Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 1994 Holiday Gift Guide!


There are times when I both envy and feel sorry for this current generation of kids. Its only natural for everyone to feel at least a little nostalgic when looking back at there childhood, all the while thinking that there generation was the best. So maybe I'm a little once sided here but I really do believe that growing up in the 1990s was simply hands down the best time to be a kid.

In the 90s we got to experience the very beginning of the “technology age” without being completely ran over by it. Some of the best video game systems of all time where released in the 1990s, I'm talking about heavy hitters like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sony Playstation, and technically the Sega Dreamcast belongs to us as well. But unlike the following generations of kids, nobody used words like “obese” to describe us. 

 Like our 80s counterparts we were just as inclined to go outside and scrape our knees, jump on trampolines, and run around the block like idiots until our parents called us inside. We had more motivation from shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers to generally want to go outside and kick the shit out of one another. Not to mention that we did it all without safety gear.
I'm a product of the 1990's and damn proud of it. So when I found an old stack of Nickelodeon magazines in the back of my closet I couldn't help but pull them out and take a look. They most certainly reflect a time thats long since gone by. These old magazines represented the Nickelodeon of old. Back when the station used to have attitude. When it aired actual shows like The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Are You Afraid of the Dark? When cartoons like Ren and Stimpy used to push the envelope and Ahh! Real Monsters wasn't afraid to gross us out!

They're cool magazines but nothing really noteworthy in any of them. A lot of nostalgic stuff? Sure. But not the kind that warrants writing home about. They're kids magazines after-all... and while I don't want to use the word “fluff” to describe its contents... well the target demographic was children aged “old enough to read” to about ten years old. We're not exactly high in the content department, although I did find an article on how to make green slime. But we'll save that one for a rainy day.

There wasn't much in any of them and honestly when I found the the Christmas Issue for 1994 and flipped through the pages I was greeted with pretty much the same articles as the other magazines, with your occasional clip art snowman thrown off to the side because hey its the Christmas Issue. I was almost ready to call the entire stack of magazines off... when I found it. The four greatest words on a single page, all strung together in big bold Holiday print: 1994 Holiday Gift Guide

JOY! I used to love these things as a kid. In a time when not everyone had the internet and things like Amazon Wishlists where really years from catching on as “the norm” … these magazines where all we had. At age ten this my friends was how you heard all about the years new 'must have' toys. These Gift Guides used to pop up all over the place. From the proverbial Holy Grail Sears and Toys R' Us catalogs all the way down to the lonely two page spreads tucked in the local newspaper this was what we had. If you wanted to not get a bunch of socks and pens on December 25th you'd grab yourself as many as these catalogs as you could, and circle everything in sight that you could possibly want. My preferred method was to physically cut out the pictures and glue them to the pages of a spiral notebook, writing a brief description about why I needed said item... but I like to over achieve. Today we're going to take a look at every single item from the 1994 Holiday Gift Guide and rank them on a scale of 1-5 on how “Awesome 90s” each item is. I hope you guys like toys as much as I do!

The Adventures of Mighty Max for the Super Nintendo: What a way to start of this Holiday Gift Guide! You guys remember Mighty Max right? He was the pint sized action figure, roughly the size of Micro Machines, who came in little themed playsets... often based around knockoff Universal Horror Films. You could find everything from a generic Wolfman to the ever popular Mad Scientist Laboratory. While they came in different sizes, I specifically had those of the “pocket” variety. Even more astute readers might even remember Polly Pocket. Mighty Max was the penis equivalent of Polly Pocket.

This, however, is Mighty Max on the Super Nintendo. I never remember playing this game but the cover of the box looks pretty radical and the product description boasts not only Time Travel on the part of Mighty Max... but also pimps a Mighty Max cartoon show. If I was ten I would be all over my parents for this game. Four out of Five on the 90's Awesome Scale!


Twist N' Style Tiffany: I remember the commercials for Twist N' Style Tiffany. Not really any of the specifics of them but as soon as I heard the name, bells went off in my head. But then again that last part might be some form of cancer. I obviously never had Twist N' Style Tiffany, because I am the penis equivalent of a Polly Pocket, but I do remember the concept behind the doll. You could style the dolls hair with all sorts of different ribbons and such. Let's give Twist N' Style Tiffany Four out of Five Awesome 90's Points!
 

