The first ever video game magazine issue that I bought and read. The numbering was 01/92 (February/March) even though it was released in December 1991. This was the first Sega-exclusive magazine and this first issue was a one-man-show in terms of the written content (all done by Heinrich Lenhardt, who has already been around in computer and gaming magazines for several years at that point).
The issue starts out with 2 pages of short news blurbs on upcoming games. Specifically, about Alisia Dragoon (Mega Drive), Wimbledon (Master System), Turbo Outrun (Mega Drive), Art Alive (Mega Drive), The Flintstones (Master System), Ax-Battler (Game Gear), Kid Chameleon (Mega Drive), Mario Lemieux Hockey (Mega Drive), Halley Wars (Game Gear) and Terminator (Master System and Mega Drive).
Additionally, there is a list of very short announcements on an Ayrton Senna Formula 1 game for the Mega Drive, a helicopter simulation by EA, Trouble Shooter by Sega, sequels to Sonic and Toejam & Earl and a Tintin (Tim & Struppi) game for the Master System by Virgin.
Noteworthy: at the bottom of the second news page is a mention that “The Immortal” by Electronic Arts shows “needlessly violent scenes”, making it unsuitable for children. As a result, the magazine would be passing on a review of the game.
Game Gear TV-Tuner
Yeah, there actually was a TV tuner for this handheld (costing around 200 bucks). According to the test, reception through the antenna was mainly good in a city while you are outside, but not so much otherwise, which is unsurprising. Getting the TV station you want was fiddly, as you had to manually set the frequency and likely adjust the antenna for decent results. You couldn’t expect to get anywhere with just the regular batteries either, after at most an hour the system would turn off. The tuner also had a video input, so in theory you could also plug in a video recorder, a camera or even a Mega Drive, but due to the size of the screen there wasn’t much you could reasonably do with that.
Each review has a rating box at the end and the two-page reviews also have a small box describing the basic control scheme of the game, with a picture of the controller. The rating box contains some text for positive and negative aspects of the game, the genre, publisher, approximate price and the final rating. Mirroring the school grades in Germany, the rating ranges from 1 (best) to 6 (worst), with an optional “+” or “-“ modifier. To note: The translation of the positives and negatives is as close as I could get it, the wording used for these in German is at times “creative”.
Quackshot (Mega Drive): Positives: Great cartoon graphics. Varied back and forth between the different levels. Low difficulty, good for beginners and young gamers. Negatives: Gameplay without big surprises. Not as many gags as Castle of Illusion. Overall rating: 2
The Lucky Dime Caper (Master System): Positives: Donald Duck game with impressive graphics. The order of the first three levels can be chosen. Negatives: Not especially big. Overall rating: 2
Pengo (Game Gear): Positives: Easy, but appealing gameplay. The iceblock-pushing is original and challenging. Cute music. Negatives: No extras and not much variety in later levels. The imprecise controls can get on your nerves at times. Overall rating: 2-
Decap Attack (Mega Drive): Positives: Freaky game idea with funny effects. Many extras, plenty of levels, solid controls and good complexity. Negatives: The graphics aren’t as strong as some other Mega Drive hits. There’s strong competition in the form of Sonic. Overall rating: 2
James Pond 2: Codename Robocod: Positives: Jump-and-Run with medium difficulty, colourful graphics and several visual gags. Negatives: No passwords, can get muddled for beginners often and the controls could be more precise. Overall rating: 2
Bubble Bobble (Master System): Positives: Cute action game with over 200 levels and lots of hidden extras. Passwords, continues and a brilliant two-player-mode are also on board. Negatives: Some extras and bonus rooms are hidden far too well and can’t be found by regular players. Sometimes there’s a bit of flickering. Overall rating: 2
Asterix (Master System): Positives: Crisp adaptation of the comic book heroes Asterix and Obelix. Playable Jump-and-Run Potpourri with beautiful graphics. A solid amount of levels that lead through different countries. Negatives: With Sonic and Donald Duck there are 2 strong rivals on the Master System. Overall rating: 2
G-Loc (Game Gear): Positives: Nice graphics at first glance… Negatives: …that you have your fill of quickly. Gameplay, demand and long-time motivation are severely deficient. Overall rating: 4
Line of Fire (Master System): Positives: plain shooter with passable graphics. Negatives: Six rather short levels without finesse. Too little variety and excitement. Overall rating: 4
Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive): Positives: Impeccable sequel to a bestseller. Fantasy-brawler with smart controls and a great two-player mode. Beautiful graphics, nice monsters, plays well. Negatives: No significant changes compare to the predecessor. Over relatively quickly with the aid of all continues. Streets of Rage is a strong rival.
