last film to receive the MPAA’s X-rating due to its depiction of forced bondage and rape – however, it was re-rated and released as an NC-17 film. — www.filmsite.org/1990-filmhistory.html
And like several films that suffered at the hands of the MPAA for reasons related to this, this film is not that intense, in my opinion. There’s a scene of a toy scuba diver swimming up against a woman’s vagina, and one long sex scene, but other than all that, there’s nothing else all that edgy about it. It sucks how an NC-17 rating harms a film since most theater chains won’t show films with that rating.
“I think most people want to be bad.”
“That’s because it is bad. That’s why we’ve got cops.”
“Except the cop is the guy that wants to do it worst of all.”
Solid film, albeit with an ending that wrapped up things far too conveniently in my opinion. In any case, it’s a solid thriller with an otherworldly soundtrack to it. It played on the concept of distrust in police, a trend that was growing even during that time period (along with Maniac Cop from the previous decade). It also took Richard Gere, who normally played roles as a heart-throb ladies-man in light-hearted films up to that point, and put a very dark twist on it. Quite brilliant in that regard.
“By the perception of illusion we experience reality.”
Now this movie. This movie is a fucking head trip. It’s weird, but seemingly straightforward and easy enough to follow for the first half hour, even if there are hints here and there that something is up with what we are seeing. And sure enough, once the film reaches the midpoint… Well… Let’s just say you’re going to start questioning what is real and what isn’t, if any of it is real, what story should be believed, if they should all be believed, etc. Think of it as the anime film Perfect Blue, but taken up a couple notches on the “What the fuck is going on!?!?!?” factor. It may seem low budget, and it is. But it has Bill Pullman in it (doing ok, nothing too spectacular), and Bill Paxton (also does alright) in it, and enough of a weird factor to it to make it worth watching. And despite the insanity of it all, it is cohesive and everything is linked and comes together in a bizarre fashion. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make sense of it all on a first or even repeated watch, but, well, there it is.
“This valley is just one long smorgasbord. We have got to get out.”
Now this. This is easily the best film of January 1990. Still one of my favorite films today. Arguably the last good practical effect monster film, which is fitting because it was made to pay tribute to older monster films. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve been living under a rock, and that’s the last place you want to be when graboids are squirming around. This is the only film on the list I saw when I was a kid in the 90s, and we watched at home via VHS rental. Good times with my mom, dad, and sister. We we enjoyed the hell out of this movie.
This film also, unfortunately, marked the end of creature features that had life-sized models (at least in terms of making those for films on a regular basis).
But you know what? People may bitch about people seeing trash in theaters today and overlooking the great stuff. But I gotta tell ya, it’s been going on since forever. And with this film, it’s no exception. Motherfuckers.
Although “Tremors” was not a big hit during its theatrical run, the film became a runaway smash in the home video market, and ultimately tripled its original box-office gross with VHS sales and rentals. — IMDB
I also would’ve liked to have seen the R-Rated audio version.
Was originally given an R-rating by the MPAA not for violence, but for language. The film included as many as twenty f-bombs. As an appeal, producers removed all utterances of the “f” word, with the exception of two. Many of the swears were dubbed over with other words, including “can you fly you sucker?”, “we killed that motherhumper,” and “what the s***” when Val is overlooking the dead sheep. — IMDB
I thought about taking clips from various commercial videos and making my own custom vids of what I consider “best of the best” of the 90s commercials, but then decided, “Nah, I’m too lazy for that.” But I will point out clips from certain commercials that I believe stand out from the rest.
3:00, the Ring Raiders. I wish I had that shit back in the day.
3:30, Flying Fighters
5:11, Hot Lixx (God I love that name). Before there was Guitar Hero, there was Hot Lixx.
6:11, SqueezeIt Fruit Drink. Seems sexually suggestive to me.
8:19, Typhoon Hovercraft
10:31, SqueezeIt returns, this time with a girl doing the sexually suggested squeezing.
11:01, Zero Gravity Cliff Hangers
17:09, an amusing Corn Flakes commercial
19:13, Bug Out
19:52, Dino Riders. These look cool.
