Japan – White Mountain

Gamesmanship

Simply put, without Japan, we wouldn’t have the video games we know and love. Companies like Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Taito, Namco, Capcom, and Konami all originated in the land of the rising sun and gave birth to many of the most popular systems, games, and characters ever. Here are some little known facts about those great gaming corporations:

Nintendo

Nintendo has provided my favourite gaming systems growing up and even into my adult years. Titles starring the likes of Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and others have made me a fan of the company that began operations all the way back in 1889 as a trading card enterprise. Nintendo even ventured into the love hotel business in the 1960’s, as well as a block building product meant to compete with LEGO. One of Nintendo’s first big releases, Donkey Kong, prompted legal action from Universal Studios, as they believed the character was too close to King Kong. Nintendo won the case, claiming the King Kong story and characters were part of the public domain. Finally, the company was a one-time owner of the Seattle Mariners… can you imagine a mascot Mario warming up in the on-deck circle!

Nintendo Raising

Sega

Originally a manufacturer of pinball machines, Sega entered the video game console market with the SG-1000 in 1983. While I never owned a Sega system, it was a treat to occasionally try exclusive games on it while visiting friends who owned them. Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog was originally to have fangs, be in a band, and have a human girlfriend named Madonna, but those features were removed. Unlike Nintendo, Sega chose not to censor the bloodshed in the violent Mortal Kombat game, creating the Videogame Rating Council in response to the controversy that followed. After failed systems including the Saturn and Dremacast, Sega left the console world and became a game developer for other platforms, such as Nintendo, which is exclusively getting Sonic the Hedgehog releases.

Taito

Broski Sip and I loved a number of Taito games, particularly Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. When a collection including these titles was released for PCs and other consoles in 2005, we were quick to snatch it up and spent hours reliving our childhood memories (and frustrations!). As a company, Taito moved from vending machines to jukeboxes, before finally settling on arcade games. In 1978, Taito released Space Invaders, which is one of video game history’s most popular titles and one which launched the ‘Golden Age of Arcade Video Games’. Today, Taito has been incorporated by Square Enix (developers of famous titles such as the Final Fantasy series) and operates a number of arcades throughout Japan, known as Taito Stations. I miss arcades, although I can’t say I ever frequented them.

Sony

Sony entered the video game console market when Nintendo ditched a partnership between the two to distribute a CD-ROM drive that would work with Super Nintendo systems. Sony decided to continue down the path they had already started and in essence, Nintendo created their own competition when Sony released the Playstation to compete with the Nintendo 64. The company’s name comes from ‘sonus,’ the Latin word for sound mixed with the slang term ‘sonny’, which for the Japanese meant smart and presentable young men, an appearance founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka believed they exhibited. Of course, we also recognize Sony’s branding from their Walkman and Discman music delivery devices and in other parts of the world, Sony even has financial institutions under their umbrella.

Sony Box

Namco

Namco originated as operators of children’s rides on the roof of a Yokohama, Japan department store and entered the arcade game business in 1970. In 1985, Namco would bid to purchase the struggling Atari for a whopping $800,000, dwarfing other offers, such as Sega’s $50,000. Namco’s Pac-Man, released in 1980, was one of the industry’s most famous creations, although the game could also be cited as a cause of the 1983 Video Game Crash, as Atari rushed to release the game on their home console and it failed to sell as well as hoped. Namco had plans to compete with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in the late 80’s and early 90’s and released the SuperGrafx console, which was another failure. In more recent years, the company has entered the amusement park business, as well as merged with Bandai in 2005.

Capcom

Capcom’s biggest title is arguably the Street Fighter series of games, which produced one of the most legendary gaming myths of all-time. In Street Fighter II, when you were defeated by Ryu, his taunt of “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” was mistranslated to read “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” This caused many players to theorize that Sheng Long was a hidden character in the game. Capcom eventually included the character in games years later and background graffiti in Wreck-It Ralph states that “Sheng Long was here!” Other popular series produced by Capcom include Resident Evil, Mega Man, and Devil May Cry. Capcom titles have been cited as some of the worst video game to movie adaptations ever, although the films are commercially successful.

Konami

While they have produced an extensive and memorable video game line-up, their Blades of Steel hockey release will be forever cherished by anyone who had the privilege of strapping on those virtual skates. The company’s name translates to “be creative” and they have certainly followed their own credo. Konami has dabbled in everything from health and fitness clubs around Japan to trading cards, anime, slot machines, and a slew of other products. Konami is also recognized for their Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Silent Hill franchises and even the most popular cheat code of all-time can be attributed to the company. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A was usually good for some bonus power-ups and extra lives, which were usually necessary.

