The Classic Magazine Special

Electronic Gaming Monthly
The full-page picture of Mega Man on the cover was what first drew me to the magazine on the rack. It was September of 1990, and I was starting the eighth grade in junior high school after a tumultuous but amazing summer vacation to California. I was in the general store on Bowen Island, where my father lived, and I spotted this magazine on the rack. It promised news on Mega Man 3, something which excited me to no end, seeing as how I spent a great deal of the summer enjoying a rented Mega Man 2 at my friend's house. I caught a glimpse of Mega Man 3, yes, but what floored me was the magazine's "International Outlook" article on Japanese games at the Tokyo Toy Show. Until then, I had lived a cocooned videogamer's life; just how Nintendo wanted. However, this magazine revealed to me on that day a whole world of Japanese videogames which I had never conceived existed. It changed the way I thought about videogames forever. EGM was the magazine that first drew my attention to the small but vitally important archipelago just across the Pacific.
EGM Issue 14 Cover.
Next Wave, featuring Shadow of the Ninja.
International Outlook, featuring the first appearance of Sonic!
Famicom games at the Tokyo Toy Show.
Fall 1990 Annual Cover.
The official unveiling of the Super Famicom!
The introductory games for the SFC.
EGM Rates the systems. Who's on top??
I started collecting EGM issues from then on, eagerly awaiting all the international coverage of a scope that none of the other magazines matched. EGM was a great magazine. It had balanced and opinionated reviews, good previews of upcoming games with plenty of colour pictures, and more technical information (CPU speeds, colours, etc...) than other magazines. As the pictures above show, they were packed with information designed to make guys like me drool. (click on the pictures above to see the larger images.)

So, my love for EGM pretty much stayed up until mid-1993 or so. After that, the glut of SF2 stuff and Genesis stuff turned me off. Despite that, I retained my subscription of EGM until about 1997, because I was interested in the SNES and N64 information that EGM had. Still, EGM were by that time merely shadows of their former selves. The magazines had grown to hundreds of pages filled with ads and boring previews. EGM's international coverage had shrunk considerably. They didn't fill pages with pictures of dozens of the latest Super Famicom games like they did with the Famicom. The videogames industry lost a lot of its former youthful glow in the mid-to-late 1990s, what with all the new high-finance competitors coming into the ring. EGM has reflected that decline.

So, I still hold on to my collection of old EGM magazines, and read them whenever I want a narcotic dose of nostalgia. My oldest magazines are getting into worse and worse shape, sadly. So, I decided to scan all the pages of my classic issues before they wrinkled, tore, and crumbled their way into oblivion. I've only done about two dozen pages so far, because scanning and cleaning up images takes a lot of time. However, I thought that I would share some of my images with the public. Anybody hoping to see a glimpse of 1990s videogaming, or wishing to return to that great period of games history will probably appreciate this trip ten years into the past.

Super Play
The best ever SNES magazine was.... BRITISH??!?! YES!!!
The grinning, super-deformed Manga kids first greeted me from their rack when I was browsing through my local newsstand in November 1992. And they were playing... a Super Famicom??!!? Well, actually as it turned out, it was a UK Super Nintendo. This was the premiere issue of Super Play, a magazine dedicated to the UK Super Nintendo, and SNES gaming around the globe. I knew from its Japanese-looking cover and cover-mounted lapel pin that this magazine was going to be very different.

I took it home to meet my folks and fell in love. Super Play was unique, just as the British games world at the time was unique. In most ways, the UK was the worst place to live if you wanted to play Nintendo games. The UK SNES played games 17% slower than the rest of the world, and with large black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Furthermore, UK SNESes locked out games from America and Japan. Worst of all, official UK games took ages to come out, even if they had already been released in English in America. Many games simply didn't appear at all in Britain. The only upshot was that the UK SNES had the same graceful design as the Japanese SFC, so they wisely chose not to utilise the awful look of the US SNES.

