Friday, 5 September 2014

ReMEMBer #4: August 1994 - GamePro Issue #61

Issue #:
Genres:Consoles, Handhelds & Arcade
Review by Clint 'ThoRn' Thornton  -  @RetroGameRevive

In my own opinion I believe that the mid 90's was one of the greatest times to be a gamer.  The console war between Sega & Nintendo was at its strongest with other consoles such as the Neo Geo, 3DO, Jaguar & CD-i all trying to compete and get their slice of the pie.  The 'Sega Saturn' and 'Sony Playstation' were getting closer every day.  Arcades still existed with people lining up at cabinets like Daytona USA,  Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat for their chance at arcade glory.  There were trading cards and comic books being produced all based on video games and kids and teenagers couldn't get enough, and I was one of them.  Technology was rapidly increasing and although many of the products we were introduced to may not have quite been the success the companies were after, none the less we still got to experience all the wonders and the blunders of the video game universe and to me it was all intriguing and exciting.  It was just a great time to be a gamer no matter what age you were!

Although the internet did exist back in 1994 there wasn't much more than a few medical journals and American college resources whilst using a very basic 'Netscape Navigator' (although the first 'Simpsons' fan site was introduced to the world in 1994) so for those wanting to know all about the video gaming world, magazine publications was the only real way to get all the news on the latest consoles, games and tech.  Growing up in Australia I felt we had a great selection of magazines to choose from.  Although we had our own local gaming publications, some of the newspaper and magazine outlets also stocked international magazines from America and UK such as 'Nintendo Power', 'Mean Machines' and one of my favorite reads as a kid 'GamePro' which just so happens to be the publication we will be looking at now, so I hope you enjoy taking a trip down memory lane with me and can ReMEMBer some of those great times from the 90's.

These days when we think of advertisements whilst trying to obtain information regarding our favorite video game we think of those annoying pop windows on the sites we visit or having to sit through 30 seconds of mind numbing ads before watching a YouTube video.  At the end of the day they annoy us and all we want is for them to go away.  So what if I told you GamePro in 1994 was full of advertisements and we loved every cheesy and corny ad in that magazine.  Just goes to show how much times have changed.  I feel it's necessary to at least touch on this subject as they made up a large proportion of the pages inside the magazine.  Take the following 3 advertisements, all slightly different products, each have their own art style and direction and each ad would draw us in so much we could stare at that one page just thinking how cool it would be to own.

Vivid3D - Who wouldn't want 'Streets of Rage 2' sounding like it was coming at you from all angles!
Video JukeBox - Why only have one cart plugged in when you can have 6?

InterAct Game Pads - In the 90's everyone was trying to develop the ultimate gaming pad.
 So....  Where am I going with this you ask?  Well, no where really.  I just think it's important to show this was our primary source of information when it came to the latest and not-so-greatest products to enhance our gaming experiences.  Times have changed and these sorts of ads are now long gone but for those of you who experienced this era I know you appreciated them just as much as I did.  And for those of you who missed out, I strongly urge you to take the time and go check out some of the old magazine ads and as cheesy as they might seem now, back in 1994 the were 'Cool' and full of 'Attitude'

OK, on to the specifics of the issue.....

This issue is full of great reviews for some epic games.  Games of such high caliber like 'Mortal Kombat II', 'Super Street Fighter II', 'Streets of Rage 3', 'Fatal Fury 2' & 'Beauty and the Beast'.....?  OK, maybe we can look past that one but not all games can be perfect 10's.

The feature game of the issue is the mighty Mortal Kombat II.  It covers the game in general but also compares the Genesis/Mega Drive, SNES, Game Gear & Game Boy versions next to the arcade version.  This game was hyped up so much, all 4 cartridge versions were to be released on September 13, 1994 and the day was to be known as 'Mortal Tuesday'.  GamePro managed to ask John Tobias a few questions regarding the conversion from the arcade and although he and Ed Boon did not have any input in to the console versions, when you snag an interview with one of the lead designers for the game, you take it!

