Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #4

On to Issue 4 of EGM, for November of 1989. Before I get too far into this, I’d like to give a shout-out to Retromags.com, as I’ve gotten a lot of these magazines through them. Their collection is insanely expansive, and keeps growing every day. I encourage all of you, gentle (or not so gentle, depending on how you roll) readers, to head over to them, and contribute, whether to discussion or, if there’s a hole in their collection which magazines in your own will fill, scanning your magazines and contributing them to the collection. Which leads me to the gap from Issue 4, which I’ll be covering today, to Issue 25. If anyone reading this has those issues, please contribute those to Retromags – it’s easy and fairly painless to do. So, on with the show.

We’ve got cover art this time of a screen shot from Ghouls and Ghosts for the Genesis, which is their Game of the Month. I have to say the screen shot doesn’t do to well blown up to a full cover size. It’s not the best shot either though, so I’ll have to cut them some slack for that.

Insert Coin: This issue’s column from EIC Steve Harris addresses complaints about the lack of coverage of non-Nintendo systems, and accusations of bias, much as the ones covered in Issue 3’s letters column – which reminds us all that there was console fanboyism well before the Internet.

I don’t talk about ads often, I may mention them if there are particularly famous or infamous ones, or if we’re seeing our first ads for a famous or infamous product. So, right after Insert Coin, we’ve got an ad for the Power Glove.

Letters: We get our first letter about game importing, and the first of three about the TurboGrafx-16, with a question about importing PC Engine games to play them on the Turbografx-16 (doesn’t work – the pin configuration is different). There’s a similar question about the cards used for the TurboGrafx and how they compare with the cards used by the Master System and Atari’s new system (particularly with thoughts of cross-compatability in mind – which isn’t going to fly thanks to the Colecovision.) Our final Turbografx-16 question asks about the processor – as the system uses the same processor as the NES, would it have the same problems with flicker? (Nope). Finally, we get a letter bitching about the review scores for Reggie Jackson’s Baseball, the response to which is, essentially, pimping the Famitsu review system.

