Where I Read – GamePro #18
Well, I’ve got another gap in my GamePro issues, with our next issue being 8 months ahead, with issue 18 (or rather Volume 2 Issue 6). This issue was published in January of 1991, and weighs in at about 148 pages long. This is their annual sports issue, though their last one was about 11 months ago. I guess they either didn’t want to wait until February and possibly miss the super-bowl, or all the big sports games were coming out this month, and they didn’t want to be behind the curve – reasonable.
We get a pair of similar ads for a couple of fantasy RPGs for the NES – Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements from Taito, and Swords & Serpents from Acclaim.
Editorial: GamePro’s looking for a few good critics, and by a few I mean 250 new staff members. These staff members will be asked several times a year to evaluate games based on their rating system of Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Challenge, and Fun Factor. In return – you get GamePro swag. Uh-huh.
Letters: Well, on the October issue of GamePro, one of the issues I’m missing, they finally implemented a rating system, and GamePro’s getting some of their first letters on it, which are generally favorable. Frankly, I don’t have problems with reviews not having scores (all of the reviews I write for my blog anymore don’t have scores), but I do have problems when the reviews aren’t willing to pass judgement on the game they’re reviewing, which a lot of the reviews I was coming across in GamePro previously weren’t doing.
We also get some new letters about Nintendo’s upcoming 16-bit system, the SFX, which later becomes the Super Famicom/Super NES. We get one letter asking to know everything possible about the system, and expressing concerns about Nintendo saying that there are no plans to bring the system out to the US – remember, this was when Nintendo of America’s company line (which they expected their licensees to toe if they wanted to keep their licences) was “16-bit is a fad”. Another letter on the topic says that the SFX isn’t going to be all that – NEC’s already got the TurboGrafx-16, and Sega’s got the Genesis, and Konix is working on the Multi-System (2-out-of-3 ain’t bad) and the price point is too high – people aren’t going to want to spend that much on a gaming system. The points are valid, but ultimately, a console lives and dies by it’s software library, particularly the 3rd party games because the licencing fee for those is where you make the real money to pay for the console (remember – until the Wii, most consoles lost money for the first few years.) Finally, we get a letter complaining how their ProClassics column only covers the NES, not any other systems. It’s a fair cop, and they agree and will expand their coverage of other systems in the future.
The Cutting Edge: The cutting edge technology they’re writing about this time is one that’s been on home computers for some time, won’t really come into it’s own on consoles until the Dreamcast (and then will be rendered obsolete soon after) – the Dial-Up Modem. Thus far, while Nintendo (according to the article) is planning to come out with a modem for the NES in the US, the only places where modems are available for home consoles is in Japan, and there the technology is primarily used for banking. We do get one notable ad in this article – an ad for GamePro’s video magazine, distributed on VHS in stores. No information on how to subscribe, if there is any way to subscribe (you’d think they would have such a way, as it would make the video magazine a little more profitable.
Overseas ProSpects: Well, this is their sports issue, they’re taking a look at some of the sports games going in Japan – particularly Power League III from Hudson for the PC-Engine. This is a Baseball game, with the option to play a 10-game season or a longer 120-game season. Thus far, in the Japanese version, most of the main menus they show are in English, but some of the specifics on the gameplay screen are in Japanese, which might make parts of the management side of the game (batting order, substitutions, etc.) a little tricky to someone who doesn’t read Japanese, though some of the statistics are pretty straightforward. The game also has multiple stadiums to play in, each with different characteristics – which is something that I don’t recall American baseball games implementing – which you’d think would be significant, because different stadiums can change up (no pun intended) the way you play the game (the obvious example being how the Green Monster at Fenway Park dramatically decreases the number of home runs you can get).
Hot at the Arcades: Continuing with the sports theme is a few sports themed arcade games, namely Pigskin (a humorous middle-ages themed rugby game), and Pit Fighter, the spiritual predecessor to Mortal Kombat, from at least a technology standpoint. I haven’t played Pigskin, so I don’t know how good it is, but I remember seeing a lot of Pit Fighter in arcades in the early 90s, with the install base that you see Golden Tee Golf with now (just about every restauraunt, bowling alley or pizza place that had any arcade machines had Pit Fighter).