Snowblade: I've never once heard of the Snowblad before and I definitely don't remember anybody ever using one either. The product description says its a cross between a sled and a snowboard... with a seat? I'm confused. You either snowboard or you sled. You don't do both and you most definitely don't do both at the same time. Could you imagine Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” on a Snowblade? Neither can I. Two out of Five Awesome 90's Points!

D2: The Mighty Ducks: Now we're talking. Anyone who grew up in the 90s most certainly was as infatuated with The Mighty Ducks as I. Especially the fat kid. Everyone liked the fat kid. Speaking of kids, as one myself when this film first came out I can remember it being one of the few must see movies that defined school yard play. Forgoing any inherent athletic ability or general knowledge of the sport of hockey we all lived The Mighty Ducks for fifteen minutes of recess every single day! Five out of Five on the 90's Awesome Scale!

Risk: Kind of an odd choice of game to include in a magazine whose target audience is kids hardly old enough to read let alone master a game of global domination. I wondered at first if it was some sort of dumbed down Risk Junior game but alas, that is not the case. This is just flat out the Risk board game. I never really liked playing Risk and am pretty sure the game was around in the 80s or maybe even earlier. Two out of Five 90's Points!

Ren and Stimpy Time Warp for the Super Nintendo: These guys where all over the place in the 90's. I actually had Time Warp for the Sega Genesis and while the Super Nintendo version is shown here I'm going to assume they're one in the same. From what I remember of Time Warp it was a quite a fun game but I'm a little lax on the details. It had something to do with collecting objects or parts. Little is given in the way of a product description and since we're not here to review just the actual game just how well its being advertised I think I have to rank this one a Three out of Five on the 90's Awesome Scale!


Flintstones Computer Accessories Kit: There was a time in the 90's when for some reason toy manufactures got dead set on turning everyday electronics into wacky kids products! I remember everything from bizarre oddly shaped alarm clocks, to radios, and in this case computer accessories. If I remember right Nickelodeon was specifically bad at taking mundane objects and making them look like Tim Burton threw up all over them. I really don't know what any of this has to do with Flintstones themed computer accessories, but it seemed like a good intro paragraph. If memory serves me correctly the live action Flintstones film came out sometime around the year 1994... which would sort of make since why they're marketing this in a 1994 Holiday Gift Guide. What confuses me though, is that I cannot for the life of me figure out who the hell this was marketed towards.

Stick your mind in 1994 mode for a minute and think good and hard on this one. We most definitely had computers, but Windows 95 wouldn't be commercially launched until August 1995. This was December 1994, anyone with a personal computer is using MSDOS commands and printing graphs on dot matrix printers. This Flintstones Computer Accessory Kit is clearly marketed towards kids, but I have a hard time believing that anyone with a computer was letting there kids do much gaming on it. So I'm not really sure who this is aimed for. But that doesn't stop me from loving the holy hell out of it! Four out of Five Retro 90's Points! Mostly because it includes a “multimedia disc holder” shaped like the Flintstones car and it holds floppy discs! I want one!

Power Gladiators: Remember when I said we had better toys in the 90's then kids have today? Check out the product description for Power Gladiators: “Radio controlled robots, you can fight hard. So hard your robot might lose its head. Don't blow your top too many times, because each time you do, you lose a weapon.” They had me at Radio Controlled Robots, quite frankly. How often do you get to fight robots to the death? Not many my friends! This is exactly the kind of toys I remember growing up with as a kid. Five out of Five 90's Awesome Points!

Bubble Bobble for the Game Gear: For those counting this is our third video game but our first to be on not only a hand held system but a Sega system at that. I had a Game Gear back then, which if I remember right took roughly eighty AA batteries and lasted for a couple hours of play. But it had a color screen. None of this black and green Game Boy bullshit. Bubble Bobble is from Taito, the Tetris guys so you know its good. 226 levels worth of good, as a matter of fact. So let's give it a Three out of Five 90's Scale of Excellence Points!

Director's Lab: The product description says that Directors Lab allows you to “create mini movies, cartoons, and music videos. Customize hundreds of sound effects and music samples.” We've all seen software like this before. They never work as advertised especially the ones aimed for kids. They're generally all around crap. This one is actually from Nickelodeon but... I'm still betting its crap. It has a horribly tiny picture and doesn't do a good job of really explaining why it would be fun. One out of Five 90's Points!


