Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #53
So, the EGM recaps continue with issue #53 for December of 1993 (yeah, I’ve got a bit of a gap again, so you might want to mind that). Our cover story this issue is Eternal Champions for the Sega Genesis – which is one of the first games designed to work with Sega Activator, their motion controller, which is great, if you have an Activator and can get it to work with this. Anyway, the issue is pretty big, about 392 pages long.
There are a few changes with this issue of the magazine (the re-organization having officially taken place 2 issues ago. As of this issue, Ed Semrad is now Editor-In-Chief with Danyon Carpenter as Senior Editor with the new positions of the Managing Editor, with Howard Grossman in that spot, and Joe Funk as the life-styles editor. Martin Alessi is no longer on staff. Steve Harris is still on staff though as the publisher (a position he held before anyway), and hopefully he’ll still be on the Review Crew.
Insert Coin: The 32-bit Generation is beginning, with the battle lines being drawn. Sega is working on the 32X and the Saturn. Sony is still quietly working on the Playstation, preparing their revenge against their snubbing by Nintendo with all the secrecy of Darth Sidious. 3DO and Phillips have their systems, and Atari is kicking it up a notch with the 64-bit Jaguar. Additionally, there’s all the CD systems either currently on the market or coming out soon. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s just sitting pretty with the SNES on the market, and the 64-bit Project Reality system in development (which would later become the Nintendo 64). However, we do get some suggestions here, rather than just analysis, from Ed Semrad – Sega should make the CD portion of their Saturn optional. Considering that when the Playstation comes out, basically everyone goes to CD systems after realizing how less expensive it is to put out a game on disks rather than on cartridges (something PC gamers could already tell you), I’d say that advice is probably (unintentionally) bad.
Letters: Well, the 3D0 is out… and it doesn’t work. No, seriously, there aren’t any games for it aside from the pack-in game, which locks up the system. Whuups! Console Launch Fail! Unfortunately, the backlash over Mortal Kombat and other violent games (this is around the time we started getting congressional hearings about video game violence for the first time (with, I believe, Tipper Gore putting some political pressure in favor of warning labels as well), is leading to increased censorship for video games in the US outside of the games for the SNES – the blood is removed from Samurai Shodown for the Neo-Geo (they’re using swords people!) and the costumes of female characters in Final Fight CD is altered, among other things. Also, we get more discussion about reviewer ethics, and whether you pull punches in your reviews to prevent a backlash from the game publishers, or are you honest in your reviews and risk getting blacklisted, taking direct shots at Nintendo and Sega’s first party magazines. There’s also a response from Atari to EGM’s comments on why they don’t have more coverage of the Atari Lynx (we don’t have a interface box so we can connect the Lynx to a television to take the screen shots) from issue #50 (the last issue I covered). Basically, Atari’s response is basically that they take a series of screen shots which they provide to all enthusiast magazines, so you should be happy with that. The problem is that EGM needs to take their own screen shots too.
Review Crew: With the change in the magazine and the change in the staff, also comes a change in the crew. While Steve Harris and Martin Alessi are no longer on the crew, replaced by Danyon Carpenter & Al Manuel, they’ve done one change for the better – they’ve added a 5th man to the Crew, “Major” Mike Wiegand (who would later go on to GamePro), while retaining the Famitisu 4-Person review system. This, in theory, allows them more flexibility when reviewing (for example) role-playing games, by allowing them to assign the review to someone who isn’t generally biased against the genre. They don’t use it that way though. Instead, we get additional, shorter 5-man reviews on a side-bar, with the reviews just giving Wiegand’s perspective (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and the scores of all 5 critics. I’m not particularly going to be covering those.
