Monday, December 16, 2013

My Christmas Disappointment (Sort Of) By R.T. Ewell

Even in my mid-thirties I still remember the most disappointing Christmas I ever had. Now, this particular "disappointing" is from the view point of a spoiled nine year old little boy. I look back at Christmas as a child and I count my blessings but back then, boy was I disappointed. I should have been thankful of how my holidays were spent before my parents separated, we were a family and always spent the season together celebrating. Now that seems like more of a gift than any present I could have gotten.
For two years I begged, even pleaded, that Santa, my parents, hell anybody at that moment in time would find it in their heart to give me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Every year I was disappointed, but on Christmas day 1987 I just knew that my luck had finally changed. That whole year I tried my best to get on the "nice" list and had thought I did a pretty good job. So on that Christmas morning I ran into the living room and there it sat. A box that was perfectly wrapped and the same exact size of the NES.
The moment I waited for had finally arrived. At last I would not be the only kid in the neighborhood to not own an NES. I ripped into that wrapping paper like crazy, little, mad man. Just shredding the paper so I could see that glorious picture on box. Once the paper carnage had cleared, there it sat in front of me. First I saw the logo, WoW. This was odd I thought. Then I saw the name of the system in bold print. ACTION MAX. Wait a minute, this wasn't an NES at all. That's right, my little nine year old heart was broken. In front of my eyes was not an NES, but a World Of Wonder Action Max.
Yup, I was crushed, however I did not let my parents know this. I acted excited and wanted the system hooked up immediately, mostly to solve my curiosity of what exactly this thing was. Now, I would venture to say that at least 75% of you reading this have no clue what an Action Max is, and quite frankly even at the time, I didn't know. I would soon find out.
World Of Wonder was originally the distributor of the NES until they got big enough to handle the duties themselves.They were also the creators of the Laser Tag toy that took over for a few years as the most popular toy. So they had this genius Idea to get back into the game system business with a light gun only VHS based shooting system. I know that doesn't make much sense but it was quite simple really. You had to have a VCR because the games were actually cassettes. It also included a light gun and a light that suction cupped on the bottom right had corner of the television. This gun had to be shot while the light blinked to count as a hit. There wasn't a winner or loser and you never beat the game it was a point based system only.
Every game was exactly the same each time you played it being that it was in VHS form. Each game was a live action mini movie which you can view by typing the title into YouTube. it's fairly entertaining to watch these now and they run about 20 minutes long each. This could be ultimately why the system failed because it was so repetitive and the system only had five games that were released. Here are the titles to the system:
.38 Ambush Alley
Blue Thunder
Hydrosub: 2021
The Rescue of Pops Ghostly
Sonic Fury
I can only comment on Sonic Fury & Pops Ghostly as those were the only two games that I actually owned. Sonic Fury was a jet fighting game that was probably trying to milk off of the success of Top Gun. I remember getting a bit bored relatively fast with this one. I didn't much care about shooting jets down with a light gun I guess.
Now The Rescue of Pops Ghostly on the other hand was played many times by yours truly. Apparently shooting ghosts while traveling through a haunted house was just creepy and cool enough to entertain my nine year old brain. The rest of the neighborhood kids weren't too impressed with my newly acquired Christmas present. I remember playing it for a few months before getting completely tired of it. It was mostly due to lack of games and the repetitive nature of the only two I had. After that it got retired to the old video game system graveyard and was never seen again.
It sounds like this post is a bit of a downer but there is good news. By my parents getting me this Action Max for Christmas it gave me a fantastic story to tell now that I'm older. I also appreciate the Action Max now for being what it was and having the chance to own one even if it was briefly. If you're wondering if I ever got that NES I so desperately wanted, there is good and bad news. Just a few short years later my parents got divorced thats the bad news.
The good news (but not nearly good enough for a life changing event such as divorce) my Memaw bought me what I had been wanting all those years. I got a Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. 3. At the time I was elated but given the opportunity of course I would have wanted my parents to stay together. Now a days it seems petty that I wanted an NES so badly when I had a family that loved me and an overall great life. Sometimes as children its hard to see the big picture of what we have in life. Of course even as an adult it's hard to see what we have, so take this holiday season to enjoy every part of it!
If you owned an Action Max then you were part of an elite group of people. If you didn't, well you didn't miss a whole lot except for some pretty cool nostalgia.

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