Dead Gaming Mascots: SEGA
Video game mascots have been a huge identity factor for game franchises as well as gaming consoles. For Nintendo, once Super Mario was a success, the company had a major hit on their hands and now everyone’s favorite plumber has been their trusted brand ambassador for almost 35 years! While many of the mascots for beloved game series and production companies remain today (such as Pac Man, Master Chief, and Donkey Kong) many more have come and gone without much fanfare. Follow along with us as we give our condolences and provide a long overdue obituary for some of these former mascots; some of which died way too soon, while a few others are gratefully long gone.
For this entry, we will look at closer look the hidden heroes and mis-remembered mascots for Sega.
Professor Asobin - Sega
Cause of Death: Left on the Page
Professor Asobin, or Asobin Kyouju, was a smartly dressed anthropomorphic rabbit and the first "unofficial" mascot of Sega. Although he never starred in a game of his own, Asobin gained attention by appearing in nearly every Japanese SG-1000 game manual following the console's retail launch on July 15, 1983. Usually printed towards the end of the manual, Asobin offered advice to players that was usually helpful and specifically tailored for each game. Players eventually came to trust in Professor Asobin, and would seek him out whenever they began to feel a game was too difficult.
Professor Asobin’s design appears to have been clearly influenced by the "White Rabbit" character in Lewis Carroll's classic children's story "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", with striking similarities to Disney's 1951 animated version of the book. No information is known as to the origins of Asobin, as to who created him or even why, Sega chose to mimic these characteristics. Without explanation, Professor Asobin was retired by Sega, and has only appeared sporadically since.
Dr. Games - Sega
Cause of Death: Not Enough Appeal
Dr. Games stepped into the role of unofficial mascot and game manual advise spokesperson in 1984. Outside of Japan he was named Professor Playor, and he served the exact same function as Professor Asobin. He would provide tactics to help new players understand the mechanics of the game. Dr. Games would even advise on the proper care and maintenance of the game cartridges.
He was retired within one year due to a lack of popularity and was replaced by Professor Asobin again in 1985. There was even a period in time were both characters appeared on the game manuals. Both Professor Asobin and Dr. Games were dropped for Sega’s first official mascot in 1985.
Opa Opa - Sega
Cause of Death: Too Cute for His Own Good
Opa Opa was a sentient spacecraft from the Fantasy Zone series, released by Sega in 1985. As a side scrolling game with such bright colors and fanciful characters, the game was one of the first to be nicknamed a “cute ‘em up”. With a simplistic design, the character of Opa Opa appears universal, consisting of a colorful oval with feathery wings and two feet sticking out the bottom. In the space year 6216 (1422 in the original Arcade version), the Fantasy Zone was cast in panic at the collapse of the interplanetary monetary system. The planet Menon’s forces are stealing the other planets' currencies to fund a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone and Opa Opa is sent in to help.
Fantasy Zone proved to be very successful in Japanese arcades, helping to give rise to the popular System 16 arcade board. Despite this, the game was largely ignored by the gaming media, as were most arcade games at the time. This game and mascot combination was strong, but Opa Opa still lacked the strength to compete with Sega’s rivals. They shelved Opa Opa in favor of a new mascot that they believed could compete in an action platformer against the likes of Mario as the Sega Master System was being launched in the western market.
Alex Kidd – Sega
Cause of Death: Murder by Hedgehog
The one of the very first mascots intended for the Sega Master System was no blue blur. Instead, we were introduced to Alex Kidd, a small boy with big ears and monkey-like features who lived on the planet Aries, also known as Miracle World. The games started out in the arcades but made their way to the Sega Master System as a mix of platforming and puzzle solving games. Alex Kidd actually replaced Opa-Opa of the Fantasy Zone series as the console’s featured mascot and was featured in six brightly colored and imaginative games from 1986 through 1990.
Even with so many unique games, Alex Kidd never rivaled Nintendo’s Mario in popularity. In 1991, Sega introduced Sonic the Hedgehog, who subsequently replaced him as the company mascot due to the commercial success of his debut game. After this, Alex Kidd fell into obscurity as the development of new games in the series had stopped. Alex Kidd was a versatile property that could have been just as flexible and innovative as Mario, but his eclipse by the Blue Blur is what sealed his fate.
Ristar – Sega
Cause of Death: Born a Little Too Late
The game Ristar was released on the Sega Genesis in 1995, produced by the Sonic Team. This game actually based around the old designs for Sonic the Hedgehog, who at the time was called Feels The Rabbit, a character designed with the ability to use his stretchy ears to grab things in the environment. Ristar takes this abandoned idea and makes a good game out of it. Ristar was a cute anthropomorphic cartoon star who had the ability to stretch his arms in any direction to climb, swing, and grab enemies, as he explored a number of planets. In the game, Ristar must take on an evil space pirate, Kaiser Greedy, who has used mind control to make the planets' leaders obey him.
It was the hope that Ristar would step out of Sonic’s shadow and become the cool new innovative mascot of the future. However, the game hit the shelves just as the Genesis was winding down its run and gamers were transitioning to the next generation of consoles. With the changes in the gaming world, Ristar never quite found its audience, but those who did play it found a game that was truly unique in its gameplay and character design. The game and the titular character still have a strong loyal following, albeit small in size.