Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly Issue #16

Cover for EGM #16
Cover for EGM #16

We continue with our Electronic Gaming Monthly reviews with EGM #16, to fill some of that rather large gap we’ve got between issue #6 and issue #25. This issue, which came out in November of 1990, and is significantly shorter than the issues from #20 on – only about 97 pages in this issue. The cover art for this issue is for Super Mario World for the SNES, which currently has a working title of Super Mario 4.

Our first ad for the issue is for Pac-Mania from Atari/Tengen, which looks lot like Pac-Man with an isometric camera angle, different environments, and jumping. Tengen really seems bound and determined to run the Pac Man brand to the ground. We also get ads for the game Skull & Crossbones, where you play a pirate trying to rescue a princess from a wizard and his undead warriors.

Editorial: Our Editorial this week is from Steve Harris, discussing 1990’s Nintendo Expo in Tokyo, which later would be known as Space World, before it was discontinued entirely. This year’s Nintendo Expo was particularly notable due to the unveiling of the Super Nintendo, which is currently referred to by its Japanese name, the Super Famicom, which already also has a bunch of 3rd party licensees for the system, making games for it. Quite the change from Nintendo of America’s old line of “16-bit is just a fad.” Furthermore, due to the popularity of import gaming (particularly through the coverage of Japanese games in the pages of EGM), Sendai Publications is starting a new magazine dedicated to import gaming, titled Super Gaming. The magazine only lasted 4 issues.

We get, of note, an ad for Dragonlance: Heroes of the Lance – the worst D&D licensed game I’ve ever played in my entire life. If you played this game, and beat this game, you are a more stubborn person than I – and you probably like pain.

Letters: Our first letter of the issue is asking about the visual differences between the picture they ran of the Super Famicom, and a picture another mag ran of the Super Famicom. Basically, the picture that EGM ran was of an earlier prototype. We get a letter about a connector on the bottom of the Game Gear that was in one of the pictures they ran, and whether it was for connecting it to TV – sorry, it’s just a link cable, to connect it to another Game Gear. We get a letter asking for more information on Sonic the Hedgehog (which hasn’t come out yet) – Sonic should sprint into the US in the next year. We get a letter asking for the real face of Sushi-X (tough rocks pal, we don’t find out who Sushi is until much later, basically after EGM has ceased publication). We get a couple letters (without response from the editors) saying, in essence, “Turbograf**ks-16 and Genesux sux0rz – suprfamicom pwnd all” – only more eloquently and without the profanity (censored or otherwise). Just as a reminder that rampant fanboyism existed even before the truly rabid faboys had an Internet to rant on.

We also get our first letters about a 32-bit system from Sega, particularly about a 32-bit converter – which is remarkably prescient, as that’s what the 32X would be, when it was released in November of 1994. We also get a letter asking about cross-licensing (which we now call “porting”) of games from various systems, particularly looking for side-by-side comparisons of the graphics, as well as questions about whether the arcade shump Aeroblaster will be licensed. Well, Aeroblaster is getting a home release, for both the Turbografx-16 and Genesis – oh, and look, screen shots! EGM’s editors also slip a little bit of editorial in there suggesting that Nintendo might want to learn from their competition and allow for cross-licensing of games. We also get 2 reviews disagreeing with the the horrible score they gave to the more simulationist martial arts game Budokan, and one lauding their negative score and hoping they’d read the review before they bought the game.

Review Crew: Once again, our crew is Steve Harris, Ed Semrad, Martin Alessi, and Sushi-X.

  • Ultima IV – Quest of the Avatar (NES, FCI): The second Ultima RPG to come out for the NES. Oddly, Martin and Steve, who in later issues would express their intense dislike of RPGs and score games like Might & Magic scores to that reflect their dislike, give good reviews here. The lowest score for this issue is a 6 from Sushi-X – who doesn’t like the encounter rate in this game (and the NES versions of Ultima III had a much higher encounter rate than the PC version, where I could do laps around the map without seeing a monster at all. Everyone else gives the game an 8. Steve gives the game a backhanded complement – “Oh, it’s for the RPG crowd” – getting across that it’s not his cup of tea, but he does get across that he likes RPGs. Ed and Martin both agree that this is one of the best RPGs for the NES – which is saying something, because the original Final Fantasy was released 5 months prior. Overall: 30/40.

