Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: A Look at the Past

Friday marks the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game for both the Switch and Wii U. To mark the release I've scanned a few articles of a couple of past Zelda games from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) and one from GamePro. From EGM is a preview and review for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Zelda III), and a review for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

Electronic Gaming Monthly #30

If you're not familiar with EGM's review format let me briefly explain how they were set up. On the first page of their reviews they listed their Review Crew and a short blurb on what each of them has been up to. Then every game had a short overview followed by a few sentences by each reviewer. The reviews were grouped by platform and I had to do some editing to place each review next to the list of reviewers which is why the colors look a bit off. Of course, like most everyone they enjoyed both games, awarding A Link to the Past a gold award and game of the month. Other gold award winners that month include Super Adventure Island (SNES), Rolling Thunder 2 (Genesis), and Mega Man II (Game Boy). Link's Awakening received a gold award but not game of the month. In that issue Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES) was awarded a platinum award and game of the month while other gold awards went to Alien 3 (SNES) and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs (SNES).

Electronic Gaming Monthly #49
Electronic Gaming Monthly #32

From GamePro is a review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past followed by their pro tips for playing the game. They rate games on a five-point scale and use various facial expressions to represent the numerical value. A Link to the Past received a perfect score and while it probably deserved it, I should point out that GamePro was never shy about handing out perfect scores.

GamePro -  August 1992

I'd add my own Legend of Zelda experiences but I've never played more than a couple hours of any Zelda game. I'm sure they're as good as many people say but I grew up primarily with Sega platforms and just haven't taken the time to play many of Nintendo's games. If you're buying Breath of the Wild on Friday I hope you have a lot of fun with it this weekend and thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nintendo's Super System

On March 3rd Nintendo will launch their latest console so this week I'm putting together a few posts of old magazine articles that relate a little to that. Since most of my magazines are from 1989-1993, I've compiled scans about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), also known as the Super Famicom. It hit Japan in November 1990, then North America in August 1991, and every where else during 1992. The first article from Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) is from August 1989 so it's a bit before the SNES release and the information in it didn't all turn out to be 100% accurate, especially the release dates. My favorite part of the article is about the audio technology; the author says "Imagine playing a game with the latest Guns and Roses tune providing the background music. With the Super Famicom, effects like these will be possible..." I'm not sure if they meant the music would have lyrics as well, but we weren't quite there yet. My memory could be failing me but I think just having characters speak a few lines was still a big deal. This article is four pages that I broke up into two parts:

Electronic Gaming Monthly #2 (Part 1)

Electronic Gaming Monthly #2 (Part 2)

I've got two more articles from EGM as they're really my best/favorite source from my magazine collection. This one is a total of six pages with the first three being about the console and the last three covering a few games. For some reason they used white print on a light background for page one so it might be a little difficult to read. The most interesting part of this article falls at the end of the second page and beginning of the third where they speculate about the system's U.S. release. Rumors indicated that the Super Famicom, despite being a new console in Japan, would actually be an add-on to the NES in the U.S. and might be called the NES-SFX. That's certainly a good example of why you should always take rumors with a grain of salt. These scans are from a special issue called Electronic Gaming Monthly Presents The 1991 Video Game Buyer's Guide:

EGM's 1991 Video Game Buyer's Guide (Part 1)

EGM's 1991 Video Game Buyer's Guide (Part 2)

EGM's 1991 Video Game Buyer's Guide (Part 3)

The next article hit newsstands just before the console released in North America. It's from the June 1991 issue and is part of a larger 16-bit gaming article featuring Ken Williams. The spine cuts off the screen resolution which should read 512 x 448 if you're curious. This is a rather straightforward overview, Ken's wardrobe might be the most entertaining aspect here:

Electronic Gaming Monthly #23

Lastly I've got a scan from the third issue of Game Informer when it was produced by Funco, Inc.; Funco ran a chain of game stores that we know today as GameStop. This was written a few months after the console was on store shelves but is mostly about the system specs so it's not the most exciting read:

Game Informer Jan/Feb 1992

Personally I didn't have a chance to play a Super Nintendo until the year 2000 and I've still only played it that one time! I know that's rather late but I had a Genesis and didn't know many people that owned video game systems beyond the 8-bit era during the '90s. The only game I happened to play that day was Family Feud if you can believe that. Not exactly unique but a fun multiplayer game nonetheless and the guys I was visiting really dug the music from that game. If I recall correctly, after Family Feud we moved on to Gauntlet Legends on Dreamcast. Nintendo is still a big believer in couch co-op gaming and Sega's Dreamcast was a good system for that too but today most everyone else is all about going online. We'll have to see how well the Switch does with online gaming, though I expect multiplayer will still be best as a local experience for Nintendo's games. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Gaming Ads: Agetec & Alston Information Research

Originally Agetec was founded as ASCII Entertainment, the American branch of ASCII Corp. I've got a bunch of ads for ASCII and we'll take a look at those in about a month. Agetec spun off the company in 1998 so there aren't too many ads for the '90s. The publisher focused on bringing Japanese console games to the U.S. market and a few of its better known games include Armored Core, RPG Maker, Fighter Maker, and King's Field. It also published some SNK games for the PlayStation and/or Dreamcast, such as Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Metal Slug X, a couple of The King of Fighters games, and The Last Blade 2.

