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Bad Advertising With Johnny Turbo
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 09, 2007   |   Episode 35 (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!
Johnny Turbo #44: Page 1
When it comes to the Commercial Break we generally like to mix it up, give you four different commercial reviews from a bunch of different eras. In our 35th episode we have decided to do something very special, and that's to take a look at one four-page ad and see what we can do with it. Back in the early 1990s we were introduced to a comic book character known as Johnny Turbo, he was TTI's superhero that helped thwart the evils of their competitors. This character wound up in several different magazines around the time TTI was unveiling their TurboDuo, the redesigned (and slightly upgraded) TurboGrafx-16. We felt that this character was too interesting/stupid to write off, so we are going to go through all four pages of the 44th installment of Johnny Turbo, entitled: Let 'Em Dangle!!

As you can tell from this first page we are looking at what would be the cover. This was generally placed towards the back of the magazine, usually in the section where the one or two TurboDuo previews would show up. In the case of this advert it was located on page 195 of 220, right next to EGM's preview of Riot Zone and Bomberman '93. Perhaps if it was closer to the front (and not in no man's land) more people would have paid attention, but that's not where Electronic Gaming Monthly decided to insert it. Judging by the quality of the ad it deserved to be located way in the back.

This first page goes a long way to explain all we need to know. As you can tell it's about a dude named Johnny Turbo (played by Kevin Smith) who is kicking the ass of The Matrix's own Agent Smith. In the background you can see Johnny's right hand man (played by Bill Nye the Science Guy), who is looking on as Johnny needlessly beats people up for selling the wrong system. How dare there be any competition, life would be so much better if the TurboDuo was alone and there was no Sega or Nintendo. Because as we all know, all of the innovation came from NEC and their third parties. Okay, enough sarcasm, let's move to page two ...
Johnny Turbo #44: Page 2
Before we start lambasting this poor comic I have to mention that I personally find it funny that there was ever a comic that pitted the Sega CD against the TurboDuo. Let's face it, neither of these systems sold very many units and there weren't a lot of great games on the platforms. If anything TTI should have been more worried about Nintendo's Super NES or the regular Genesis, those two systems were the real winners of the 16-bit era, not the Sega CD. Looking back at it now I suspect that just about everybody would agree that neither the TurboDuo nor the Sega CD is actually worth $300 (which is closer to $415 in 2007 dollar).

The comic begins with the evil Sega ... er, I mean Feka (talk about a subtle change) plotting to take over the world with their Feka CD. Actually, that's not true, they aren't trying to take over the world. They just want to sell some systems, and apparently they want to do that by suggesting that their system is a complete system and you don't need the base unit to play it. Wow, talk about dastardly. Of course, it's completely false, because my Sega CD box says right on it that you need the Sega Genesis. Maybe the Fega CD's box was different.

Back at home we discover an unmasked Kevin Smith who "discovers some interesting news about Feka" by looking at the bottom of two different discs. Because, as we all know, the best way to judge two games is by looking at the data that is written on the bottom of the disc. How do you think I decided that Red Steel was the best game of 2006? I looked at the bottom of the disc, of course. When compared to the bottom of the Gears of War disc you have to agree that Red Faction is a much better game. Bill Nye decides to add to this debate by showing Johnny Turbo an article in the newspaper that reads: "Feka's CD System Failing in Japan!!" What they forgot to mention was that on the next page it said: "So is TTI's!!"

Johnny Turbo #44: Page 3
This page starts with what has to be the most ridiculous exaggeration ever made about the Sega CD. Not even Sega was willing to show a few dozen people standing in line to buy their CD system, it just wasn't that popular. Even when it launched it wasn't that popular. I remember buying the system at Software Etc. on day one and being one of only two people that got the system. The idea that there were that many people willing to fork over four hundred plus dollars is just silly. Heck, it's not just silly; it's also not a good thing to show in a TurboDuo advert. When I read this back in the early 1990s I thought to myself: "Gee, that Sega CD must be more popular than I realize, that really sucks for the Turbo." Then again, compared to the TurboDuo I'm sure the sales of the Sega CD felt like there were a lot of people lining up to buy one.

In the very next frame we see a kid standing on some sort of puzzle piece being told that he's going to need to buy another console to get this system to work. Apparently this makes the evil corporate man very happy, so happy that you can see his happy red eyes through his sunglasses. Now THAT'S happy! But wait, what is the corporate Feka dude doing selling the systems? Last time I went to a game store all I saw was some snot-nosed kid playing his Nintendo DS and trying to get me to reserve something. Oh how times have changed.

Perhaps the best part of this advertisement comes in the next frame, when it says that Johnny Turbo is "watching this crooked sequence of events." He is? He clearly isn't watching the event son TV, because that's a picture of Gate of Thunder, the TurboDuo shooter. Or maybe he's just playing that game in the store. But wait, if these guys were trying to trick people into buying the Feka CD why would they have a demo station for the TurboDuo? And seriously, since when did any store have a demo station for the TurboDuo?? As he said on page three, Gates of Thunder is way better than that stupid Feka CD shooter (Sol-Feace), so what sense does it make to show people the superior product??

Johnny Turbo #44: Page 4
Well here we are the final page of Johnny Turbo issue 44. After lying about Sega's ad campaign, quibbling over which 2D shooter is better and trying to explain why one overpriced CD system is better than another, we're left with just one last thing: Violence! Apparently when you can't reason with your competition the rule is to just beat them up, and that's exactly what Johnny Turbo does in the first few frames. The nice thing is that he actually explains why he's beating them up, something that dirty old mugger decided not to do last time I went to New York. If Johnny was a better negotiator than fighter we might have been able to resolve this dispute in a peaceful manner, but this is the United States, and we solve all of our problems by wanton violence.

My favorite line is at when our hero states that you "can't hide from Johnny Turbo!!" Of course they can't, you're the size of a truck and you're wearing green spandex with yellow suspenders. And if that wasn't silly enough, at the end of the comic Johnny states that he still has time to "review" the latest CD games from TTI. While I agree with him that Lords of Thunder is a great game, I have to wonder where his review is printed. I routinely use two to three thousand words in my reviews, and he gets away with only twelve? If he's getting paid by the word then that would explain his stupid costume.

The moral of this story is that Johnny Turbo hates (and battles) Feka because they spread propaganda. Yet isn't that exactly what Johnny Turbo and TTI are doing with this very advertisement? I don't care if it's a two page article that bashes Nintendo or a four page ad that talks about Sega, an advertisement is propaganda, and all of these companies are guilty of trying to spread the word about their system. Honestly there's nothing wrong with that, but let's call a spade a spade. A psychologist may look at Johnny's hostility as an outward display of insecurity. And when it comes right down to it, TTI had a lot to be insecure about. Their CD-based console didn't do very well, so why not lash out at the Sega CD? But then again, here we are 15 years later and Defunct Games covers both the Sega CD and the TurboDuo. So I have to ask you, who's the real winner in this scenario??


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