Music Meets Gaming – Barcode Battler

Before now, I’ve been using my Music Meets Gaming series to cover music-related video games. I didn’t realize it when I thought it up, but I actually left the title somewhat open-ended. A game could be anything really, be it video, board, card, dice, or… whatever this 90s relic classifies as.

The Barcode Battler seems like one of those things I crafted in a dream. Nobody I know besides my twin brother can seem to remember it. Around the time it debuted in North America, my household was seriously lagging behind in the video game department. Sure, we had a few personal computers in the house I have fond memories of, but this was years before they were deemed to be cool. We wanted to be on the cutting edge, and the Barcode Battler seemed like it could do the trick. We never did have the fortune of getting one, but found other ways with which to try to be trendy among our friends. Anybody remember Devil Sticks? Probably not. What about Balzac? Even less likely. Diablo (not the video game)? (sigh) The struggle was real.

While Christmas shopping this past November, I stumbled across a Barcode Battler at a reasonable price on eBay. It wasn’t quite the bargain of seven dollars that I once witnessed it selling for only a year after they initially came out in North America (the bargain bin sure took the shine off that apple!), but it was much cheaper than other versions I’d seen in recent years. Knowing very well that not a soul (not even St. Nick) would think of putting a Battler under my Christmas tree, I snatched it up without an ounce of remorse.

Some sources I’ve seen online have said this device was intended to compete with portable gaming consoles like the Nintendo Gameboy and the Sega Game Gear, which may have been, but it seems like ludicrous, revisionist history to me. I don’t even speak Spanish, and know that no matter how convincing these kids act in this infomercial, there’s not enough to the product to make them forget about

The best way I can describe the Barcode Battler is that it’s comparable to those Tiger handheld gaming units that every kid had at least one of. It may have less graphic capability (don’t laugh), but has a more expansive, role-playing game (RPG) aspect that give it some charm. However, it also isn’t nearly as convenient to lug around with you considering you’d need to take, at minimum, the collection of cards that came in-box that you need to operate the game. Losing one of these bad boys on the school bus was liable to ruin your week, or at least the rest of your day until Mighty Morphin Power Rangers came on.

 

There are three different game modes: a two-player mode where you can go head-to-head with a friend, and two separate one-player modes, one where you fight against the monster cards (the black ones shown above) and another where you fight computer-generated bad guys. It is recommended that you battle the computer enemies first before trying the monsters so your character can build up enough experience to handle the battles with more ease. The button layout for the battles is straightforward, with one button used to put an attack on an enemy, and a power button for when you wish to swipe a power card in the middle of battle to assist your fighter. I’m over-simplifying what needs doing, and don’t have a great deal of experience with the game, so you can refer to the manual for more answers.

As you can read, there’s a whole backstory that was included in the manual that pretty much constitutes all of the depth the game has to offer. The TV commercials (how I learned about it) also added to the overall picture, with hopes that “Free The Power” would do for the Battler what “Gotta Catch’em All!!” did for Pokemon years down the line. That phrase describes the real fun that was to be had with this game, trying to discover powerful barcodes that could be found on ordinary products in order to add a whole new dimension to your Convenience Store Wars. Yes, that’s what they called it. That was the allure of the toy as a youngster, and that allure remained over two decades later.

The few weeks that followed my purchase were filled with cutting barcodes off any grocery item that entered my home. Here’s a quick consumer tip: buy generic, for no other reason than that their barcodes seem to create better characters than name-brand goods. Some were so good, in fact, that had briefly panicked and thought I scanned some of my awesome new finds upside-down. Thankfully, the same statistics showed up for each item no matter the orientation I presented it. Shows how little I thought about barcodes prior to knowing they could be used to win fights.

Some found barcodes may function as warriors or wizards, some as enemies, some are power-ups in form of things like weapons or armour, and some do nothing at all. Some even act as both a wizard/warrior AND as a power-up, but this may either be a design flaw or a rule in the game forbids double-swiping of a character to build some sort of super-character. On my first few dozen attempts, I couldn’t locate a single barcode that didn’t work. I don’t know what all those skeptics are on about in saying the reader doesn’t function properly and hardly any swipe will work. Am I that skilled at locating champion-caliber playing pieces? Yes. Yes I am. It’s the children who are wrong.

In spite of the product’s criticisms and drawbacks, I had an ulterior motive when I made my purchase. Sure, playing the game with a Sun-Maid Raisins box is fine, but I care little about whether they could take down Ritz crackers in a showdown. What I wanted to do is settle some of the biggest rivalries in music. Albums have barcodes, so in my book, they are just as battler-ready as anything else. The only trouble would be scanning them. I didn’t want to damage my music collection by cutting up or bending a sleeve to fit it through the scanner, so I re-created the barcodes and printed them. I also hoped to stick to albums in my collection, but made some exceptions such as borrowing an album from my brother. I wished to keep as loyal to the found barcode concept as much as possible.