Nerf Ballzooka: You'll be hard pressed to find anything that's more 90's than Nerf. It was everything great about the generation wrapped up all into one. It was attitude. It was bright colors. It was the ability to launch objects directly at your friends face and get away with it. The Ballzooka has the ability to launch 15 balls in “rapid fire succession”. I know they still make Nerf toys but they sure as hell don't make them like this anymore! Five out of Five on the Awesome 90's Scale! And if you dissagree with me I'll shoot you in the face with my Ballzooka!

The Nightmare Before Christmas VHS Tape: Well you guys already know about my love for this movie from this article right here. Do we really need to even go over this one? Its a fantastic film that brings together my two favorite times of the year. Halloween and Christmas. What kid didn't love this film? Five out of Five Retro 90's Points! Because did you expect anything else?

Lego Systems Space-Robo Guardian: Ladies and gentlemen... welcome to the big time! Want to know whats cooler than remote controlled robots? How about robots you get to build yourself... out of Legos! Space-Robo Guardian combines my love for hyphenated names with my love for magnetic grasping arms and secret compartments. I'm only going to assume that because this is from Lego you have to first assemble the robot. I was never too good at following those directions. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer buys a swimming pool and accidentally puts together a barn instead? That's the kind of kid that I was. I put together the barn out of swimming pool parts. Its hard to say if I ever could have gotten Space-Robo Guardian put together but... holy fuck I would like to give it a try! Six out of Five Awesome 90's Points! This thing is off the charts cool!

Nickelodeon Computer Accessories Kit: Oh hell. This is like the Flintstones Accessory Kit from earlier only this one's multimedia disc holder isn't near as cool. This is the kind of “mundane object turned wacky kids product” that drives me nuts. At least the Flintstones one was based around something. Be it the cartoon or the live action movie. This one doesn't have anything to do with anything and for that I hate it. One out of Five Retro 90's Points!

Lenny's Multimedia Circus: Question. Who the hell is Lenny and why does he have a Multimedia Circus? Question still. What exactly IS a Multimedia Circus? I sort of wish I could travel back to the year 1994 and find out. Actually no I don't. It sounds like total grade A bullshit if you ask me. “design and paint clown faces, conduct your own band. More than 45 interactive games. You can even make your own animated postcards.” Fuck you Lenny. Fuck your Multimedia Circus. I wouldn't be surprised if this shit as been re-released on the Nintendo Wii. One out of Five 90's Points!

13 Dead End Drive: !!! I had forgotten all about 13 Dead End Drive! This was the Clue knock off game that, let's face it, had a far superior title than its popular counterpart. The object of 13 Dead End Drive is basically to kill off your friends and steal your dead Aunt's Money. You know come to think of it.... that's not really anything at all like Clue. Oh well, the game is still awesome. It's got a better title than some horror movies I've seen and let's face it... in this politically correct world I doubt a game like this could get made today. That's why I have to give 13 Dead End Drive a Five out of Five Totally Radical 90's Points!

Jurassic Park Part 2 The Chaos Continues for the Super Nintendo: Well if nothing else Jurassic Park Part 2 The Chaos Continues most definitely takes home the distinction of having the longest title of anything featured in the 1994 Holiday Gift Guide. I don't remember this game specifically but I do remember that Jurassic Park was featured in just about everything in the 90s. So for that we're going to give this game an easy Three Out of Five 90's Retro Points!

Hanna-Barbera's Cartoon Carnival: Has basically no product description. I don't even know what type of game this is. All they tell us is that it features everything from “haunted mazes to cartoon trivia, each with 10 challenging levels.” Translation. A bunch of crappy mini-games with Hanna-Barbera characters inserted into them. One out of Five 90's Points!


FUNGEosaurus Dinolab: This is gonna be epic. “Drop DNA crystals into the Bio Bath Chamber, submerge the FUNGEosaurs and watch them come to life!” We've all seen these types of toys before, the kind that you put in water overnight and they grow to some crazy “600% larger” scale. We've seen these before but never with such an awesome description. Whoever made these really went the extra mile with the product description. If a lesser company was to hire someone like say... myself, I'd have wrote something a little bit like this: “look you put this shit in water and it grows overnight. Have fun.” Thankfully, I am not employed by the FUNGEosaurus people. Nope, they've infused this description with so much awesome that my nipples have gotten hard reading about it! You better believe that we're giving this set a Five out of Five on the 90's Retro Scale!

Lenny's Time Machine: Did anyone ever figure out who the hell Lenny is? For the sake of space... let's just assume this one is crap and move on to the next product. One out of Five on the 90's Scale of Awesome! Fuck off Lenny!

