Friday, October 27, 2006
Tetris: From Russia With Love (Google Video) is a documentary about the twists and turns of intellectual property rights and commerce that eventually led to Nintendo getting the handheld and console rights to the game from Elorg, the Soviet bureau that handled exporting of software. (This name appears on the first screen of the NES version of Tetris.)
The most interesting part of the Tetris saga was the British businessman Robert Maxwell who threatened to have an official at Elorg 'disappeared' with one phone call to Gorbachev if his company didn't get the rights. The fact that Bulletproof Software and subsequently Nintendo got the upper hand because they dealt openly and honestly and promised to share future revenues, rather than exploiting political connections and playing power games, was pretty unique at the time.
I remember when I was a kid and I'd be up visiting my grandmother in Lot 16, there was a video rental place in St. Eleanor's, Brian's Place, that had a copy of the Tengen version of Tetris for the NES, the one Atari made before being informed that they were not legally allowed to sell it. It was miles better than the Nintendo version, more modes, more fun, more add-ons and better graphics and sound. I must have rented the thing 10 or 20 times, despite owning the Nintendo version. Plus there were little Russian characters who'd do a dance between levels. I've seen the Tengen cartrige on sale for several hundred dollars online. I hope some bastard didn't just steal it from the store.
Brian's Place also carried what had to be the worst NES cartrige of all time, Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu, which was barely coherent as a game at all.