One of the biggest questions being asked at the time was what was the Super Nintendo version going to be like.  For those of you who remember the brown sweat and weak fatalities from the SNES version of the original Mortal Kombat which lead to the Genesis / Mega Drive out selling its Nintendo rival there was no way the Super Nintendo was going to make the same mistake twice in a row.  In fact John Tobias actually states the SNES version of MKII was the closest fans could get to the arcade and compares it to the likes of Street Fighter II and Super Smash TV with their great arcade to SNES conversions.

I will openly admit that I am a Sega fanboy and have been since Christmas 1988 when my parents bought me my very own Master System.  So being a fanboy of such, it did not matter what Sega put on the shelves I was going to support it and want it.  So the day I first ready about the Sega 32X, I was already telling mum and dad what I wanted for Christmas.  And where did I first read about this new Sega Juggernaut?  This very issue of GamePro.  So when I had the chance to review a magazine from 1994, there was no question what magazine it was going to be! 

 It might only be a 2-page spread but it was everything plus a whole lot more when it came to satisfying my need for knowing as much as I could about this 'mushroom' looking add on.  When I first read the article I thought "What a great idea giving people the opportunity to upgrade their Mega Drive if they couldn't afford a Sega Saturn in the coming year".  And that's exactly how the article is written but didn't that do a 180 on Sega.  I can't help but wonder what the future of the 32X might have been if it was only released 12 months earlier?  Because when you think about it, it was a pretty impressive piece of hardware and along with the Sega CD it would have had the power to produce games not possible on anything else at the time, not even the 3DO! :)

But unfortunately it was the case of 'too little too late' and people could start to see the cracks forming in the Sega Enterprise and became a little hesitant about what Sega where actually doing releasing such a product only 1 year away from the U.S. launch of the Saturn and not to mention the fact that the Saturn had already launched in Japan by the time the 32X hit the shelves in the U.S. I was only 11 years when I read this article so to me it was just the excitement of something new but for those with a few more years in the video game market than me, they could see the problems and most stood clear of the 32X and let it die on the shelves whilst waiting for their Sega Saturn.

I never did get my 32X as they were $299 here in Australia but I was lucky enough to rent one with 4 of my mates for my 12th birthday and we stayed up all night jacked up on KFC and Pepsi playing the hell out of Star Wars Arcade and Doom.

At the end of the article there is a list of all the developers who looked to be on board for the 32X and it's such a shame that most of them never came to fruition.  Konami being one of them, and yes they did have a Castlevania game in the works for the 32X.  Playmates Interactive - Maybe we could have seen Earthworm Jim make his way to a 32-bit cartridge?  Core Design - Could the visual masters of the Sega CD perhaps had an idea to produce a CD 32X game like Soul Star or Battlecorps for the add on?  Capcom - Just imagine an arcade perfect port of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Unfortunately we shall never really know what could have become of the 32X, but for many of you like me out there we know it was a failure, but what a spectacular failure it was!

Strategy Guides - The honest way to cheat!  Every few months our favorite gaming mag would delight us with an in-depth guide to one of the biggest games of the year.  And in 1994 the Street Fighter Vs Mortal Kombat feud was at it's strongest.  With the home release of MKII just around the corner and Super Street Fighter II only months old on the home consoles GamePro made the most of this and released one of the most comprehensive guides to SSFII Turbo for the arcades and SSFII for the Genesis and Snes without printing a single special move for any character.  This guide was all about the strategy with character stats, CPU win/loss percentages and a step by step guide on how to turn your defense in to on offensive nightmare for your opponent.  The consoles guide might not be as complete but it does have a few tips from the 4 finalist of the SSFII Midwest Championships held in Chicago. 

Not only are you treated to some SSFII tournamnet winning strategies, you are also treated to full review of Sega's 40-meg cart version.  Although it doesn't quite match its Nintendo rival, the amount of content that they managed to cram in to this cart and push Sega's 16-bit workhorse to the max is a perfect reason to give this review to the Genesis and not the SNES.

Although the biggest review for a specific console went to the Genesis, Nintendo still got their fair share of top quality game reviews in this issue too (sorry, I am not going to talk any more about 'Beauty & the Beast).  The three big winners for the SNES this month are 'Fatal Fury 2', 'Double Dragon - The Shadow Falls' and 'The Death and Return of Superman', each game getting a 2 page spread all with solid scores.

