...And now for something a bit more different, it's time to take a look back at a (somewhat) random issue of an old-school video game magazine from years past. Which is totally different than any of Sherilyn's Starlog lists because...um...because screw it, I say so.
Actually, I've always had a large affinity for video game magazines, particularly the classic ones from my youth, and I've always wanted to give them a proper tribute or highlight, so way not start here? Anyhow, this month we're travelling back to that magical time of September 1993 courtesy of Electronic Gaming Monthly, which I still say was the greatest American video game magazine ever made. And seeing as how I named this column what it is as a tribute to them, it felt quite appropriate to start by featuring some of their work. Notably, this issue featured a revamp in several areas of the magazine, one that lasted a whopping...year and a half. Well, it was exciting while it lasted.
- This being the early-to-mid-'90s, it was pretty much the law back then that every other cover of your video game magazine had to feature a fighting game, be it a Mortal Kombat game, a Street Fighter game, or a game you could bill as competitor to either Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. In this case, the big story du jour was Super Street Fighter 2, Capcom's latest update to the arcade hit that included several upgrades in gameplay and four new characters. It was great, but Capcom was mocked routinely back then for releasing nothing but trivial updates to the same game over and over again for desperate cash grabs, leading to one of the first "The more things change, the more they remain the same" moments you'll see here.
- We open with a letter from the editor (Ed Semrad) about how Nintendo had disappointed him by talking a bunch of hot air, failing to deliver any cutting-edge content, and disappointing in the console market (again, we've come a long way). In this case though, it was Nintendo postponing the release date of "Project Reality" (the early code name for the Nintendo 64) that ticked him off, especially in light of Nintendo's past failed promises to work with next-gen technology. Ultimately, Ed asks why he should bother waiting around for Project Reality and stick playing his musty old Super Nintendo while the Sega CD and the soon-to-be-launched 3DO will usher in a new future of game. So yeah, Ed was kind of an idiot there.
- Now taking a look at reader mail, we see EGM's relatively new feature "Psycho Letter of The Month". Suffice it to say, the name says all. This month's winner came from a reader who addressed those complaining about the lack of blood in the Super Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat by pointing out that the SNES already had one of the goriest games ever...Mario Paint. And of course, he made sure to include photographic proof to back his statement up. And as per tradition, his debauchery won him a t-shirt.
- On to EGM's Review Crew, where Super Bomberman easily won Game of the Month, earning straight 9s across the board. A well-deserved win, but notably 90% of its victory came from its four-player multiplayer mode. In fact, the majority of the crew pretty much seemed to only sing the praises of how awesome the game's multiplayer was (one even said the single-player mode was just "above average"). So the next time you're wondering how we ever got to the point where multiplayer and co-op modes are forcibly wedge into any triple-A game that comes along...well, feel free to blame guys like them. Except for Sushi-X: he kicked ass. Other award winners this month? Plok!, NHL '94, and Final Fantasy Legend III.
- The readers then get to sound off on their top ten games of the month (alongside the editors and a list about video game box art that shames the hell out of what we have today), and here's a shocker: The entire top five spots are devoted solely to various versions of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2. At least Mega Man was able to sneak into the bottom half, albeit with the weakest game in the Classic series. And how did the readers get to vote on their favorite games? Why, with one of America's drugs of choice back then, the 1-900 hotline! And now I'm wondering if any kid actually spent money to call in just to say that the friggin' Atari Lynx version of Shadow of The Beast was his favorite game...
- The Gaming Gossip column comes next, manned by the one known as Quartermann...whom I realized while revisiting this magazine is kind of a massive douche (or at least the persona the writers gave him is). Basically, imagine a video game news outlet written by Linkara's previously-noted '90s Kid, and you have the basic gist of his style. Not to mention the fact that he spat out so many blurbs of rumors per month, the odds of getting things both right and wrong were pretty much equal. This month he speculates that the Sega Saturn would be backwards compatible with the Genesis and cost around $400, neither of which were true. And god, if I ever begin to sound like him, please put a bullet between my eyes. We'll come back to him soon, though...