Super Bonk for the Super Nintendo: Another game being advertised for the Super Nintendo. Nickelodeon must have cut a deal with Nintendo in 1994 or something. Bonk is a character that I'm sure very few of you will even remember. He first showed up on the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990. The character “Bonk” is a caveman with an oversized head who headbutts his enemies to death. Think Chris Benoit... only without the whole “murdering of his children” aspect. Super Bonk for the Super Nintendo... I literally have no if its any good or not. I have played the TurboGrafx-16 Bonk and that one was pretty awesome for a TurboGrafx-16 game. As a Super Nintendo title? I don't know. I'm playing Turtles in Time or Super Mario World... not Super Bonk. Two out of Five 90's Points!

Party Mania: Party Mania is a VCR game. A VCR board game. You know there is an entire generation of kids out there who have no idea what the hell a VCR is, and thus would have even less of a clue as to what exactly a VCR board game would be. I'd say this was top of the line for 1994 but I think that was even sort of a stretch. I remember seeing these VCR games being advertised on TV quite a bit but never remember a single person owning one. I know I never did. Party Mania is all about 90's “cool” as the entire premise of the game is to do shit around the house to “get ready” for a party. I wonder why you needed a VCR to play this? Three out of Five 90's Points! While I'm sure the game is shit... it doesn't get much more 90's than a VCR board game about getting ready to party!


Nickelodeon Are You Afraid of the Dark The Tale of Orpheo's Curse: Remember when I claimed that Jurassic Park Part 2 The Chaos Continues had the longest title of this gift guide? I lied. Nickelodeon Are You Afraid of the Dark The Tale of Orpheo's Curse is really the item with the longest title. You guys remember Are You Afraid of the Dark? It used to air on the late night block of programing every Saturday night called “Snick”. If memory serves me correctly the lineup included Hey Dude, Ren and Stimpy, a couple other shows, an ended with Are You Afraid of the Dark as the finale. Then the station used to switch over to Nick at Night and run re-runs of I Love Lucy and Happy Days until five in the morning. God those where the days. Are You Afraid of the Dark was, in concept, like a kids version of Tales from the Crypt. Every episode featured a new short story of horror meant to scare the shit out of all the kids watching right before there bedtime. Man... the 90's had a lot of epic shit going on.

This product is an “interactive ghost story introduced by the shows cast”. If I was a betting man, and lord knows one day I'm going to have a gambling problem, I would bet that its one of those point and click adventure games and probably has a whole bunch of really cheesy FMV videos. Remember Myst? Let's just assume The Tale of Orpheo's Curse is a Myst clone. I'm thinking I should track this game down and do a YouTube review for it. Five out of Five 90's Points!

Ricochet Radio-Control Vehicle: I remember getting one of these for Christmas. I don't know if it was the year 1994 or not... but for arguments sake lets say it was. The Ricochet RC car had a pretty cool concept, it could flip over and keep on driving. You could drive it straight into a wall and it would drive up it, flip over, and then suddenly what was once the rear end became the front end and you could keep on driving. The problem with this? Pretty much as soon as any kid got one, you became intent on driving it off every structure known to man. The higher the better. As you would imagine they broke pretty darn quick. Four out of Five Retro 90's Points!

Crayola Activity Train: From Crayola we have a train that you can color. And its a.... umm... did I mention that its a train that you can color? Well it is. It has 16 washable crayons. And a “big coloring sheet”. Nobody wants the Crayola Activity Train for Christmas. Not in 1994. Not in 2010. Not ever. Epic fail on the part of Crayola. One out of Five Retro Style 90's Points!

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad Dic: I immediately am deducting this product a point for spelling cyber “syber”. I've never heard of the Superhuman Samuai Syber-Squad before. Looks to me like its an old TV show trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. It sort of looks like a fail... but not an epic fail as on the bright side you get free temporary tattoos with each “volume”. Free things are always good. Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squads probably aren't so let's give them a Two out of Five Retro 90's Points! And move on to something else.


Nickelodeon Laser Light: Let's clear one thing up right away. The Nickelodeon Laser Light isn't a real laser light. At least not like the ones we all used to fuck around with in the late 90's at concerts and classrooms. The Nickelodeon Laser Light is instead simply a flashlight with red, green, yellow and white lights. Apparently in “lots of different shapes and sizes”. Seems to me there is a little big of false advertising going on here. Nobody wants a flashlight for Christmas. But a Laser Light? Put me down for seventeen! Can you imagine how pissed off you'd be if you expected a laser and instead got a stupid flashlight with different colored inserts? Two out of Five 90's Points!