Japan: White Mountain

May 8

  • Rim glass with Coconut Shavings
  • 2 oz Sake
  • Top with Milk and Pina Colada Mix

While I’ve never been the biggest gamer, I definitely have a place in my heart and mind for video games. Last year, I did a two part series on my favourite releases ever and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane. You can check out those articles here and here.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (??? Sips out of 5):
xxx

Advertisements

November 12 – Zelda’s Lullaby

Game Shark

A friend recently wrote to me and pointed out a glaring omission from the Sip Advisor library. While I’ve examined movies, spent a fair bit of time on TV, and even dabbled in the dark arts of travel, I have never done any work in the realm of video games. That is to be corrected in a two-part series on my favourite games and series of all-time. This one is for the nerd in all of us!

Legend of Zelda

The trials and tribulations of our hero Link, as he wages war on Ganondorf in an attempt to save Princess Zelda and keep the Tri-Force out of the hands of evil have been one of the greatest video game epics in history. While there have been many iterations of the franchise, my favourite are A Link to the Past (SNES) and Ocarina of Time (N64), perhaps the greatest video game experience I’ve ever had. Sadly, I started to play Twilight Princess (Wii) a couple years ago, but have found myself too busy to go back to the game.

Ocarina of Time

Blades of Steel

This game is so awesome I can’t even begin to describe what Blades of Steel meant to me as a kid. As a young, aspiring hockey star, this was my first chance to ever take to the ice digitally and guide my team to championship glory. The game had it all: goals, saves, fighting, penalty shots, a shootout if overtime was necessary… you get the picture. When I downloaded a Nintendo emulator onto my computer a number of years back, the first title I searched out was Blades of Steel. This time, though, I got to sub beer in place of chocolate milk!

Peggle

This game takes the Japanese gambling parlour tradition of Pachinko and turns it into something both kids and adults can access and enjoy. One thing the gambling powers can’t provide (although Peggle doesn’t allow you to win money!) is characters who each have their own special power when you use them and access their specific skill. Even after beating the normal game, there were tons of challenges to work through and the fun just kept on going.

Super Mario Kart

The original Mario Kart was awesome, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the Wii entry as well, which required you to actually play with a steering wheel. Once you got the motions down, it was an awesome ride which made you feel more involved in the races. My favourite racer was the Koopa Trooper because I like to have a balance of speed and accurate turning. In the Wii game, I usually used my Mii character and I was awesome behind the wheel!

Mario Kart

7 Wonders of the Ancient World

I’m a certified casual games match-three genius. Seriously, if you could go pro playing these games, I’d be the Wayne Gretzky of the genre. 7 Wonders was one of the first releases I picked up and I’m so glad I did. I find games like these keep your brain sharp, which counteracts all the damage I’ve done to the poor thing with drinking! There were two sequels to the original game, each offering a new gameplay style to switch things up.

Rock Band/Guitar Hero

When Mrs. Sip and I first heard about the Guitar Hero and later Rock Band franchises, it spurred us to go out and buy a Playstation 2 (after not owning a video game system for years) and get these musical games. We spent many nights with Mrs. Sip either rocking the guitar or microphone and me slamming away at the drums, usually downing copious amounts of alcohol, just like all of my drumming idols!

cat-plays-rock-band

Mario Party

While I haven’t played every entry in this series (come on, there’s like 10 of them!) I’ve always enjoyed sitting around with a good group and battling it out in all the mini games to see who will obtain virtual board game glory. My win-loss record might not be great in the Mario Party world, but I always have fun regardless and you never really know who will come out ahead in the end thanks to the games “bonus stars” awarded once all the turns have expired.

Grand Theft Auto

I’m a law-abiding citizen… but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to be a criminal in the fictional world of video games. I played all the GTA games up to San Andreas, with my favourite being the Vice City installment. There was just something so great about stealing cars and performing other underhanded tasks in the Miami beach setting to the greatest (and sometimes lamest) music of the 80’s!

Drink #316: Zelda’s Lullaby

Zelda's Lullaby Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Chambord
  • 0.75 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Dash of Egg Whites
  • Garnish with a Lemon Twist

Sip Advisor 3:16 (drink #316) says I just got you drunk! Thanks for letting me borrow your famous line Stone Cold! Look out for part two of my favourite games tomorrow, including wrestling titles.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
Credit for this recipe goes to The Drunken Moogle, which is a great site for video game-themed drinks and other pop culture offerings. I was itching to make this cocktail for Mrs. Sip and the long wait made her enjoyment of the martini all that more amazing. Chambord is one of her favourite liquor ingredients, but that does not make a guaranteed success. Where the drink really works is that all the other ingredients come to play as well… like the flying-V in the Mighty Ducks movies!