Jaws (Sample, Nintendo Entertainment System)
It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise for anyone who has visited my comprehensive online Jaws guide (which is still proudly, yes, I think “proudly” is the right word, the only tribute of its kind on the Internet) that I am madly in love with this sunken treasure of a video game.
In the summer of 2008, there were rumblings online about a collector from Ontario, Canada named Peter Ibovich who was liquidating his gaming collection, a collection that included, you guessed it, a Jaws prototype. The reptilian part of my brain took over when I heard the words “Jaws prototype,” and I immediately contacted him in an attempt to secure the cartridge. I told him to just name his price.
I stayed close to my e-mail inbox, and within a few hours, a reply finally came through with his offer. “Sweet joyous Jaws,” I thought! But then I clicked and saw his asking price.
$450. Shipping would be extra.
Goddamn sonofabitch shark!
I thought he might have been joking at first. I read the e-mail a few times, looking for a smiling emoticon or a winking emoticon, some textual shit-eating grin that wasn’t there. I replied to him and tried to explain that his price was unreasonable.
“Some unreleased prototypes don’t even go for that much,” I said.
$450 for a game with singing Sun-Maid raisins? Absolutely. But no way for a game based on a killer shark movie sequel. This is Nintendo Collecting 101, people.
This 1987 LJN advertisement, which appeared in the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter, shows an early mock-up screenshot of the game back when it was known as Jaws The Revenge. (Image source: Archive.org)
He wouldn’t budge, though. He even claimed a collector from the Netherlands was going to buy it if I didn’t act fast enough. He said he had missed out on a gaming deal once before in the past and warned me that he has regretted his indecision ever since, and he was doing me a favor by giving me this opportunity so that I could prevent a similar fate from happening to me.
I considered his words. Could I continue on in this state, weak and despondent, from Jawslessness, reduced to living a life of existentialism with a memory diseased by knowing I had once passed up my one chance to own the mother of all shark-related video game prototypes?
I’m not the sanest, not the least postmodern person you’ll ever meet, but I’m not that fucking bonkers. Not yet, at least.
I tried again to reason with him, showed him the online game tribute that I created, confessed my undying love for Nintendo Jaws; I begged for his grace and mercy.
“The game will replace the crucifix statue on my mantle,” I told him, half kidding, half dead serious. “I’ll make an idol out of it and worship it daily.” (I might have not phrased my words exactly that way, but that was the effect I was trying to convey to him; I was desperate and willing to degrade myself considerably. If he requested a live webcam feed of me in undress, I would have probably provided it. I would have sexy danced for him. I would have worn sparkling hot pants. I would have been magical for him.)
Seeing how he couldn’t get me off his back about the price, he explained how he arrived at his $450 asking price. A few years ago, he had contacted the webmaster of a Nintendo fansite and was told that the prototype would be worth at least $250.
I waited for the story to continue, but it didn’t. His explanation only left me more mystified. Did the $200 difference come from some kind of Canadian inflation?
I finally had enough of his runaround and came to the conclusion that there was no guy from the Netherlands, that this was all a ploy to take advantage of a foam helmet-wearing American like myself, and I would have to live out the rest of my days on Earth in misery.
But then a Christmas miracle came early. The deal with the mysterious Fucking Dutchman, if he ever existed, must have fallen through, because the game popped up in a random eBay auction search, and after all was said and done, Jaws now stands proudly on my mantle, in front of Jesus, and it cost me less than a fourth of his original price.
Now, before you get your hopes up, there’s no hidden digital Dreyfuss in this version.
A common misconception is that this video game is based on the first movie; it’s not, actually, but rather loosely follows the plot of Jaws: The Revenge, the fourth and final sequel. (And before you ask, no, there’s no bloody Michael Caine here, either.)
Things you should know about that film if you haven’t seen it: Great Whites will follow you from New York to the Bahamas, sharks can roar, the character Caine plays in the movie is named “Hoagie,” and, finally, THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL!
I think Roger Ebert summed it up nicely in his 0-star review,”Jaws: The Revenge is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one–a ripoff.”
Things you should know about the game if you haven’t played: It’s Jawesome.
The Canadian seller may have gotten the last laugh, however, as when I opened up the cartridge, I found retail components inside.
This cartridge is not a true “prototype,” but rather a sample copy with earlier chip date codes. After dumping the data, it is exactly the same as the released game.
Jaws has once again claimed another victim.