The special feature for September was:

Video Power

"If you're fighting by yourself [in Double Dragon 3], keep
your back to the wall while high-kicking. This will
conserve energy because the enemy won't be able to land be..
many bany blow blows. And that's today's Video Power Edge"

-- Johnny Arcade, Video Power

Video Power was a TV show devoted to NES games that went through several incarnations. The first one I saw, more correctly called The Power Team, was primarily a cartoon show starring characters from Acclaim games (Kuros, Kwirk, the Bigfoot monster truck, some basketball player dude). At the end of the show, a "hip" teenaged guy who called himself Johnny Arcade (his real name was Stivi Pastoski) would dispense a couple of tips for NES games.

The cartoon wasn't very good, of course, so around 1991, the show underwent a major change - into a game show format. The game-show version was co-hosted by Johnny Arcade and a guy named Terry Lee Torok (who also produced the show; he's the one introducing Johnny in the sound clip below).

The format of the show

Every episode had a similar format: Johnny and Terry would be introduced and after some puttering around, the "Put Johnny on the Spot" section would begin. Terry would go into the audience of mostly young kids and have four of them ask game-related questions to Johnny. (In truth, these kids were picked long before the start of taping, as you might expect.)

They were all absolutely insane questions (What is the name of Dr. Light's computer in Mega Man 3?) but Johnny would always get them right, although no doubt his teleprompter was helping him out on occasion. However, sometimes (usually once a week) Johnny would get a question wrong and give some completely off-the-wall answer. Of course, Johnny probably never knew what he was talking about anyway, so again, it was determined long before whether Johnny would get a question wrong. If he did, the audience would start chanting "STUMP, STUMP, STUMP" and the kid who "stumped" Johnny would get a prize from the Prize Round area (see below).

After that, the four kids who asked questions would run up to the stage and play some NES game. The games used in the show ran the gamut of NES titles from the early 90s; they even used Bases Loaded 3 once, with winners being selected based on how many (if any) runs were scored in the time given and, barring that, how many balls vs. strikes were called against the player. For Little Nemo: The Dream Master, scoring was based on how many keys were picked up and, if that resulted in a tie, how "far" players got in the level. The players had two minutes and one second to play.

The two highest-scoring players from that would then be given "Power Vests" and a "Power Helmet" to wear (both of which were completely covered with Velcro), and Johnny would ask the players some NES questions. There were three 10-point questions (one of which is always "What game is this music from"), one 20-point question, and one question with a game as the prize. After that, both players played the game again for one minute and one second, and the winner of that got 50 points. The points are totalled and the player with the most is the day's winner. If there's a tie, the player who did best in the first game-playing round is the winner.

The player with the highest point total would get to run through the Prize round. Now, this section takes place in an odd-looking, stylized set with the walls completely covered with NES games. The object for the player was to grab as many NES games as humanly possible and stick them onto his Velcro vest, and go through a tube-slide on the side of the set before time runs out (around 43 seconds). Above this, there is always a "secret game" somewhere in the Prize round. The player would be told where it is, and if he got it, he would get an extra prize (usually rollerblades or something). Although there was a time-limit, Terry Lee Torok was notoriously generous towards people who finished late. Only once did someone not finish, and even then, it was only because the player just froze in place when time ran out.

Once the prize round ends, the player's parents would come out and hug their game-festooned boy, Torok would go through all the games the kid picked up (occasionally giving hilarious pronunciations to game titles) and the credits would roll. The winners of each of the first four days would play on the Friday show, and the winner of that show would get some large prize (a NeoGeo, a college scholarship from Tiger Electronics, and so on).

The inside view

I was lucky enough to get mail from Dave Jaklitsch, who was picked as a contestant on the show and supplied me with much of the information here. Here's his story:

"The show was taped (taped live, but not live) at the Kaufman-Astoria Studios in NYC, where the Cosby Show was (is?) taped. Here's how I got on: My friend, who lived across the street from me, saw an ad in the paper to audition for the show (before it was actually a game show) at GamePlex, the local arcade. I went and took a written test and talked with Johnny and Terry.

Sometime later I heard that I would get to be on the show (I'm sure the line wasn't too long), and I had to go into the city (I live on Long Island). It was decided that I would be playing Mega Man on the show (although I was told later that I had to play Bases Loaded and Tecmo Bowl, but I threw a fit and got to be on a different week when they were playing Mega Man 3 and Little Nemo -- i bought Little Nemo just to practice for the show).

A few months later, I went to NYC to record the show. My friend went with me and he and my sister sat in the "cage", where some of the audience sat (it was sort of overhead), and my sister and mother and friend's mother sat in the normal audience (which was split in 2 sections: 1 for the kids/contestants, and 1 for parents/guests/etc).

Some company sent all the contestants these neon gloves (I can't remember what they were called) with the fingers cut out except for the thumb, which had extra padding to prevent blisters) and said that we had to wear them on the show. All the contestants practiced while wearing the gloves, then found out when they got to the show that we weren't supposed to waer them and that they didn't even know that they had been sent to us. During the first few weeks, many of the contestants wore the gloves, but that didn't last too long. I still have my gloves... We weren't allowed to wear pinstripes (due to something with the TV cameras) or a logo of any sort.

I won on Monday when I was first on, but lost on the Friday show to a large 14-year old guy named Ariel (I was 11 at the time -- 6 1/2 years ago)."

Strange brew

Although I didn't realize it when I watched Video Power on Channel 17 in Philadelphia during 1991-92, the show was a very strange creature indeed. In retrospect, the show was obviously meant to cash in on the Nintendo craze; the show's set looked cheaply made and the two hosts obviously were lost when it comes to NES knowledge beyond what the teleprompter gave them.

In a way, though, this show pretty much typified being a kid between the late 80s and early 90s. There are weird ads (including one for none other than Teen Spirit deodorant), a horrible "rap" tune as the show's theme, and had video games as its main thrust. And it featured kids just like you!

Download a RealAudio (~400k) file of the first few minutes of a typical Video Power show

Other special features

Back to start