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The Many Loves of Bad Advertising
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 25, 2006   |   Episode 30 (Show Archive)  

Join us on our continuing mission to seek out and expose the worst video game advertising of all time. Over the past twenty years we've witnessed a lot of terrible advertising, and it's our job to point it out and let you know what we really think! Nobody is safe when you tune into another episode of Commercial Break, your best resource for the worst video game advertising you ever will see!
North & South (NES)
Don't worry, I don't plan on boring you with the obvious Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure jokes, but you have to admit that this commercial sure does give off that vibe. I don't suppose it helps that Data East has decided to hire a totally bodacious surfer dude who doesn't mind being publicly humiliated in a major video game magazine. Is this supposed to be the average gamer? Is this what Data East thinks of us? We're all a bunch of ironically stupid kids who use a lot of outdated slang and wear clown costumes?

The biggest problem with this advertisement is that Data East can't even get the Bill & Ted formula right. Do you think a young Keanu Reeves would have said something like, "You should have listened to me, dweeb." Wow, that's totally harsh, dude, it's almost as if you had some fifty year old suit writing what they think a kid would say. This glow in the dark teenager doesn't have a clue, and why should he? Next week he'll be hanging out on the set of The Wonder Years hitting on Danica McKellar.

Oddly enough the kid isn't the worst thing about this advertisement. Over in the small print Data East decides to test your intelligence. "Prove it with North & South, the hot new action strategy game with a twist." So what's the twist? It lets you play as either the north or the south. Hey, wait a second ... that's not a twist. We already knew you could play as either the North or the South, the game is called North & South! A twist would be if you were able to play as an army full of polar bears or if they used crazy laser weapons from outer space. Now that's a twist! You fail, Data East!

Crime Wave (PC)
Some commercials just have too many stupid things to talk about. The more you stare off at its terribleness the more bad things spring to mind. Crime Wave is that kind of advertisement. It's a game that almost wallows in the fact that it features every terrible clich? in the book, and fails miserably to make any of them look very cool. Crime Wave is one of the worst advertisements I have ever seen, but I'm not afraid to say that it's so bad that it might actually be pretty cool. Stare at its cheesy brilliance; I'm telling you, this may just be my new favorite advertisement!

What's not to love? You have this greased up, unshaven dude who thinks he looks cool when he sports the sunglasses at night. Buddy, you aren't Corey Hart, and those shades are about ten sizes too big for your face. Then there's the damsel in distress who isn't smart enough to realize that she's surrounded by a ton of cash, drugs and guns. Woman, if you can't figure out how to use the guns and spend the money, then get off the drugs and quit bothering me. And then there's the doped up guy yelling as fire erupts behind him. I don't have a joke here, but I sure do love that look he's giving us.

My absolute favorite part of the advertisement comes when the advertisement tells you that it offers "real sound." It doesn't offer any of that fake sound that tricks you into thinking you heard something. On no, this is the real sound, the kind of real sound only the cheesiest crime game can give you. But seriously, if that woman can't escape when there's all that money and those loaded guns, then maybe she doesn't deserve to be rescued after all.

Puzznic (NES)
Ever since Tetris took the world by storm every game company has been scrambling to come up with an addictive puzzler that would wow the masses. Is Puzznic the game that will match the greatness of Tetris? Will it be the game that we talk about for decades to come commenting on how it never will be topped? Of course not, instead it's a stupid little puzzle game that features a terrible advertisement. Maybe the advert isn't as bad as Crime Wave, but when your slogan is "No Brain No Gain" you know things are about to go from bad to worse.

The real fun of Puzznic doesn't come from the slogan or its ridiculous name, instead it's the captions below the three pictures that make this advertisement so horrible. "Don't let nasty elevator cubes squeeze you into a corner," one reads. Elevator cubes? Or how about this, "Pick Password to resume your game after each completed level." Pick a password? How about you go ahead and give me a password and I'll use it. And finally, "Plan carefully or you'll be caught with extra shapes." Yeah, I hate it when I'm caught with extra shapes. I'll never forget the time when my dad sat me down and told me that if I didn't use protection I could have extra shapes I would later regret.

Puzznic is the type of game that needs to tear other games down in order to look good. This commercial wants to know if you're tired of "ninja sword fights on Planet Zark" you have a non-violent alternative. Unfortunately the alternative was a disgustingly boring puzzle game that failed to drum up all of the fun and addictive qualities that made Tetris so successful. And just when you thought this was too good to be true, Taito turns around and states that the three pictures are "Actual Nintendo Entertainment System screens." It's as if there was some confusion that what they were showing was simply too amazing to be on an 8-bit console. I guess the world just wasn't ready for elevator cubes.

Phantom Fighter (NES)
Alright, how many times do I have to tell you this ... your arms and legs are not going to do you any good when fighting ghosts! We've been over this a number of times already; weapons (such as guns, knives, flame throwers, ice picks, rap music and your feet) are not going to help you when you're being attacked by ghosts. Ghosts are non-corporeal, if you kick or punch at one your fist and leg will go straight through the creature, it's like attacking a cloud or smoke. But here we are again, in this advertisement for Phantom Fighter the protagonist (with his silly house for a hat) seems to be under the impression that you can kung fu your way out of a ghost fight.

This commercial brags that it is the "martial arts game with a big difference." What is that big difference? Well, the commercial seems to think it's the fact that you're kicking your way through staged filled with zombies, phantoms and zombie phantoms. But I say the "big difference" is that they actually use "Dialogue" as one of the big selling points. There it is, right next to "Over 100 Ghosts" and "Password Memory", one of the big three reasons you should play this Phantom Fighter. Heck, "Dialogue" even gets an exclamation mark ... it makes you feel like there's this masterwork of writing that has been out there all this time just waiting to be discovered. Like the writing in this game is going to rival Hollywood at its finest. But let's face it; the dialogue in this game is more Snakes on a Plane than Pulp Fiction.

But let's forget the stupid bullet points for a moment and get back to the supernatural picture being used to sell the game. I get the ghost enemies floating towards our man in yellow. But what's with that crazy vampire one in the background? Isn't it enough that this crazy character can suck blood, live forever and turn into a bat? What does he need lightning fingernails for? What is the purpose of that? If this guy can control the weather, then why even bother fighting? It seems like that's the kind of super power that would outmatch just about everybody. All of a sudden I've stopped wanting to play as that powerless human and now it's all about that vampire weather summoner. Why can't we play the game as somebody cool for a change?


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