In each match-up I have featured, the most-powerful combatant earns the right to join my Battlers and become immortalized in my card collection with a design inspired by the winning musicians. Illustrations are not my forte, so expect to see some ample help from royalty-free clipart. To any artist whom I may have inadvertently used a copy-written image when constructing my cards, know they are not being used for financial gain. Deep down, you should realize that if Irwin Toys couldn’t make a profit on the Barcode Battler, what chance does a lowly blogger have?

For those who wish to play along at home (those few who actually have a Barcode Battler), barcodes can be created with many different tools accessible online, and I did so using the barcode plugin in the same graphic design tool I used to whip up my cards (Paint.Net). Furthermore, for the most complete Barcode Battler resource on the internet, check out http://barcodebattler.co.uk/.

 

Metallica vs Megadeth

This is a tale that all thrash metal fans know well. A quick summary: One metal band forms (Metallica), band members butt heads, one band member kicked out (lead guitarist Dave Mustaine), goes on to form new band (Megadeth), and now two awesome metal bands exists. Mustaine was rightfully pissed for being dismissed from the band, but Metallica maintain his dismissal was justified as he was a bit of a prick and a horrible drunk, with his crimes including pouring beer onto the pickups of a bass and breaking someone’s ankle. Mustaine claims he received no warning and no second chance to redeem himself, but with this match-up, I gave him that opportunity. How will each band’s arguably finest album, Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace, stack up against one another?

Stats:

Master of Puppets

Rust in Peace

Barcode

0 7559-60439-2 2

0-7777-91935-2 3

Type

Wizard

Wizard

Energy

19300

15300

Attack

6800

2800

Defence

100

600


Analysis:

Not a bad battle to begin with. Both are in dire need of a defence upgrade, with Megadeth holding an edge. Both have fairly high energy levels and attack, but Metallica has a significant advantage in each. Hand Megadeth an effective enough power-up in the middle of the match, and these advantages could narrow. While coming up short, they surely made Metallica sweat a bullet or two in this defeat.

Winner:

Metallica. This means there’s nothing left for opponents to do other than bow to Leper Messiah.

 

 

Guns N Roses vs Motley Crue

The band’s respective singers, Axl Rose and Vince Neil, apparently had a bit of a rift between them. I knew little of it at the time, being a four-year old more immersed in the Raffi and Sharon, Lois & Bram force-feeding that many my age endured. Actually, I know little of it now, so won’t elaborate beyond providing this MTV News discussion of the feud. Let me get a real battle going between them, and the best way to do that is by pinning two of the band’s most raw and aggressive efforts head-to-head, before the ballads took some of their claws away. That means Appetite for Destruction versus Shout at the Devil.

For the sake of disclosure, my vinyl copy of Shout at the Devil has a more unorthodox 11-digit barcode, but the reader apparently only uses the back 8 digits anyway. I padded the front of that barcode with an additional 0 so the software plugin could properly render the graphic.

Stats:

Appetite for Destruction

Shout at the Devil

Barcode

0 7599-24148-2 1

0 7559-60289-1

Type

Wizard

Warrior

Energy

18400

48200

Attack

5900

5700

Defence

1800

9700

Analysis:

Most people put their money on Axl over Vince when the rivalry was white-hot, but this goes to show you that you should never underestimate a man in makeup. Shout at The Devil could already stand head-to-head among the monster enemy cards that come packaged with the game, and that’s without using any additional cards or leveling-up through C-1 mode of the game.

Winner:

Crue. The title track works well enough for a name. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to make for a “Bastard” character that wouldn’t risk alienating me from my audience.

 

 

The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones

This is one of the biggest rivalries in music history involving the two arguably most successful rock bands of all-time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this debate predates the chicken or the egg, and your answer to this question was once considered more important than who you voted for. Both groups had overlapping elements such as their mop-like hairstyles, appeal with young women, and country of origin, but you could seldom confuse the music of one band for another. I’d consider The Beatles to have an edge in crafting songs that were more melodically-interesting, but the Stones had more energy and groove. But the million-dollar question remains: How would either fare in the Convenience Store Wars?

It’s difficult to determine what the best Stones album is, but Sgt. Pepper is so widely regarded as The Beatles’ creative peak (and by many to be the greatest album of all-time) that I had to run with it. One preferred resource of mine, RateYourMusic.com, listed Sticky Fingers as the album with the highest rating, so I figure that would make for a good brawl and save my thinking about what the best Rolling Stones album is for another day. That methodology may sound particularly lazy, but I’m not about to make any excuses.

Stats:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sticky Fingers

Barcode

0 7777-46442-2 8

6 02527-01562 0

Type

Power-Up (Protection)

Warrior

Energy

N/A

16500

Attack

N/A

3000

Defence

100

2800

Analysis:

What ever happened to getting a little help from my friends? A Defence 100 upgrade is one of the worst power-ups you can hope for. You’d probably put this up against Preparation-H package, and the hemorrhoid cream would win. Twice. Beatles fans shouldn’t get too distraught because there’s definitely a better barcode out there that would do this album justice.

Winner:

The Stones. It was a no-brainer on who gets to join my stable of warriors. Wiiiiiiiiiiild Horses!

