Wayback: Tomba!

Tomba! is a rare case of a ‘cult favorite’ game that I sincerely feel like had no good reason to not be popular.

It was produced and directed by Tokuro Fujiwara, already known for producing and directing games like Mega Man, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and even creating the survival horror genre with his NES game Sweet Home which was later adapted into the goddamn Resident Evil franchise. Tomba! is built wholly from the same good game design concepts, with RPG elements that innovated the platformer genre without taking up too much space. It’s funny and cute, while still having a sizeable spooky side. As far as 2D platformers go, it’s the total package.

Despite all this, Tomba! never sold enough to qualify for a Greatest Hits reprint, and copies now regularly go for over $100 on eBay. I just really don’t know why, even trying my best to approach this from an objective perspective. Games with less production value have successfully been spun off into entire TV franchises, while Tomba! languished with a single sequel and some very obscure merchandise.

Even with my history in the video game industry, the whims of the market are completely opaque to me. I don’t really feel like it’s my place to speculate on if the game was marketed well enough or what-have-you. Still, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the official promotional material was like.

Today we’re using the Wayback Machine to look at a whole 4 sites: Tomba! on the US PlayStation website, the independently hosted Tombi! site, the official Whoopee Camp site, and the very first official Tomba! site. I can’t give precise timestamps, but most of these are around the year 2000.

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Wayback: Crystal Dynamics – Gex

When’s the last time you’ve played a mascot platformer that wasn’t a Mario or a Sonic? It was probably a Crash or a Spyro if it was anything at all. The genre is dead, and I miss it very much.

Gex, at least to me personally, is the iconic failed mascot platformer. He’s everything bad about the genre: he talks way too much and thinks he’s clever, his world is made of cookie-cutter tropey levels that don’t fit together, he has way too many gameplay gimmicks, and in the grand scheme of things he’s been completely forgotten. These are all the reasons that I find Gex oddly enjoyable, as a game trilogy that just doesn’t really work and isn’t very fun.

Unlike most platformer mascots, Gex was not aiming to be the face of a single console: he was the catchphrase-spitting gecko mascot of Crystal Dynamics, a video game company founded by women in 1992. Crystal Dynamics had a broad ‘a little bit of anything’ approach to making games: they had many platformer games, an action-adventure franchise, a point-and-click, a fighting game, a racing game … you get the idea. I guess they also worked on some series named Tomb Raider.

But Gex was Crystal Dynamics’ thing. He was funny, he was memorable, and he was the face of the company, especially once the substantially more popular sequel Gex 2: Enter the Gecko was released in 1998. In that way, Gex was a fixture of the late 90s, a reminder of what things were like.

And what’s more ‘late 90s’ than a terrible website for a terrible video game?

Today I’m going to the Wayback Machine to see the Gex pages on the Crystal Dynamics website from 1998 to 1999. It’s tail time, as one might say.

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The Colors of Wishbone

The colors were so beautiful.

They promised me so much. Whenever I felt sad, or lonely, or worried, all I would do is listen to the colors, and they would promise me that all things would be okay. They did things no other colors could do. Have you ever smelled a color? Tasted a color? No, not in the way somebody with synesthesia would, either. Really tasted a color, tasted it in the same way that you could taste a piece of chocolate, savoring its flavor and swallowing it and feeling it inside you, warm and pleasant. I hadn’t either, until the colors of Wishbone were revealed to me.

Nobody else can understand. The Wishbone colors speak, and they sing, and they dance, and they do so, so much for me. I cannot live without them. I will not live without them. They are everything to me. No family, no friends, nobody can compare. How could they? They cannot show me delights the way Wishbone can. They call me mad when I try to even gently describe, to convince them to look at the colors.

Maybe I am mad. But if madness is the price for happiness, I do not care. The colors are worth any price. The colors are everything.

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Cuckoo for Blue’s Clues Blue Foods

I really loved Blue’s Clues. Did you ever watch that one? The kids show with the blue cartoon dog?

I loved Blue’s Clues well past the point where most children would have moved on to other shows. I loved Blue’s Clues to the point of accidentally isolating myself from my peers. I was still watching it when I was 8, and even once I lost interest when they kicked Steve off for Joe, I kept watching it with my sibling well into my preteen years.

I had a Blue stuffed toy. I had the Handy Dandy Notebook, with the giant crayons. I wanted the Thinking Chair very badly, and would randomly declare any particularly comfortable chair or even sofa to be the Thinking Chair. I had a Mailbox I would put random crap in. I had several figurines that would regularly get lost and stepped on. I had the Humongous Entertainment PC games, which were very good. My dog was named Blue.

Above anything else, I loved the Blue’s Clues food. I already loved neon-colored food, something that I know many 90s kids can sympathize with, and in my case I especially loved neon Blue Food. I can’t say for certain if my love of the Blue’s Clues Blue Food was because of the show itself, or if I started to love the show more because it was a consistent source of serotonin-inducing Blue Food. I think solving that mystery might be even harder than the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.