Review Crew:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES): This is not the arcade game – this is the semi-platformer that is as hard as fucking hell! Before I get into the scores, I’m just going to mention that they said this game was easy! They must be gaming gods to find this game easy. Anyway, on with the review. Steve thought it was okay – the action sequences are adequate but the adventure sequences drag – 6. Ed loved it and called it the one of the best games of this fall – 7. Donn thought it was below his expectations though he lauds the graphics – 6. Jim finds that the controls are far too jerky and the scrolling is a liablity to your character – 4. Overall: 23/40.
  • Bad Dudes (NES): Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president from Ninjas? Steve says the game has a lot of the elements from the arcade version, but finds the animations lacking – 6. Ed finds it to be yet another Double Dragon clone and also finds that the jerky animation to be a major problem as well – 5. Donn also finds the graphics and animation lacking, as well as the game’s sound design as well – 5. Jim too found the graphics annoying and also found the game too easy for his tastes – 4. Overall: 20/40.
  • Sky Shark (NES): Top-down shooter from Taito. Steve says it’s a solid shooter with good graphics and great enemies, though repetitive – 6. Ed finds it to be quote “Another 1943-type flying and shooting game” though he does mention that there aren’t any problems with flicker – 6. Donn has problem with collision detection, controls, really difficult enemies, and the colors of the enemies causing them to blend in with the background – 5. Jim finds it to be a good arcade translation, but the game only goes through the same 5 levels over and over again without ending – 5. Overall – 22/40.
  • Defenders of the Crown (NES): Console port of a PC Strategy game. I haven’t even looked at the scores yet and I know this is going to suck. Steve finds the visual flat and uninteresting and the port slows the pace down significantly – 4. Ed finds it slow, dull and boring – 3. Apparently Donn and Jim played a different game as they both gave it 7s, finding the gameplay superb in spite of the poor graphics. Overall score 21/40.
  • Strider (NES): Port of the spectacular arcade game. Steve recognizes it as the classic it is (sort of) and lauds it as one Capcom’s second hit of the season (behind Mega Man 2) – 7. Ed goes for the box quote, saying that it’s not your average action game and “A cut above the rest” (as well as favorably comparing it to Bionic Commando) – 8. Donn also goes for the Bionic Commando comparison – though he didn’t like to keep having to come back to a mission select screen or main screen after each mission – 7. Jim doesn’t find the game to be too hard and comments that it adopts a different storyline from the arcade version (which it’s not as pretty as) – 7. Overall: 29/40.
  • Spell Caster (SMS): Action-Platformer RPG. Steve compares it favorably to Simon’s Quest for the NES, as far as action/adventure/RPGs go – 7. Ed doesn’t like it that much and says outright that it purports to be a RPG when it really isn’t – 6. Donn also compares it to Simon’s Quest and Strider as well, commenting that there’s a lack of this kind of game on the Master System – 6. Jim is disappointed with the game, and how it doesn’t live up to it’s potential – the game is too short, the bosses and character customization are lacking – 5. Overall: 24/40.
  • Victory Run (TG-16): Behind-the-back driving game ala OutRun. Steve isn’t too impressed by the graphics, but does like the inclusion of more realistic features on wear and tear on your cars parts (a feature which has not been included in Gran Turismo, I suspect because it sounds annoying as hell) – 6. Ed finds the game-play superior to OutRun, particularly the controls, while the graphics are inferior – 8. Donn finds shifting gears in the game rather annoying (apparently all the cars have manual transmissions) but once you get the hang of it it gets easier – 7. Jim considers this one of the best driving games for any system and mentions that the game includes hills as well as curves (which shows how primative driving games are at the time, where Hills are considered a feature) – 8. Overall: 30/40.
  • Dungeon Explorer (TG-16): Action RPG game. 7s across the board. Steve compares the game favorably to Gauntlet, but with a plot. Ed and Jim also compare the game to Gauntlet and praise the game’s graphics and music, and Donn also likes the game’s multi-player support. Overall: 28/40.
  • Last Battle (Gen): Altered Beast-style beat-em-up. Steve comments that it’s a lot like Altered Beast – the characters are big, the backgrounds (and the characters) are detailed and the game moves at a crawl – 6. Ed doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, as he finds that slowing down the gameplay and zooming everything in so the characters take up about half the screen takes a game from average to brilliant, leaving me to wonder if he was drunk or stoned while playing this game – 7. Donn finds the game plays okay, but the graphics are good and the story is decent (though for the time, I suspect that it means that there is one) – 6. Jim looks straight past the flashy graphics to the mediocre gameplay that lies beneath – 5. Overall: 24/40.
  • Tommy Lasorda Baseball (Gen): I didn’t follow baseball during the late 80s and I don’t follow it now so I don’t know how good Lasorda is. Steve says outright that it’s the baseball game he’s ever played (Boxquote) though apparently is uses a password mode instead of battery backup – 8. Ed calls it the standard to which all future baseball games will be compared – 8. Donn isn’t, apparently, as big of a baseball fan, describing it as being the same as all the other baseball games on the market except with 16-bit graphics – 7. Jim musters Ben Stein level enthusiasm with a description that fails to fill the review text box, but still describes it as the best baseball game on the market – 7.
  • Thunder Force II (Gen): Side scrolling shump (with vertical scrolling stages as well). 8s from Steve, Ed and Jim, all citing the excellent sound and graphics, a variety of stages (both vertical and horiziontal) and a variety of power-ups. Donn likes it too for the same reasons, but not as much as the rest of the crew – 7. Overall: 31/40.

Next Wave: The games getting blurbs this time are Ninja Gaiden II, Silkworm, Twin Eagle and Willow for the NES. The Master System has Captain Silver, Nightmare Basketball, and Dynamite Dux. Genesis gets Rambo 3, Forgotten Worlds and Super Hydlide.

Quartermann: Last Issue was a mediochre run for Q-Mann, going 4-2 for a overall score of 15-3. First up is rumors of a port of Narc from Acclaim for the NES (1-0). He’s also got rumors on the lineup of games for the Atari Lynx, including Gauntlet 3, Rampage and Impossible Mission, which is being re-released as Electrocop (2-0). Q-Mann also brings us the tragic news of Nintendo’s final defeat over Tengen over the fight for Tetris (3-0). We also get rumors of a surround-sound peripheral for the NES, which I could not find anything about (3-1). Q-Mann mentions the gloomy future of the Konix Multi-System, but as he already predicted that and I’ve already given him points for that I’m not counting it again. Q-Mann’s final two at-bats are a port of Elite for the NES (4-1), and a move by manufacturers of games for non-NES consoles to increase their arcade presence, particularly Sega (Sega was making arcade boards up until the death of the Dreamcast) (5-1). Much improved week this time, Q-Mann is now at 20-4. Still one miss on there, but he’s doing okay.