- Secret of Mana (SNES, Square): An auspicious start for the issue, with one of Square’s most famous RPGs outside of the Final Fantasy series. The game gets an 8 from Ed, who finds the AI players rather stupid, while he otherwise likes the story, likes the gameplay, and likes the option to play Co-Op with 3 players, with the use of a Multi-Tap. Danyon, Al, and Sushi give the game 9s for similar reasons (except they don’t find the dumb AI as bad). For the record, in my opinion a similar multi-player option for Final Fantasy XII would have been great, with the option of either having one of your friends take control of one of the other party members, with the AI party members using the gambit system (possibly with the option to do the co-up multi-player online), possibly even with drop-in, drop-out multi-player with an invitation. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine pulling off such a thing on the PS2 (or the original X-Box for that matter). Further, Final Fantasy XIII re-works the battle system to be a bit closer to the older ATB battle system, making this not an option there either. Overall: 35/40 and it wins the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Wicked 18 (SNES, Bullet-Proof): Golf game. Al gives the game a 4, finding it hard to set up your game and your shots, and hard to judge the shots. Sushi gives the game a 7, as he still doesn’t consider golf his favorite sport (it’s the Sport of Kings, not Ninjas after all), but it has some solid gameplay – though the graphics are lacking. Ed and Danyon give the game 8s finding it one of the best golf games on the market at that time. Overall: 24/40.
- Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES, JVC): Action platformer based on Empire Strikes Back. Al gives the game a 6 for good graphics and fidelity to the game’s story, but with enemies who seem to take forever to kill with no feedback on how you’re doing, and some obnoxious insta-gibs. Danyon & Sushi give the game 7s for some sloppyness in the game, and the game being controller-breakingly hard, partially due to the enemies, and partially with poor controls exaggerating the difficulty. Ed gives the game a 8 for similar reasons. Overall: 28/40.
- Aero The Acro-Bat (SNES, Sunsoft): Sunsoft’s go at an mascot platformer. Danyon, Al and Sushi give the game 8s and Ed gives it a 9 for it’s excellent graphics, music, control, and unique level designs. Overall: 33/40 and it recieves the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Super Chase HQ (SNES, Taito): It’s a version of Chase HQ for the SNES. Sushi & Al give the game 7s, finding the concept unique, the gameplay entertaining and very fun, though the sound was rather lacking. Ed & Danyon give the game 8s, with the likes and complaints Al & Sushi had, though Ed felt the time limit for the levels could have been longer. Overall: 30/40.
- Wolfchild (Genesis, JVC): This is a Cartridge port of a game that was released on the Mega CD in Japan. The game gets a 4 from Al for the drab colors, poor sound quality, and cruddy control & general gameplay – Al even says that the 4 is a little generous. Danyon gives the game a 5 & Ed and Sushi give the game 6s for repetitive gameplay, poor sound, and drab and dull graphics. Overall: 21/40.
- Puggsey (Genesis, Psygnosis): Something of an action puzzle game. It gets 7s across the board, because of the colorful graphics and enjoyable music. Overall: 28/40.
- Ren & Stimpy (Genesis, Sega): Nick’s subversive cartoon show your parents probably don’t want you to watch is getting it’s own video game. The game gets 7s from Ed and Al, with the graphics and animations being excellent, but the control is laggy and the two-player similtanious mode makes Ed want to yank out his hair (while Al doesn’t have that problem – and not because of baldness). Danyon and Sushi give the game 8s, with both of them also finding the two-player annoying but otherwise finding the game enjoyable – if you’re playing the game single-player. Overall: 30/40.
- Sonic Spinball (Genesis, Sega): Sonic’s getting a spin-off pinball game. Al gives the game a 6, finding this exciting though he’s not a big pinball video game fan, but he finds it difficult to progress in the levels, in terms of hitting the right spots to get to the next board. Danyon and Sushi give the game 7s, finding the game solid despite the scrolling being choppy, and the game in general seeming like a bit of an afterthought, and Ed finds it solid and a fun pinball game, though it pales in comparison with the other Sonic games. Overall: 28/40.
- Tecmo Super Bowl (Genesis, Tecmo): Tecmo’s 16-bit version of it’s football series comes to the Genesis. However, Al doesn’t find that the graphics are much better than the 8-bit version for the actual gameplay, and the playbook is rather small, and gives it a 6. Danyon & Sushi give the game 7s, finding it very enjoyable, though Danyon doesn’t like sports games in general (the phrase he uses is “traditionally dislike”), and Sushi thinks it could use more of a graphical upgrade. Ed gives the game an 8, finding his main problem is that the game still needed a bit more of a graphical upgrade. Overall: 28/40
- Lethal Enforsers (Sega CD, Konami): The Arcade light gun game comes to home consoles, with a sweet light gun. Al gives the game a 5, considering the game to be a good port of the arcade game – the problem is he doesn’t find it that fun and even finding it more enjoyable to shoot the civilians than the bad guys. Ed, Danyon & Sushi give the game 7s finding it just like the arcade game, which Danyon & Sushi consider to be a little mediochre, but fun anyway. Overall: 26/40.
