Several years ago, I did a post where I compared game show themes to their NES counterparts. It was one of the more unique posts I’ve done, and I teased about making another part sometime. Well, that time is now.
Like part one, we’re sticking with GameTek’s output. This was originally gonna cover the rest of the NES games, but it would’ve been a bit unwieldy compared to the last one, so I trimmed it down considerably.
The earliest game show games published by GameTek were developed by Rare, as it was likely cheaper to get a contract developer to make your adaptation compared to doing it in-house. By 1990, Rare had moved on to other projects with other publishers, most notably Milton Bradley and Tradewest. But GameTek was the leader of making game show video games, and naturally they needed to keep publishing games based on hit game shows, thus they soldiered on with a bunch of different game studios tackling the other game show licenses.
This time around, we’ll cover the last few game show games published by GameTek. Two of them are shows we’ve seen on here before, but the remaining three are all new, and have their own unique little tales to each. Let’s get started.
Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White (1992)
The NES version (composed by Barry Leitch):
“Changing Keys,” Wheel of Fortune’s theme from 1989-1992 (composed by Merv Griffin):
Our first game is naturally the biggest. Wheel of Fortune really needs no introduction, though this is the fourth Wheel game on the NES. Though I can understand why they did this, which I’ll explain in our next entry.
This one is honestly the best of the bunch. Multiple rounds, actually increasing dollar values, even gets the bonus round right with giving RSTLNE for free. A shame the game looks like… this.
This is a bit complicated. For one, the game is credited on most places (including MobyGames) to be developed by Imagitec Design, a small development studio who did occasional contract work. However, the game shares the graphical style with Talking Super Jeopardy!, which was done by people at Imagineering. If I had to guess, Imagineering is the actual developer, with music contracted out by Imagitec. Or in this case, Imagitec’s sole employee: founder Barry Leitch.
Leitch composed the music for this game, and it’s somewhat unusual for an NES game. While the theme is pretty close to the show’s theme – albeit a bit too fast – it eventually segues into this breakdown with a distinct arpeggio sound that reminds me very much of MOD tracker music, or something I’d hear on a Commodore 64.
Even the other incidental cues, one of which is a rendition of the four chimes to introduce a new puzzle, has that distinct arpeggio sound. It sounds a bit unusual for a game based on an American game show.
Though, in reality, this isn’t that weird. This is fairly common for European composers who did music for the NES. Listen to anything from Neil Baldwin, Jeroen Tel or even Tim Follin, and this music would fall right in line. Since Barry Leitch was based in Scotland, it all makes sense.
Leitch would also do the music for the SNES and Genesis adaptations of Wheel of Fortune released in the same year, so imagine this guy having to adapt Merv Griffin’s iconic theme song to three different sound chips. Quite impressive, really.
Game show video games are still one of many genres I’m fascinated by. While Jackbox Games are still plugging away with twice-yearly Jackbox Party Packs, the competition has mostly dried up. Hell, we haven’t had a proper Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! game since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. (No, those crappy freemium mobile apps don’t count.)
So I tend to go back to the glory days, when GameTek was still around making loads of these games as probably their #1 source of income. I already covered the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Jeopardy! in the past, and thought, might as well come back to the well once again.
Surprisingly, for the NES, there were four versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the system. It honestly would’ve done fine with just two, but it must’ve been a huge cash cow for them to keep making. Either that or being given away as consolation prizes on the show gave them a good reason to do the equivalent of a “roster update” for those games.
This time, I’m covering a fairly obscure one from the Jeopardy! collection: Super Jeopardy!. Released around 1991, this was based off of the fairly short-lived version that actually aired on primetime TV.
I’m going to assume my audience knows Jeopardy! the game show (here’s the Wikipedia page if you don’t), so I’ll talk about what Super Jeopardy! was.
The Super logo for this super special.
Super Jeopardy! was a 13-week special Tournament of Champions featuring the best players of the current version of the show at the time (plus one champion from the Art Fleming era because the first Tournament of Champions winner passed away) playing for a whopping $250,000. Instead of playing for cash, they were playing for points in the main games.
4 player Jeopardy! sounds rather chaotic.
Oh, and the quarterfinals featured an unprecedented 4 contestants playing. Wowzers!
In reality, this was only made as a complementary show for Merv Griffin’s other show, Monopoly, based on the board game. Both shows didn’t last long, because they aired on a Saturday evening on ABC. Saturday is basically the kiss of death for anything on American television, so it along with Monopoly were in-and-done after 13 weeks. Though I bet had Monopoly lasted another season, maybe we would’ve gotten a season of Super Wheel of Fortune or something else instead.
Gametek made two Super Jeopardy! video games. One of which is on the PC, and I almost considered that version, but this video proved me otherwise.