Shadow of the Beast (Mega Drive): Positives: Amazing graphics. Negatives: Unimaginative brawler, boring in the long run. There aren’t any passwords or continues, but plenty unfair passages – that sucks. Overall rating: 4
Dragon Crystal (Master System): Positives: Killing monsters and collecting things: enjoyable action-variant with explorer-aspect at the start. Negatives: Not much variety, gets boring relatively fast. Graphics are rather plain. Overall rating: 3
Shinobi (Game Gear): Positives: The graphically best Game Gear module by far. Varied action with a smidge of tactics thanks to the choice of different characters. Negatives: High difficulty: beginners will bite into the Game Gear in frustration. Overall rating: 2
Toki (Mega Drive): Positives: Large and varied action-festival with an unusual hero and (in parts) terrific graphics. Negatives: The high difficulty demoralizes action-greenhorns. Overall rating: 2
Galaga ’91 (Game Gear): Positives: Rousing remix of an action-evergreen. Uncomplicated, but playable and massively fun. The ideal shooter on the go. Negatives: Slightly antiquated graphics. Overall rating: 2
Shadow Dancer (Master System): Positives: Solid action in the Shinobi tradition. Large characters and crisp music. Negatives: Excessively high difficulty. Only 4 not overly long levels and little variety from level to level. Overall rating: 3
Sonic the Hedgehog (Master System): Positives: Sonic pleases almost everyone: Graphics, controls, game idea and flow are impeccable. The changed level-design suits this version very well. There is no shortage of gags and surprises. A must-have for all Master System owners, that like skill based games. Negatives: Relatively few different extras. Continues are hard-earned. Overall rating: 1-
Outrun (Mega Drive): Technologically solid conversion of a classic Sega arcade game. Not too difficult, great music, speedy graphics. Negatives: Looked better in the arcade. The “shake tech” is missing. Additionally, it gets boring after a dozen laps. Overall rating: 3-
As an aside, on the page next to this review, the magazine included a page talking about the Ferrari Testarossa, listing some tech details and mentioning a few books about the car… cause apparently that’s going to be interesting for Outrun players.
Dark Castle (Mega Drive): Positives: none Negatives: Looks really bad, plays even worse and is chock-full of unfair passages. Hot candidate for the award for worst controls that had to be endured in any video game. Overall rating: 5-
Xenon 2 (Master System): Positives: Nice looking shooter with many extras. Negatives: Flickering, stuttering, the gun “jams” and the spaceship steers like a bathtub – completely drowning out the fun. Overall rating: 4-
Sega Chess (Master System): Positives: Many special functions. The computer is a passable opponent and can make move suggestions, if so desired. Negatives: Pretty, but in the long run confusing depiction of the playing pieces. The chess rules are only briefly explained in the manual. Overall rating: 2-
John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive): Positives: Graphically and gameplay-wise the best football simulation in the whole wide video game world. Negatives: Hardly any differences to the first John Madden cartridge. (Author’s note: how little things change, eh?) Overall rating: 1-
On page 50 there’s an overview on different accessories and extras for all three of the Sega consoles. For the Mega Drive there’s the Master System Software Converter, the Control Pad (just the standard gamepad), the Arcade Power Stick, the Infrared Joypad, the Rapid Fire Unit and a SCART cable. For the Master System, they list the Control Pad (the standard gamepad), the Light Phaser and the Control Stick. Lastly, for the Game Gear we have the MasterGear Converter, an AV-cable, the Gear to Gear cable, the TV tuner, the Battery Pack, the Wide Gear and the car adapter.
Joe Montana Football 2 (Mega Drive): Positives: Closeups, League mode and a cheerful reporter provide a great atmosphere. Solid controls and a balanced difficulty. Negatives: Doesn’t play quite as well as the football rival cartridge John Madden ’92. Overall rating: 2
Super Kick Off (Master System): Positives: Fast graphics, many details and sensible game modes. Negative: The playing figures look rather famished. Complicated controls, that aren’t for everyone. Overall rating: 3
World Class Leaderboard (Game Gear): Positives: gameplay-wise demanding golf simulation with realistic 3D-graphics. Three difficulty settings. Four golf courses. Negatives: No game saves. Overall rating: 2
Solitaire Poker: Positives: Small, but well made: Funny puzzle-game with diabolic two-player mode. Negatives: Reaching high scores is a bit luck dependant. Overall rating: 2
F-22 Fighter Interceptor (Mega Drive): Positives: Varied simulation that doesn’t only require the fire button, but also the brain. Fast graphics, freely adjustable difficulty setting, passwords – what more do you want? Negatives: Radar not very visible on the TV screen, setting not for everyone, uncommon gamepad-layout. Overall rating: 2
Heroes of the Lance (Master System): Positives: Good looking. Unusual mix of action, adventure and roleplaying. Negatives: High probability of getting lost and frustrated. Too little gameplay comfort. Knowledge of the English language recommended. Overall rating: 3
Nice to have
A page about different products not really related to video games. A Mountain-Bike, the Apple Macintosh Classic II, a Cross Motorbike, a combined video recorder / portable TV and an early version of an e-book reader (from Sony, reads data from a small format 200 MB CD).
Review the last
Toejam & Earl (Mega Drive): Positives: One of the funniest game cartridges ever. Non-stop gags, funny graphics, funky sound/music and always new levels thanks to the random generator. Suitable for beginners as well. Negatives: In the long run, too little variety for pros, no password system, gameplay a bit slow at times. Overall rating: 2
Half a page on current movies. Turtles – The Secret of the Ooze, The Naked Gun 2 1/2, The Hard Way and Sometimes They Come Back. Additionally, there’s a small box for the upcoming Super Bowl finale.
Tips & Tricks
4 pages of tips for different games: E-Swat, Moonwalker, Fantasy Zone 2 and Super Monaco GP.
“Unter der Lupe” / “Closely Examined”
The last page of content before the preview of the next issue is on the upcoming Mega CD. The article mainly focuses on the far higher capacity of a CD compared to a cartridge and theorises on how that could affect games developed for this Mega Drive add-on (improved graphics, CD-quality music, better 3D due to an additional chip present in the Mega CD…). The release date was mentioned to be around Fall 1992, with the add-on going to cost about 700 bucks, quite a hefty sum.
The second issue was set to release on the 19th of March 1992. One of the topics for it was Ayrton Senna (and the associated racing games on Sega hardware), reviews in the works were Shadow of the Beast for the Master System, Outrun for the Game Gear and Marble Madness for the Mega Drive. A first look at titles for the Mega CD was also announced to be in that issue.