Where I Read – GamePro #29
Continuing with our GamePro recaps, I’ve got another substantial gap in the archive, this one 11 issues wide, taking me from issue 18, to issue 29, for December of 1991. Our cover stories this issue are GamePro’s upcoming TV show and Bart vs. The World for the NES. This issue’s also 173 pages long (approximately), shorter than contemporary issues of EGM. Though, if I keep getting gaps like this, I’ll end up risking getting ahead of EGM. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. So, as quick historical note – over the course of this 11 issue gap, the SNES came out, taking the 16-bit console war from a 1-on-1 competition between NEC’s TurboGrafx 16 and the Sega Genesis to a 3-way dance. Further Tengen and Nintendo’s differences had become irreconcilable, with Atari/Tengen leaving Nintendo forever, in favor of the Genesis and Game Gear.
Editorial: Not much aside from hyping this issues content, which is still one of GamePro’s problems. The Editorial column is the EIC’s bully pulpit, either to talk about something new in the game industry that interests, or excites them, or to castigate game developers, publishers, or console manufacturers for malfeasance. GamePro, as yet, has never done that. It’s sort of like the opening monologue on the Tonight Show – you’re hyping the guests you’ll have on the show (“We’ve got a great show tonight, Johnny Depp is going to be here, talking about his new movie.”), but you’re also cracking jokes about stuff in the news today (“The president ran into a tree while riding his bike.”). GamePro, after 3 years, has the former down pat. They just now need to work on the latter, and we’ll see as we continue through the magazine if they get around to addressing that.
Letters: We get a letter in response to one from a previous issue, in support of the SNES, from a die-hard Genesis fan. Another one asking about a test that GamePro did for doing an issue with variant covers, one with Bugs Bunny, another with a relatively unknown character by the name of Sonic The Hedgehog (who wasn’t nearly so unknown for EGM readers, as EGM gave the title a lot of press beforehand – which was to be expected, because it was good). We also have questions about game rentals (which, apparently, Nintendo of America is, at the moment, very unhappy about, not surprising, considering how game publishers and console manufacturers are still shitting bricks about used game sales – because God forbid consumers be able to own what they buy. No, I’m not bitter.)
Cutting Edge: The subject of focus of this issue is the upcoming, confirmed, disk systems – the TurboGrafx CD-ROM and Phillips CD-I. Plus we also have a preview of Sony’s Data Diskman, which is like a fold-up PDA which supports mini-disks and was basically a e-book reader.
Hot at the Arcades: Atari’s got a helicopter sim with polygonal graphics by the name of Steel Talons, which is apparently pretty good. Also, not surprising, we’ve also got pinball table based on the new Batman movie.
The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The World ProReview: That’s right, they are now officially Reviews now, instead of just “ProViews”. Apparently this game has multiple endings, depending on whether you collect 9 specific pieces of Krusty the Clown merch or not. Anyway, Mr. Burns is out to take own Homer once and for all. Well, they really like it – It gets a 5 for Challenge, 4 for Graphics, Sound, Gameplay and Fun Factor.
Mega Man 4 ProReview: Well, Mega Man’s on his fourth installment, and once again he’s going up against… wait, what? It’s not Dr. Wily again. But, for like all the other games? Okay, who is he up against? Dr. Cossack? A Russian themed villain? You realize this is December of 1991, right? We already had the August Coup, which fell apart. Yeah, I know it hasn’t formally dissolved, and I realize that development cycles take a while, okay, fine! Fine! You can have your Russian villain, and have the game be dated literally a month after it’s released. The game gets 4s for Sound and Challenge, but 5s for Graphics, Gameplay and Fun Factor.
Batman: Return of the Joker ProReview: Well, the first Batman movie has come and gone, as has the video game adaptations, all of which did well. Which means sequels. Since Batman Returns hasn’t come out yet, this means the game developers have to come up with their own plot for a game – hence, the Joker’s return, with the same team of programmers to develop the game. This one’s also getting a very favorable review, with a 5 for the graphics (which they laud as being as close as you can get to 16-bit on the NES), and 4s for the other 4 categories.
