The Goodwill Outlet Store has been closed for over two months. I really didn't know what to expect from it once it reopened, if it ever did. I seem to remember what had to be the filthiest market in the entire state. A system where the workers pile junk into troughs and shove it out into a warehouse, where unshaven people in smelly clothes crowd around in close quarters and dig through garbage. It's disease-attracting by design.
How would you even begin to approach this in a post-outbreak world? I had accepted the fact that the Outlet Store might remain closed for good. It was the most fruitful source of cheap VHS archival material I'd ever encountered, and I only got to enjoy it for a fleeting six months. It was a star that burned bright, but flamed out just as quickly.
There are things I want to keep a secret for now, but I filled up a 2 TB hard drive with all the discoveries. I found someone's exhaustive Star Trek: The Next Generation collection, complete with tons of local advertising from back in the day. I found a meticulously, obsessively catalogued archive of the entire Atlanta Olympics -- MY DREAM FIND -- only to discover the only thing missing was the evening Strug broke her leg. (I've been searching for years, processed many Atlanta tapes, and I have never run across a recording of that night, ever. Unexplainably strange.) And then there was this....
I thought this was a recording someone made of their playing Mega Man 2. I figured it couldn't be the cartoon show because it wouldn't still be airing by 1997, would it?
Turns out it was. In fact, in the spring of '97 one local station was running it five days a week, which must've resulted in a lot of reruns given they only made 27 episodes. It's because of the Outlet Store that I can give you, today, a Mega Man edition of The Full Experience. Thanks, nameless person with nice handwriting!
I know most of these Full Experiences only have videos of the ads, for copyright reasons....but this time we HAVE to start with the theme song. Good thing someone else uploaded it so I don't have to be the one getting sued. Crank it up!
I guess I should explain who Mega Man is for the benefit of those who didn't have a proper childhood: there are these two inventors, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Wily keeps inventing lethal robots, each with an elemental power gimmick, because he's a total buttwipe, and Dr. Light sends Mega Man, a good robot of his own creation, to defeat them. This happened about six times during the 8-bit era of video games, and several times more in subsequent generations. There have also been Mega Men of alternate dimensions who have had to deal with their own problems, whether they're AI programs or residents of a village terrorized by pirates.
Mega Man has a sister named Roll who is either another robot or a human girl depending on which version of the story we're on. Her name is Roll because in Japan Mega Man's name is "Rockman"....Rock and Roll, get it? All of Light's other creations, like a robot bird named Beat and a robot dog named Rush, use this musical naming theme in all regions of the world, despite the main character going by something else.
The first episode on the tape opens up at a science fair where Dr. Light is a special guest, along with Mega Man and Roll. A little girl runs up to MM and asks for his autograph. Her mother explains that she is deaf, "but can sign and is good at reading lips." Light puts a CD into a music player and the girl runs over to put her hand on the top. Her mother says she can experience music through the vibrations "and loves all kinds of music," and is even willing to accept Roll's offer of concert tickets. I'm really unqualified to judge if this whole scene is accurate or not, but the idea of a deaf person getting anything out of a rock concert feels a bit far fetched.
The band's name is "Cold Steel." Hey, that's the title of the episode! Everything seems to be going fine for about ten seconds, until the lead guitarist hits a mysterious chord and the members of the audience get a strange, sleepy expression. "Goooooo to Mount Shasta," they groan out, and start plodding, backs hunched, in the same direction. The only people in attendance who aren't affected are robotic. Rush immediately senses something wrong and heads up to the stage, where he sniffs the amp and then tries to bite it. Getting a shock for his curiosity, he lands in the drum. The other band members split as Mega Man arrives, as if, y'know, they're guilty of something.
MM doesn't have to fight them, but he DOES have to battle Spark Man, who appears out of nowhere. "PLASMA POWER!" MM shouts, blasting energy beams at him. Not a single one hits Spark Man, and he laughs at the Blue Bomber's marksmanship. Mega Man laughs back and points out what he was REALLY trying to do was shoot a bunch of holes in a circle around Spark Man, which would then create a trap door and send him tumbling. A bit showboaty given the circumstances, but it comes to pass.
"You may have cooled off Spark Man, but I'm TOO HOT TO HANDLE!" says Gemini Man, appearing just in time to mix his metaphors. He shoots a beam of his own, Mega Man deflects it, but the beam then hits the ceiling, causing a heavy metal tile to crash onto him. Gyro Man takes that opportunity to send a whirling fan blade toward MM's face. He manages to pull the tile off his back and block the blade just in time. After that a lot of smoke fills the area, and when it clears Wily's henchmen are all gone.
And so is the crowd, points out Roll. The only human left is Mary, who was unsusceptible to the hypnotic message.
Mega Man tells Roll flatly, "COLD STEEL had something to do with this." Roll, a big fan of the band, refuses to believe it. Just then the band members return, and by now, it's VERY obvious they are the bots we just saw in shaggy human clothes. "Hey, like, mega gnarly, Mega Dude! You got rid of those party crashers...they were after us! As a token of our appreciation, here's a little gift." They give Roll an advance copy of their new song. "This is too cool!" Roll exclaims.