- Beyond Shadowgate (Turbo Duo, TTI): You remember Shadowgate, the time-to-die-over-and-over-and-over-again adventure game for home PCs and the NES. It’s gotten a CD-Rom Sequel. Ed and Sushi give the game 7s, finding the game slow-paced but otherwise enjoyable (which is very different from the original Shadowgate, where you didn’t use an item in a few seconds, you’d die. Danyon & Al give the game 8s, finding the game enjoyable and fun despite the game’s slow pace. Overall: 30/40.
- Mad Dog McCree (3DO, American Laser): It’s an adaptation of the arcade light gun game, without the light-gun. Ed and Sushi gave the game 5s, finding the gameplay and control poor, since you have to aim with the controller, and the video quality even worse, with Danyon & Al giving the game 6s for the same reasons. Overall: 22/40.
- Tetris II (NES, Nintendo): Yep, Tetris is back, and they’ve finally added the 2-player mode that the original Tengen version for the NES (that they killed) version had over 5 years ago. Am I bitter? Yes. Yes I am. Danyon describes the game as Nintendo trying to capitalize the “tired” genre of puzzle games by making a fun game more fun by… making it look bad? And he gives the game a 7? Steve! Come Back! I take back every bad thing I’d said about the old line up! Everyone else gives the game 6s, finding that a lot of the luster has worn off after the game kind of got run into the freaking ground by Nintendo and everyone else. I must admit, I don’t consider Tetris a must-have game anymore. I don’t feel that puzzle games are “tired” or “worn out” – but I don’t feel that Tetris is a killer app puzzle game, particularly since there’s much more variety in the genre now. Overall: 25/40.
- Mega Man IV (Game Boy, Capcom): Al considers the game to be a very good adaptation of the Mega Man series to a hand-held, finding the graphics and sound good (for the Game Boy) and the bosses to be inventive. Everyone else gives the game 8s, with a few complaints about blurring (but not from Sushi, surprisingly). Overall: 31/40.
- Battletoads (Game Gear, Tradewest): Al loves the game, finding an excellent port of an excellent game… but he gives it a 6? Danyon doesn’t like the game so much because it’s old, but otherwise finds it a solid game and gives it a 7. Danyon, please tell me you’re not the kind of guy who doesn’t watch old movies like “The Big Sleep” solely because of their age? Ed and Sushi give the game 8s, finding it a great port of the Genesis version. Overall: 30/40.
Gaming Gossip: Well, the more things change, the more things stay the same, in terms of Quartermann still serving up piping hot cups of gaming gossip in these cold winter months. Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case they’re cold refreshing glasses of gaming gossip.
- So, in the process of green lighting the 32X and Sega Saturn, Sega’s also canceled all first party development for the Sega CD. Hit! Helluva way to show confidence in your disk system. Though, considering the massive amounts of negative attention the Sega CD specifically is getting from Capitol Hill, and that the system is a year older in Japan than it is in the US, I’m not too surprised.
- The Saturn is going to have a 32-bit CPU with a 64-bit GPU (Graphics Processor). Miss! The system actually had two 32-bit GPUs working in tandem.
- Retailers are basically treating MA-17 games for the Genesis like AO games are treated now. I’m going to have to take their word for it, because I unfortunately didn’t own any 16-bit systems during this console generation, and didn’t get a Playstation until after the PS2 had come out. The first “Current gen” system I’d owned was a PS2 and a X-Box. I’m now semi-current with my PS3 (I haven’t gotten a 360 yet, though I’ll get one once I’m employed again or if this blog starts paying for itself), but I digress. So, anyway… Hit!
Batting Average: 2 for 3 (with one grudging) so thats a .666 rating. How metal of you, Q-Mann.
Press Start – News: We get more discussion about the “64-bit processor” for the Saturn, and also the first rumors of Sony’s upcoming Playstation system. We also have previews of the new 3rd party controllers for the Genesis, one from Suncom and one from STD. Really, change the name of your company!
Arcade Action: They’ve changed the name of their arcade game column. Namco has a new racing game with Cybersled, the fighting game Power Instinct from Atlus, Konami has the post-apocalyptic brawler Violent Storm, Kaneko’s got an arcade version of Bonk, Kaneko has the fighting game Blood Warrior, Irem has the brawler Ninja Baseball Bat Man. Sega’s also got a light-gun game based on Alien 3, titled Alien3: The Gun.
