Monday, December 23, 2019


‘Tis the season for nostalgia. I don’t know about you but, every Christmas, I can’t help but think about all Christmases past and all the cool toys Santa Clause used to bring me. Here is a list of a few of my favorite gifts of all time:

Rambo Action Figure

When I was young, I was obsessed with Rambo. Particularly Rambo: First Blood Part 2. Back in the late 80s, you would occasionally get a free promotional weekend of HBO with your cable package and, one weekend, I was able to record the movie on a VHS tape. I watched this VHS tape in an obsessive manner and fantasized that I was Rambo most of the time.

When Rambo 3 came out, I became equally obsessed with that movie and I have vivid memories of pretending I was Rambo on the schoolyard in 1st grade. I'm not kidding. All the other kids were on the jungle gym and what-not while I was off by myself, lost in my Rambo world. I remember the teachers had to speak to my parents about how I didn't play well with others. This was because I preferred to be in a fantasy world of anything and everything Rambo 3.

The cartoon version of Rambo aired in 1986 and a ton of action figures subsequently appeared in toy stores. Santa Claus brought me a few of the action figures, but my most favorite was the special operations green beret himself: John Rambo. As seen in the photo, he came with a bazooka weapon that shot with a string.

Music Major

This was a cool keyboard/toy. When you turned it on, a nasally voice would say "" I didn't know how to play the piano, but I was more interested in pressing the buttons that made animal sounds (the coyote was my favorite). You could also play the piano in a special mode where each key would say, Do, Re, Mi, Fa etc. If you hit the ‘Fa’ key really quick over and over again, it sounded like a dirty word.

It's important to note that I think I only wanted this toy because I saw it in the big, fat, annual Sears holiday catalogue and it looked super cool. Back in those pre-Internet days, the annual Sears Christmas catalogue was the best way to assess what toys you would like for Christmas.

GI Joe Tiger Force

"Tiger Force" was a special operations unit of GI Joe action figures and vehicles. Santa Claus brought me a Tiger Force airplane (Tiger Rat), helicopter (Tiger Fly) and boat (Tiger Shark). The plane was my favorite and I randomly reenacted a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with this plane (the scene where an airplane swoops down and shoots at Dr. Jones and his dad while they’re driving in a car).
The Tiger Force vehicles had guns and red, detachable plastic missiles. I played with these toys all the time and I was the best at making gun noises with my mouth, mainly because I could roll my tongue at a very young age. This, by the way, helped me out significantly when it came time to roll my R's in Spanish class.


This was the vehicle that the Thunder Cats rode in. ThunderCats, if you don’t know, was a kids cartoon from the mid-1980s featuring a group of cat-like humanoid aliens who team up to fight evil on their planet. I was in pre-school at the time I first started watching ThunderCats and I absolutely idolized them. In fact, I have vivid memories of being in pre-school and fantasizing that I would turn into the leader of the Thunder Cats -- Lion-O -- whom I adored the most, and all the kids would love me because I was him.

Sadly, my parents somehow discarded my ThunderTank when I was apparently not looking, though I still do have a Lion-O action figure to this day. There is a switch in the back of him to make his arm swing into a punch. Also, there was a special battery-operated key you could plug into a circular socket on his back and make his eyes light up. 

By the way, I have to admit I thought Lion-O’s name was Lionel up to...well up until when I just looked him up a second ago. I'm not sure why I was mistaken, but I definitely thought he was Lionel. I'm kind of ashamed of this.

Sega Game Gear

Nintendo’s Game Boy had already been out for a couple or maybe even a few years. I had gotten a Game Boy with my fifth-grade paper route money, but it was so hard to see the black and green screen and the graphics weren't that great either.

But then came Sega Game Gear.

At the time, Sega Game Gear seemed like the eighth wonder of the world. A video game consul that was portable? And (unlike Game Boy) it was in color? With 8-bit graphics? Whhhaaaaaa?Whhhaaaaaa?

It was in sixth grade that Santa Claus gifted me with a Game Gear, complete with the Sonic the Hedgehog game and also Terminator 2: the Arcade Game. Sonic was a great game, but I played T2 the most because it was an 8-bit version of the T2 game that was at the local Dream Machine video arcade, which I loved. And when I say I loved it, I REALLY loved it. It was my favorite game at the arcade and, when I found out I could play this game whenever I wanted on my Game Gear, I just about flipped.

Sadly (and stupidly) I sold my Game Gear in the mid-2000's to a used video game store called "Play it Again" or something like that. When I’m asked whether I have any regrets in life so far, I usually say, 'no' but, when I do, I'm lying my ass off, because my biggest regret for sure is selling my Game Gear.

Donkey Kong Country

Stop it right now. Stop it. Stop making me talk about Donkey Kong Country. It excites me so much I can't type.

Ok, I'm calmer now.

Donkey Kong Country is up there as being one of my favorite video games of all time (GoldenEye , aka “Bond”, for N64 and Mario Kart are close contenders...oh, and also Zelda: Ocarina of Time). DK Country was a revolutionary game for the Super Nintendo System. Made by RareWare, it had graphics that were waaay ahead of their time (the graphics were technically known as 3d sprites). Playing the game was so fun and I literally spent my entire Christmas vacation playing it with the exception of when I had a CYO basketball game or was eating lasagna left over for Christmas parties. Maybe one of the reasons why I played the game so much (and liked it so much) was because it was pretty easy and one of the few games I could actually beat.

I still own DK Country to this day and have played it here and there. Fortunately, I've been able to introduce the game to my nephews, whom have enjoyed playing it.

Super Nintendo

Super Nintendo ranks as my number one favorite Christmas gift of all far. I was in the fifth grade, 1992. The home video game consul was the number one item on my Christmas list and all December I was so excited knowing that, in just a few weeks, my life could change in a radical manner. In fact, when I think of Super Nintendo, an image of a pink candle comes into my mind. This is because it's the pink candle that is lit at Church on the third week of Advent and seeing that pink candle lit meant that it wouldn't be much longer until Christmas and Super Nintendo would (potentially) be in my possession.

Sure enough, Christmas came and there was a big present with just enough weight to it. I knew what it could be. With one rip of the wrapping paper, I saw a Super Nintendo logo and I was so happy that my dream was now a reality in present time. Included with the game was Super Mario World and -- what's this??? -- Santa Claus left two more games along with it: a new game called Mario Kart and another game called Final Fight.

Mario Kart was revolutionary at the time because of "Mode 7" technology that was a geeky way of saying it had really good graphics that created the illusion of 3D because you drove deep into the screen, thus creating the illusion of depth. Racing against a Player 2 was fun (usually my brother), battle mode was even more fun (in my opinion, the SNES Mario Kart battle mode was much better than N64 battle mode or any of the later Mario Kart versions). I also obsessively played in "time trial" mode, which tested to see how fast you could drive a course on your own, and, to this day, I probably hold the world record for the ghost valley course. 

As for Final Fight, this was a side-scrolling fighting game with graphics that, at the time, I thought were mind-blowing. It reminded me a lot of an actual arcade game, which makes sense because I later discovered that Final Fight was originally a 1989 arcade game. The gameplay basically consisted of you punching and kicking a bunch of bad guys with street punk names like AXL and Slash (hmmm…I wonder what creative mind came up with such unique names that definitely didn’t sound like members of a popular rock band).

And then, of course, there was Super Mario World, one of the few games (along with Donkey Kong Country) that I ever beat. The game had such fun colors and music and all this combined with a loveable character named Yoshi made me so happy when I played.

As of right now, my SNES is fragile but still functional and I have been known to play it on occasion.

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