Thursday, January 21, 2016

RGD Reads... EGM #1!

In this series, we will go through retro gaming magazines to enjoy old games press through the glorious lens of hindsight.

First up in this series, Electronic Gaming Monthly issue #1 from May 1989!

Mega Man 2! Ultima! Bad Dudes! Bubble Bobble!

Let’s take a look.

Mr. Steve Harris gives us an update on the condition of the industry in 1989, highlighting the dominance of the NES and “IBM compatibles,” the increasingly realistic arcade machines and game publishers being unable to meet demand for games such as Double Dragon. The most exciting thing of note are the upcoming Sega Mega Drive, PC Engine and Super Famicom launches in the US! Even though the PC Engine has been “taking Japan by storm,” he says that Western developers seem to not have much interest in the platform. Regardless, the 16 bit revolution is within eyesight!

Making it’s way to the top of the list is Blaster Master! It, along with NES titles like 1943, Super Mario Bros. 2, Double Dragon, Adventure Island, and the underappreciated Golgo 13! Representative of the console market at the time, this list is dominated by Nintendo titles with only two coming from the Sega Master System.

1989, in some ways, was a lot like 2016. In 1989, it was exciting to be getting a new Mega Man game, with the release of Mega Man 2 just around the corner. While there are no upcoming Mega Man games to my knowledge, the idea of a new one would feel pretty exciting to me. This is in contrast to the 1990s and early 2000s, when there were way too many Mega Man games to even acknowledge.

I can’t wait to pick up this title to finally pit the legendary Andre the Giant against the Immortal Mike Hogan.

Even though dedicated handheld gaming platforms aren’t as strong as they once were, it is still difficult to comprehend a time in which they weren’t a tent pole of the gaming industry. But here we are, in 1989, prior to the launches of the Nintendo Gameboy and the Atari Lynx, where previously the term “handheld” gaming referred to garbage Tiger handhelds. The games press at the time seems to be cautious about embracing the concept just yet, but that wouldn’t slow down its coming dominance.

Remember that time Nancy Reagan made a violent video game?

The idea of winning 50 NES games in a contest, especially if that lot contained some yet-to-be-released titles, would send any child at the time into a ravenous frenzy. Hell, thinking about it now gets me excited. I think I missed the July 1989 deadline, though.

Ah yes, my favorite part of any gaming magazine. The gossip section, filled with unsourced rumors and hearsay to excite everyone about the near future of the industry. This month, Quartermann discusses the nasty lawsuit between Nintendo and Tengen regarding their unlicensed NES cartridges and the fact that Ultima is the first non-Nintendo developed NES game to use the battery memory backup system to allow save game data. They also briefly talk about the announced console from European company Konix that would ultimately never release, as well as the difficulty in releasing the PC Engine (which would ultimately be known as the TurboGrafx 16 stateside) in the United States.

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the rundown of all the hot games slated for release in 1989! It is broken down by publisher, beginning with Data East USA, hyping their upcoming title Bad Dudes. What no one expected was that the game would be hot garbage.

Next up, Acclaim’s lineup.

After we see what Taito and Jaleco have in store, we get to the large selection of titles coming from Konami/Ultra Games.

I think the description of TMNT being “truly remarkable” is something that many would argue with, but you gotta sell your stuff, eh? (Disclosure: I am not one of those people. I am a proud member of the TMNT NES Defense Force)

Next up is a big rundown of the upcoming hardware releases of the PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Famicom. I won’t dwell too much on this because a lot of it focuses on specs, but imagine what it was like to grasp onto any morsel of information about hardware that many of us wouldn’t see for years.

Next up are the reviews! This harkens back to a time when EGM rated their reviews not with a numbered score, but with phrases like “Hit!” Direct Hit!” “Near Hit!” etc. (1943 is a direct hit, by the way).

Oh no! We’ve hit the top scores, that means this issue has come to a close. Join us next time as we dig into another classic game magazine.

Many thanks to Retro Mags for archiving this issue and tons of other classic game magazines on their website. If you enjoyed this article, head over to their website and browse around.

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