Anyhow, the British games market overcame these damning deficiencies by creating a healthy grey import market of Japanese and American games. Adaptors that played foreign games with the aid of a UK dummy cart popped up everywhere. The UK SNES market became cosmopolitan very rapidly, and so they needed a magazine to cover all the worldwide releases. Enter Super Play.

Issue 12, with its great Manga character.
Issue 13, with its great Manga girl.
Issue 24. See a pattern emerging here?
Live from Hell City was a monthly report on cool new things in Tokyo.
Fantasy Quest covered the latest RPG games. Recognize the game?
Anime World covered issues in Japanese animation.
Here are some shots of the first two issues of SP.
Readers would send in their best art. Better than EGM's fans'!
All the latest and greatest Japanese games were reviewed.
The reviewers were sometimes merciless in their reviews of bad games.
Super Play took a decidedly refreshing approach to the Japanese origin of most videogames. Unlike most American magazines and almost all American videogame companies, who bend over backwards to hide the Japanese content from their games, and who replace fantastic Japanese art with awful generic American art; Super Play embraced the Japanese look, covering nearly every page of their magazine with Japanese art, games, and subjects. SP's own art editor, Wil Overton, painted each issue's cover illustration in a Manga style. The editors of Super Play knew that most UK gamers were enamoured with the Japanese look, and so they went with it full bore.

Super Play, like EGM before them, sent reporters to Japan to cover the most exciting Super Famicom games as they were announced. When a major Japanese title was released, it was bound to appear in a review in Super Play. This was a great boon for me, as it allowed me to look forward to when the top SFC games would appear in North America. The reviews really were the best feature of the magazine. Not only did they cover esoteric Japanese titles and major US releases alike, but the whole magazine was loaded with a level of humour the likes of which I'd never seen before anywhere. And it wasn't just some stupid joke like you might find in an issue of GamePro; no, it was smart, perceptive, side-splitting humour. Wry comments were peppered all over the pages of Super Play. They slagged bad games mercilessly, and made hilarious allusions, putting rest to the notion that allusions couldn't be hilarious.

You want proof? I'm afraid you'll just have to pick up a copy of the magazine and read through it yourself. If you click on the images above, maybe you'll catch some of SP's intelligence in the larger pictures. Sorry for the cropped scans, but like most British magazines, SP's page format is larger than American magazines... and my scanner's dimensions. Anyway, I thoroughly loved this magazine every time an issue came out. It was very English in its language and references, something which I didn't mind one bit. I found that the British magazines use a much larger lexicon than American ones, so not only did SP expand my mind, it expanded my vocabulary as well.

Well, because this was an imported magazine, I had to go to the newsstand every month to buy it. Funnily enough, ordering a subscription to Super Play would cost more than just buying it from the rack every month. So, inevitably, I missed some issues. I got every issue except for issues 2, 3, 6, and 19.
Super Play ran for 47 issues, so for almost four years between November 1992 and September 1996. The final issue was a sad and jarring experience. It just said sayonara! abruptly, with some staff remembrances about past issues. There was absolutely no explanation as to why SP had quit publishing. So, I was confused and saddened at the time. Now, though, as I go through all my old issues, I can see why SP's days were numbered. SNES releases per month had trickled down to about eight in 1996, a far cry from the 31 reviews of issue 7. So, the writers had to concentrate more on the N64 and fill the remaining pages with articles, or other fillers. The magazine simply wasn't as "fun" as at the beginning. Writers and staff had come and gone over the years, so there were few, if any, of the original writers left at the end. So, it was about time for it to go. SP's relatively short lifespan was a firm indicator of the shorter life that the SNES enjoyed compared to its predecessor the NES. R.I.P. SNES and SP.

So, if any of the original staff of Super Play ever come across this page, you have my gratitude. Super Play made my life in the 90s very different from what it would have otherwise been.

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