Moving on with the Nintendo Power Recaps, we have issue 41 for October of 1992. Our cover game for this issue is Super Mario Kart, which would go on to spring a very long series of cart racers (and, if you really think about it, also bringing about the Wipeout series). This issue’s letters are all on the topic of how readers got the money for their NES (aside from, you know, asking your parents).

Adventure Island 3 Guide

Master Higgins is back. We don’t get complete maps of each area, but we get maps of at least half the levels in the first two areas, as well as strategies for beating the final boss (which is part of the important part, as well as notes on Stage 3 through Stage 8. (more…)

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My original intention for my next EGM recap was to do a recap of issue #117, but  my copy of that issue was incomplete. So, I’m moving on to issue #120. Our cover story for this issue is WWF Attitude, and it’s autographed by Stone Cold Steve Austin even. Now, while this is EGM’s 12th year, they’re calling this their 10th anniversary issue. That doesn’t quite make any sense with me, but I’ll leave that aside.

Our editorial column for this issue reflects on another of the string of school shootings the nation was contending with in 1998 and 1999, and the worst of the shootings at that – the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. On the one hand, while this was the worst of all the school shootings, to my knowledge any school shootings after that point either didn’t get any media attention, or they didn’t happen. However, this shooting, being the biggest, and because the shooters listened to heavy metal music and developed custom levels for Doom, brought the anti-video game hysteria to a pitch above that caused by the Night Trap hysteria, and wouldn’t be seen again until the Hot Coffee controversy. Thanks to some poorly informed and in poor taste remarks from Littleton’s sheriff that were jumped upon by the New York Times Magazine, it even threatened to resurrect the anti-D&D hysteria, that had died when Patricia Pulling had been discredited. (more…)

Punisher: War Zone movie poster.
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I have a love-hate relationship with Frank Castle. As someone who got into the pulps, especially characters like The Shadow, before he really got into comics, I never really had a problem with a comic book character who killed criminals. Thus, the Punisher appealed to me a little, as the character had a lot in common with characters like The Shadow, in terms of being a grim or mostly silent vigilante who gunned down gangsters. While I recognized that he had to coexist with various Marvel Super Heroes, I’d kind of figured out the sort of “rule of tiers” that the Marvel U operated on, and I figured that Spidey was generally more occupied with the more dangerous super-villains that Frank couldn’t go up against.

The hate part of the relationship comes from the writer whose currently in charge of writing the Punisher in the Marvel Max books-which is when they’re keeping the character at his street-level feel (sort of). I’m referring to Garth Ennis. Garth Ennis writing style feels like he goes for the shock value too often, and he goes for the low brow too often. His writing style also gives me the impression that he hates super heroes. No work shows this better than his run on The Punisher before he went to the Marvel Max version. After the first arc of the Punisher (Welcome Back Frank, which I almost liked), he proceeded to take a dump on every Marvel character he could get away with. He had Frank use Spider-Man as a human shield for The Resurrected Russian when Spidey could have pretty easily taken him. Frank blew Wolverine’s face off and ran him over with a bulldozer. (more…)

Soul Blazer US Box art
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When I was recapping issues of Nintendo Power prior to the release of the SNES, I did a Quality Control review of Willow for the NES, a game which took the action RPG elements of the Legend of Zelda, and combined them with a level & EXP system, like the Y’s games. I thought it was pretty decent. Now that Nintendo Power has brought us to the 16-bit generation, and presented a 16-bit Zelda-alike, I figure it’s time to revisit the genre to see how it’s progressed in this generation. (more…)

We continue on with the Nintendo Power recaps with issue #40, for September of 1992. The cover game for this issue is Felix the Cat for the NES. I find it interesting that so soon after the launch of the SNES, we still haven’t gotten many SNES games on the cover of the magazine. Most of our letters this issue are about where you’d like to take your Game Boy.

Felix the Cat Guide

We also get complete maps of the first 3 stages, as well as power-up notes and notes on stages 4 through 6.

Prince of Persia Guide

Jordan Mechner’s classic acrobatic game has come out on the NES. For those unfamiliar with the game, are the unnamed prince. You have one hour to rescue the Princess from the evil grand Vizier before he either forces her to marry him or kills her. We get maps of levels 4 through 14 and the end of the game. (more…)

Before going further ahead in my EGM Recaps, I’m going to fill another gap in my archive – the gap for issue #110 for September of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. The cover art isn’t too bad in my opinion.