CONTENT WARNING: THE VIDEO FEATURES EXTREMELY LOUD, NOISY PC SOUND, LIKELY DUE TO BAD EMULATION. MAKE SURE YOU TURN YOUR VOLUME DOWN (OR MUTE THE VIDEO) BEFORE PLAYING. I WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR BLOWN SPEAKERS OR DAMAGED EARDRUMS.
So instead, I’ll play the “Talking” NES release. This, along with a Wheel of Fortune game featuring 8-bit Vanna White, were the first Gametek game show games on the NES not developed by Rare, so it’ll be an interesting experience compared to those.
I’d say he looks more like Christopher McDonald than Alex Trebek.
First off, no Alex Trebek. We wouldn’t see him until the SNES and Genesis era, so we’re stuck with a host that looks like a slimy used car salesman than a game show host.
One idea I had during my game show research was to cover most of the notable adaptations of game show games, such as Jeopardy! There’s one problem, though:
That’s… a lot of Jeopardy.
There are a lot of Jeopardy! games. I mean a lot of them. MobyGames doesn’t even list all of them. Plus for a game as simple as Jeopardy!, there isn’t much to say about each one. So I decided to go smaller. Much smaller.
I kinda loved that starburst GameTek logo more than the more famous blocky logo.
Today, I’m gonna talk about Jeopardy! on the Game Boy. Jeopardy! was one of the few game show games that made it to Nintendo’s greenscale handheld in 1991, alongside Wheel of Fortune. Naturally GameTek published this outing, and it boasted “Over 1,500 new questions!” on the box. Though considering the show they should’ve boasted “1,500 new answers,” but I’m not gonna get too nitpicky here.
They need to bring back that Jeopardy! logo with the needlessly long exclamation point. I think it looks neat.
I remember getting both Jeopardy! and Wheel in a combo pack at Target for about $10 each. This was the mid-90s, and Target was chock full of excess copies, so selling one to a young budding game show/video game nut like me was a treat.
These games got a lot of action during vacation trips, such as the one time I went to a resort cabin with my family and was happily having fun with this, and occasionally Pokemon Red. I mean, before everybody had the internet in their pockets, what else could you do?
But enough reminiscing. This is Jeopardy! on the Game Boy.
We’re off to a rough start where it shows these three options: Play against the computer, go head to head, or use a link cable to go head to head. The problem with the last one is that it’s ultimately pointless. Jeopardy! is not an intense head-to-head game like Tetris or Dr. Mario, and you already have a two players on one system option already in place. It just seems like a feature they slapped onto the box just to say they had it.
Notice that so far I’ve mentioned only two players. Well, here’s why.
No Alex Trebek? Disappointing.
As opposed to allowing three players, like every other Jeopardy! game in existence, this game is two players only. This is baffling, considering it probably wouldn’t be hard to support three players on the handheld. Oh well, let’s move on.
Sadly no Alex Trebek in this version. Nintendo Power once described the host as “Guy Smiley” from Sesame Street, but I’d say he more resembles Mr. Game Show‘s dorkier brother. Also, our intrepid not-Trebek is not at a podium, magically reading all the clues from a single question card, and occasionally teleporting to the board when a Daily Double is chosen. This host certainly has some voodoo magic, and we should be afraid of him at all costs.
As Trebek would say, “pay attention to the quotes.” This is fairly easy even for a $100 clue.
It handles pretty closely to the TV show, having 30 clues separated between six categories, 1-2 Daily Doubles depending on the round, and Final Jeopardy! is in there mostly intact. Though, I can tell the clues aren’t nearly as refined or polished as the TV show’s. Guess they didn’t want to take material from old episodes for reference, which considering there would’ve been six years of shows to go from would’ve been just fine to me. Continue reading…
Okay, it doesn’t fit one-to-one, but you get what I’m going with this, right?
There’s two things that I love fondly that I grew up with: Video games (natch), and game shows. I’m not exactly sure what gravitated me towards game shows: Could be the flashy sets, the catchy themes, the thought of people winning $25,000 in mere seconds; but whatever it was, I was hooked. I still enjoy the classic game show every now and then, even though my interest in the genre has waned in recent years.
The rare sunburst logo. The common white and blue logo wouldn’t show up ’til the 1990s.
Since I like game shows and video games, having the two come together sounds amazing. It’s my version of a peanut butter cup. There were a whole bunch of them on the ol’ NES, almost all of them published by GameTek, a US-based software company. I think the game show games were their only hallmark, though they did publish games like Frontier: Elite II and Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, as well as working on publishing Robotech: Crystal Dreams before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999. There were some NES game show games published by other companies, such as Hi-Tech Expressions, but the less said about those games, the better.