Behind the Screens: This issue we’re talking about the Game Boy. Again, everyone pretty much says the exact same thing, just like last time – We have titles in development and the Game Boy will be huge! The few exceptions are Konami, who references an “Ultimate” SKU which they claim will have TV connectivity and they say that stay-at-home units will be a bigger deal than portable units, and Data East, who isn’t developing anything for the Game Boy right now.

Preview – FM Townes: Basically, it’s a review of a PC treated like a review of an upcoming console. The PC is the titular FM Townes, a new PC from Fujitsu with a 386 processor and a CD Rom drive – though oddly it’s mounted on the front of the PC and has you putting the CD on there vertically. It runs MS-DOS, though they describe it as being (MS-DOS compatible, which makes me wonder if they’re running their own version of DOS that’s similar to MS-DOS) and ships with a controller as well as a mouse and keyboard. A more through preview is apparently going to be coming next issue – but as I don’t have next issue I won’t be able to read it.

International Outlook: This issue they’re covering the PC Engine in Japan, with the main point of the article being “This console has been out in Japan for 2 years, so we’ve got a broad selection of titles to translate and port over for the US market. We also have more news on the shaky financial situation of the Konix Multi-system (they’re running out of money) and we get our first look at the Super Famicom. Remember last issue when Nintendo was poo-pooing 16-bit at CES. Yeah.

Game Of The Month – Ghouls & Ghosts (Gen): We have a brief semi-review of the game, and maps of the first two levels. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find myself needing level maps for 2D games, with perhaps the exception of stuff like Moonwalker where you have to go in every door and check the trunk of every car for the kids you need to rescue in order to get to the boss.

Tricks of the Trade: Various game cheats and so forth – A lot of these involve abusing the password system. We do have a variation of the Konami code being used in what I believe is a Taxan game (their Fist of the North Star game) – Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, B, A to get a continue. We also get another strategy guide for POW, with the last 2 levels of the game mapped out.

Nintendo Player: In short, this article is fairly negative. Basically, it’s a lament for Tengen’s superior version of Tetris, and a lament for Nintendo’s relucatance to support 16-bit by getting out the Super Famicom.  They’ve also mention that Nintendo is planning on limiting 3rd party developers to 1 game per year. I have to say – Nintendo, or at least Nintendo of America has been, through 1989 as chronicled in the pages of EGM, immensely evil. I’d say it’s been more evil than Microsoft was at the time.  Nintendo has improved their image over time, as of 1989, they’re immensely evil. I’d have to say though, that after Howard Lincoln left Nintendo, I noticed an improvement… I may nickname Howard Lincoln as Sauron or something. Anyway, we get a in-depth review of Bad Dudes, River City Ransom and Twin Cobra (no scores are given though).

Sega Masters: The column for this section features the upcoming RPG lineup for the Master System, including Ultima IV for the Master System (which didn’t come out, I checked). The games being previewed are Scramble Spirits & Dead Angle.

Atari Adventure: Just one title for the 7800 is getting coverage this issue, Xenophobe.

Lynx: An Interview With The Men Behind The Machine: An interview with the designers of the Atari Lynx, Dave Neekle & R. J. Mical (Neekle’s name is constantly mis-spelled as Neekle). I have to say the portable looks awesome on paper… Shame that the actual physical device was really freaking huge!

Turbo Champ: We get a run-down of 12 of the upcoming titles for the TurboGrafx-16 (including R-Type, the arcade version of which I reviewed as part of “RTypes” on Bureau42.com). We also get in depth previews of Dungeon Explorer and Blazing Lasers.

Outpost Genesis: This time we’re focusing on the Power Base for the Genesis which allows you to play Master System games. The game being previewed this time is Thunder Force II. Yeah, just one game.

Gameboy Club: This issue features the system link, which allows you to play Game Boy games with a second player, including Tetris (odd how Tetris for the Game Boy has 2-player, while Nintendo’s own version of Tetris for the NES doesn’t, while Tengen’s did.) They have run-down of a bunch of the upcoming games for the system.

We get our high score list and our top-ten sales rankings.

That wraps ups this issue. Next time we move on to Issue 24

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