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

September 10 – Homeward Bound

Welcome Back

Some players just don’t look right in jerseys that differ from the one they’ve worn for years. In most of the big leagues, athletes can sign one-day contracts so that they may retire as a member of the team that made their career. Other times, a trade brings that star back into the fold. Then, there’s always returning from retirement. Here is some of the greatest returns home in sports history.

Trevor Linden – Vancouver Canucks (NHL)

Trevor Linden, captain of the Vancouver Canucks was traded to the New York Islanders in 1998. After bouncing around to a couple other teams, the Canucks reacquired the heart and soul leader of their last championship appearance team. In Linden’s first game back (which I attended with the Sip Family), he notched a couple points and was named the second star of the game, allowing fans to dedicate all their energy specifically to one of the team’s most legendary figures. A few years later, Linden left the game the right way, serenaded by the fans who adored him for so many years, and making a final trip around the ice surface that hosted so many memories for all involved.

Doug Gilmour – Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)

Growing up, for some bizarre reason that I may never be able to explain, I was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Please collect your jaws from the floor… sadly, it’s true. My favourite player was Doug Gilmour, a gritty and talented player, who nearly led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1967. Gilmour was traded to New Jersey in 1997, but would return to the Leafs at the 2003 trade deadline, causing fans to rejoice. Sadly, in just his second shift back with the team, he collided knee-on-knee with Calgary’s Dave Lowry and was done for the season, later calling it a career that summer.

Hulk Hogan – World Wrestling Entertainment

In the 1980’s, Hulk Hogan’s symbiotic relationship with the then World Wrestling Federation launched both entities into the stratosphere. Working together, Hogan became one of the most popular wrestlers of all-time, while the WWF became the first promotion to enjoy national mainstream exposure and success. Hogan left the company in 1993 to perform in World Championship Wrestling and didn’t return to the soon-to-be-renamed WWE until 2002. He originally returned as a bad guy, but fans would not have any of that, cheering for Hogan to once again become the “Real American” character most had grown up with. They got their wish and fans feverishly ate up the nostalgia act.

Ken Griffey, Jr. – Seattle Mariners (MLB)

Ken Griffey, Jr. grew up in the Seattle Mariners organization, debuting in 1989 and even playing alongside his father, Ken Griffey, Sr. Griffey became the face of the franchise and even the entire league, adorning video games, posters, t-shirts, and other merchandise. The slugger was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, as he wished to play closer to home and be more involved in the lives of his children. Griffey’s numbers declined following the trade, but petitions were signed by Seattle fans to bring him back. Finally, in 2009, Griffey returned to the Mariners. His second tenure had its issues, like Griffey being accused of napping in the clubhouse during games, but he was honoured into the team’s Hall of Fame in August 2013.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls (NBA)

After winning three straight NBA titles in the early 90’s, there was nothing left for Michael Jordan to accomplish. When his father was murdered that summer, Jordan retired from basketball and decided to try his hand at professional baseball, hoping to realize his father’s dream of him playing in the Majors. When his baseball dream fizzled out, it was back to the hard court and the Bulls for Jordan. Another three NBA Championships followed before Jordan left the game again in 1999. His last return to basketball was with the Washington Wizards, a team he had part-ownership with and had been President of Basketball Operations.

Mario Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)

Like Jordan, Mario Lemieux kept returning to the game he loved after time away from the rink proved he still had too much passion for the sport to watch from the sidelines. Super Mario returned from cancer and a retirement to put up all-star level numbers and pad his legacy as one of the game’s greatest players. While he never won another Stanley Cup, he was an integral member of Canada’s gold medal victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics and also saved the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise as owner of the team, ushering in the Sidney Crosby era.

Drink #253: Homeward Bound

Sept 10

  • 1.5 oz Spiced Rum (I used Sailor Jerry’s)
  • Top with Lemonade
  • Garnish with Lemon Wheel

What was your favourite return home? As above, it can be an athlete, an actor, or hell, it could be Ron Jeremy’s long-awaited return to the world of pornography!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This was a simple, but very enjoyable cocktail. I love the name about as much as I adore Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum and the moment I saw this recipe advertised at a local bar, I knew I’d be making it when I went home. The caramel-flavour of the Spiced Rum works nicely with the tart Lemonade and makes for one fine drink!