Memorable Movie Tech: Surf Ninjas and the prophetic Sega Game Gear

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Sat 4:30pm by: Brandon Russell

Have you seen Surf Ninjas? I can't believe you haven't seen Surf Ninjas. If you are a human who enjoys premium entertainment, then Surf Ninjas is the caviar of artistic expression. It's a rite of passage to adulthood, a 90-minute thrill ride filled with lessons about family, destiny and extreme sports. And although it wasn't a critical success, it was successful at being the best movie ever.

I'm serious.

This is the type of movie that should sincerely be shown to future filmmakers as an example of what to do. Ninjas and surfing should be ingredients in every future movie, in particular if it's a movie about high school doofuses who generally slack off and drive dangerously. I know the Oscars are designed to congratulate the lavishly rich and famous, but it's a safe and boring spectacle.

If I may be so bold, I would like to nominate Surf Ninjas for a lifetime achievement award. It would finally make the annual event worthwhile.

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On that note, Moto Surfing, as introduced in the film's opening sequences, should become an Olympic sport, judged on style, execution and creativity. And Tone Loc should henceforth be the go-to rapper for roles that require gravely-voiced, incompetent goofballs. The man swallows a friggin' handcuff key every Tuesday for crying out loud. Dedication. Strength. Someone line him up for the next Fast & Furious movie!

Neither surfing nor ninjas features all that much in the actual film. Yes, the titular heroes do enjoy shredding the gnar. But what I want to know is: how did they manage to decimate an entire forest for the purpose of perfectly carving surf boards without the proper tools or machinery? It's an impressive achievement, and demonstrates that the impossible is possible. The industry of man continues to surprise. Simply visualize the outcome, and it will come true.

Topping it all off is a career-defining performance by Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow, The Animal), whose unparalleled comedic delivery tops off an already flawless film. His presence in Hollywood is in and of itself a gift, and we can only be so fortunate to witness his blossoming genius in such an early role. Schneider is what drives the film's longest running joke, and ties into our main topic of the day: Sega Game Gear, otherwise known as the "not GameBoy."

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Schneider's character, Iggy, genuinely believes he's a seer, possessing nascent psychic powers capable of influencing the future based on what he says and thinks. He believes mere coincidences are part of his pre-destination as an oracle and king. At one point he cowardly scurries under a restaurant table during a fight, convinced that although he's not physically participating, the result is in his control.

"What if I could actually control the outcome of this fight?" Iggy asks.

It's then that his supposed supernatural powers are manifested as Johnny, a young surfer bro who's partial to the Beach Boys, is suddenly and inexplicably bestowed with the power to fight. Not only fight, but fight well. And it's all thanks to the prophecy, which foretells Johnny's ascension to the throne as king of Patu San at the ripe young age of 16. Forget high school and getting a proper education. If you're destined to overthrow the totalitarian rule of a robotic Leslie Nielsen, you have no time to learn. You only have time to fight.

The Game Gear is important because it's like a meta of the movie viewers are actually watching; it shows events take place before they actually happen. The owner of said Game Gear is Adam, Johnny's younger brother, who is supposed to be the film's true seer. After a traumatic event early on in the film, Adam's Game Gear is mysteriously possessed by a game, also called Surf Ninjas, that's capable of foreshadowing the future. So when the game shows a pajamaed assassin sneaking into a house, that's exactly what happens.

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Like in The Wizard, Surf Ninjas highlights the exceptional and extraordinary capabilities of Sega's boring handheld, which is the true hero of the movie; it continuously alerts the characters that danger is near. In return, the noble machine asks for no recognition, no praise. Just our humble recognition as a worthy alternative to Nintendo's transformative Game Boy.

To give you an idea of how crucial the Game Gear is to the story in Surf Ninjas, the darn thing holds a hypnotic spell over its owner; Adam mirrors precisely what's happening on the handheld, at one point choosing an octopus as a weapon in the Surf Ninjas game before doing the same thing in real life. Whoever said video games don't influence young children was wrong. Adam is incapable of making a decision before first consulting his prescient Game Gear. All hail.

It's just a shame the Game Gear didn't show what was really going to happen, which was: the Game Gear sucked and nobody wanted it. That was partly due to the Game Boy's immense popularity, but also Sega's utter lack of support. At the time, Sega put more focus on its home console systems, essentially throwing the Game Gear out into the deep end and saying, "Learn to swim!"

The handheld was also hurt by Sega's boneheaded marketing, particularly in the U.S. In an effort to make the Game Gear seem like the cooler option to consumers, Sega's advertising took inappropriate jabs at Game Boy users, likening them to uneducated, obese idiots. Yeah, even in the early 90s that kind of insensitive approach wasn't acceptable.

I had a Game Gear when I was younger, and I can fondly recall playing Sonic the Hedgehog as my mom plucked food off grocery store shelves. But, beyond that, I remember it most for providing light during a particularly violent southern California storm that took down our neighborhood's electricity.

The Game Gear's light only lasted for a few short hours-another reason why the Game Gear failed-but it was a virtuous light. It was pure, benevolent, and provided me with the power to fend off Mother Nature's seething wrath. Has Nintendo's Game Boy ever done that? I think not. Nor has the Game Boy been able to foretell the future. You're either born with it, or you're not.

And as if the Game Gear's prognostication wasn't enough, it sure doubles as a mean projectile.










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