The editorial column for this issue is by John Davidson, and addresses the semi-maturing of games, in terms of the sexuality of characters, though not necessarily the maturity of the stories or the character designs. Well, there are some ways to go until we reach some of the more mature stories we have now, in terms of Mass Effect and Dragon Age (particularly their treatment of GLBT characters), but the game industry has to get the Moral Majority to a point that you can show two men kissing in Dragon Age without having congressional hearings. (more…)

The Hong Kong movie poster for "Election"
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The Triads are a bit of an odd duck in terms of how they decide their new leaders, at least in Hong Kong anyway. While in the Mafia, the second in command (Underboss) ascends to the top spot when the boss dies, retires or is imprisoned, and other organized crime groups determine succession based on family ties, or just having the head of the organization hand-pick a successor, the Triads, at least in this film, pick their new head by a vote of all of the heads of the various crews.

That sets up the backstory of this crime thriller which owes more to The Godfather than to A Better Tomorrow. The two candidates for election when this story begins are the violent, hotheaded Big D, played by Tony Leung Ka-Fai (A Better Tomorrow 3, and several other Johnny To films), and quieter, cunning and devious Lok, played by Simon Yam (John Woo’s Bullet in the Head, King of Killers/Contract Killer co-starring with Jet Li, and the first 3 Young and Dangerous movies). The winner getting not only control of the Triads in Hong Kong, but also the Dragon Baton, a powerful symbol of ones control over the Hong Kong Triad. (more…)

Box Art for Casino Kid 2
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Normally, for my Quality Control picks, I don’t like to pick sequels to stuff I haven’t played. For Casino Kid 2, I decided to make an exception, as from a storyline standpoint, I’m not missing anything. Plus, as I’ve been playing a few Texas Hold ‘Em Poker games, recently, so I’d like to see what a NES gambling game is like.

The Premise:

Casino Kid, the protagonist of the last game, has beaten all the best gamblers in the United States. However, the world remains. Now he must travel the globe, beating some of the best gamblers on Earth at the Roulette wheel, at Blackjack, and at Poker, before facing the King of Gambling at all three games. (more…)

We continue our trek through 1992 in Nintendo Power with issue #39 for August. Our cover game for this issue is Mario Paint. It’s safe to say that it’s not definitely not going to be my Quality Control pick for this issue. The letters selected this issue are about parents who play Nintendo games (some even from the parents in question). Not surprisingly, there are a lot of them, and they tend to prefer puzzle games. There are exceptions – we have one gentleman who has beaten Zelda, Startropics, Crystalis, and Final Fantasy.

Gargoyle’s Quest Guide

So, the spinoff to Ghouls & Ghosts has gotten a sequel. Ghouls & Ghosts, technically, has not. We get maps of the overworld map as well as some of the significant levels (including the training level – yes, there’s a training level to help you get the hang of the controls, which is rather progressive for the time). We also get maps of the areas leading up to the first castle. (more…)

On to issue #113 of Electronic Gaming Monthly for December of 1998. Yeah, that’s another gap in my archive, but that’s okay. Our cover story for this issue is The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time for the N64, which is still one of the best regarded Zelda games of all time, on par with Link to the Past. As a note, the masthead for this issue now includes James “Milkman” Mielke, Ryan MacDonald, and Mark MacDonald.

Our editorial from John Davidson for this issue is on some of the spectacular games they’ve gotten to play at EGM recently. Aside from Zelda, they’ve also gotten to play more of Metal Gear Solid, and they’ve gotten to play Virtua Fighter 3 on the Dreamcast. (more…)

Movie Poster for Iron Man 2Superhero movies tend to do better on the second installment than on the first installment. The Dark Knight was better than Batman Begins. X-Men 2 was better than the first X-Men movie. Part of this is because the writer no longer is saddled with having to set up the hero’s origin story, while also setting up the origin story for the villain as well, and laying down the rules of the setting, and establishing all the characters you’re introducing. Come movie number two, and you (and the audience) already know what the rules are and the hero’s origin. Now you just have to establish a new villain, possibly involving his origin (though, as The Dark Knight showed, not always), and plot the character growth for the returning cast.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying it’s not necessarily as hard as the first outing. (more…)

The title screen for Thunder Spirits for the SNES
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For this week’s Quality Control, I’m going with my second “also ran” from the the pages of Nintendo Power – the Technosoft shump Thunder Spirits. The game is the third game in the Thunder Force franchise, and the only game in the series to get released on the SNES.