International Outlook: Of note this issue is a port of Art of Fighting for the Genesis/Mega Drive & the Super CD-Rom/Duo (which is unfortunately missing the zooming effect on the Genesis version). Yanoman has the strategy RPG FEDA for the SNES, which is a new Fire Emblem game with animated battle . Hudson is putting out Bomberman ’94, and Falcom is putting out Ys IV for the Super CD with anime cutscenes. There’s also Phantasy Star IV for the Genesis, Shien The Blade Chaser for the SNES (with character designs by Go Nagai), Banpresto’s action-RPG Yaiba, and Romancing SaGa 2 (which doesn’t come out in the states). Fatal Fury II is also coming out to the SNES. We also get a in-depth preview of Switch for the Sega CD, which is a very eccentric Japanese puzzle game, and one for Golden Axe 3.
Tips & Tricks: Not much of note, as usual. We’v got the DULLARD code for Mortal Kombat this issue – Down Up Left Left A Right Down at the menu screen, which brings up what is basically the dipswitch menu, and a Game Genie code to turn the sweat into blood for Mortal Kombat on the SNES (though the fatalities still aren’t there), and how to fight Reptile, as well as some new tricks for some of the older Mario games through Super Mario All-Stars.
Next Wave: Alright, the upcoming titles in the US of note is Terminator 2 Arcade for the Genesis & SNES and The Untouchables for the SNES. There’s also Double Switch, the spiritual sequel to Night Trap for good and for ill. We also have a look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters for the Genesis (which is very different from the SNES version – for starters having a different roster, with the inclusion of more comic characters, like Casey Jones). Out of this World is getting ported to the 3D0. Super Turrican is getting a sequel. Raiden is also getting ported to the Jaguar (and hopefully will look really good and not have any lag when there is are a lot of sprites on screen).
Upcoming Games for 1994: We get a list of upcoming games for 1994 with some screen shots. Of note is Socket from Vic Tokai (their mascot platformer), and the adventure platformer SOS, which is sort of the video game version of The Posidon Adventure. Hudson has Super Adventure Island II
In-Depth Features: Before I get started, I’m going to mention that each preview of each game has a “Good, Bad and Ugly” listed here. This isn’t where I took my review setup for my film reviews, by the way (at least not consciously). We’re starting off with our feature article on Eternal Champions, the game that was suppsed to be the Genesis’ big exclusive fighting game, which fell on it’s face. This is though probably the first game to feature a taunting mechanic, where there’s a sort of super meter that you build up to use special attacks, and taunting decreases that gauge. Anyway, the article feature’s everyone’s move list, including instructions on how to do everyone’s moves using the Activator. We move on to tor our SNES coverage Battletoads & Double Dragon, and the SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. We’ve also got Bugs Bunny in Rabbit Rampage, which is probably the first Looney Tunes game to heavily base itself off a cartoon or series of Looney Tunes cartoons not only in terms of the level design but the tactics for the levels as well. We’ve got a Star Trek: The Next Generation game by Spectrum Holobyte which goes in the same vein of their previous Star Trek action-adventure games. Enix has The 7th Saga a RPG with multple character perspectives.
Data East probably has one of the first Football games to have have the licenced name of a football broadcast, in the form of ABC Monday Night Football. Ubisoft has F1 Pole Position – a formula one racing game, which has a bit of learning curve, though you don’t have to worry about crashing (no, really, that’s one of their complaints – you can’t crash and burn). Spectrum Holobyte has Soldiers of Fortune a Commando style shooter which apparently has repetitive gameplay. We also get screen shots of Wicket 18, which they reviewed earlier in the issue. THQ has a Lawnmower Man licenced game, which is a side scrolling shooter with plenty of cheap deaths from enemies who blend into the background (or you is off camera). Bullet Proof Software has the RPG Obitus, which uses a mix of a Wizardry-style first person perspective and some Ys style side-scrolling segments. Hudson has an Inspector Gadget platformer, and US Gold has a spiritual sequal to Out Of This World in Flashback (which has a similar visual style to Out Of This World, though Flashback on the SNES apparently has sluggish controls).
