Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly Issue #25
My apologies for the delay between installments. Much real life has gotten in the way, and… who am I kidding. I got lazy. Anyway, I’m going to move on to issue 25 for the moment. Retromags has gotten Issue 6 up, but I’ve already got Issue 25, from August of 1991 open, so I’m going to review that one first.
Our cover art for this issue highlights this issues Super NES buyer’s guide – that’s right, in the 21 issues that have passed since issue 4, Nintendo has pulled a 180 on it’s position on 16-bit systems, and is putting out a system of it’s own. This issue also highlights the first appearance of the Sega CD, which we know to be the first what would become Sega’s myriad hardware add-ons for the Genesis. Oh, and this issue is clocking in at about 130 pages.
Of brief note with the ads before the table of contents is the fact that Konami’s NASCAR racing game is only coming out for Nintendo platforms – it sounds like Nintendo’s draconian licensing policies are still in effect – but Howard Phillips is still head of Nintendo of America, and as the Death Star already blew up Alderaan, er, Nintendo stole Tetris from Atari/Tengen under Phillips, and the SEC didn’t come down on them for their licensing policies yet, that’s kind of to be expected.
Also, the ad for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the NES is slanted on the page, with the exception of the title of the
game and the catch phrase “Live the Adventure.” I’m very glad that advertisers have learned something in the past 18 years of game history since then, and don’t pull stupid shit like this to make the ad slightly more difficult to read. Anyway, I haven’t played this game in some time, so I forgot how good/bad it was.
Anyway, Steve Harris is still EIC. Ed Semrad is next under him on the totem pole. Next on the list of Assistant Editors are Ken Williams, Martin Alessi, Ron Marciniak and the man, the myth, the legend – Sushi-X. Contributing editor is Mike Riley. We have two new foreign correspondents, Robert Hoskin and Hideki Shikata.
Insert Coin: This time, Ed Semrad is taking a moment to introduce the World Net International Gaming Information Network. Basically, it’s intended to be like the Associated Press for gaming magazines, allowing EGM to draw upon content from magazines in Japan and Europe, and vice versa, to help get additional news stories, to make all their magazines better. Being that this is before the Internet became widely available, this is rather impressive. We’ll see how this works out.
The Ultimate Warrior is advertising WWF Superstars for the Game Boy. Frankly, considering the only good wrestling game I ever encountered on a handheld platform that wasn’t absolute crap was the Fire Pro Games for the GBA, I’m going to say that this game is probably very comparable to your standard Ultimate Warrior match – short, and unable to withstand extended scrutiny. However, considering state of wrestling at the time, I suspect that criticism won’t be made, at least in this magazine.
Interface: Lots of questions about the Sega CD – price, where it hooks up on the system, compatibility with the TurboGrafx-16’s CD-ROM Drive (*snerk*). All of which are diverted to the article on the Sega CD this issue. We also get a bunch of questions about a price cut for the NeoGeo, from its current price of $420 – and we are informed that the price of the system has been dropped to $360, which is comparable with a new game system today, inflation aside. What isn’t comparable though is the cost of the games, which still run from $100 to $155 per game, which again, putting aside inflation is still astronomical. We get one question on the Atari Panther, where we learn that the Panther is dead, and Long Live the Atari Jaguar (which does make to market, and doesn’t do too well after that). We also get an interesting question about magazine length. Ed takes a lot of time in answering this letter, particularly talking about the ratio of editorial content to advertising content, and talking about the sort of cycle magazines go through in terms of page count. We get a couple more questions about the publishing side of things – about games that get coverage in the magazine that don’t haven’t come out in the US – and Ed gives a quick description that they basically cover any games that catch their attention that they think will come out in the US, though not all do. We also get a question about CES, from a reader asking how they can go – tough luck, it’s an industry trade show – you have to be in the industry to go.
Review Crew: On the crew this week is Steve Harris, Ed Semrad, Martin Alessi, and Sushi-X. Let’s do the run-down, shall we?
- Super Mario Bros. 4: This would be later released in the US as Super Mario World, making Super Mario Bros. 3
the last game in the series to carry a number. The consensus is that the is amazing, though they would like if they did more with the new technology the system offered. Frankly, at the time I thought it was pretty stellar. Anyway, 9s across the board, for a total of 36/40.
- Gradius III: Konami’s landmark shmup series comes to 16-bit on a Nintendo system. The main complaints are some graphical glitches in the game, particularly when there are lots of enemies and bullets on screen, leading to flicker and slowdown. Because of this, the game gets 8s across the board, for 32/40.