The Premise

The forces of the Galactic Federation are not faring well in their century long war with the ORN empire. The Empire has installed cloaking devices on 5 their planets that harbor major bases to shield them from Federation forces, and they’ve designed a special defensive system called Cerebus to keep major fleets from searching for them. The Federation’s only hope is the new LEO-03 “Styx” starfighter, which is small enough to slip through Cerebus’s defenses, but has enough firepower to destroy the Cerebus system and the cloaking devices. (more…)

On with the Nintendo Power recaps. We’re on to issue 38 for July of 1992. Our cover story for this issue is Street Fighter II for the SNES. I will not be doing a Quality Control for that game unless everything else stinks, because it’s Street Fighter, we all know it’s good. We’ve actually got some decent cover art this time, with Guile hitting a high kick. The letters for this issue are general slice-of-life stuff. (more…)

We have another gap in the EGM archives, which takes us forward almost a year, to issue #107 for June of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Turok 2, and this issue also gives us some very nice cover art, in my opinion. Our editorial column for this issue is from John Davidson, who is now EIC for GamePro, which he has significantly re-formed. The editorial column is, as columns often are, about the shape of things to come. The Game Boy Color has been announced, and Sony has introduced some new technology to allow developers to push the PlayStation hardware even further then they had previously.

Letters

So in the several issue gap lay 1997’s April issue, and it’s April Fool’s Day joke, which was one of the most legendary jokes in EGM since the Sheng Long cheat – the All Bonds cheat. For those who are unfamiliar, the cheat was a fake cheat that let you, unlocked a series of skins for Goldeneye 007 for every single prior official James Bond – Connery, Lazenby, Moore, and Dalton. This issue has a series of responses to the “cheat” both positive and negative. (more…)

Box art for The Beatles: Rock Band
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So, a while back I played, and reviewed, the first major rhythm game to be based around a particular rock band – Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. I reviewed it almost a year ago,  and I didn’t think it was all bad. Well, this year I’ve picked up Harmonix’s take on the concept. With the game I reviewed a year ago, Neversoft took the Guitar Hero series, took some of Aerosmith’s hit tracks and put some relevant tracks by other artists around it. Harmonix’s philosophy of game design has a fundamentally different style. Instead, they’re picking some of the best of the best of the band they’re building their game around with DLC for other songs by that band. The band in question? The Beatles. (more…)

The Title Screen for Arcana on the SNES
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The problem with picking RPGs for Quality Control picks is I often don’t have the time I need to give it the consideration it deserves. Normally, when I’m reviewing a platformer or some other, more traditional game, I’m able to beat the game in an emulator in a day – or at least get far enough in the game that I can get a pretty good feel for the game. Not so with most RPGs – so I basically had to play this game over a weekend (though you can’t tell, because I wrote this in advance). (more…)

We’re continuing on to Nintendo Power #37 for June of 1992. Our cover story is Lemmings. No, not the lead singer and bassist of Motorhead, that’s Lemmy – I meant Lemmings. Clean out your ears. The call for letters this issue were for feedback about the changes in the magazine. The responses are generally favorable, though we do get a complaint about the George Column, saying that it’s wasted space that could used be for more strategy guides, adding “I don’t care about two guys opinions on video games”. I hate to bust your bubble mate, but that’s the future of games journalism. The same guy also complains about the comics too. Another letter complains about all the coverage the SNES is coverage – again, I hate to burst your bubble but despite what Nintendo was saying several CES events ago, 16-bit is not a fad. (more…)

We continue on with Electronic Gaming Monthly #98 for September of 1997. No, I still don’t have issue number #100 – I wish I did. Our cover story for this issue is Tomb Raider 2, and they’re playing up the game’s sex appeal pretty heavily. Right inside the cover we have a gorgeous two-page spread advertisement for Final Fantasy VII, of the big cutscene with Sephiroth removing the Jenova statue. While the graphics haven’t aged incredibly well, I still think it looks nice. It’s also one of the few two-page advertisements to heavily and prominently feature an actual screen-shot at that large of a scale.

Our editorial column this issue relates to the fairly heavy coverage that EGM has had of the Tomb Raider games. People are writing to complain because they think they’re, well, under-sexed. However, what Editorial Director Joe Funk brings up is that Lara Croft is one of the first really major video game franchise to feature a female protagonist. Yes, there was Final Fantasy VI – but to be frank that was more of an ensemble piece. I also wouldn’t consider the Valis series for this either, as it’s not a major franchise – as much as I wish it was. (more…)

The movie poster for Dear Zachary
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There are 4 kinds of documentary that I like. There are nature documentaries, particularly of the bent of PBS’s Nature, and David Attenborough’s wildlife programs, as well as the work of the National Geographic Society. There are Historical documentaries, particularly stuff like the American Experience, as well as stuff like the Connections series and some documentaries like One Day in September. There are Journalistic documentaries, such as the material from PBS’s Frontline series, and some of the films that are part of the POV series. Then, finally, there are documentaries that I would describe as Gonzo Journalism. Dear Zachary is one those documentaries.