So who's really hypnotizing all those people? Who do you think? It's now that Dr. Wily enters the episode, flying around in a helicopter with passenger Proto Man, observing the masses marching toward Mount Shasta. And now we finally get our first clue as to what he needs them for: he wants to build something massive on that mountain, and his robot army isn't enough to finish the job.
If you know anything about Wily from the games, you know his schemes are....never all that thought out. Not only is he short on manpower, he fears he doesn't have enough raw materials to assemble this whatever-it-is. Always flying by the seat of his pants, that Wily. He could head to the hardware store, but that would require a lot of money. So that's when his helicopter flies over San Francisco. Wily looks out the window, sees the Golden Gate Bridge, and thinks to himself "Hmmmmmmm...."
Back at the science fair, the good doctor is working on repairing Rush. It turns out some kind of high-frequency pitch disturbed his circuits. Once the chip is replaced, Rush is ready for duty again...and not a moment too soon. They get an alert on the video screen, and Mega Man can't believe it: a Navy battheship is attacking the bridge for some reason. He orders Rush into flight mode and they blast off.
Mega Man confirms his own suspicions when he hears Cold Steel music blaring from the barracks of that battleship. He blasts the cannons with his Mega Buster and takes them out of commission before Wily can get his scrap to collect. Guts Man and Cut Man, who are standing on the bridge, don't appreciate the interference. They get the jump on MM, tie him up with bridge cabling and throw him into the river!
|Commercial time. This is Tiger, makers of all those 90s LCD handheld games, entering what was predicted to be a red-hot virtual reality market with a one-eye headstrap they called the "R-Zone." What makes the R-Zone a special type of ripoff is that it's the exact same thing as the Tiger handhelds, only smaller and projected onto a plastic lens. It's the same extremely limited animation and stilted, confusing gameplay of an LCD game, only trying to pass as "VR." The ad has its work cut out for it, trying to make this very basic racing title look appealing through CGI effects not seen in the actual game, and actual footage of a sports car race ("game appearance may vary").|
|By now, Barney Rubble had been pulling pranks on Fred Flintstone for over a decade, using costumes to bum Fred's cereal from under his nose. Fred is SO sick of it, but you know, it's his own fault for being so gullible that Barney can keep pulling this gag. At least you can give him credit for this one time he attempted to turn the tables on Barney with his OWN costume. He just wasn't as skilled at it, though.|
|This Talkboy tape recorder ad was five years old by the time it appeared here, an eternity in kiddie show time. It may be one of the most successful movie tie-in products ever made, being initially attached to the movie Home Alone 2. That movie was a dinosaur by '97 and Culkin had passed puberty years ago, yet the Talkboy endured until the end of the decade. And there were spinoffs: a "Talkgirl" (seen at the end of this variant) and a voice-recording pen.|
Back to the show! Roll has arrived on scene to find Rush stuffed in a barrel and Mega Man nowhere to be found. After she and Mary unstuff Rush, the dog pantomimes the situation in a zany Scooby Doo manner. One problem: since Mega Man is a robot, and doesn't REALLY need to breathe, his being underwater isn't quite as urgent as it could be. So they throw something in about how he's low on energy and needs a recharge.
So Roll sends down Eddie, a helper bot who first appeared in Mega Man 4 and, in this appearance, sounds like Gogo Dodo (Frank Welker's voice gets a workout in this cartoon). And when he finds Mega Man underwater, Eddie recharges him with...a baby bottle. This is a weird interpretation, for sure.
By now Dr. Wily has hypnotized everyone in Silicon Valley, including Dr. Light. Now Mega Man, Roll, Mary and Rush (and possibly Eddie, if he counts) are the only ones who can save the day, but Mega Man has no idea where the citizens were headed. Mary does...she could read Light's lips from across the room, and he said something about "Mr. Shasta." They're off!
It's time to reveal what Wily needed all those slave-people for. It's a giant transmitter tower, which will allow him to broadcast Cold Steel's music around the world -- thereby conquering it! They have to stop him before -- too late, he did it thirty-five minutes ago.
Scenes are shown of people in France, Japan, and the Swiss Alps falling under Wily's control. I wasn't expecting Wily to actually take over the world, much less when the cartoon is only halfway over. Mega Man completely failed us all. And just when you think he might still have a chance, Wily knows how to use his new global army. His first radio decree to all of Earth is to "DESTROY MEGA MAN -- ON SIGHT!"
So when Mega Man touches down at a cabin near Mr. Shasta, the loggers hanging around the area immediately start attacking him. Rush goes for a guy's leg, but he kicks Rush into a log. Then they use their chainsaws to send a tree toppling his way. MM could dodge this by stepping aside, but he has to showboat again and blasts a hole through the trunk just large enough to fit through. The tree touches down in that exact spot.