- F-Zero: The first of Nintendo’s new IPs for the new platform. Nothing but praise from everyone, particularly for the Mode 7 graphics, which were brand-new for the time. For those unfamiliar, Mode 7 graphics basically set up having 2-D sprites moving across another 2D surface with the camera placed above and behind the character, allowing for the illusion of very fast 3D movement. Anyway, while they all say they liked it, Steve and Sushi gave it an 8, while Ed and Martin gave it a 9, for a total of 34/40.
- Final Fight: The classic brawler comes to the SNES without a character and without… 2-player co-op. While Steve thinks it’s a solid game even without Guy and simultaneous two-player and gives it an 8, the rest of the crew is disappointed and each gives a 7, for a 29/40.
Streets of Rage: Brawler. With more characters than Final Fight, and two-player co-op, the whole crew agrees that this is the better brawler. 9s across the board for a overall 36/40.
Mickey Mouse in Fantasia: Disney-licensed platformer. The crew loves the music. Absolutely great. As close as you can get to the music from the film, without a CD player/Record player. The animation is gorgeous as well. The controls apparently are an absolute pain in the ass. Steve, Ed and Sushi give a 6, Martin gives a 5, for a 23/40.
Alien Storm: It’s a sci-fi Golden Axe. Steve found it to be way too easy, and too short overall, giving a 6. Ed and Martin found it to be very easy as well, but mainly in two-player, Ed finding it just fine if played alone, Martin adding for those who aren’t veteran gamers – 7 apiece. Sushi-X, on the other hand and loved it, though he considered it to be more than a little unoriginal – 8. Overall – 28/40.
Hardball: Baseball game, ported from the PC. Apparently it’s been a bit since there was a really good baseball game for the Genesis, so this scratches a lot of people’s itches. Steve is disappointed by the lack of bells and whistles, and Sushi just isn’t really a sports person (fighting games and brawlers are more his speed) – each
give a 7. Ed really likes the game and is impressed by its depth – 8. Martin, on the other hand, finds the camera angle for batting to be extremely difficult, and finds it makes the game very difficult – 6. Overall score of 28/40.
Nintendo Entertainment System:
- The Little Mermaid: Basically, this is an underwater action game. Steve debates whether he should rate the game based on it’s target audience (little girls), and ultimately decides against it, saying that it’s boring, repetitive, and easy – 5. I think Steve shouldn’t underestimate any little girl from 1991 who could get the console away from her brother (or get one of her own). The rest of the crew evaluates it, it looks like, more on it being for younger kids than just girls, and the general consensus is that the game is solid, but extremely easy – 7s from Ed and Martin, 8 from Sushi. Overall score of 27/40.
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: Action-RPG. Steve didn’t like the movie, and didn’t find this game to be much fun either – 4. Martin didn’t see the movie but didn’t like it either, he found the graphics to be poor and the combat to be slow, and also gave it a 4. Ed thought the graphics were decent, but nothing special, but he found the quest of the game somewhat mentally challenging, in that he thought about what he was going to have to do – 7. Sushi-X loved it, which is interesting because later versions of the character would hate RPGs entirely – 8. Overall – 23/40.
- Bonk II: Platformer. Pretty strong scores. Steve and Martin both gave it 7s, citing the controls being not as good as in the original and the game being just more of the same – not that the first game was bad or anything. Ed and Sushi both gave it 8s, feeling that the graphics were a big step up from the original, as was the sound quality. Overall – 30/40.
Nintendo Game Boy:
- Mega Man: Over all, they found this to be a good port of the franchise to a portable format citing good graphics and music for the Game Boy. Steve and Sushi gave it an 8, and Ed and Martin gave it a 9 – no particular reason is given for the difference. Overall – 34/40.
- Fortified Zone: Billed as a stealth-action game like Metal Gear. Martin found it to be more of a maze game than anything else, but was impressed by the production values, and gave it a 7. Steve, Ed and Sushi gave it a 8s – probably the notable quote of the reviews comes from Sushi, saying “I takes Metal Gear and makes it fun.” Anyway, the overall score is 31/40.
Pacland: The general consensus is that this is a fairly average action platformer, with decent graphics and sound. Ed and Martin give it 6s while Sushi gives it a 5. Steve likes it more than a little more and gives it a 7, feeling that it has a lot of replayability. Overall – 24/40.
Gaming Gossip: Quartermann is up at-bat again.
- Atari has scrapped the Panther and has a new unit in the works and that the system is a 64-bit. Hit! The letters column already confirmed the system’s existence, and the system that comes out later is a 64-bit system. He later says that the system was based on technology created by Psygnosis, but I couldn’t find anything to back that up.