First, I need to clarify something. Michael Moore’s documentaries aren’t Gonzo Journalism. Morgan Spurlock’s documentaries aren’t Gonzo Journalism. Also, you don’t need to be on drugs to make a documentary that is Gonzo Journalism. Ultimately, Gonzo Journalism, as it was when Hunter S. Thompson came up with it, is the idea that someone covering an event, or witnessing an event, cannot not become a part of the event. Thus, rather then attempt to hang on to some form of clinical detachment, you should become a participant in events. The classic example from Thompson’s work isn’t Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but rather Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. (more…)

The Japanese box art for Xardion
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So, for this week’s Quality Control pick, I chose a mecha action game that had caught my eye earlier in my magazine recaps. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get past the second level, even with the use of save states. This isn’t due to difficulty, precisely, as much as it related to an obstacle in the level that I was supposed to destroy to progress, but the obstacle wouldn’t be destroyed, no matter how much I hit it. So, I really wasn’t able to progress enough in the game to give my opinion of it. Some other people were able to get past this, though, so I know it can be done.

That said, because of my lack of progress, I’m going to withhold judgment on this game for now. What I will do is give my concerns about what I’ve played so far. The game has 3 mechs you can play as. One is a Gundam style humanoid mech, one is more insectoid, and another is shaped like a panther. The panther has machine guns in the shoulders, and the insect has a short-ranged sonic wave attack it can do by whipping its antenna. Of those three types of unit you can pilot, only the humanoid one can attack in a different direction – it can attack straight up. However, the other ones have the advantages that they’re lower to the ground. (more…)

We come now to issue #36 of Nintendo Power for March of 1992. While the cover shows that we have coverage in this issue of Contra III, the game that makes the cover is Darkwing Duck. As much as I like Darkwing Duck (in my opinion it was one of the best early 90s Disney animated TV series), I really think that Contra III would have been a better choice. For this issue’s letters column, the call is for letters asking which Nintendo character you would would want to be. (more…)

This week’s issue of EGM skips several more issues ahead due to another gap to issue #97 for August of 1997, and takes us to another Star Wars cover, for Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi, the first Star Wars fighting game and the last Star Wars fighting game until the Clone Wars fighting game for the Wii. For the editorial column of this issue, we get an piece from Ed Semrad looking back at the history of EGM as the magazine approaches it’s 100th issue.

No, I don’t have their 100th issue right now, so I’m going to have to skip it. Yeah, I feel bad about it to, and trust me, as gaps are filled, I will go back and do write-ups to address the missing issues of the magazine. Anyway, the magazine is evolving, and while Steve Harris is no longer with it, and Ed Semrad is only on board as their Chief Correspondent, and there’s still the matter of being hitched to the potentially debt-ridden mess that is Ziff Davis (I don’t know if it was as debt ridden then as it was at the end of the first generation of EGM). That said, Ziff Davis still has ZDTV at this time. That has to account for something right? No, it doesn’t. Thought it would be absolutely awesome if Ziff Davis had still had ZDTV around the time they launched the 1up Brand, and the 1up Show could have been an actual TV program. Ah well, such is life. (more…)

The DVD Cover for Season 3
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Crime Dramas tend to be serialized, unless they’re not. Yes, that sounds incredibly silly, but it’s generally true. The majority of crime dramas, whether of the soap opera variety or the serialized drama take the Dragnet/Law & Order tack of one case per episode, and it’s wrapped up at the end. Starting in the late 90s we finally started seeing much more serialized procedurals which would stretch a case out over several episodes, to a whole season, to even multiple seasons – with the most notable example of this being Homicide: Life on the Street.

Why am I bringing thus up with a Forensic Detective series that I’ve already reviewed the first two seasons of? Well, that’s because the first two seasons stayed in the standard episodic vein. This season, however, shifts gear to our first serial storyline. Specifically, the case of the cannibal, secret-society hating serial killer the Gormogon. This review will contain some spoilers. This is your warning. (more…)

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There are certain games which lend themselves very well to speed runs, and videos thereof.  For some of them, it’s because the game’s a non-linear game like Metroid, where the player has multiple ways in which they can jump ahead of the path and find various hidden items in the game. For other games, because of their visual style and speed of the game, they just fit in perfectly with this type of video–the classic example being Sonic the Hedgehog. When I saw the maps of Town & Country 2: Thrilla’s Surfari, this seemed like a perfect fit for the latter category, which is why I picked it.

Maybe I should have picked something else. (more…)