I don't believe Agetec is still in business though I cannot find any sources stating they went out of business. The last retail product it published appears to have been Way of the Samurai 3 for the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It continued to publish after that with a few Nintendo 3DS digital titles on eShop with the last one being released in 2013.

Alston Information Research was primarily a hardware company that made gamepads and distributed Bit Corporation's LCD handheld system Gamate in North America. The basic design of Gamate is reminiscent of the Game Gear but the system's graphics and gameplay are more like the single game LCD handhelds from Tiger Electronics. Based on the ads it retailed for $69.95 while the game cartridges were priced at $15.95.

Agetec albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Alston Information Research albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gaming Ads: Activision

Activision was founded in 1979 by former Atari employees David Crane, Larry Kaplan, and Alan Miller, as well as Jim Levy and Richard Muchmore. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Alan Miller is also one of the founders of Accolade. Many early game companies were founded by former Atari employees as it was one of the few places to get a start at. I believe Activision is the oldest game publisher in North America that is still in the games publishing business as I wouldn't consider today's Atari to be the same company as the original; it's changed hands so many times and at one point was a publishing brand for Infogrames before Infogrames took Atari's name. There are electronics companies and toy makers around today that were involved in video games at one time but have since left the industry. However, I should mention that although Activision the publisher has always existed, its corporate name did change once to Mediagenic and more recently to Activision Blizzard.

With more than 1,000 games published over the past 38 years it's likely anyone who plays video games has played at least one game published by Activision. It has developed and published many of its own games, with early hits including Pitfall!, River Raid, and Hacker, but also published numerous games from other developers. One of its more unique games that I played on the Commodore 64 is Alter Ego. Alter Ego is a text-based life simulation where players begin as an infant and play until they reach the end of their life. The male and female paths, although similar, were actually sold separately so you'd have to buy the game twice if you wanted to experience both sides. I always found the game intriguing as it was very different than any games I had played up to that point. I thought it might not be well known but I just found that a version of the game was released in 2009 for iOS and Android platforms.

Today Activision is best known for the Call of Duty series, publishing the first game from Infinity Ward in 2003. It also publishes Destiny and the Skylanders games, and the occasional licensed game (unfortunately they don't seem to put much effort into those). For a while it did have some other great series' like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and a few Transformers games (from High Moon Studios) but those have either stopped or gone downhill, largely due to developer changes. The publisher certainly isn't struggling, especially not with Blizzard's games being big money makers, but Activision doesn't publish a wide variety of games any longer. Of course, that's also a result of where the industry is today as compared to 20 or even just 10 years ago. With the high costs associated with AAA games it's much easier to bank on the same few franchises year after year once they've become popular enough.

Despite all of the games Activision has published, it didn't advertise nearly as much in the '90s as Acclaim or Electronic Arts did as today's album surprisingly has only 41 ads. The ad I'm posting below is interesting because it's for the Sega Master System. Activision is one of only two third-party publishers (the other is Parker Brothers) for the Master System as most every other publisher was locked into Nintendo's strict policies that didn't allow publishing games on a competitor's platform if they wanted to release games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Activision albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gaming Ads: ActionSoft & Active USA

Going with two companies today since they are both small and I've only got a few ads for each of them.

From what I can gather from the magazine ads, ActionSoft was a developer and publisher based in Illinois that was led by retired military personnel. The company published its only two games in 1986, both simulations: Up Periscope! and ThunderChopper.

Active USA is a company that released unofficial cartridges containing large compilations of simplistic games for 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. Based on the ads it appears that its games were not carried by retail stores and could only be purchased via mail order.

ActionSoft albums: Facebook - Google Photos
Active USA albums: Facebook - Google Photos

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Gaming Ads: Accolade

Bob Whitehead and Alan Miller, two former Atari employees who also helped found Activision, founded Accolade in 1984. Accolade both developed and published games and today are probably best known for the Test Drive games as Infogrames kept that series going after acquiring Accolade in 1999. Other high profile games include Star Control, Hardball!, and Bubsy. The Bubsy games aren't considered to be very good, in fact the two sequels were reviewed quite harshly by critics. Despite that the character Bubsy managed to make a mark in a decade flooded with platform game mascots and Retroism even revived the series in 2015, releasing updated versions of the first two SNES Bubsy games for PC.

I spent a fair amount of time playing Accolade's Commodore 64 games, most notably Test Drive, Hardball!, and Mini-Putt. The first Test Drive is a bit unique as it wasn't about racing against other vehicles around tracks. Instead players had to drive up a mountain at a quick pace while avoiding accidents and the police. Accolade games typically had very good computer graphics in the '80s and Test Drive was no exception. The original Hardball! isn't deep in comparison to today's baseball games, having only two teams, one ballpark, and no season play. For the time though, it could be considered to be fairly realistic and if you were a fan of baseball it was definitely worth playing. Mini-Putt was likely the best mini-golf game on the market in 1987 and possibly one of the best mini-golf games of all time but then there really aren't too many games to compare it to...and maybe it's nostalgia talking but I did have many good times with that game.

Accolade albums: Facebook - Google Photos