Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nintendo Time Shock (タイムショック, 1972)

In the second half of the 60s, Nintendo became successful through a number of initiative toys like the Ultra Hand and Ultra Machine. However, between 1965 and 1975, they also produced a large number of more traditional toys, board games and other family games for the Japanese market. During this period Nintendo closely followed the new developments in the toy industry in Japan as well as abroad and licensed or copied other companies' hits.

Nintendo Time Shock (1972)

In most cases when copying a game, Nintendo added some twists to the original design. This was most likely (also) done to distinguish enough from the original and thus prevent legal action, but frequently went beyond change-for-change-sake and actually enhanced or improved the game-play.

A good example of this is Time Shock (タイムショック).

We will get to the original game in minute (if you haven't already recognized it), but let's first take a look at Nintendo's creation, which is credited to Gunpei Yokoi.

Time Shock was released by Nintendo in Japan in 1972 and was sold for ¥1.800.

The box contained the Time Shock game and a bag with orange plastic puzzle pieces.

The bottom of the game contains a lid which can be turned to reveal two storage spaces.

The puzzle pieces neatly fit in these storage spaces.

In total 20 puzzle pieces are included. They all have different shapes, though some are mirrored pairs, which adds to the difficulty of the game. Four small pins are also included, used to keep track of the best scores of (up to) four players.

I expect many will have guessed that the inspiration for Nintendo's Time Shock is MB's Perfection, one of their famous toys - which is being sold to this day.

MB Perfection (2003 version)
[image taken from]

The game was actually not created by MB, but by an American company called Reed Toys from Conshohocken, PA. Their patent states 1970 as the priority date.

From US patent 3,710,455 by Reed Toys (priority date 1970-11-20)

Reed Toys released the toy under the Perfection name, and soon also licensed it to fellow American companies Lakeside Toys (from Minneapolis, MN - famous for, amongst others, creating the "Barrel of Monkeys" game) and toy giant MB.

Lakeside simply put their logo on the version by Reed toys, but MB redesigned the game - keeping the game-play completely intact from the original, though.

In Japan it was Epoch who licensed Perfection from Reed Toys, and Nintendo clearly wanted to compete with them with the release of Time Shock.

Nintendo's innovation lies in the blue ring, which can be turned. This allows for ten different layouts of the play-field, which prevents players from memorizing the position of the puzzle pieces.

The objective of the game is simple: put the twenty puzzle pieces in the correct space on the play-field.

What makes Time Shock interesting is the race against the clock. You set the timer to 60 seconds and start puzzling. When you have placed all pieces correctly you stop the clock, by moving the red ring around the timer. The remaining seconds indicate your score: the more time left the better.

However! If you do not menage to finish the puzzle in time and stop the clock, when the time runs out the pieces will all jump in the air, and your score will be zero. The ticking timer and the prospect of these flying pieces add greatly to the tension.

Practice also makes perfect for this game, but the Nintendo added option to change the play-field before each runs helps increase the longevity of the challenge. It does not become too easy too quickly.

You have just ran out of time. Shock!

The game does not require any batteries; it works on a spring which is wound when you set the timer.

A portable version of Time Shock was also produced as part of Nintendo's Mini Game Series.

Nintendo Mini Game series version of Time Shock (1974)

The objective of the game is still the same, but this time only 15 puzzle pieces are involved.

The timer is replaced by a clever little mechanism. The game starts by moving the bird to the top and gently touching the spring which attaches it to the pole. The vibrations of the moving bird on the spring make it climb slowly down.

You need to finish the puzzle before the bird reaches the ground, which takes about half a minute. Making the pieces fly in the air you have to do yourself in this version, but it is still fun nonetheless.

We close this post with a short video demonstration.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nintendo Mach Rider (マッハライダー, 1972)

For most people, Mach Rider by Nintendo will conjure up memories of play sessions on the Famicom or NES in the 80s. However, this 8-bit motorcycle video game is not the first creation by the Kyoto game giant to sport this name.

Nintendo Mach Rider (1972)

Nintendo already released a game called Mach Rider (マッハライダー) in 1972. Mach Rider was produced and marketed by Nintendo in Japan, but it was based on an American toy created by Hasbro. The title of Hasbro's original version was Yellow Tail Funny Car.

The action, speed and thrill jump from the front of the box.

Mach Rider was sold for ¥2,500. The box art contained a stylized hand with gearshift, indicating the player to be in control of the car.

The box contained a stock-car type caring car, a launching pad and a jumping ramp.

Also included was a sheet with stickers. These stickers are great examples of 70s design style. They could be used to customize your car. As the game was released in 1972, the number "73" clearly refers to the car being next year's model. Of special note are a Porsche and Volkswagen logo.

Sticker sheet included with Mach Rider

The instructions are included on the inside of the box top.

The launching pad contains a motor used to propel the car. It runs on 4 D-cells.

Bottom side of launching pad - insert batteries here

The white axle which connects the motor to the car is clearly visible in the middle of the launching pad.

Two clamps in the bottom of the launching pad hold the car in place before it is released.

The white connector in the middle of the car's right rear wheel connects to the axle in the launching pad.

The red car is decked out with cool blue and yellow strips. An impressive V8 engine is mounted in the middle.

The bottom of the car shows the copyright notice and indication that it is manufactured by Nintendo.

Underneath the car, between two rear wheels, a large, heavy metal flying-wheel is placed. It is this flying wheel which is brought to great speed by the motor in the launching pad.

The car is put in place on the launching pad.

At this point, the two white axle connectors - on launching pad and car - connect.

The two clamps lift the car, so the flying-wheel can start spinning while the car remains in place.

With the gearshift set to neutral, the motor is still switched off. Putting the gearshift in first gear will start the motor. This will spin the flying-wheel in the car.

Shifting through to second and third gear will make the flying-wheel reach maximum speed (the motor does not actually start running faster between first, second and third gear - but it does not require a lot of imagination to pretend here).

When the gearshift is placed in fourth gear, the axle which connects the motor to the car is withdrawn and at the same time the clamps which kept the car stationary are lowered.

At this moment, the violently spinning flying-wheel suddenly hits the ground and the Mach Rider shoots out of the launching pad. It quickly reaches an impressive speed and performs a nice jump when it reaches the the end of the ramp.

The Mach Rider came in three different colors: red, yellow and blue. It was not clear from the outside of the box which color version was in it, as the box art always featured the red car.

All three Mach Rider versions: red, yellow and blue

The speed achieved by the Mach Rider is quite spectacular. I don't expect it will have disappointed Japanese boys in 70s. To this day, it is fun to play with. You may want to make sure no pets are around when it is launching time.

Another Hasbro toy licensed by Nintendo is Shotracer.