Return of Jafar: Another classic 90's film. This time animated. Real animation. Not like this crappy CGI all the kids are stuck with today. Actual hand drawn animation with real voice actors and not just a bunch of celebrity cameo's. This is Disney in its true form how I remember it. Return of Jafar is the sequel to the smash hit Aladdin. Five out of Five Epic 90's Points!

Marble Dome: We had some odd toys in the 90s. Marble Dome is one of them. I guess it technically qualifies as a board game, the object is to shoot as many marbles as fast as you can at the other players playing the game. The person with the fewest marbles wins the round. How long are the rounds? How is score kept? How many rounds are there? I guess none of this really matters when the object of the game is to shoot marbles at one another. Much like the early Nerf toys, I can't possibly see how this game could be made today. Far too many kids would either get hurt and far too many stupid parents would try to sue the makers. Three out of Five Epic 90's Points!

The Flintstones for the Game Boy: See... I told you there had to have been a movie that came out that year. Why the hell else would we have two Flintstones related products in this toy guide? I understand they've been around forever and have been popular forever. But they're not that popular with kids. This game is for the original Game Boy. Yea, the one with the epic green screen. I'm sure it sucked. But who cares. Two out of Five Epic 90's Points!


Sidewinder 2.4 and 2.0: I'm not going to lie, I really like this bike. In retrospect there is one thing that really drives me nuts about the 90's in general. Its how extreme everything thought it had to be. You couldn't just have anything as simple as a bicycle anymore. Nope it had to be an off-road Huffy bike painted neon green with orange stripes. I respect the holly hell out of this Sidewinder for being a red motherfucking bicycle. Nothing more. Nothing less. Technically... I guess that makes it out of era and sort of defeats the whole purpose of this list of ranking things on how “awesome 90's” they are. If the norm was to be overly extreme... and this product isn't how am I supposed to rank it in terms of awesome 90's-ness? I have no idea.

Panini/Baio & Co. Album and Sticker Collections: I wish I could say they saved the best for last in 1994 but realistically... they just sort of saved the one that required the largest product description for last. Its some sort of collection of Disney themed stickers. 232 of them all in all. Pictured is Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Aladdin. What would any one kid possibly want with 232 Aladdin stickers is beyond me. The reason why these stickers get the full bottom half of the page is simple... they're the only product with an order from!

Actually, come to think of it they're the only product in this entire gift guide that even has an attached price ($14.99 per set) which is sort of a shame as I would really like to know how much some of this stuff would have set you back in 1994 currency. The stickers... well they're not really that interesting. They're stickers. Disney stickers. A lot of Disney themed stickers. Two out of Five Retro 90's Points!

Sort of a crappy note to end an otherwise awesome Gift Guide on, I know. But I don't organize these things.... I just write lengthy articles on them. All in all I must say that 1994 seems like a great year to be a kid. From the FUNGEosaurus Dinolab to the Space-Robo Guardian you'd be hard pressed to find any kid out there who wouldn't be completely ecstatic about waking up December 25th and finding them under the tree. So kudos to Nickelodeon for dedicating a couple pages of there magazine in 1994 to this awesome gift guide! Now... I'm off to see if I can locate me one of those Space-Robo Guardian's.

23 comments:

  1. Great article Kyle! I just have to point out one thing...Tetris was developed for the NES by Bullet Proof Software(now known as Blue Planet Software), not Taito. Taito did make some cool games back in the day. You might have confused them with Tengen(Atari's unlicensed games).
    Seems like being a kid in 1994 was great! Being a product of the 80s, I have to say the 90's come in second in my book. A lot of awesome games came out in the 90's, as well as some great toys and some good shows.

    And I'm not sure that you know this but, while Bonk's Adventure was on the Turbo Grafx-16 and was their mascot, there was also a version that was release for the NES? Obviously the 8 bit graphics couldn't compete, but today tends to be a little rare and commands a high price.

    I hope you write more in depth articles like this one. It was definitely a fun read.
    Wanna trade links? You'll be on my blogroll shortly! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the kind words Jason! And thanks for the Tetris correction. You know what, I was thinking of the version of Space Invaders for the PSP (developed by Taito) when I wrote this piece. Mixed one classic game for another!

    And yes, I always enjoy trading links.

    ReplyDelete
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