Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons - When Video Games Ruled the Airwaves Part 2

As I mentioned last week, the video game invasion of the Saturday morning cartoon universe was so massive that there's no way to fit all of them into one post — at least, no way to do it and keep the article to any reasonable length. So, jamming our pockets full of quarters, we'll continue our prowl around the arcade to see which games were fodder for TV.

We'll start with Q Bert, not because we want to, but because today's lineup is more or less universally weak, so, why not? Through the magic of Hollywood script grinders, a video game about a round thing with a trumpet-like nose/mouth/whatever that hops around a pyramid trying to change the colours of squares while avoiding snakes, became a cartoon about the same round thing and his friends taking on the roles of retro-50s highschoolers hanging out at a malt shop and doing... whatever. This show was so deeply odd that I couldn't remember a thing about it (only that it existed) before scrounging it up on YouTube, and, once I found it and watched a little, it wasn't good enough for me to watch enough to figure out what it was about. Perhaps you'll be a little more charitable than I. (intro)

Shifting gears now, let's take a look at Pole Position, based on the hit racing game. My friends and I used to spend quite a bit of time on this game in the arcade. Sadly, we had to settle for Turbo on our home gaming consoles, because we had Colecovision systems. And when the wave of video game-inspired shows hit the air, we had to settle for this odd Speedracer-ScoobyDoo hybrid. A couple of teens spending their days on a futuristic Nascar circuit, and fighting crime in the off hours. Throw in overly-cute younger sibling and cat for sidekicks, along with Knightrider-inspired onboard AIs for the cars, and you've got a show. Does anyone else think the cars' AI faces look a lot like the mug of the Master Control in Tron? (full episode)

And just as we're getting to the point where all of the stale marshmallows are gone and only a couple of soggy, hyper-sugared flakes or pops or whatever are drifting around in the milk at the bottom of our cereal bowls, let's finish off with an episode of Space Ace. Like Dragon's Lair (mentioned last week), Space Ace was one of those breakthrough video games to feature animation-quality graphics, and near-impossible game play. The cartoon put Ace and his partner Kimmi into the cockpit on a weekly basis to fight Borf the bad guy (a Blue Meanie escaped from the Beatles' Sgt Pepperverse and whacked on steroids), or whatever other substitute they wanted to use, and things would get complicated when Ace would transform into his slight and dorky alter-ego Dexter at inopportune moments. Funny thing is, just like with Dragon's Lair, I seem to recall the quality of animation in the video game was actually better than what they served up on TV on Saturday mornings. (full episode)

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