Would you like to see my collection of favorite Blue’s Clues Blue Foods? Come on into my article! Blue skidoo, you can too.

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Wayback: Helga’s Love Secret

Fansites really suck nowadays. For one, I don’t even remember the last time I’ve seen one, do you?

If you don’t remember or weren’t around, there was a time before blogs were our main medium of contact with the fandom world. There were forums, sure, but niche forums were often run by moderators with a tight fist. If you were an independent person wanting to post about your favorite characters or ships, you probably had a fansite, and it was probably hosted on GeoCities.

The shift from fansite to blogging had already begun with the rise of LiveJournal, but journals were still incredibly personal spaces, and advertisers left it the hell alone. If anything, LiveJournal was a great space to promote and link your personal webpages, and they flourished there.

The death of the fansite started to feel very official once fandoms started moving onto Tumblr. It began with the “Fuck Yeah, [Thing]!” formula of blogs, which rapidly supplanted ‘character shrine’ fansites as a space where people posted screencaps of their favorite characters. Then everyone had a blog, including directors and writers and storyboarders and character designers … and now, nobody has a fansite.

Fear not, fellow web surfer: there’s still a place on the Internet where we can see all the fansites we want, and that’s the Wayback Machine. Today I’ve prepared for you a fansite from 2002, before Tumblr devoured the internet and left us with Kpop Twitter.

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Wayback: Taco John’s

We’re all in agreement that 2020 sucks at this point, right? And it’s really not looking like 2021 is going to be any better. Aren’t you getting tired of this bullshit? Wouldn’t you like to go back?

Great news: there’s a magical website called the Wayback Machine where you can go almost anywhere you want, to almost any point in time where the internet existed. So as long as your fond memories aren’t from before the technological corruption of society, you have a chance to get away from this madness, even if just for a little bit.

Maybe unsurprisingly, I’ve been using the Machine a lot recently to escape the monotony of everyday horror. Today, I’d love to take you on a journey with me. This time I’m going to the website for the midwestern fast food chain Taco John’s, all the way back in 2004 – before online apps were a thing, and before competitor Taco Bell fucking betrayed all of us when we needed them the most.

Let’s go back… wayback!

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Mini Cheddars are ruining my life

Mini Cheddars. Mini Cheddars. Mini Cheddars. Mini Cheddars.

It means SOMETHING. It has to, right? It’s everywhere. It’s torturing me. My life was good before Mini Cheddars. (My life was actually really bad but I don’t care.) Maybe my life would be better without Mini Cheddars. Maybe it’s the one thing weighing me down, or maybe it was there, plotting even in my earliest days. How can I know I’ve never eaten a Mini Cheddar? “They’re British or something,” I hear you saying, “and you’ve lived in America your entire life.” I don’t care. Someone smuggled a Mini Cheddar on an international flight one day and decided to poison me.

That’s the only explanation.

Tons of people get commercial jingles stuck in their head. I don’t care. This is not that. This is nothing like that. This is way worse. I am being actively conspired against. These three commercials are all connected and I will show you how.

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Reach dairy enlightenment through the Cheese Riddles

The mysteries of the world are uncountable, unknowable, perplexing beyond human imagination. There’s so much that we cannot know, things we will not, must not know. These grains of forbidden knowledge are cataloged in far, disparate libraries, protected by the wisest of monks who have dedicated their lives to studying this lore. 

But it’s our privilege to introduce you to this secret world, to initiate you into the study of these mysteries. We alone hold the keys of knowledge that, when used, will unlock new dimensions of understanding in your own brain. We invite you, acolyte, to step through the door to your new life. Come and ponder with us… the Cheese Riddles. 

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The best part of The Elder Scrolls is reading books – ranked

The Elder Scrolls is probably one of the deepest and most involved video games in history when it comes to terms of scope. With five games in the main series, a bevvy of side-games, and a full-fledged MMO, it’s hard to imagine a similar series coming out that would have so much content. But the best part of The Elder Scrolls isn’t just the games themselves; it’s the incredibly rich lore the game’s setting provides. The fandom of The Elder Scrolls have debated for decades over the lore of this series, coming up with hundreds of outlandish theories, some of them even supported by the devs themselves in the long run.

One of the best features of The Elder Scrolls, in our opinion, is the massive quantity of in-game books that are available to read. Yes, you can read full-fledged books in The Elder Scrolls, just for fun! Some of them have tangible in-game benefits (primarily leveling up your skills, as the story of the book might include a scene relevant to combat or adventuring), but a huge number of them simply exist to be read. These books provide the bulk of the game’s inexhaustible lore, going over minor details of the cosmology, small scenes from history, or in-game works of fiction designed to entertain the imaginary inhabitants of Tamriel.

In our time as fans of The Elder Scrolls, we’ve collected our personal top five books inside The Elder Scrolls. We’re ranking these by personal preference alone, by how entertaining and readable each one is, and how engrossing we found its story. There’s much richer lore to be found in many other books, but if you want a good read, we think these top five are a great way to get into the universe of Elder Scrolls fiction.

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