Continuing with the SNES coverage, there’s a Chester Cheetah Adver-game in Wild Wild Quest from Kaneko, which combines instadeath with sluggish controls. Absolute has a sequel to Super Battletank (which has a “2” at the end with no subtitle and plenty of cheap deaths from helicopters), and Irem has R-Type III for the SNES, and the brawler Undercover Cops. Extreme has Riddick Bowe Boxing, who beat Holyfield for the WBC Undisputed Heavyweight Boxing Championship, WBA and IWF Heavyweight championships until Holyfeld won the latter two back (and had them around his waist by the time this issue went to press), and was stripped of the WBC title (which Lennox Lewis later won). Interplay has the first of their claymation themed games, in the mascot platformer Claymates.
Continuing to the distinguished competition at Sega, there’s this game coming out for the Genesis from this little company you’ve never heard of called Blizzard, who had only had one big hit titled Rock & Roll Racing, has a new co-op puzzle platformer out called The Lost Vikings. Sega has NFL Football ’94 Featuring Joe Montana (no longer titled Joe Montana Football, which is probably for the best). Flying Edge has a Terminator 2: Judgment Day action game, which the AVGN reviewed, and it’s crap, in part because of the horrible controls. Sunsoft has two games based on Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, one an adventure game based around Belle, another is an action game based around The Beast. EA has a licenced car racing game in Lotus II Recs, US Gold has a Winter Olympic Games based around the Lillihammer Olympics, which basically are a collection of mini-games as are most games licenced off the Olympics. We also have more screen shots of Dragons Revenge from Tengen.
Next up is another cart from Tengen in Race Drivin’, a port of their arcade cabinet from waaaayyyyyy back in Issue 1 of EGM, which is almost ready for a home console release. EA has a flight sim game in F-117 Night Storm, based around the stealth fighter, which was new and cutting edge. Tecmo has Super NBA Baseball, which apparently it’s incredibly easy to foul in. Koei’s brought Genghis Kahn II to the Genesis as well. We also have a Fido Dido game, featuring PepsiCo’s second major mascot. Dragon’s Lair is coming to the CD (and probably comes to just about every other game system under the sun, as well as most DVD players. We also have a preview of Lunar: Silver Star Story for the Sega CD, after previously coming out for the Duo. It later came out for the Playstation 1 and is going to be ported to the PSP. We’ve also got the Video action game (in the vein of Mad Dog McCree) Ground Zero Texas.
Speaking of which, we move on to the 3DO and Mad Dog McCree, which has gotten re-mastered and ported to the Wii (and it’s probably a better port on the Wii). The Game Boy is getting a Tiny Toons Adventures game, and a port of F1 Pole Position from Ubisoft. THQ’s also got their own port of The Lawnmower Man for the Game Boy, which has some serious blurring problems (and a totally laughable image of VirtuaJobe) & Duck Tales II. I’m going to take an aside at the moment to post the advertisement for Dragon Strike for TSR – their semi D&D Board game with an interactive video with bad acting. Anyway, we also get a preview of X-Men for the Game Gear, which mis-spells Rogue’s name (the “g” and the “u” are transposed), and one for Deep Duck Trouble a platformer featuring Donald Duck for the Game Gear. Tengen’s also got Chuck Rock II for the Game Gear and Domark has Formula 1: Grand Prix
Lifestyles: Well, the geek toys we’re getting previews of are interesting. There’s the Emmett Kelly Jr. Circus Train – which it doesn’t give a scale for, so it might be the kind of full sized toy train I played with as a kid. There’s also a preview of some of the Lego Stuff, which interests me a little more – the early to mid 90s was basically a renaissance for Lego, with loads of awesome lines from racing to fantasy to pirates to science fiction, all with gigantic playsets. All of which I couldn’t afford. We also have our first glimpse of Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas, and a preview of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and The Punisher: Suicide Run. Before the end of the issue, we get a last minute preview of Mega Man X for the Super NES – the series that carries the franchise from the end of the 16-bit era until the last console generation, until the modern retro revival brought us Mega Man 9. We also get some images of Aero The Acrobat and some arcade game coverage, including Mortal Kombat II, along with a few other games.
Well, that wraps up the longest issue of EGM I’ve recapped thus far. I don’t think any of the other issues will be longer, though I’m looking forward to the next issue of Nintendo Power, which will be going up tomorrow.