22:43, Tiger hand-held games. These things sucked ass, but I found the beginning of the commercial amusing considering the idea of hand-held games.
I must confess, I haven’t seen this show. And it’s not readily available on any film site I’m aware of (including sites like Amazon where you could normally buy a DVD version or something, that doesn’t exist either). It’s just a sitcom, and those are a dime a dozen. But some people state that this show is great, especially the opening theme song, but there’s mixed opinions about the actual quality of the show itself once it got started.
There is potentially one way I could get a hold of some episodes to watch, but it would require me to spend seventy-five fucking dollars on BluJay.com, and I don’t feel like doing that for a show I’m pretty sure isn’t going to be all that memorable for me personally.
So just consider this a reminder that this show existed, and it had its fans at the time, but I was never aware of it until now. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do this for very many shows on this nostalgia trip, I prefer to watch a few episodes before deciding if they’re worth putting on this blog series or not. That being said, if anyone wants to donate $75 to my blog site, and specifically requests I use that money for purchasing and reviewing the series, I’ll see what I can do (fuck knows why anyone would want to spend that much money for something like that).
So this isn’t technically a show per-se, it’s more like in the same vane as Tom on Toonami, with little tidbits between shows/commercials and whatnot. That being said, there were some fairly entertaining comedy bits that this came up with. This show didn’t last very long. And to be honest, watching some of these clips again, I’m getting very vague memory lapses.
The Baby-Sitters Club
Originally ran January 1 – March 26, 1990 on HBO.
Yes, this show is girly as fuck. It’s also 90s as fuck. The acting, the camera shots, the video quality, the clothing, the music. Everything about this show screams 90s. And despite the fact that I probably can’t stand to watch more than 2 episodes in a single day else risk my balls falling off, it’s a show I recommend for families who want some good moral lessons. The friendships are good, the lesson to take away from each episode is good, the girls have an amount of professionalism about them, and it only ran for 1 season (in stark contrast to The Simpsons which is still ongoing). Oh, and you probably won’t get that theme song out of your head once you hear it.
Not to be confused with the Disney series from the 50s, this show ran from January 5, 1990 – January 30, 1993 on The Family Channel. You might be wondering what The Family Channel is, since it’s a channel that no longer exists. Well, it was eventually acquired by Fox and being renamed the Fox Family Channel in August 15, 1998, before eventually being acquired by Disney and renamed ABC Family, and then later renamed Freeform. But anyway, while the channel was still The Family Channel, it aired this little series that’s a decent family-friendly swashbuckling adaptation of Zorro.
And I’m not going to lie, I haven’t actually seen an episode in its entirety recently (I only remember small portions of it from my early days). I was tempted to purchase a copy of the first season, since I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, but decided against it, since I’m currently not making any money off this blog site anyway, yet. But from what I remember, it was fun enough, though by my present standards it probably wouldn’t do enough to keep me interested past the first few episodes.
America’s Funniest Home Videos
Technically it originally aired as a 1-hour special in 1989, but was popular enough to where it became a long-running (and still going) series on January 14, 1990. Originally had Bob Saget as the host. The show is basically what many people watch gifs and youtube videos for today. People caught on camera doing dumb shit that makes you laugh, or are just victims of circumstance. And it was a show me and my family watched regularly. Great laughs, great host, but not likely to be something one would revisit regularly, given the nature of the program. But every once in a LONG while…
While the first episode did technically air in the previous year (December 17, 1989), the first regular episode aired on January 14, 1990 on FOX. Until then, they were first seen as short sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show (April 5, 1987 – May 26, 1990). I don’t think much needs to be said about this show and its legacy, especially since it’s still running to this very day. Oh yeah, 1990 really did start off with a bang. And it would only get better and worse at the same time from here on out.
0:42, racial tensions, prior to the 1992 LA riots.
19:59, Encyclopedia Britannica
21:29, what a difference, Blockbuster Video!
23:10, now this, THIS is a true bona-fide 90s commercial! Street Hot court shoes.
