Thursday, October 27, 2022

Nintendo's Before Mario Party

Well over thirty years before the first Nintendo 64 Mario Party saw the light of day, Nintendo was already selling games to create fun and excitement at parties.

One of such games was the well-known Twister, to which Nintendo obtained the Japanese distribution rights from US company Milton Bradley in 1966.

Nintendo's first Twister version (1966)

The first version released by Nintendo (called ツイスターゲーム or "Twister Game" in Japanese) was a straight localization of the original American game, retaining most of the original box art, including the Western looking folks on the front.

In the years that followed, Nintendo released two more versions of Twister, until they lost (or gave up) the license sometime in the mid 1970s.

All three Nintendo Twister versions

In today's post, we will take a closer look at the second version.

The game attributes (play mat and board with spinner) of this version are identical to the first release, however the box art and box dimensions have been changed, as well as the manual.

Nintendo's second version of Twister (1967)

The front of the box now shows a Japanese group of people playing the game, signalling that this is a game that works in a Japanese setting.

The American origin of the game is still reflected in the two faces included on the left side of the front.

Although the pictures on the front portray the fun party purpose of the game, a second message is also relayed: exercise is good for you.

The text on the side reads "美容と健康", which means "beauty and health". Implying this game will improve both.

The text in the corner of the box states that the game "comes with beauty gymnastics instructions" by teacher Miyoko Takekoshi.

The instruction booklet contains the basic rules of the game, as well as the mentioned gymnastics instructions.

Miyoko Takekoshi, shown on the front and inside of this booklet, was a famous gymnastics instructor on Japanese television at the time.

Besides the involvement of this famous tv personality, another interesting element of this Twister version, are the "VAN" t-shirts worn by the people in the pictures on the box and manual, as well as the "provided by Men's Club" photo credit.

In order to promote Twister to the target demographic of young adults, Nintendo teamed up with Men's Club magazine and fashion brand VAN.

Men's Club is Japan's oldest fashion magazine. It started in 1954, still exists today, and its aim is to cater to "adults who [want to] make a good impression". Hip, but with a conservative streak (not too hip).

Let's take a closer look at two issues of this magazine, from March and November 1967.

The core content of Men's Club magazine is fashion.

In particular, a style called "Ivy look", inspired by US college fashion.

At the time, VAN was one of the coolest fashion brands around, at the forefront of that style (the brand name also still exists today). They are prominently featured in the magazine, in ads as well as in editorial content. 

Other regular topics include HiFi equipment...

... cars and motorsport ...

... music trends and celebrities ... 

... as well as the occasional pin-up.

And on pages 86 to 88 of the March 1967 issue of Men's Club, an article is included about Twister.

Men's Club Magazine (March 1967)

It does not mention the Nintendo brand, but I believe this is typical paid promotional content. 

We see the group of people whom we recognize from the box-art, engaged in a fun bout of Twister.

The article's title reads "Twister is all the rage in America".

"A game called "Twister" is expected to create a big boom in the future. It was announced in the United States at the end of last year, and it was a big hit after successfully riding the Christmas sales."

The - let's say - physical aspect of the game is also described in the accompanying text as a "friendly confrontation of men and women".

Just in case that wasn't clear enough, another caption says "How attractive she is in a miniskirt!".

Using the existing Men's Club platform, as well as the cool VAN brand, to help launch Twister in Japan seems a good idea. However, the accompanying box version is the rarest of the three of Nintendo's Twister versions, indicating this team-up was unsuccessful and short lived.

Still, in the November 1967 issue of Men's Club, Twister makes another appearance.

This time in the form of an advertisement, on page 18 of that issue.

A different picture is used this time, of a group of people with more regular cloths, this time without the VAN t-shirts. Another indication that the close collaboration had stopped.

Although the picture is different, they Twister players take exactly the same "man bent over woman" pose as used in the previous promotional material.

The ad says: "Let's play the twister game with young friends!!"

It even talks about "hustle play" (ハッスルプレイ), although I am not sure what that means.

It is not clear when the third box version appeared, but this was used used at least until the early 1970s, as it can be seen in a product leaflet from that period.

This one has yet another picture on the front, with a family setting. The living room furniture that can been seen in the back is identical to that in the "VAN" picture, though.

After rubbing shoulders for a brief while with some representatives of the cutting edge of fashion, Nintendo returned to a more middle of the road family marketing angle.

For more on Nintendo's Twister, including extensive pictures of the first version, check out this previous post.

1 comment:

  1. interesting that nintendo still used the old font for their name in 1967, the same year that ultra machine was launched (which contains both modern fonts for the english and japanese nintendo logo)