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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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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