  • Yo Noid! (NES, Capcom): Platformer featuring Domino’s Pizza’s current mascot – Noid. Sushi gives the game a 4, finding it worse than stale, cold pizza. Steve gives the game a 5 for good graphics and scrolling (which is important in a platformer) but poor overall execution. Ed gives the game a 6 – as the game feels like it was intended for a younger player with the use of Domino’s Mascot, but the platforming was designed for an older player – who would reject the mascot character. Martin, on the other hand, gives the game a 7, saying he considers it a good solid game. Overall: 22/40.

  • Little Nemo in Slumberland (NES, Capcom): Platforming game – which I remember playing as a kid. I had a devil of a time beating the second level. They, on the other hand, put the difficulty as “easy”. Steve and Martin give the game a 7, basically describing it as taking the best elements of platformers and toning it down a bit for modern audiences. Ed gives the game an 8, citing a look for the younger crowd, but gameplay that will work for younger and older players. Sushi-X gives the game a 9, saying it’s on par with Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man.

  • Ultimate Basketball (NES, American Sammy): It’s a straightforward basketball game. The low score comes from Martin, who gives the game a 7 – but doesn’t say anything bad about it to explain why – except maybe his comparison with Pat Riley Basketball on the Genesis. Steve and Ed give the game 8s, again emphasizing the excellent gameplay. Sushi-X gives the game a 9, finding it to be excellent replication of basketball (as least as good as you can get for this system). Overall: 32/40.

  • Dragon Warrior II (NES, Enix): RPG, second in what would become one of the longest running franchises ever. Sushi-X gives the game a 5 – basically because he doesn’t give a flying frak about the story (no, really, his entire review is how much he doesn’t care about the story.) Martin and Steve give the game a 6, basically calling it a cheap Ultima III knock off. The thing is, and they really drop the ball on this, is that Dragon Warrior II came out in Japan 3 years prior to this issue – and the same year Ultima came out for the NES, which means – no, Dragon Warrior II is not a ripoff of Ultima III, unless the Enix developers were capable of time-travel. That said it might have some common similarities with the Ultima games – however, the only games prior to Ultima III were basically bizarre mashups of fantasy and science-fiction, more than Final Fantasy ever was. Anyway, the game gets a 7 from Ed, who finds it better than the original Dragon Warrior, but does have a serious time commitment to it. Overall: 24/40.

  • Adventures of Jackie Chan (NES, Hudson): Martial arts based platformer featuring Jackie Chan – having to rescue his sister, Josephine. Being that this is 1990, apparently nobody at Hudson Soft thought anybody in the US knew who Jackie Chan was. Which is… fairly reasonable, as Jackie Chan wouldn’t achieve major fame in the US until Rumble in the Bronx came out in 1995. Anyway, Ed finds it to be just another average martial arts game and gives it a 6. Steve and Sushi recognize Jackie Chan (I’d expect Sushi to recognize him) and they find it a fun mix between an lighthearted action platformer like Mario Brothers, and a martial arts game like Double Dragon or Renegade, and they give it 7s. Martin gives the game an 8, finding it enjoyable and action packed, if not entirely original. Overall: 28/40.

  • Princess Tomato (NES, Hudson): Adventure game, with some role-playing elements. Sushi and Ed give it a 5. Sushi because it gets boring rather quick, and Ed because he doesn’t like the paper-rock-scissors combat (IIRC it is literally Paper, Rock, Scissors) and he couldn’t take it seriously. Martin found it interesting, but it didn’t blow him out of the water, and he gave it a 6. Steve, on the other hand, found it a riot and enjoyed it in its entirety, giving it a 7. Overall: 24/40

  • Palamedes (NES, Hot-B): Puzzle game. Basically, you need to make poker hands with dice. Steve gives it a 5, finding it different, but it doesn’t have that addictive factor a good puzzle game has. Martin gives the game a 6, commenting that it’s a decent puzzle game, and it is fun, it’s no Tetris, but it is fun. Sushi and Ed give the game 7s, finding the game enjoyable, and particularly finding two-player exciting. Overall: 25/40.

  • Super Monaco GP (Genesis, Sega): Formula 1 Racing Game. Steve and Martin give the game a 9, saying that this is a fantastic port of the arcade game. Now, if you’ve been following this for a while, then you know the order I do the scores – Ed and Sushi give the game 10s, saying that this is the best racing game for the Genesis to date. Overall: 38/40 – just 2 points away from a perfect score.