- Sega and NEC are working on technology to stream video from CDs. Hit! This technology would later bring us such Sega CD “gems” as Sewer Shark and Night Trap.
- Talks between Nintendo and Sony for a CD-based add-on for the SNES have fallen through, with Nintendo kicking Sony to the curb and going to Phillips instead. Hit! This deal would later lead to the god-fucking-awful CD-I Zelda games, and to Sony doing their own Disk-based console, the Playstation.
- Nintendo has committed to a September 1st launch for the Super Nintendo in the US, with Super Mario World as a pack-in. The system actually comes out in August, but did come out with the pack-in, so I’m going to call it a Hit!
That’s 4 out of 4. Not bad.
Feature – CD-ROM Gaming: Well, EGM got a chance to see the Sega CD (then called the Mega-CD) at the Tokyo Toy Show. The system is now priced for $370 (practically the price of another console). It’s got 6MB of internal memory, and another 12.5MHz processor, which is apparently meant to share the load with the Genesis’s own 8 MHz processor. I don’t know how well that worked out in practice.
They also got to see the new CD-ROM gaming systems coming from NEC, Sony, and Phillips. NEC’s is the PC-Engine Duo which is available in a full unit and an add-on that connects to the TurboGrafx-16. Sony had been working on their PlayStation console with Nintendo, until Nintendo kicked them to the curb and decided to shack up with Phillips and their CD-I, but Sony’s heart will go on, and has said they will put out their game system anyway, even without Nintendo and their licensees. Thank God Nintendo either chose to turn their licenses loose or were forced to turn them loose (IIRC it was the latter).
International Outlook: More stuff from the Tokyo Toy Show. For the SNES they saw Zelda 3 (Link to the Past), Dungeon Master, and Super Fire Pro Wrestling. The NES is getting Mega Man 4. Again, the big thing for the Genesis was the Sega CD. There’s a screen shots of Ys III: Wanderers of Ys – which looks a bit like Zelda II – top down overland map, and side-scrolling combat. Oh, and Mega Man IV, Kid Niki 2, F-1 Hero 2, and Cycle Grand Prix for the Famicom get screen-shots. Namco’s Horse Racing for the PC Engine. For the Genesis we see Out Run and a couple of shumps, Undeadline and Galaxy Force 2, as well as F-1 Hero MD (a port of F-1 Hero for the Mega Drive/Genesis), Super League ’91 (a baseball game), and Ambition of Caesar 2 (a nation-management war-game). For the TurboGrafx/SuperGrafx/PC Engine system(s) we get to see Valis IV, a port of Capcom’s 1941: Counterattack from Hudson (since Capcom is stuck with Nintendo’s fascist licensing rules), another shump, Starfighter. For the Game Boy we see Sagaia and a port of Rastan from the Genesis version.
The SNES Buyers Guide: And now we come to the Buyer’s Guide.
- An Introduction To The SNES: Article discussing the basics on the system, which I find is distinguished by having pictures of the guts of the system, not just of the console, but of the controller, and the cartridges as well.
- The Games: Basic run-down of the games with the review crew score, but without the reviews. There are descriptions though, but again, the review content is minimal, so the scores aren’t too helpful. For example, Populous gets an overall score of 20/40, with the lowest individual score being a 4, which is a pretty low score, but there is nothing in the description to explain why.
Portable Screens: A lot of sequels for other Game Boy Games and main console games coming out. They do mess up some and say that Final Fantasy II is coming out for the Game Boy (it’s actually one of the Gaiden games). We have previews of Castlevania II and Choplifter II for the Game Boy and Hard Drivin’ for the Lynx, as well as a bunch of 1 paragraph blurbs on various other games.
Super Famicom Times: We have in-depth previews of Link to the Past, “Super Pro Wrestling” which later becomes Super Fire Pro Wrestling, Dungeon Master (a Wizardry-style role-playing game), Super Formation Soccer (which appears to be using Mode 7 for the field, which is interesting.)
Feature – 1991 CES: A lot of stuff they cover here they covered in previous articles this issue, though we do get some new stuff here with pictures of Batman: Return of the Joker for the NES.
Nintendo Player: Brief previews of Wizards & Warriors 3, the aforementioned Batman game, Bio Force Ape, Tecmo
Super Bowl, and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back games, Dragon Warrior 3, Captain Planet, and a bunch of other stuff.
After that we get a bunch more one-paragraph previews of Genesis, SMS, Neo-Geo games and so forth. Not enough information to make it worth mentioning for any of those games.