Now, there’s a fair share of game show games on the NES by GameTek, including four different editions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, as well as Double Dare, Hollywood Squares and many others. What most people don’t know is that some of these were developed by Rare. Yes, that Rare. Donkey Kong Country Rare. Banjo-Kazooie Rare. Kinect Sports Rare. For those who don’t find that as surprising as I do, Rare is a games company based in Twycross, England. All the game show adaptions that they had made weren’t as well known on British TV at the time, so to have a company based in England to do American TV game show video games is funny. I would assume the production companies would send them episodes of the show as well as the rules of the game so they understand what they’re trying to make.
David Wise is one of my favorite European composers, next to Tim Follin, Richard Jacques, and Simon Viklund. You could consider this post part of the “David Wise Appreciation Station,” if really you want to.
Since Rare was a small skeleton crew throughout the ’80s, they only had one composer: Dave Wise (pictured). Wise pretty much composed all of Rare’s games solo up until the early ’90s, and seeing him try to recreate some of game show’s iconic themes on the NES sound chip sounds intriguing. Let’s see how well he did on each of them…
Jeopardy! (also includes Jeopardy! Junior Edition and Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition)
Guys, the globe goes *behind* the logo, not under it!
The NES version:
“Think!”, Jeopardy!‘s theme from 1984-1991 (originally composed by Merv Griffin):
There really isn’t much to say about Jeopardy! as a show. Surprisingly, there were several NES adaptations by Gametek, with new editions out about a year apart from each other.
The theme to Jeopardy! is undeniably the most well-known and iconic game show theme. Merv Griffin’s little think tune eventually became the show’s hallmark theme since the show’s revival with Alex Trebek. Being one of the earliest Rare/GameTek collaborations, this is probably one of the closest. However, the intro – used during the contestant selection in the game – goes up three keys rather than two like the actual theme does.
Mutant David Letterman faces off against two random ladies in this exciting game of Jeopardy!
The rest of the game has random little ditties that play throughout, and none of them resemble cues from the show. The theme is the closest they get, and it’s surprisingly passable.
Now who ever seen a kid with a beard? Especially on Jeopardy! of all shows…
The two later releases of Jeopardy! by Rare, 1989’s Junior Edition, and 1990’s 25th Anniversary Edition, have the same exact music. 25th Anniversary adds a little ditty during the copyright screen, which would also appear in Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition.
There really isn’t much difference between the three editions besides new clues — the Junior Edition might be even harder than the other editions unless you know a lot of 50s-60s stuff — even the 25th Anniversary edition recycles the contestant sprites from Junior Edition, except giving one of the kid models a mirror-universe beard for some reason.
These are alright versions of Jeopardy!, especially by 80s standards. You could do much worse.
Wheel of Fortune (also includes Wheel of Fortune Junior Edition)
This title screen looks so… plain, even by late 80s standards.
The NES version:
“Changing Keys,” Wheel of Fortune‘s theme from 1983-1989, originally composed by Merv Griffin:
While Jeopardy! is a fairly straightforward game, Wheel of Fortune is a bit more elaborate. Spin a wheel and play hangman, and try to win cash. The 3 (!) versions GameTek released are identical in every way, and are particularly backwards by not having prizes on the wheel, the top dollar value never going higher than $1,000, that sort of thing. Otherwise the game’s pretty spot on to the nighttime “playing for cash” format that started becoming the show’s standard by that point. (Sorry, no shopping for ceramic dalmatians here.)
Welcome to the *WHEEL VORTEX*. Don’t ask what the Boo and Moo spaces are.
Wheel’s theme was another Merv Griffin-composed tune called “Changing Keys,” which was made to replace the original theme composed by Alan Thicke when the show entered syndication in 1983. The theme was arranged a few times over the years by Griffin and later Steve Kaplan, before being completely replaced with a Kaplan composed tune in the early 2000s. A shame, as the later themes are rather generic-sounding.
This is where most of the action takes place. Rather simple looking these days.
In the NES game, Wise opted to use the bridge that played during the show’s credits as the theme, rather than the introduction that was associated with the show at that point. It’s only something the game show diehards like me would notice, but it’s close enough to the main theme that it’s not a bother. Plus you’re likely only gonna hear a few seconds of this before you go into the game itself anyway.
Like Jeopardy!, Wheel had two additional releases done by Rare: Junior Edition in 1989 and Family Edition in 1990. Oddly, Family Edition completely changes all the music to completely original compositions such as this:
It sounds okay, but for a Wheel of Fortune game to lack the famous theme song is a strange omission, especially since the show had still had Changing Keys as its theme by the time Family Edition was released. Maybe this was music for an unfinished Rare game that they didn’t want to go unused? It definitely matches the sound of later Rare NES titles like Cobra Triangle and Battletoads…