Tales Of The Arcade – The Legend of G.I. Joe The Arcade Game
“G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world” – G.I. Joe TV Show
Any male child that knew anything about Saturday morning cartoons knew (and quite often loved) G.I. Joe. In some odd way, this cartoon about special forces soldiers fighting a terrorist group called Cobra caught the imaginations of millions and still has a hold on fans of the series even today. Coming on along side the popular Transformers show during its Sunbow days, it featured hilarious Public Service Announcements about bullying, drugs, swimming, and other topics that are always great comedy fodder.
Probably the biggest memory I have about the show was the animated ‘movie’ that came out. It had a killer new theme song that I loved, Cobra seemed like they were more of a threat under the evil Serpentor, and their battle cry was even kinda catchy (Cobra-La-La-La-La-La-Laaaaa!). It was still funny to see laser blasts bouncing off of vehicles for quite some time before they blow up (which delayed just long enough for drivers to hop out) and of course listen to Don Johnson voice the main hero of the show. Still, it was a great time for a kid to be alive. Man I miss Saturday mornings!
With that said, those cartoons were the precursor to my trips to the bowling alley where I would spend a few hours bowling in a league and then go with my mother on her errand runs. The bowling alley arcade and the mall arcades would be my hangouts until she was done most times. Each week, I would anticipate the weekend so that I could see what new cabinets would pop in. The bowling alley was typically static with Super Dodgeball, Donkey Kong, Super Ms. Pac Man, Galaga, Street Figther, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Karate, and a few others. The mall arcade would typically surprise me, but never with anything related to my Saturday morning cartoon addictions.
At one point, I was so invested that I even created a custom GI Joe character and bought the figurine back in the day as well. Not quite a Snake Eyes clone as you would imagine, my character was a martial artist that had a knack for sharp shooting with pistols if I remember correctly. He had a mask more like Beach Head who was actually another one of my fav Joes.
So, one weekend I found myself at either Kings Dominion or Busch Gardens (I can’t remember which) along with my cousins up in Ohio. They were big time ride fiends but I was always more intrigued by the massive arcades that the amusement parks had. Anytime I found myself at one, the games I would see there would completely blow my mind considering the slow rotation of cabinets in my hometown arcades. As I walked through the arcade this time though, I was treated with a sight that even to this day I NEVER saw again…G.I. Joe The Arcade Game!
Like an addict I proceeded to pour at least 75% of all of the tokens I had that day into this machine out of sheer affection for the GI Joe franchise. While the music wasn’t quite like the animated movie (or the TV show for that matter), I was still treated to the thrill of using Snake Eyes and Roadblock against the scourge of Cobra. The game was even made by Konami so I was hoping there would be some chance of it having licensed sound effects or music. Unfortunately, no.
As I played though, all of those feels were out the window! In kind of a Space Harrier kind of genre, this shooter had more explosions and firepower than any of the shows ever had! I was essentially having an out of body experience as I blasted Cobra tanks and Viper soldiers! While not particularly difficult, it satisfied that need to be a Joe and take on Cobra.
That day forever held a special place in my heart due to the nostalgia and YoJoe affection I’ve always had. The problem was that was the last time I ever crossed paths with it. Not only that, I barely even took a chance on GI Joe video games from that point on! In the long history of gaming that I have, I really don’t remember there being a wealth of GI Joe video games, especially on consoles! That, my friends, is a travesty.
At one point, I remember hearing about how Battlefield 1942 had a mod that basically reskinned all of the soldiers and vehicles to be straight from the TV show. Unfortunately, Hasbro wasn’t having that and they were forced to pull the mod at some point. My fledgling dreams were dashed at that point mostly because I didn’t hear about the mod until I started playing Battlefield 2!
Of course, these days, G.I. Joe is a distant memory and the legacy of the Joes is one that kids nowadays don’t know and don’t appreciate. Snake Eyes and Stormshadow were a mainstay in Saturday Morning culture that had a brief moment in the sun when the live action movies aired. Still, the cartoon reboots that followed were a far cry from interesting. Watching the olden days shows is a bit of a stretch today for kids as well, but this adult child attempts to from time to time.
So, I sit and wonder what could have been in a GI Joe world where each soldier had a specialty and the customization and personality possibilities were (and still are) endless! Ah… those were the days!