25:56, arguably the most epic Mario commercial ever created.
26:26, an amusing Bill Cosby commercial, doing a picture page (be warned, it’s a long one).
32:50, Nick Jr. ad for Eureeka’s Castle
36:14, I actually remember this fucking bizarre Nick Jr. ad.
33:48, jeans commercial.
44:18, shoe commercial, because these shoes will cause skateboards to spontaneously appear and make you play basketball better than the pros.
Ok, I’m not going to lie, I’m not the right person for the job when it comes to this subject. Unlike films where I’m usually willing to watch just about anything, that is definitely not the case with music. With very few exception, I prefer hard (alternative) rock and heavy metal (but not that type where you can’t understand what they’re saying because of the deep hoarse voice ala Metalocalypse). So when it comes to music for the month, I’m only going to list hits, and stuff I personally liked, and bands that made an impact with their presence. In other words, this portion is going to be quite biased.
And honestly, when it comes to music, the 90s was the beginning of the end of the era of great music. Just my opinion, but music for me never really took off until the late 70s (with some obvious exceptions such as The Doors and The Beatles). Because it wasn’t until the late 70s that some semblance of heavy metal came into the picture (and ironically enough, the magazine series too), which got established in the 80s, and slowly eroded away in the 90s. The true destruction of all that is good and holy with the music industry came with the arrival of Nsync and The Backstreet Boys. When they first arrived, things were ok. But it was no longer cool when every-single-mother-fucking-major-band ended up just being replicas of those two. At least that’s the impression I’m getting with the shit I hear on the radio all the time, and in clubs that blast music, let alone at school campuses (Christ, no wonder the youth is so fucked up today).
Gwar: Scumdogs of the Universe
Typical trash metal by today’s standards. A satirical shock rock band. Guess those were common back then, considering Ween also came out with an album in the same genre in the same month. But what makes them really stand out is seeing them in person, live, with those insane fucking costumes that they wear and how much they pushed the envelope.
There was also a Hank Williams Jr. album released titled Lone Wolf. But I honestly don’t care about that, ’cause his music isn’t my type. What is worth mentioning is that he is responsible for making the intro to football fun. Monday Night Football. ABC. Now technically I’m kinda cheating here, since this Monday Night Football song technically started in 1989. But fuck it, it carried on over through the 90s up until around 2005. “Are you ready for some football!?”
Ween: GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
This band is one of those that gave a name to alternative rock (and experimental rock). I don’t believe this particular album of theirs can say it is mainly responsible for this, since it’s basically a glorified “best of” for many of their previous works. If I were to describe this band, I’d say it’s Psychostick before Psychostick was around.
Fish: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors
I’m not saying anything.
The Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker
Not bad actually. A nice little rock album from a band I’ve never heard of (though that’s probably not saying much coming from a guy who’s been living under a rock when it comes to the music industry throughout most of my life). Was received well and was quite popular at the time. You may know this band by their hit song (also from this album) Hard to Handle.
Slaughter: Stick It To Ya
Now this is my kind of music right here. A metal band. And yes, it was big back in the day. And I think this album is still pretty damn great to this day.
0:29, funny that they decide to spell out the names of the kind of people their mother is likely to have an affair with.
3:25, I could never stand that smug fucking bear, but he does manage to stick with you. Golden Crisp.
The main home console system out at this time that was pretty much wiping the floor with all other competition was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was 8 bits, but at least it had graphics superior to the Atari ST (also still around at that time). However, having been released since October 1985, it had been out for nearly 5 years. And when it comes to video game consoles, it’s usually about 4-6 years before the next big thing hits the market.
But that’s not all Nintendo brought out to the fore. There was also the Game Boy, released in the U.S. in July 1989. The first major hand-held game system. Too bad a lot of the games sucked and were just inferior ports of console counterparts.
And that next big thing is the Sega Master System II, or so Sega thought. Unfortunately, that system crashed and burned. Thankfully, since August of 1989, the Sega Genesis was released with its fancy 16 bit graphics to give it an edge over the NES. And it was definitely giving Nintendo some much needed competition in the home console market. But it wasn’t alone.
