Across the decades of promotional hand-outs, no piece of swag has been as popular and dependable as the T-shirt. Promoters use shirts as a low-cost means of turning fans into walking billboard advertisements for games and consoles. Meanwhile, the T-shirt bearer gets a free piece of cloth that hides part of their shame. It's win-win – at least until the shirt falls apart in the washing machine.
Here's a scrap of swag history that didn't dissolve in the spin cycle, however: A Silicon Graphics / Nintendo mash-up shirt that was handed out when Project Reality (the code name for the N64) was announced in the latter half of 1993. Long time games journalist Jeff Gerstmann apparently recognized the value of this beautiful cloth relic and kept it safe until video game historian Steve Lin pledged to keep it safe for future generations.
The shirt is emblazoned with logos for Nintendo and Silicon Graphics, which isn't unusual. The "Way Past Cool!" declaration on its front might seem alien to young people who've ever heard those words outside of Sonic the Hedgehog's vernacular, but the '90s were a strange, lawless time.
What's really noteworthy is the smattering of mascots decorating the shirt's back. We have Pico, one of the original four pilots of F-Zero (he controls the Wild Goose, which does indeed smash into barriers like a waterfowl with no regard for authority). Pico is also hiding behind the "Way Past Cool!" logo, but that's to be expected. He is a turtle-alien, after all.
Other mascots include Mario (of course), a fairy from The Legend of Zelda(?), a sweet original rendition of Star Fox that looks like it might be the work of Nintendo Power comic artist Benimaru Itoh, and Samus Aran, who at the time was light years away from her paltry N64 appearance in Super Smash Bros.
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The shirt also features a mock-up of Project Reality's hardware, and several of the units appear to be raining down on the heads of the mascots. Ouch.
It's a weird but wonderful shirt that's cobbled together from various assets that don't quite gel with one another. In other words, it's a screen-printed prophecy for what would ultimately become the N64's legacy.
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