Wizardry II ProReview: The legendary series of Dungeon crawlers is getting it’s second installment on the NES, so you might want to pick up some 1/4″ graph paper. Though, this game doesn’t have the deep and intricate story that you’d get from most successful JRPGs. Heck, it doesn’t even have the more cliched stories you get from the more bog-standard JRPGs. Actually, to be frank, NetHack has a deeper story than Wizardry II. That said, it’s probably still a good crawler. However, it’s going to be hard to find. As far as the PC version goes, Interplay released a collection of the first 7 Wizardry games, but it’s out of print, and it goes for a rather stiff price but if you can afford it I’d recommend going for it (not just for the commission, on my part, though I wouldn’t complain about that either). As far as modern consoles go, probably the closest you’re going to get is either, The Dark Spire or the Etrian Odyssey series, both from Atlus. Anyway, not surprisingly, the game gets a 5 for Challenge, 4s for Gameplay and Fun Factor, but 3s for the lower quality graphics and sound.
Yes, I do recognize that I’m putting in a lot more Amazon.com affiliate links, but in this case this is the first time that a Wizardry game has gotten enough coverage to make it worth writing about, and, to be honest, I like old-school RPGs – the first 5 RPGs I ever played were, in order, Final Fantasy on the NES, and Gateway to Aphsai for the Atari 800, Pool of Radiance for MS-DOS, Ultima (Ultima III: Exodus) for the NES, and Dragon Warrior for the NES. That’s 3 old-school dungeon-crawler western RPGs, and 2 JRPGs. And, as a general rule, if I review something, I want to let people know where to find it, whether the review is positive or negative (unless what I’m reviewing is God Awful) – with the sole exception of Quality Control, and I’ve been considering adding links to eBay for that as well. So, anyway, if a game interests me, I’ll put in a link for someplace you can purchase it, which might not necessarily get me a commission, but it may.
Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego ProReview: Well, Carmen Sandiego has gotten her hands on a time machine, allowing her to steal great artifacts from history, no longer limiting her to landmarks. This review is different from the others in that it’s told as a bit of a narrative, similar to the reviews Dan Davenport writes for RPG.net (here’s an example), though Dan’s are better. The game gets 5s for Gameplay and Fun Factor, and 4s for Graphics, Sound, and Challenge. Frankly, the Carmen Sandiego series, when it sticks to its roots of being an educational game, is solid, and as this game is related to history rather than geography, it’s not going to particularly be dated. That said, this game isn’t on virtual console, so if you want your Carmen fix (because you don’t have it already), you’ll probably need to go to eBay, or Amazon.com. As far as the PC version is concerned, the most recent installment was for Windows 95/98/ME, not XP or Vista (which would also cause problems for Windows 7), though if you want it, here you go.
Dragon Warrior III ProReview: The Dragon Warrior franchise comes to it’s third installment, a prequel, and the second installment to have a party of adventurers. Much as in EGM, the game is compared (favorably this time) to Ultima, though the graphics and sound are found lacking. The game gets 3s for Graphics & Sound, 4s for Gameplay and Fun Factor, and a 5 for challenge. Considering how often the Dragon Warrior games are compared to the Ultima series in the American gaming press, I’m wondering how popular the Ultima series actually was in Japan. I know that the Wizardry series was incredibly popular, but I haven’t heard anything similar about Ultima. That said, I did the research, and the Ultima games didn’t come out in Japan until ’89 and ’90, whereas the first Dragon Quest game came out in ’86. Though, the games could have been imported, but still, that makes the Ultima games being an influence on the Dragon Quest games very unlikely. However, it does mean that if someone calls the Ultima games “Dragon Quest ripoffs”, the person expressing that completely wrong opinion could be kicked in the head without me complaining. Unless Randy Orton does the kicking, because that’s just mean.
Just as an aside, we have an ad for the Captain Planet and the Planeteers game with the tag line “We’ve taken some of the worst garbage on TV and turned it into an excellent video game.” Well, Captain Planet wasn’t that bad.
Tiny Toon Adventures ProReview: They’re tiny, they’re toony, they’re all a little looney, and they’ve gotten an action platformer from Konami. Apparently it’s a fairly kiddy platformer, with rather poor sound quality (even for the NES), while the graphics and gameplay are pretty good. Thus, 4s for Graphics and Gameplay, 3s for everything else.
Uncharted Waters ProReview: I played the SNES installment of this game and liked it. It’s got a bit of a merchant sim to it, plus some pirate elements. I’d almost call it a cross between Sid Meier’s Pirates and the Patrician games. According to the reviewer (Slasher Quan), the game’s looks bland, having to manually steer the ships back and forth between ports is monotonous, but the novelty of the concept makes it fun, and it is challenging trying to maximize your cash. Or, in other words, 2s for Graphics and Sound and Gameplay, 3 for Fun Factor, and a 5 for Challenge. Frankly, I’d recommend a later installment of the series myself, or, alternatively, get one of the Patrician games or Sid Meier’s Pirates! Though, you can definitely get it for less expensive now than it was when it first came out (it was $75.95 new, which is $117.94 adjusted for inflation).