There was also the NEC Turbo-Graphx-16, which also had its own decent line-up. Unfortunately, it’s popularity would never get as high as that of the Genesis or the NES.
One other main competitor for the games of the early 90s was a glorified PC system that was built for the purpose of gaming and video graphics/editing. And that PC system is the Amiga. Of course there’s the MS-DOS and all that, but the Amiga stands apart from those as being a PC built for gaming first, everything else second.
The other minor mentions due to games still being released for them during this time period is the Atari ST, and the Commodore 64 (January 1982).
But make no mistake. It was the Sega Genesis and the NES that were dominating the game market in 1990. That would change (sort of) in the next year. And now for the major memorable games that came out this month for those systems. Some of these games are ports from older Arcade versions, just an FYI:
A Boy and His Blob (NES)
This game was nearly impossible to beat without a strategy guide. Hell, players were lucky enough to know how to play it back then. Yet its style was enough to make it a revered classic that later got a (much more playable) remake on the Wii decades later. Not my kind of game personally, but it has its charm. But I agree that this game is far too fucking frustrating to play without a guidebook, and it’s at that point that you have to wonder, “Why bother?”
Not something I would play today (or even back then), but it has cultural appeal, so I’m including it here.
Clash at Demonhead (NES)
Now this is more like my kind of game. Not to mention it’s the inspiration for that one scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, it’s hard as fuck, right off the bat. Those goddamn flying bees piss me off. It’s a basic platformer/shooter where you run around and dodge bullets, hop on platforms trying to get from point A to point B and not fall to your doom, collect a few important items, and then make it to the end for a final boss encounter. The thing that sets this game apart from most others at the time is that it has an impressive amount of narrative elements within the game. You’ll encounter characters who start a dialogue with you. Plus you have multiple paths to choose from to determine in what order you’ll collect things to beat the game. Sounds a bit like Megaman doesn’t it? Granted, Megaman beat this game to the punch, and is better from a gameplay standpoint. But this game makes up for it with the narrative element, and the more natural open-world nature of it. And you will be taking notes during this game when it comes to learning which route you need to get to.
Worth checking out.
Demon Sword (NES)
Now this is a fun game. It’s like if Sonic the Hedgehog was a bit slower but could jump higher, climb trees, swing a sword (that gets longer as the game goes on), and can climb and jump through trees. It’s like you’re playing one of those Chinese martial arts films where everyone is on a wire and leaping in the air for too long (ex: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). The one thing that brings it down is that, if you’re to play it proper and playing to win, you’re going to have to grind a bit in some of the levels.
Kings of Beach (NES)
It’s actually a fairly a solid beach volleyball game. That’s all.
River City Ransom (NES)
A decent beat-em-up with RPG elements. The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game released a few years back ripped this game off tremendously, even if it had better graphics and better gameplay and is the overall superior game.
The Chessmaster (NES)
Surely you’re familiar with the Chessmaster series. This is where it all started. Simple, but effective and perfectly playable to this day.
That being said, I personally wouldn’t play this version when there’s superior alternatives out there nowadays.
Top Gun: The Second Mission (NES)
Now this, this is easily the best flight simulator that the NES has ever had. It blows the first Top Gun game out of the water in every way. Gameplay is better, landing is easier, graphics are better, more variety in music and sound effects. This game is fun.
I’d still play this game to this day.
A quick note. It’s worth mentioning that while this is the best flight simulator on the NES, this isn’t the best flight simulator experience available at the time. There’s one that predates this, in the Arcades, that is very much worth mentioning even if it’s before the 90s. But it was still played in the 90s damnit! Hell, I played it in the 90s back when my local mall actually had a decent arcade room. Now I have to drive all the way to Dave & Busters to get anything decent! Anyway, After Burner, by Sega, released in 1987. That’s the ultimate arcade flight simulator experience.
Kickass! I would kill to relive this experience again (don’t take that literally, unless you’re talking about killing digital 16-bit enemy sprites, in which case: gladly).