- And now for a look at the newest cutting-edge technology, EGM reports on Atari revealing the new next-gen console powerhouse that is the Jaguar!!...Yeah, those of you with even basic knowledge of gaming history know how this turns out. Even EGM were skeptical back then, noting that the two games they were able to play weren't very impressive. Needless to say, it wasn't a good sign...although I guess that Tiny Toon Adventures Jaguar game was a better sign. Shame it was never released...
- The section on arcade game coverage takes a look at the then-new 3D Sega brawler Virtua Fighter (referred to back then as Virtua Fighters), and...well, let's just say that simply by reading the article, you can tell that we were very much an easily impressed species when it came to polygons back then.
- So we move on to the "Tricks of The Trade" section (you know, where you went for cheat codes and secrets before GameFAQs existed), and it's here where this particular issue of EGM became a bit (in)famous. See, this issue contained the first-ever publicized sighting of Ermac, the much-rumored secret hidden character in the first Mortal Kombat game. In reality, Ermac was just a combination of a glitch and a shortening by Midway of the term "Error Macro", but the lone screenshot here basically made him into the video game equivalent of Bigfoot. EGM and other gaming mags were then swamped with either questions about how to find Ermac or false hints on how to find him, and after a flurry of rumors, Ermac was finally made into a playable character in 1995's Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3...at which point no one really cared about him.
- I should probably mention the actual cover story on Super Street Fighter 2, if only to provide more proof that Quartermann was secretly just '90s Kid working under a different name. His list for additions that he would've liked to see in SSF2 included such dignified features as "More Blood", "Fatalities", and "More Babes!" as more examples of the quality he brought to gaming journalism.
- Now for some previews, and since again, this was the early '90s, your gaming magazine was also required by law to feature at least one cartoonish 2D platform game starring an anthropomorphic critter in addition to at least one fighting game. Hence why the previews lead off with a look at Ardy Lightfoot, a well-received if now-forgotten platformer for the SNES. But since it was also preferred that the critter in the platformer have copious amounts of "'tude", notable attention was also given to Awesome Possum for the Genesis. And despite having more 'tude and an eco-friendly message (clearly a winning duo), Awesome Possum has since been remembered as one of the more embarrassing Sonic The Hedgehog cash-ins, one notably far less awesome than today's upbeat pop songs would unintentionally have you believe.
- EGM also had a pop culture section around this time as well, catering to the other needs of gamers as well. And as if to date this magazine coming from 1993 even further, we have the big news from Comic Con actually revolving around comic books, people who were actually optimistic for the upcoming release of RoboCop 3, and Apple's launch of the Newton, their crazy idea for a tablet-like device that would let you take notes, send and receive messages, and access on-line services, among other things. Those silly bastards and their wacky imagination, am I right?
- Finally, buried in the back underneath eight pages of black-and-white ads for various mail-order video game services was a look at the Nintendo Shoshinkai, an expo held to showcase various games coming soon for Nintendo consoles. Amongst those was a little game called Fire Emblem for the Super Famicom. It was Nintendo's first 24-megabit cartridge and the third game in the series, but it was a mere blip on the radar for most of us over in the West back then, hence why the game's coverage here consisted only of one screenshot and a single blurb. But after a little game called Super Smash Bros. Melee introduced the franchise to the rest of the world, we finally got to experience the Fire Emblem games for ourselves as Nintendo began to release the games worldwide. And nearly twenty years later, EGM gave the latest game in this once-ignored series, Fire Emblem Awakening, their prestigious Game of The Month award, beating out the likes of Metal Gear Rising and The Walking Dead. Quite an honor indeed...that was rewarded with one screenshot and three slightly larger blurbs!
...Well, it's still progress.
Before we move on, I would like to give a grand amount of thanks to Retromags, the non-profit site devoted to archiving classic video magazines that helped make this possible. So shockingly enough, I suggest you support them and check out what they have to offer. And yes, you can check out the rest of this issue of EGM right here.
But now it's time to move back to the present, so let's move on to some current trailers to potentially snap you out of any nostalgia-induced trances that may have occurred...