ProReviews – Micro Machines & The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy: The Fantastic Adventures Of Dizzy is a mascot platformer that does not feature the character from Tiny Toons, and instead features a bi-pedal egg. Well, they didn’t hate it – 3s for Graphics, Sound, and Fun Factor, and 4s for Gameplay and Challenge. Micro Machines, on the other hand, is a racing game with the miniature cars, which gets 5 for Fun Factor, 4 for Challenge, Gameplay, and Graphics, and a 3 for Sound.
ProReview – Miracle: The Piano Teaching System: This is another of those NES games that would probably fit more into the “Software” category than the “game” category. This one is intended to teach you how to play the piano, and comes with a keyboard that hooks up the controller ports on the NES. There are probably better ways now to teach yourself how to play an instrument, but the concept is certainly novel. Ultimately though, they don’t know how to review it, so they don’t give it scores. Can’t blame them.
Feature Article – So, You Want To Buy A 16-Bit System: Well, I previously reviewed EGM’s go at providing a guide of the various 16-bit systems, which turned out really well, frankly. Well, GamePro’s doing theirs now, and I have to say that EGM’s article is much, much better, providing plenty of hard information on stuff like, say, sound channels, number of colors supported, screen resolution, etc.
Video Football Playoffs: We’ve got a run-down of a bunch of the upcoming football games. Sega’s got Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football, which they really like, and give across-the-board 5s to. Also, we’ve got Madden ’92, which keeps the engine from the original game, but beefs up the AI, and also gets 5s across the board. I wonder if Joe Montana Football later ends up evolving into the 2K series of games, which was originally published by Sega, until they were bought out by Take 2 (and then EA got the exclusive licence to the NFL). Next up is Mike Ditka Power Football, which runs into some major graphical and control hiccups, ultimately leading to it geting a 4 for fun-factor, but 3s for everything else.
Also, Madden is coming to the SNES (which means that Nintendo’s draconian licencing restrictions are over – otherwise this never would have happened. Though, as I mentioned when discussing EGM’s 16-bit breakdown, the sound from the SNES isn’t as good as on the Genesis, and there are some slowdown problems as well, apparently. So, the game gets 4s for Sound and Fun Factor, and 5s for Graphics, Gameplay, and Challenge. Tecmo is also returning to the football arena, with Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES, which has a NFL Players Association and NFL Licence, so they have all the players (except for Jim Kelly and Randall Cunningham, which apparently have special licencing requirements, though I don’t know what they are) and all the teams. Apparently the game has also added some stat tracking, and has adjusted the AI somewhat. It gets a 5 for Gameplay, and 4s for everything else.
Just for good measure, Tecmo Bowl is also getting a port to the Game Boy. The original Tecmo Bowl, with the original roster (though with less plays). 3s to Graphics, Gameplay, and Challenge, 4 for Fun Factor, and a 5 for sound. Sega’s ported John Madden Football to the Game Gear. Apparently it’s a decent translation, though the Fun Factor gets a 2, the Gameplay gets a 3, Challenge and Graphics get 4s, and and Sound gets a 5. We also get a short preview of NFL football for the Lynx from Atari.
Rolling Thunder II ProReview: Namco’s (now defunct) superspy action game series is getting an second installment. Graphics and Sound get 4s, and Gameplay, Fun Factor, and Challenge get 5s.
Battlemaster ProReview: This is a strategy game for the Genesis, which looks like it’s a Real-Time strategy game, though I’m probably wrong. Yep, I’m wrong. It’s fairly turn-based. To be accurate, it’s an amalgam of an action-RPG with a strategy game due to the force of 14 followers that can follow your character around, and due to the game tracking the actions of characters that are off screen (with your followers even being able to target enemies that are within their range, but off screen. It looks interesting, and from the scores and the review, it was executeded decently, the game’s Sound gets a 3, but the Graphics, Gameplay, and Fun Factor get 4s, and the Challenge gets a 5.
Pit Fighter ProReview: Well, before Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, there was Pit Fighter, with digitized real people as the characters, but other than that the game doesn’t hold up very well in hindsight. GamePro loves it though, with the game getting 5s across the board.