 

 

Lynyrd Skynrd vs Neil Young

The battle between these artists is famously seen in the lyrics to Skynyrd’s anthemic “Sweet Home Alabama”,which is a response to Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama”. They apparently thought that Young made too many generalizations about the south, and wanted to jab back. It can be considered to be one of the godfathers of “the diss track” that is still heavily prevalent in rap and hip-hop music. I don’t think an honest to goodness feud existed, especially as I read into it further, but I want a fight, dag-nabbit!!

Ideally I’d have used recordings featuring the songs, but I only have the two albums available to play with. (Pronounced Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) vs Live Rust will be the battle. I hope you enjoy it one-tenth as much as I did.

Stats:

Pronounced Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd

Live Rust

Barcode

N/A

0 7599-27250-2 6

Type

N/A

Power-Up (Weapon)

Energy

N/A

N/A

Attack

N/A

2000

Defence

N/A

N/A

Analysis:

You read those stats correctly. My brother’s copy of the Skynyrd is a Canadian repressing from 1980, which did not have a printed barcode. Looks like it was a fight that didn’t want to happen, or not at least until I obtain a different version of the album.

Winner (by default):

Neil Young. For that temporary boost to make your attack go into beast mode, be sure to grab your best spoon and take a scoop off the top of Sugar Mountain.

 

 

Oasis vs Blur

I’m not sure if this rivalry was constructed by a media so hungry for stories in the so-called Britpop boom of the 90s, or whether there was legitimate bad blood. Apparently, the simultaneous releases of singles “Roll With It” and “Country House” on August 14, 1995 brought the United Kingdom on the verge of a civil war. I had little exposure to the British media before I used the internet, so I didn’t even know a rivalry existed until, of all places, watching an episode of Father Ted. The battles between Oasis members/brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher likely have more substance, but I don’t have any solo albums or side-projects to compare in this method. I’ll just grab their debut albums and see what happens when you make two young and hungry bands literally fight for attention, or for the nerdiest form of bragging rights possible.

Stats:

Definitely Maybe

Leisure

Barcode

0 7464-66431-2 9

0 7777-97506-2 7

Type

Power-Up (Energy)

Power-Up (Protection)

Energy

1300

N/A

Attack

N/A

N/A

Defence

N/A

1200

Analysis:

This is the closest of all these battles I pre-arranged. You wouldn’t think so when you consider how many more hits Oasis would go on to manufacture than Blur (primarily known for “Song 2” where I’m from), but that’s why you play the game. You can analyse all day and night whether energy or defence would be more important in the game, but I’ve got to give the decision to the one with the biggest number nonetheless. That and the fact Blur vocalist Damon Albarn seems to have conceded defeat.

Winner:

Oasis. Enjoy some Cigarettes & Alcohol, the fuel that any self-respecting Rock ‘n’ Roll Star needs.

 

 

Red Hot Chilli Peppers vs Faith No More

Many thought “Epic” sounded too much like a RHCP song (with Anthony Kiedis being among them), so some may have wrote Faith No More off as an imitation. The fact of the matter is that both bands had been mixing percussive, slap bass lines and punk/rap-like vocal deliveries into their music for years. I can’t determine which was the more innovative alternative, funk-infused rock band, but I bought the Barcode Battler to solve all my music debates from here on out. Both bands had an album out in 1989, so let’s go back thirty years and compare RCHP’s Mother’s Milk to FNM’s The Real Thing through the BB, a toy more forgotten than the punchline I had planned for this sentence.

Stats:

Mother’s Milk

The Real Thing

Barcode

0 7777-92152-2 5

0 7599-25878-2 2

Type

Power-Up (Weapon)

Wizard

Energy

N/A

18700

Attack

2000

5200

Defence

N/A

4500

Analysis:

A weapon 2000 attack bonus would sure come in handy. The fact that Anthony Kiedis seemingly started the group’s war of words and that Mother’s Milk had a strong attack is very fitting, like a James Brown barcode giving a player infinite grunting power. It’s difficult to compare that to a Wizard card, but I feel the balanced statistics The Real Thing’s barcode produced make it difficult to turn away.

Winner:

Faith No More. Zombie Eater may seem to be a very strange name for a wizard, but it’s not if they’re also a cannibal.

 

That’s enough for now, and has officially justified my spontaneous eBay purchase when I was supposed to be shopping for family members. Yes, I did eventually buy them gifts, but it pains me that I couldn’t get a Barcode Battler for each of them. They seem to be coping well with that. While I have placed the Barcode Battler in the back of the closet, there will be no shortages of applications I can think up for this toy of mine. There are several head-to-head battles in the music world I didn’t touch on. Roger Waters vs the rest of Pink Floyd, Biggie vs Tupac, Van Halen vs Van Hagar, or to get back to the supermarket theme, Meat Loaf vs Can.

When I get ambitious enough, perhaps your next update on this topic will be when I find the most powerful album in my entire collection. I’ve got Savage Garden’s self-titled album as the dark horse of the pack. Any takers?

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