  • Whip Rush (Genesis, Renovation): Side scrolling sci-fi shump. Steve, Martin, and Sushi give the game a 6, commenting that the game is, in general decent, but nothing special (and Steve doesn’t like the controls). Ed gives the game a 7, finding it fairly simple, but still enjoyable, though he recommends starting it on hard if you’re a veteran of this type of game. Overall: 25/40

  • Thunder Force 3 (Genesis, Sage’s Creation): Yet another side-scrolling shump. Much more favorable responses this time. Sushi gives it a 7, finding it addictive, but conventional. Ed gives it an 8, finding it “better than average”, and lauding the weaponry choices and music. Steve and Martin give the game 9s, Steve saying that it’s as close to the perfect shooter as you can get, and Martin saying outright that it’s the best shooter ever. Overall: 33/40.

  • Atomic Robo Kid (Genesis, Treco): Wait for it… another side-scrolling shump.6s from Steve and Sushi, because of sluggish controls and a lack of variety (from Steve), and Sushi getting whiplash in the shift from serious combat to silly environments and enemies. Ed and Martin give the game 7s, citing good graphics, and environments, as well as exciting boss fights and interesting weapons.

  • Columns (Genesis, Sega): Falling gems puzzle game. Martin gives the game a 5, feeling the sense of futility you get while playing is too great. Steve gives it an 6, finding the action unique and enjoyable, but not on par with Tetris. On the other hand, Ed and Sushi give it 7s, finding the differences with Tetris enough to make it notable. Overall: 25/40.

  • Strider (Genesis, Sega): This is a port by Sega of Capcom’s action game – why is it by Sega? Well, because Capcom is a licensee for Nintendo, and the licensing contract forbids Capcom for making games for any other console systems, at least not if Capcom doesn’t want their releases to be slowed to a crawl. Across the board 9s here, and the Review Crew is not fooled – they know it’s a Capcom game, saying it’s practically an arcade-quality port (close – we get an actual arcade-perfect port on the Playstation release). Overall: 36/40.

  • Battle Royale (Turbografx – NEC): No relation whatsoever to the Japanese movie which I don’t think is out yet anyway. Instead, it’s a wrestling game, with 5 wrestlers in the ring, and you win by throwing your opponents over the top rope to the outside. Steve finds it kind of fun in multi-player, but overall doesn’t find it very good, and gives it a 4. Martin gives it a 5 for similar reasons. Ed and Sushi, on the other hand, give it a 7, considering it a good, solid wresting game. Overall: 23/40.

  • Bravoman (Turbografx – NEC): A beat-em-up featuring a man with stretchy limbs. Remember, this is before Street Fighter II. Martin gives the game a 4 for it’s horrible sound and controls. Ed and Sushi give the game a 5, finding the protagonist, and the game, dull and boring. Steve gives it a 7, citing colorful graphics and innovative attacks, though finding the digitized voice for the main character grating. Overall: 21/40.

  • Tiger Road (Turbografx – NEC): Platforming Action game. Ed and Sushi give the game a 4, due to poor overall execution. Martin and Steve give the game 7s, saying that while the game doesn’t do anything new, but it does it well. There’s a variation of Wolverine’s catch phrase for ya – “I’m the best at what I do and what I do isn’t very original.” Overall: 22/40.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Game Boy – Konami/Ultra): Action-platformer with a certain quartet of Ninjas, who are also turtles. 8s from Steve, Ed, and Martin, who find it a very well done action game for this platform. Sushi gives the game a 9, finding it to be the best Ninja Turtle game yet. Overall: 33/40

  • Godzilla (Game Boy – Toho): Maze game featuring the titular kaiju. Martin gives the game a 5, due to it’s short length, easy difficulty, and boring action. Steve gives it a 6, finding it a glorified Pac-Man derivative with nice sound and intermission segments. Ed gives it a 7, as while the game has a lot of levels to keep you busy, it’s also pretty monotonous. Sushi gives the game an 8 for it’s good music and great humor elements. Overall: 26/40

  • Lock ‘n Chase (Game Boy – Data East): Pac-Man style maze game. Steve calls it a blatant Pac-Man clone, recommending gamers wait until Namco ports Pac-Man proper to the Game Boy, and gives the game a 6. Ed and Martin give the game 7s, due to solid controls (which you need in a game like this), and and some new options (Steve mentioned the addition of trap doors, though there might be other things too). Sushi gives the game an 8, commenting that while the game has been out for a while (it was originally released in arcades before the Crash), it still holds up very well, with good music, controls, and gameplay. Overall: 28/40.