Chuck Rock ProReview: The Caveman platformer craze is beginning, with possibly one of the first Bonk-alikes, with Chuck Rock up against Gary Gritter. You know, there’s a long, long series of jokes I could make about the villain’s name, but I’m not. I’ll let you come up with those (and if there are any you’d like to share, feel free to post them in the comments. Anyway, the game gets 5s in the Graphics, Sound, and Fun Factor Categories, and 4s in the Gameplay and Challenge categories.
Fatal Rewind ProReview: This is a port of the Amiga game The Killing Game Show from Psygnosis. Basically, this is an action-platformer with a rewind option, to take time backwards a bit to attempt to undo a death, well before the concept was made famous by Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game does run into some control problems though, with being able to jump by pressing the C button and by pressing the up button on the D-Pad, making it possible to jump by accident (and possibly to your character’s doom.) The game gets 5s in the Graphics and Challenge categories, 4s under Sound and Fun Factor, and a 3 under Gameplay.
Donald Duck: Quackshot Preview: Yep, we’re done with the reviews, and are moving on to the previews. We’re starting this off with a preview of Donald Duck: Quackshot, an action platformer featuring Donald, though apparently not his nephews.
UN Squadron ProReview: Okay, maybe we’re not done with the reviews yet. I have to give props to GamePro’s review for mentioning Area 88, which EGM’s review didn’t mention. The game gets 5s in the Graphics, Fun Factor, and Challenge categories, and 4s under Sound and Gameplay.
Final Fight ProReview: From what I remember of the EGM review, the lack of Guy, and the lack of 2-player really hurt their scores for this game. Not so much with GamePro, though they do mention their absense, as well as mentioning the removal of the blood from the game and the the removal of the female enemies. Ultimately, though, they give it 5s across the board.
SNES Previews: Well, we get a preview of Lemmings, which is coming to the SNES, as well as the upcoming Rocketeer adaptation, and the SNES port of Hudson’s Adventure Island (and would somebody please get Master Higgins a pair of shorts or something, jeez!) We get some brief preview coverage of Smash TV for the SNES as well. I’m not going too in depth there, because, frankly, the preview coverage isn’t more extensive than what I’ve just written here, with the exception of some images. There are no impressions of the games, just mention that the game is being made and images of the game. Thus, I can’t go too in depth, because there isn’t much to go in depth about.
Cadash ProReview: We’re moving on now to the TurboGrafx-16, and the side-scrolling Action-RPG Cadash, which, by the way, only has 1 life, no continues, and no password option. Ummm… no. GamePro lauds this a being a feature, not a flaw. Sorry, it’s a flaw. RPGs need to have save options, or a password option of you don’t have the save option. So, I’m going to have to disagree with them giving the Difficulty, Fun Factor, and Gameplay 4s. I have to agree with the 4 they gave Graphics, because it does look nice. They gave the sound a 2, and I’ll have to just trust them on that.
Champions Forever & Andre Panza Kickboxing ProReviews: So, we’ve got half-page reviews of a boxing game and a kick boxing game. Champions Forever has options for exhibition mode and for a 15-year (whew) career mode, and features 5 real big name heavyweight boxers (including Ali), voice acting and a rap soundtrack (ooh-kay). Apparently they didn’t find it too challenging though, and gave the Difficulty and Fun Factor 3s, 4s to the Graphics and Gameplay, and Sound got 5. Andre Panza Kickboxing on the other hand did better, with 5s in Gameplay and Fun Factor, and 4s for Sound, Graphics, and Difficulty, though they don’t go into too much detail for why.
TurboGrafx-16 Previews: We’ve got some previews of It Came From The Desert, a game for the CD attachment.
Overseas ProSpects: In Japan the TG-16 is getting a shooter by the name of Spriggan that is no relation to the anime, as well as the fourth installment of the Valis seriies.
Sonic The Hedgehog (Master System) ProReview: Well, moving on to the next system, Sonic The Hedgehog was ported to the Sega Master System, going from 16-bit to 8-bit. Apparently the translation turned out well, getting 5s under Graphics and Challenge, and 4s for Sound, Gameplay, and Fun Factor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back In The Sewers ProReview: Now we’re moving from the Master System to the Game Boy. The Turtles have another portable game, and this one adds an ability they haven’t gotten on the console games yet – they can hang from pipes and other overhead objects. They don’t quite have a wall cling or triangle jump yet, but it’s slightly more ninja-like than the other stuff. The game gets a 4 in the Sound category, as well as 5s under Graphics, Gameplay, Fun Factor, and Challenge.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day ProReview: Terminator 2 is out, it’s in theaters, and it’s getting it’s game adaptations on. Apparently the NES, SNES, and Sega CD versions aren’t out yet, but the Game Boy version is out (and didn’t get covered in Angry Video Game Nerd’s Terminator 2 episode), so let’s see what GamePro thinks of this one. Though, this version is from LJN, who is notorious for making crap games. From the description of the game, it runs into the same problems that the NES version of the game has. Ultimately, Gameplay gets a 3, and everything else gets 4s, and the AVGN would respectfully disagree with those ratings and say that they’re full of bovine feces.