He might not be so lucky with this next encounter...another logger with a bulldozer, who pushes him toward a cliff as the scene fades out for a second ad break.
|Star Wars Micro Machine sets! Giant heads of iconic Lucasfilm characters that open to reveal playsets of areas from the original trilogy....which was returning to theaters around this time. You can complain about unnecessary CGI additions all you want, but seeing the fandom burst to life again twenty years later for a new generation felt truly special. It's something I doubt can ever happen again, six mediocre sequels later.|
|Next up is....Sinbad telling you how important math is. He explains that almost every job on Earth requires some mathematical knowledge, with the possible exception of playing a vindictive mailman in a Christmas movie.|
|We were in the middle of Kids WB's second season. Mega Man did not air as part of it -- this is a syndicated airing that appeared on the same station that was carrying Kids WB. Their new Superman series was endlessly promoted all year...they would not get back the Batman rights from Fox until the fall of 1997, so they exploited their second most popular superhero as loudly as they could. I saw this particular promo MANY times.|
|There's also a second promo right after that for "The Daffy Duck Show" -- which was just theatrical shorts quickly thrown together to feed off Space Jam's energy. I mostly remember it for being the show they replaced Freakazoid with, so....no love from me.|
There are ludicrous resolutions, and then there's this: Mega Man returns from break to save himself from plummeting off the cliff by shooting the crane, which dislodges a giant hook that descends faster than he's currently falling, catching him and saving his robotic hide. The chances were one in a gazillon that would work, but...guess that was supposed to make it more thrilling.
After climbing back up, Mega Man then uses the hook and rope as a lasso to capture the loggers without harming them. Now all that's left is to rush to Mr. Shasta and stop Wily. Speaking of rushing, where's Rush? ....oh, his head's still in that log and he's wobbling around pathetically. Rush has been robbed of all dignity in this cartoon.
Mega Man and friends fly to the summit and spot the tower. MM estimates he has just enough blast energy to fire a shot at the structure that will take it down....if he can get past Cold Steel, who are guarding it. Gyro Man fires his whirling blade; Mega Man ducks behind a tree and the blade saws the trunk, causing the tree to crash onto Gyro Man. Spark Man is next, but Mega Man trips him, making Spark Man crash into Gemini Man, taking out the whole gang of three. And just when you thought you'd never see this, Mega Man FINALLY steals their powers and gains the ability to fly by himself, plus shoot electricity. Destroying the tower should be a breeze now.
No one is more upset about this than Dr. Wily, who screams at Guts Man and Cut Man to do something. Cut Man pulls a surprisingly competent move by firing his scizzors dead-on to Mega Man's blade, breaking it off. Now that MM is hanging onto the side of the tower, the enemy bots figure he'll be easy pickings...but they forgot about the electricity. Mega Man uses Spark Man's power to shock them both, sending them careening off the tower. "HAPPY LANDINGS!" Mega Man mocks them with, and climbs up the tower to fire his big shot.
This time, nothing interferes -- except gravity. Mega Man has to leap to safety as the entire structure comes crashing down. Watching from his remote monitor, Wily shrieks with rage...but then comes up with a backup plan. If he just detatches the hypnosis module from his larger device, he can start over somewhere else. He and Proto Man toke the module and escape in the Wily-copter.
Mega Man won't let that happen either! He chases after the copter on Rush, and though Wily tries his best aeronautic tricks to avoid him, MM nails the copter with a single blast. Wily and Proto Man float down on parachutes and crash land in the rushing creek below. "Well, I didn't stop him, but I sent him up the river!" Mega Man quips.
He and Rush meet back up with everyone else -- including Dr. Light, who points out Wily got away (as he does in every episode, keeping the show running), but his mind control days should be over. Rush agrees and performs one last wacky pratfall, falling down a hill and becoming a snowball before crashing into a tree.
|One more commercial break. There's an ad for another Tiger gizmo, another Star Wars toy set, and quite a few promos for shows from The WB and syndication.|
So, about the Outlet Store....it actually reopened last week. I still can't eat at a restaurant but I can apparently go here. I took a visit one day after the grand opening to see how they pulled this off.
The first thng you notice when you visit the Outlet Store now is the giant sign that says entry is forbidden without a face mask AND gloves. An attendant is watching outside and won't let you in if you aren't wearing both. In addition, only a certain number of people are allowed in the place at any given time, and if the warehouse is at capacity, you have to wait in a long, socially distant line for your turn.
The clustered crowds that made a scene of each new arrival? Gone. When the workers are changing troughs, only one person is allowed to wait by them. Also, the place was significantly quieter, as if everyone feared talking would increase your chances of catching COVID.
As far as inventory was concerned. I didn't notice any real difference, and that was the biggest surprise of all. During the lockdown, everybody used their free time to sort through their garage and attic junk, and I thougtit it would all be donated at once, resulting in an unstoppable tidal wave of VHS recordings, way too many for me to catch and save. I guess I should be relieved to be wrong about THAT, but I'm still puzzled.
I didn't run across anything like Mega Man just yet, but it's only a matter of time.
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