"Hey, plumber boy ... mustache man ..." he crooned into a megaphone, weakly channeling Jack Nicholson. "Your worst nightmare has arrived."

I would look up the man's name were I not relatively assured he doesn't want to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the mists of obscurity. And although the commercial wished to instill the notion that Mario's days were numbered, Crash Bandicoot's popularity would end up not having the legs of other mascots. Luckily for Sony, it had elsewhere to turn.

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The right approach was just as, if not more, essential than facts or game footage at the pinnacle of the ad wars. Fans had to relate effectively not only to the games, but the image of themselves as players of them. Unfortunately, a mildly disturbed man in a bandicoot suit had ... let's say "limited group appeal." The Atari Lynx also seemed to suffer from a problem connecting with a large group of followers. It owned color games before the Game Gear ever came out, and a print ad with the message "Lynx Kicks Their Buts" read more like a mini manifesto, offering six reasons Atari's handheld was better than both the Game Boy and Game Gear. The "cool factor," however, just wasn't there, and a proselyte Atarian could probably never get through two of his talking points before having to recite the rest from inside a locker.

The identities of players as embellished in retro ads are no longer as prominent today and especially not as confrontational across systems. Blame a new age. Sega and Square (now with life partner Enix) are friends with Nintendo after all their squabbles. Today's target audiences are broader, more mature, and - most importantly - often able to afford multiple systems.

There were more unique and integral features to tout then - the Super FX chip, "blast processing," the switch to CDs - but today's consoles are quite similar, sculpting themselves almost simultaneously to pick up similar audiences. There is still "attitude," but the argumentative portion of the system wars seems delegated more to spokespeople; comments made by the Reggies and Kutaragis of the industry are dissected in the online forums where stubborn system warriors now reside. The sass in ads now belongs to the "Kevin Butlers," who don't need to talk smack about anyone, but just relish in everything their own system has to offer and let people across the board enjoy it.

Is there nothing out there innovative or provocative enough to rile the main companies into attack mode like the good old days; nothing with its own threatening style and desire for market domination?

PSP spokeskid Marcus berates an awkward iPhone user with a cry of "$9.99, sucka!" and something within an old system warrior stirs. Maybe the big guns haven't been put away just yet.

Tim Latshaw wishes to apologize to the Crash Bandicoot guy, who is more than likely living a perfectly stable life with a wife and children and can now sleep for multiple nights without bolting upright in a fit of uncontrollable screaming.

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