But let's not forget what year this is and what other consoles were in the market still competing for that spot on top of the console podium.  Neo Geo got their hands in this month with the 178-Meg 'World Heroes 2 Jet'.  the 3DO got 'Jurassic Park Interactive' and 'Out of this World'.  Why Jurassic Park got the 2 page article and Out of this World only got 1 page, I can't quite comprehend when the 3DO Jurassic Park wasn't really even a game.  But I suppose the movie was still new and people just wanted to get their hands on anything that said 'Jurassic Park'.

The mighty (disappointing) CD-i even got a review in this month and even with a good game.  Yes that's right, there were some good games on the CD-i and this time around it was the full FMV puzzle/adventure/point & click game 'The 7th Guest'.  This to date is still the only console version of this game so at the time it was one of the biggest selling points of the CD-i.

Bonk III: Bonk's Big Adventure for the Turbo Duo was given a quick overview but doesn't quite get as much love as other games previously mentioned as GamePro openly stated this is the same game they reviewed 1 year earlier just with a few more levels because of the CD format allowing for that extra storage space.  Unfortunately by this time the Turbo Grafx / Duo were on the down hill slope and was only a matter of time before we no longer had 'Turbo' games being reviewed in our favorite magazines.

Sorry Atari fans, no love for the Jaguar in this issue.

I have to admit this is probably one of the best editions of what is now classed as a retro magazine because the further you read, the more surprises you get.  Just when you think you are almost at the end of your monthly read (at least before you read it another 10 times throughout the month) you are hit with the 'Special Feature' of the month.  And this month is 'Super Metroid' for the SNES (like I needed to tell you that :).

This little gem is a quick guide to the final steps you need to take in order to get the good ending.  It's short and sweet but precise.  I actually sat down before writing this article and played the final stages of Super Metroid and you know what?  It worked.  I followed the guide to the letter and before I knew it, I was standing in front of a defeated Mother Brain.  I wont go any further in case some of you out there still haven't played through this epic game but I will say this.....  This guide might be 20 years old but last time I checked there haven't been any updates to Super Metroid so it's all still relevant.  So if you need a helping hand it might just be what you need.

Now obviously the main focus on this fantastic magazine are the game reviews and the heavyweight battle between Sega and Nintendo.  But lets not forget about the side dishes that accompany these main meals.  Within the first few pages was something that every Game Genie owner was waiting for...  The CODES!  And it didn't just stop with Game Genie, as you head towards the back of the issue there was S.W.A.T.PRO.  Codes and passwords to all your favorite games and not just Game Genie and Action Replay, there was always your fair share of in game passwords there for you to make your gaming just that little bit easier.

And it didn't stop there, no sir!  As you slowly make your way to the back page of your monthly bible you are showered with guides to the latest peripherals for your console.  A section where you could complain and vent about a game that was p*ssing you off and hopefully get some feedback to make that problem go away.  The latest news on what was happening internationally in the world of video games was there for your reading pleasure.  One of my favorite reads was also tucked away in the back, the PRONews.  This was where you would go to read up on all the up and coming products and also a few bits and pieces of insider information regarding who would be taking the lead role of Guile in the new Street Fighter movie .  And finally but certainly not least.... Ebay.....hrmmmm...well..... It was the closest thing to Ebay before it came along and made the hobby of video games a blood sport among re-sellers asking ridiculous prices for a game that is only worth a couple of dollars!  But i'll save that rant for another day.  The classifieds and trading section was always full of great buys, but unfortunately those outside the US usually missed out on that.

In the end this magazine was full of everything you needed from beginning to end and was read religiously by people all over the world.

In preparation for this review, I have gone through this magazine more times than I can count and the amount of content I could talk about feels endless.  Magazines like this just do not exist anymore and with so much electronic information out there video game magazines almost seem like the last place you would want to go in order to get your news, reviews & previews.  But that is what makes this magazine such an important tool of the time.  When magazines were all we really had, everything you could think of that was game related was in that mag.  The content just felt so vast but in a good way, especially with a magazine like GamePro that covered all current consoles and arcade there was no shortage of information for our senses.  Unfortunately the down side to such comprehensive information is that it's impossible for me to cover all the great stuff that can be found in this issue without me essentially re-writing the magazine cover to cover.  But the upside to this problem is that you can go check it out for yourself right now over at

So until next time.....  Stay Retro!

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