  • Pipe Dream (Game Boy – Bullet Proof): Puzzle game where you have to prevent liquid from spilling using a series of pipes. Steve gives the game a 5, finding no action and little strategy here (I have to disagree, having played the game – it really kept me on my toes.) Martin gives the game a 6, saying that he likes how the game keeps you competing against your best prior score. Ed and Sushi give the game 7s. Ed finds the game somewhat tedious in single player, but really enjoys 2-player head-to-head and co-op play (by the way, I don’t think I’ve heard of a puzzle game before this that had co-op). Sushi just loves this game… and then proceeds gush a stream of water puns (why, yes, I am aware that I’m guilty of the same thing). Overall: 25/40.

  • Doctor Mario (Game Boy – Nintendo): Nintendo’s now-classic take-out-the virus puzzle game. Steve calls it an over-complicated version of Tetris combined with Columns that is not fun at all, and gives it a 4 (and Steve, I’m disagreeing with you again). Ed and Martin give the game 6s, with Ed finding it deeper than Tetris, but shallower than Columns (as you can’t match on the diagonal), while Martin finds it different enough to be enjoyable, but still a Columns clone. It says something that while Columns was kind of criticized for not being on par with Tetris, the innovations it made are enough that they’re drawing comparisons in their review of Nintendo’s next puzzle game. Sushi gives the game an 7, calling it “Tetris part #99” – which I’m not sure whether it’s a compliment or an insult. Overall: 23/40.

  • Road Blasters (Lynx – Atari): Vehicular “survival” racer. Ed, Martin, and Sushi give the game 7s. All three find it a solid port of an arcade game to a hand-held (which is impressive), with Martin particularly liking the weapon variety and the sound quality. Steve gives the game an 8, saying that he found the control to the left and right to be a little sluggish, but once he got the hang of it he liked it. Overall: 29/40.

We get an ad for TV Sports Football for the Turbografx-16 until we move on to…

Quartermann: I’ll skip the baseball analogies for now and get right to it.

  1. Atari is developing a new console gaming platform, with a 32-bit architecture, called the Panther. Hit! The platform is scrubbed though, and Atari put out the Jaguar instead (which then proceeded to fail most epically).

  2. Several of Nintendo’s licensor are planning to jump ship for the Genesis, including Tecmo, who is planning a Ninja Gaiden game for the system. Hit! – The game, which is a port of the original arcade version, only came out in Japan, though, and didn’t have any of the distinctive cutscenes from the NES version. Oh, and it’s a beat-em-up.

  3. Taito is jumping ship as well, but not to Sega, to NEC and Turbografx. Hit! – In particular they release Chase HQ for the Turbografx-16. Both of these companies come back to Nintendo somewhat when they allow cross-licensing.

  4. Speaking of NEC, NEC is planning a system even more powerful than the Turbografx-16. Hit! They’ve got planned a Turbografx-CD, one of the first systems with CD-ROM drive support.

  5. Activision, appears to be in dire financial straits, and might not last too long. Believe it or not – Hit! Activision had branched out into business software under it’s Metagenic brand and was over-extending itself, plus it was getting sued for Patent infringement. It wasn’t until they got bailed out and bought out by Bobby Kotick (who is still Activision – or rather, Activision-Blizzard’s CEO), that they got back onto stable financial footing.

  6. Speaking of Activision – Sega is planning on using Activision’s Hard Yardage football game as the engine for their upcoming Joe Montana Football game, and use somebody else’s software instead. Hit! Once Sega found out that Activision was in dire straights (and that they hadn’t even started work on the game yet) Sega went to EA instead – though unfortunately the release was too late for Christmas, Joe Montana Football came out shortly after John Madden Football. You have 3 guesses to name which franchise lasted longer.

Batting Average: 1.000 – 6 at-bats, six hits.

Next comes a big, 2-page spread of an ad for the Power Glove, with the tag-line “Get a grip on the 90s.” And, now that I think about it, the Power Glove, in a nutshell, epitomizes everything that was wrong with the early 90s, at least with regards to “fashion”.

Next Wave: On to our upcoming titles preview section. Of note this issue is Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (as the Double Dragon franchise hasn’t been run throughly into the ground yet). Hudson has Adventure Island 2. Data East has Werewolf, which looks like a cross between Altered Beast and Castlevania.

We get an ad for Battletank (the predecessor to Super Battletank, which still has us in the gulf). NEC has a couple of shumps coming, Super Star Soldier, and Aeroblaster. The latter looks like an interesting mix of hardcore shump action and some very colorful ship designs (which is fine – colorful is better than drab in my opinion).