Double Dragon II ProReview: This version of the series second installment changes the plot from being about avenging Marion’s murder to Billy and Jimmy Lee having to clear their names after one of the members of their Dojo is murdered by the last of the Shadow Warriors, and our heroes are framed. The scores aren’t great, with 3s in Sound, Fun Factor, and Challenge, and 4s in Graphics and Gameplay – but I have to say that unlimited continues makes this slightly more appealing than some of the console installments in the series that didn’t have unlimited continues – and as I’ve said before, there’s no good reason to have limited continues in a home console game, much less a game for a portable system.
Prince Of Persia ProReview: The Prince of Persia is getting ported to just about every other system out there, why not the Game Boy. Apparently the graphics translated over fairly well, as does the challenge, but not necessarily the sound or control from the original. The game gets 5s under Graphics and Challenge, and a 4 under Fun Factor, but 3s under Sound and Gameplay.
Blaster Master Boy & Atomic Punk ProReviews: Another pair of short reviews. The review of Blaster Master Boy gives the impression that it’s pretty similar to the NES version – including the lack of a password mode, in favor of unlimited continues. It gets 3s under Graphics and Gameplay, 4s under Sound and Fun Factor and 5 under Challenge. Atomic Punk is Bomberman, and contains Bomberman. If that doesn’t make any sense, I’ll clarify. Atomic Punk consists of 2 games – Bomberman, which is the Bomberman we all know and love, and Atomic Punk, which is like Bomberman, except instead of finding items during levels, you can purchase them in-between levels. The ratings are just about identical to those for Blaster Master Boy except in a different order. 5 under Challenge, 4s under Sound and Gameplay, and 3s under Graphics and Fun Factor.
Ninja Gaiden ProReview: We move on to the Sega Game Gear. The Dragon Sword of the Hayabusa clan has been stolen, and Ryu has to go retrieve it. Not entirely identical to the plot from Ninja gaiden for the X-Box and PS3, but the differences are minor. The game gets a 5 under Graphics, and a 4 under Sound. Everything else gets 3s.
Pac-Man & Space Harrier ProReviews: Well, if it was in arcades and they could port it, they are porting it. Space Harrier gets 3s in Gameplay & Fun Factor, and 4s in Challenge, Graphics, and Sound. Pac-Man gets 3s across the board.
Stun Runner & Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure ProReviews: Now we move on to the Atari Lynx. Stun Runner is a Tempest-alike with sprites instead of just wire-frame characters, and gets a 3 in Sound and 5s in everything else. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an adventure game with Bill & Ted trying to save their girlfriends from the Grim Reaper. Yes, I know the Grim Reaper is supposed to be in Bogus Journey, so I checked, and yes, this game came out after Bogus Journey came out. GamePro still liked it though, it gets a 3 in sound, 4 in Gameplay, Fun Factor, and Difficulty, and a 5 in Graphics.
Next up is their SWAT Tactics column, which I’m going to just skim over, as this column isn’t really my cup of tea – if I need the help I’ll use GameFAQs, thank you very much. Same thing with Ask The Pros. We also get a 2-page ad for GamePro TV, which actually was carried in Portland, on Channel KPDX-49. The show was canceled after a year, survived for a few months as an Infomercial and then disappeared until another brief run on Fox Sports Network. As yet, the only Video Game themed news-magazine TV shows to survive long at all have been Gamespot TV/Extended Play, The Electic Playground, and Game Trailers TV.
Short ProShots: The notable games getting previewed this issue are The Space Shuttle Project, a Space Shuttle Simulator for the NES, El Viento and Back To The Future III for the Genesis, and that’s about it.
Overseas News: Well, Falcom and Sega have signed a deal for Falcolm games to appear on the Sega CD, so the Sega CD gets Y’s. SNK’s planning on a Neo-Geo CD unit as well.
And we rap up the issue with a long series of ads, and an index of every game covered in GamePro over the last year. So, tommorow I’ve got another movie review, and then we’ll continue next week with more EGM