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ONM Remembered – #378

“Unfortunately this is another poor cash-in on a successful cartoon.”

from Official Nintendo Magazine issue 119 (August 2002)

I know absolutely nothing about The Ripping Friends. In fact, I know darn near nothing about John K.’s cartoons! I’ll admit this is yet another excuse to talk about something different: when tie-in video games somehow remain the only tangible or accessible remnant of a show’s existence.

For instance, Eek! The Cat was a Super Nintendo game I bought donkey’s years ago, and I just thought it was a bizarre, unenjoyable game somehow graced with a great soundtrack and amusing intro. I never even knew of the cartoon ’til years later, and have never seen it in my life! To my knowledge, the show has never gotten a DVD release or seen much in the way of repeat broadcasts; unless you had a home-recording or some merch, that bloody awful game was darn near the only hard proof to show it existed until online video sharing became feasible.

In a sense, video games are no different than the likes of VHS or Laserdisc – they’re storage mediums that play only on their system of choice, though some more archaic than others. All mediums are doomed to expire sooner or later, but where VHS is crummy and ancient magnetic tape that’s not privy to easy lossless backups, video games have the luxury of being able to be copied flawlessly and run on emulators, and have become an almost permanent fixture of internet data.

Before the likes of YouTube, it was way easier to find relics of dead TV shows like Family Dog and King Arthur & The Knights of Justice by their tie-in video games than the shows themselves; sharing a two-megabyte ROM? No sweat, any old joker with an Angelfire page can do that. Downloading a one-minute RealPlayer video of a cartoon’s intro that’s been decompressed to shit? That requires commitment from both the uploader and the downloader, pal.
Even now, video copyright laws make it tough to have this stuff archived because the rights still exist somewhere, just not in the hands of folks keen to share it. A lot of video media has switched to streaming, meaning we’re starved of a good physical backup of most of this stuff, though old and obscure shows have finally found a new home thanks to DVD publishers seeking them out. But twenty year old video games? That stuff might as well be abandonware. Golden oldies do see re-release on modern platforms, but nobody’s in a rush to rerelease the Phantom 2040 tie-in SNES game, lemme tell ya.

As someone who’s a big ol’ nerd about internet history, I just find it fascinating, especially since tie-in video games of that era were always so… wacky. Where would we be if all first-hand sources of knowledge on Ren & Stimpy were lost, and all we had to go on was Nickelodeon Movie Maker? We’d be concocting weird theories about Ren Lights A Fart and its reflection on the show we never knew, and I’d be down for that.