Motocross Maniacs (Game Boy)
The only decent game that I know of released for the Game Boy during this month. The programmers were perfectly aware of the Game Boy’s limitations, and thus made this game more of a puzzle game rather than a straight up racing game. It’s about knowing how to race and get through obstacles without crashing rather than making the best time.
Not something I’d play today, but I had to throw the Game Boy system a bone here.
Bases Loaded II: Second Season (NES)
I hate sports games. I really do. I’ve been through so many football and baseball games during this time period they make me sick just thinking about them. Monotonous garbage, all of them. If you’ve played one of them, you’ve played all of them. Yet for some reason people tend to have fond memories of this baseball classic. I’ll just take their word for it. But what I do find interesting is that this game was released without an MLB license.
Arrow Flash (Sega Genesis)
I don’t care if that’s a picture of the Japanese edition, it kicks way more ass than the U.S. image. It’s basically just another side-scrolling shooter. If you’ve played one, you’ve pretty much played them all. But it’s an anime-style mecha game. Plus, I’m going to be honest, side-scrolling shooters were the best type of games back then, at least during this period. However, there were signs that a new type of gameplay would arrive to rock our 90s world. Also from Japan.
Phantasy Star II (Sega Genesis)
The first game was good until I realized just how much fucking grinding I had to do. The sequel isn’t much better in that regard. But in any case, this was the main fantasy (oh, I’m sorry, phantasy) series to compete against Nintendo’s Final Fantasy games. And to be honest, I think this game series really did give Final Fantasy a run for its money. Just a pity it never got as big. And like I said, it’s a grind-fest, but so was the early Final Fantasy games. Nowadays I wouldn’t play this without cheats or something to reduce the amount of grinding needed to progress past the bosses.
Now while this isn’t a game that has aged all that well, the storyline is quite good. Plus, this is just a sample of the masterpiece that is yet to come in this series.
Zoom! (Sega Genesis [ported from Amiga version, 1988])
Pretty damn fun actually. Try the Amiga version for a different style of graphics.
Overlord [aka Supremacy: Your Will Be Done] (Amiga, Atari ST)
The Amiga version is superior to all others. And this is arguably the best game of the month unless I’ve overlooked and/or misjudged any. I mean, just look at this thing. It’s like the precursor to Master of Orion.
Loom (MS-DOS, Amiga)
A point-and-click adventure game with an interesting story that makes you think. Honestly, with very few exceptions, point-and-click games, while I’ve enjoyed some in the past, usually don’t interest me (with the exceptions being Riven, Obduction, and Blade Runner). They’re nothing but glorified interactive stories, done better in RPG games like Final Fantasy. Most of them rely on these dumb fucking puzzles that most people can’t solve without finding a guide somewhere or spending countless hours on something that should only take a minute. So I usually end up watching the “movie” version online, with someone playing through it who knows the game well enough to get through it. If the story is good enough, it has my interest.
But I’m not going to let my general disliking for point-n-click games get in the way of pointing out a classic for those interested in this genre. Plus it has a cool style to it. And Lucasfilm was killing it in the point-n-click genre during the 90s.
Now, while I did say that Supremacy was arguably the best game of the month, this one was easily the most popular. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the best games ever put out on the Amiga. The other major flight sim next to Top Gun 2, except it didn’t just focus on flying around and shooting planes out of the sky. There were a few different mission types with different perspectives, and stuff to do between missions. And it had a bit of a storyline to it.
Technology, Culture, Etc.
End of the Month
So if there’s anything I missed that you think is important for the month of January 1990, let me know. Considering how much shit there was back in the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if I overlooked something. If you bring up something that is important/significant enough, I will include it. But if it’s something WWF related, I wasn’t planning on getting into that until 1996, maybe 1995. Because that’s when the company began to slowly get better, acquiring attitude.
Edit 10/25/2017: Added in 2 entries to the Video Games section, Loom and Wings. I can’t believe I overlooked Wings for the initial post.
Edit 6/17/2018: Holy Christ! I failed to originally include America’s Funniest Home Videos! Problem rectified.