ProClassics: Being that this is the annual sports game issue, what better game to reminice about this time than Tecmo Bowl. I’ve played Tecmo Bowl, and so, I suspect, has everyone else who is reading this blog. We have review scores for this game – but they have yet to put the numerical scores underneath the pictures. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can look this up – or not. They apparently printed a key in their October issue though… oh, wait, I don’t have that. For shame, GamePro. I think I recall what the various pictures mean though. The game gets (if I remember their rating system correctly – it’s been a while since I read a Gamepro that uses this rating system), Graphics and Sound each get 3s, Gameplay and Fun Factor both get 5s, and Challenge gets a 4.
Adventures of Gamepro: The comic continues, with the GamePro being beset by Zombies. No resolution as yet to this one, if I get the next issue we might know what he sees.
Special Feature: We have a series of reviews of upcoming basketball games, starting off with EA’s new basketball game, NBA Lakers vs. Celtics for the Genesis, featuring all 8 teams that made into the 1989 Quarterfinals, including my (and your) Portland Trail Blazers. The game gets 5s across the board in every category. Next up is Ultimate Basketball from American Sammy, which, unlike Lakers vs. Celtics, doesn’t have a NBA license for the teams or players, so it’s got made-up teams and players. The game is in many ways a spiritual successor to Double Dribble, though it’s got some problems with how it handles fouls. The game gets 3s for Graphics, Sound and Gameplay, a 4 for Fun Factor and 5 for Difficulty – though, I don’t know how their rating system works, so I don’t know if a 5 in difficulty means it’s could-somebody-please-get-you-my-head hard, or if it means perfectly-balanced hard.
Arch Rivals from Acclaim is next, a two-on-two basketball game with a bit more of a rough-and-tumble street-ball style of play, with the option to rough up your opponents. The game gets 3s in Graphics, Sound, Fun Factor and Challenge, and a 4 in Gameplay. The Game Boy is getting NBA All Star Challenge from LJN, a 1-on-1 game, either eith a half-court game, or horse, Accuracy Shootout and Free-Throw competitions, and they think it’s okay, and give it a 3 for sound, and 4s for everything else. Jaleco has In Your Face Basketball, which basically has only one-on-one or two-on-two street ball, but looks a helluva lot better than All Star Challenge. In Your Face also gets a 3 for Sound, 4 for Graphics, Gameplay, and Fun Factor, and a 5 for Challenge. I might have bumped it up a point for Graphics, considering how good it looks on the Game Boy.
We move on to the football games, and John Madden Football from EA, which is probably the one sports franchise (aside from Tecmo Bowl) discussed in this feature that’s still around today. Although, a slight minus, in my opnion, is the absense of the Seattle Seahawks, but I’m just biased because I’m in the Pacific Northwest. They do find the AI rather easy though. They give the game a 3 to difficulty, a 4 to sound, and 5s to Graphics, Gameplay and the Fun Factor. We also have a review of Joe Montana Football from Sega which doesn’t show as strongly, getting a 4 for challenge and 3s in everything else. We also have NES Play Action Football, which I have played and enjoyed a lot, though it was incredibly easy to get big yardage with passing plays, and once you got past the defense there was no way to be stopped. So, fun on offense, not so fun on defense. The game gets 3s in Graphics, Sound and Gameplay, and 4s in Fun Factor and Challenge.
Promotional Comic: Culture Brain has a new game coming out, Flying Warriors, and we get a comic book here to promote it. No, really, it’s basically a full comic book. It’s not great, but I’ve seen worse.
ProViews: Now we’re getting to the main body of the reviews. We start off with Roller Games from Ultra (Konami), which is sort of an odd mix between roller skating (not quite Roller Derby but close) and Double Dragon. It looks interesting, but I don’t know how well it will turn out, particularly as it’s got a bit more platforming than the Double Dragon games (probably closer to the Contra games), combined with melee combat, and being that these are pictures I don’t know how fast the game is going (and thus how much trial and error there is). The game gets 5s in Graphics, Fun Factor, and Challenge, a 3 in Sound and a 4 in Gameplay.