We get ad for Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight, which has precisely nothing in common with Street Fighter, or Final Fight. Moving on, Sega has Mickey Mouse, and Dynamite Duke coming out for the Genesis, as well as John Madden Football, and an action game called Technocopwhich is really gruesome for the time, when you shoot someone they explode into a shower of blood.

Electronic Gaming Express: At London’s CES, Amstrad unveiled their new console, the GX4000. The system only lasted months, in part because they’re unveiling an 8-bit system is what’s becoming a 16-bit market, and considering that the system shipped with all the memory that the system could possibly support (8-bit processors supported 16-bit addressing on them, getting about 64Kb of memory) already on board (in terms of RAM), there’s not a lot of room to grow on the system.

Natsume has an ad Shadow of the Ninja, an action platformer on the NES that looks interesting.

Now, on with the in-depth previews.

Featured Preview – Super Mario 4 and other upcoming SNES titles: The preview for Super Mario 4 (it hasn’t gotten the name change to Super Mario World yet) dominates the article. In the build they have for this preview, Yoshi is currently known by the less glamorous name of “Dino”. We also have brief mentions of R-Type 2, Gdleen (which I don’t think gets a stateside release), Populous, Super Darius, and Super Deformer (which doesn’t get a US release either.) We’re also getting an SNES port of Sim City.

We move on to our tips and tricks column, as well as to an ad for Ninja Gaiden for the NES – and now if you buy a copy of Ninja Gaiden, you can get a copy of the Worlds of Power novel adaptation for free! And, of course, we have a picture of the cover of the novel, which is also the same as the cover of the game – except Ryu’s kunai knife has been removed, but not his sword.

International Outlook: Featured this issue isn’t a preview of a game – but discussion of a magazine – Bi-Weekly Famitsu, Japan’s biggest gaming magazine, which inspired EGM’s review system, oh, and is still around to this day – unlike EGM. It’s a damn-shame I don’t read Japanese, because I’d otherwise love to recap Famitsu as well, just to get a different perspective than the western one.

We get an in-depth preview of Yo Noid, followed by a series of ads for Vic Tokai games. We get a preview of puzzle game Kickle Cubicle, and a preview of Joe Montana Football for the Master System (the Genesis one – as mentioned under Q-Mann’s column, is going to need a little bit of work).

Turbo Champ: This month’s TurboGrafx column covers the new CD-ROM drive module for the Turbografx-16, and everything being done to take advantage of the additional storage space (full motion video, really good sound, improved graphics, etc.) Our first preview of Turbografx games is J. B. Harold Murder Club, a mystery adventure game for the Turbografx-16 CD which apparently is import friendly, and features English and Japanese voice acting. Next comes Final Zone 2 (which is possibly a worse title than Final Fantasy X-2) a Commando style shump with giant robots and anime cut-scenes from Wolf Team/Renovation, and a similar shooter (without the giant robots, and a more modern setting – but still with the anime cutscenes) called Last Alert.

The Genesis is getting another side-scrolling space shump, Hellfire, which is a title that would certainly never fly on a Nintendo console (hint, it’s not ’cause of the “Fire” part).

Speaking of the Genesis – this issue has the most famous Genesis ad ever – “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” – over two pages of the magazine (which makes doing the picture grab for the blog not quite work right.) Fortunately – I don’t need to put a picture of a magazine ad in, as they did a commercial. On TV. Really –

We continue with our previews with Shadow Dancer, the second in the Shinobi series of games, and Sega’s second party port of Strider. Second party in this case, by the way, means that Capcom did the port for Sega, but the game was officially released with Sega’s name on it – though Capcom still got a paycheck for this (this, consequently, weasels around Nintendo’s draconian licensing restrictions.)

For the Atari Lynx we have a preview of RoadBlasters, which, now that I’m getting to see bigger pictures of it, looks pretty good. For the Game Boy we get more in depth previews (with pictures) of Dr. Mario.

Screen Play: We get an article promoting this new, upcoming TV show (which I’ve never heard of before) called Super Force, a fairly cyberpunk-ish TV series, about a former-astronaut turned super-cop due to a fancy suit of body-armor and a super-charged motorcycle. I did a little research on this show, and to my surprise it lasted 2 seasons! From the description it looked like it wouldn’t last even that long.

Game Over: We wrap up the issue with the ending for Ninja Gaiden II, and the final showdown between Ryu and Jaquio (who didn’t show up in the sequel, Ancient Ship Of Doom).

And, that concludes this week’s issue of EGM.

One response to “Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly Issue #16”

%d bloggers like this: