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Sonic and Mario

The 80s and 90s were the age of video game mascots. Every company wanted that signature character who they could stick on lunchboxes, t-shirts and, of course, as many of their games as possible. But for every Mario and Sonic, there were a slew of wannabes who, rather than jumping on the bandwagon, just clawed and grasped onto the wheels with every ounce of their ‘TOTALLY RADICAL’ strength. Copycats were abound and thanks to what sold for kids in the 80s and 90s (or at least what company execs thought sold for kids in the 80s and 90s) every mascot was a super cool, totally awesome, almost-always-an-animal with attidude, dude! This did nothing in those mascots’ favour, as times changed and the market’s supposed want for kid-cool characters disappeared as those same kids grew up and wanted better. So, the timeless characters over at Nintendo and Sega lived on whilst the others have been reduced to being mentioned on a blog…

My main issue with such video game mascots was the overwhelming need to make them as arrogant as possible. The very epitome of inflated egos is the infamous Bubsy the Bobcat. Everything about him, from his smug grin to his ‘EXTREME’ exclamation mark shirt makes me want to strangle him. Everything about him embodies what creating a video game mascot was about back then – making him cool to the point that he eventually just suffered a fate similar to that of the Simpson’s Poochie (note: Poochie died on the way back to his home planet). Bubsy was the mascot of the now defunct Accolade – who was founded by leavers of Activision – and before creating the Bobcat series of games they were mainly known for Star Control and Test Drive. Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind was the first game in a series of pun-filled platformers that looked to launch from the success of the very similar (but superior) Sonic and Super Mario franchises. The game, and the aforementioned Bobcat himself, was hyped up to the highest degree across every major games magazine and advertising outlet – marketing itself as the best thing since the moustached plumber. However, the game, although it was met with mixed to fairly good reviews, was definitely not what it was cracked up to be. He collected yarn balls from evil sneezing aliens, for crying out loud!

Bubsy

It seemed from this point on though that the ego of ol’ Bubsy was already too huge to control as instead of maybe tweaking the formula slightly to make the game better or toning down his attitude, he was forced onto another three games that were all as mediocre as the one that came before it. However, mediocre doesn’t even begin to cover Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet – hitting the top spots on the worst games lists even to this day. Its release unfortunately conincided with Mario 64 which made the already horrific excuse for a 3D platformer look even worse in comparison, with its dreadful controls that made doing anything other than walking a straight line a cause for ripping your own eyes out and untextured platforms that were accompanied by fourth wall breaking (read: irritating and desperate) comments from Bubsy such as “Aren’t these developers great?! What would a platform game be without platforms?!”. It was nigh on impossible to play and even if you found a way to, you just didn’t want to once you’d been subjected to it for more than a minute. Bubsy also had a pilot of his own TV show which thankfully didn’t make it past the first episode but if you wanted to subject yourself to it… WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!

Bonk coming out of a lizard's mouth  Bonk game cover
Of course, some mascots weren’t nearly as bad as Bubsy. Bonk was the mascot for the NEC TurboGrafx-16 console and he was adorable. Based on a comic book character called PC-Genjin, the Genjin being a play on PC engine and the PC standing for Pithecanthropus Computerurus (his ficticious species), he became so popular that a game was built around him and his adventures thus the Bonk/BC Kid/PC-Genjin games were born. Bonk’s namesake was based on the fact that he really enjoys bonking things with his oversized noggin until they die, a unique addition to the world of platforming characters that other Sonic and Mario imitators seemed to miss. Bonk’s games – especially the first in the series – was one of those titles that made you want to buy the console it was exclusive to despite there being nothing else worth buying it for – they were that cool, especially when he hung onto cliff faces with his teeth. Bonk’s games have all been consistently great and he was even ready for a comeback last year with ‘Bonk: Brink of Extinction’ for Wii, Playstation and Xbox however the closure of Hudson Soft’s US branch led to its cancellation. Bonk was even remodelled for a new game called Air Zonk as a futuristic punk, with its sequels realeased just in time for an actual cyborg version of Bonk (Zonk) to become the mascot for the newest console, the TurboDuo. This shoot ‘em up was a distinct change of pace for NEC who obviously wanted to get with the times and made a half decent game out of it whilst never forgetting the little guy that made it all happen.

With all of video game’s animated mascots that have been forgotten by gamers gone by, it’s also time to remember another mascot – one that was merely human – that deserves recognition in a mascot world dominated by Nintendo and Sega. And that man is Segata Sanshiro. May he forever be in our minds, our hearts and, for the love of God, BUY A SEGA SATURN!

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