Keeping with the roller derby theme is War on Wheels, an actual Roller Derby game. Apparently the AI is rather brutal but otherwise they don’t go much more than into the basics of how the game works. It gets 3s in Graphics and Sound, 4s in Gameplay and Fun Factor and a 5 for Challenge. Ultra also has a sequel to Skate or Die that takes the action to the slopes, and onto Skis (Snowboarding having not become mainstream yet). The review gives 3s to Gameplay, Funfactor, and Challenge, and 4s to Sound and Graphics, though the reviewer reccomends that if you’d played Skate or Die you might want to give it a pass, because it’s more of the same and not necessarily as good.
Keeping with the winter themed games, we’ve got Wayne Gretzky Hockey from THQ. It looks like it’s a more realistic hockey game than some of the competition, and it looks like the computer can get hit with penalties as well. The game gets 5s for Fun Factor and Difficulty, 4 for Gameplay, and 3s for Graphics and Sound. Next is WWF Wrestlemania Challenge from Acclaim (which is different from the game in the first issue of Nintendo Power – for starters this one has Brutus Beefcake, Hogan, Rick Rude, the Ultimate Warrior, and well, the only ones of these guys with any actual wrestling ability is Rude and Macho King Randy Savage (yeah, this is during Savage’s reign as King of the Ring, back when whoever was the King of the Ring winner suddenly took on a “King” gimmick. However, the game is rather easy. The game gets a 5 for Gameplay, 4 for Fun Factor, 3 for Graphics and Sound, and a 2 for challenge.
Since it seems they’re doing a theme here of games who take place in the ring, next up is James “Buster” Douglas Heavyweight Boxing. Boxing history doesn’t particularly remember Douglas, which is not suprising, as his only claim to fame was beating Mike Tyson in an upset victory, and then losing the title 8 months later to Evander Holyfield in his first title defense. As it is it’s basically a port of Final Blow boxing from the arcades, just with Douglas’ name (and maybe his likness) on it. The Graphics and Gameplay get 4s, and the Fun Factor gets a 3, but Challenge and Sound get 2s. Tengen is porting Atari’s Hard Driving to the Genesis and the review is fairly favorable, with a 5 for the Fun Factor and 4s for all the other categories.
We’ve also got Super Volleyball from Video Systems. It’s a Volleyball game, though one that’s only on a 2d plane, which takes just about all the strategy out of the game, really. They like it though. Challenge gets 5, Sound gets 3, everything else gets 4s. From Volleyball we move on to Golf and Jack Nicklas Turbo Golf for the Turbografx CD from Accolade, which has 5 courses on the disk, which is nice. The game gets 3s in the Graphics and Gameplay categories, 4 in Sound and Challenge, and the Fun Factor gets a 5. The Turbografx-16 is getting it’s own unlicenced wrestling game, with Battle Royale (which is in no related to the violent Japanese) action movie. It’s big selling point is the support for the Turbo Tap, which allows 5 people to play at once (from what I recall no other wrestling games in the US at this time supported this many players at once). The game recieved 4s for Graphics and Fun Factor, and 3s for Sound, Gameplay, and Challenge.
Next up is the tricks column, moved more towards the back of the magazine now, perhaps as an olive branch to those who thought that the tips and tricks were spoiling the game. Next up is the Ask the Pro’s column, with (in keeping with the theme) questions on Bases Loaded II (on how to beat New York), and Tecmo Bowl (best teams in the game) the answers being New Jersey for the former, and the Giants and 49ers for the latter. They’re also introducing a new feature where you, the reader, can submit answer other people’s questions and they’ll print the best response(s). The questions here are about finding the cross in Zelda II – The Adventure of Link, and how to beat Dark Force in Phantasy Star II.
Short ProShots: Rather than running game previews, they’re basically running the respones to a survey from last year. Boo, and I’m not going to dignify it with more page space than that.
And that wraps up the issue. Since we’ve now got review scores for each issue, and they’re willing to go below halfway on the scale, I’d say it’s reasonable to drop Quality Control for issues of GamePro – which doesn’t preclude me from picking them up again for a different magazine. As for tommorow… we’ll see about tommorow. I may get a review up for a movie I’ve seen recently that either has already been reviewed at Bureau42, or somewhere else. You’ll have to watch the feed and see!