Over the course of two previous installments of “Remembering the Nintendo Ultra 64 Dream Team,” I had mentioned a television program which was made in association with Acclaim, using characters from not only the company’s own productions, but also those of Williams/Bally Midway, for which Acclaim had produced the home console versions of several arcade titles.
Video Power began as a co-production of Bohbot Entertainment (whose logo you might recognize as distributor for the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Double Dragon cartoons, along with other non-video game productions) and Saban Entertainment (creator of Power Rangers, and likely involved in most of your childhood television) that was essentially two parts GamePro TV, one part Captain N: The Game Master. At least, in its first iteration.
The first season opens with one of the most Marty McFly-tastic guitar riffs you’ll ever hear as the show’s host, Johnny Arcade (portrayed by Stivi Paskoski), plays a variety of video games. Mixed in with this is some footage of animated versions of several video game characters from Acclaim and Williams/Bally Midway.
From the intro, the opening riff continues as viewers are taken into the first portion of the show, in which Johnny Arcade talks about various happenings in the world of video games in a sort of magazine-style TV show format. As this season ran during 1990 to 1991, the Nintendo Entertainment System was the biggest thing in town, though you would still get some tidbits from other consoles thrown in as well, including arcades.
After the first commercial break, things got animated with the show-within-a-show, The Power Team:
Through circumstances that I don’t believe were ever quite explained beyond the above animation, Johnny Arcade wound up bringing several characters from the video game world to our world. The not-quite Avengers-like assemblage of heroes included the warrior/knight Kuros from Wizards & Warriors, anthropomorphic tomato Kwirk from the Game Boy title of the same name, the monster truck Bigfoot (a character based on the licensed game of the same name), basketball player Tyrone from Midway’s Arch Rivals, and police officer Max Force from NARC. The latter was a particularly interesting inclusion, as his M-rated (well, if the ESRB had been around then, it surely would have been given an “M”) gunplay was toned down severely by making him more of a gadget man.
(In what might be considered a clever bit of marketing synergy, Kuros more closely resembled the portrayal by Fabio on the Ironsword box/cartridge label than the armored knight featured in the game itself.)
They would often fight against foes from their respective games in our world, including the wizard Malkil, Rowdy Roddy Radish, and the evil monster truck Burnt Rubber. The most common recurring villains were the trio of Joe Rockhead, Dr. Spike Rush, and their boss, Mr. Big, all from NARC. Like Max Force, their inclusion was peculiar not only because of the nature of their origin game, but also because they appeared so frequently. Spike and Joe weren’t especially bright, being portrayed as your typical cartoonish goons, while Mr. Big would not be a giant head on mechanical legs, but rather a short, pudgy man who used cigars in much the same way DC Comics’ The Penguin uses umbrellas. Upping their threat factor was the fact that Mr. Big somehow had the game cartridges everyone came from, which could send the heroes back to their respective game worlds.
After the cartoon and another break, it would be back to Johnny Arcade in the studio. Tips, tricks, previews, reviews, and the odd trip to the Consumer Electronics Show were the fare you could expect to close out the show.
That’s pretty much how the first season went on for its 55 episode run in syndication. For the 50 episodes of Season 2, things changed — a lot, and it would probably be the better-remembered among the two.
Near as I can tell, literally the only things that remain from the first season are the logo, the “Video Power Edge” tip segments, and Johnny Arcade himself.
Inspired by his time hosting the Nintendo World Championships, Terry Lee Torok (who would go on to become co-host) would develop and write the concept for Video Power‘s 1991 to 1992 format: A game show about video games.
The first round would see four selected audience members attempt to put Johnny “on the spot,” wherein those who could stump Johnny would receive a prize. The quartet would then move on to the second round and attempt to get the highest score within a time limit in the video game (usually, but not always a part of the NES library) of the day. The two winners would then don a Velcro-covered helmet and vest and compete to answer quiz questions from Johnny in the hopes of winning a video game. The final round would echo Round 2, only with a shorter time limit.
Perhaps the most memorable part was the Prize Round. Using the Velcro vest and helmet, the winner of the previous four rounds would run through a “shopping mall” maze, grabbing and sticking any video games, accessories, and other swag they could get their hands on to themselves before going down a slide to officially complete the run, keeping anything they managed to grab in the process. A special bonus prize could also be won by finding a specific game hidden in the maze, with the prize often being the pricey NEOGEO video game console.
(Rumors that fully half of all NEOGEO owners are Video Power winners are unsubstantiated, but it wouldn’t be surprising.)
Beyond glory in a single episode, winners would be brought back for special Friday face-offs with the other three winners of the week for larger prizes, and even compete in an “ultimate” tournament.
Incidentally, some sources say the show was still syndicated, but I only ever saw it on WGN from Chicago via cable. But what definitely did continue in syndication was The Power Team, who flew solo while Johnny was making kids’ dreams come true. Some time later, the cartoon would air on the USA Network as Acclaim Masters (subtle).
These days, Video Power sadly exists as little more than a memory. Neither season has been released on DVD (likely due to rights issues following the dissolution of Acclaim’s properties), and while it is said that some episodes were released on VHS, those seem to be quite hard to find (good luck trying to Google them).
Thankfully, we have YouTube to preserve this bit of gaming history — for a while, at least.