Showing posts with label 90s Video Game Print Ads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 90s Video Game Print Ads. Show all posts

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Low G Man for NES (1990)

Original ad featured in the November 1990 issue of EGM (no. 16).
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Average platformer with gimmicky gameplay

Released in 1990, this game represented the avalanche of ho-hum side-scrollers being pushed out of every corner to take advantage of the Nintendo craze. Sadly, like a lot of titles of the era, it was not a good product. Graphics were below average and music was obnoxious and the whole game rested upon the concept of you freezing your enemies and then spearing them to death.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Street Fighter 2010 for NES (1990)

Original ad featured in the November 1990 issue of EGM (no. 16).
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An average game with some nice publicity

This was just an average side-scroller until someone at Capcom decided to market it as a sci-fi spin-off of the original Street Fighter. In the North American release, the protagonist is named "Ken", just as the famed martial artist of the arcade brawler. Not until that, it was subtitled "The Final Fight" to complicate matters more.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

D-Force for SNES (1992)

Original ad published in the April 1992 edition of EGM (no. 31)

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One of the worst shoot-em-ups for the SNES accompanied by terrible marketing material

This is basically just an 8-bit game with some some polish. Graphics are average, music is average and gameplay sucks. And even though it was one of the first "schmups" for Nintendo's console, it was a far cry from other first-batch games of the era, such as the fantastic Axelay.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Star Wars for NES (1992)

Original ad published in the April 1992 edition of EGM (no. 31)

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The force is strong with this ad

Black on black. There’s little else to say about the aesthetic decision made to promote the mediocre Star Wars game for the original Nintendo home console other that it is uber cool.

Current gamers forget that during the early 90s, the Star Wars franchise was basically dormant. It was past its glory years of the 80s, so a video game based on the original film of the trilogy was basically just an easy cash¡-in for JVC/ Lucasfilm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Golden Axe II for Sega Genesis (1992)

Original ad published in the April 1992 edition of EGM (no. 31)

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A masterpiece of 90s marketing for the Genesis

Following the Conan craze of the 80s, Sega ripped-of  used the movie to inspire the now legendary Golden Axe series. Although the second game of the saga is considered the weakest of the bunch, the artwork you see here was impressive enough to make early Genesis owners dish out 50 bucks for what is basically an identical game to the original.

This is a side-scroller beaten-up. There is nothing outstanding or revolutionary about it. Gamers should remember that the original port of the series was a landmark game for the Genesis/Mega Drive.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Vegas Dream for NES (1992)

Original ad published in the April 1992 edition 
of EGM (no. 31)

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A traditional representation of 90s advertising

Taking a page from the 80s, the early 90s maintained the tradition of text heavy publicity that made a weak effort to convince you of their awesome game. Such one company was HAL, now Hal Laboratory, famous for splattering four adverts in a row in the same magazine, such as the one you see above. This was before that developer made it big with Nintendo, with whom they have cooperated in Earthbound, Super Smash Bros and a slate of Pokemon games, just to name a few.

Anyhow, Vegas Dream was a regular casino game but with an adult twist. As you played one of the four games you would be approached by different people asking you to lend them money, enter specific game-centered challenges, dating, drinking cocktails. You could even get married if your persevered long enough with either your male o female avatar. One other notable feature in the game was the option to continue your game via a password system. The game ended when you reached 10 million dollars in earnings. The music was divisive.

Strangely enough, the game was released in Japan in 1988, but landed in America in 1990 and was advertised all the way until 1992! Somewhere along the was Sony CBS handled some part of the game along the way until HAL America finally brought it to New World territory. A convoluted story to say the least.

Now the actual printed advertisement is very bland. You see a huge fluff piece on the game and only a very few actual screenshots in the right-handed side of the page. This was the norm with most video games of the era, just in this case it makes a “serious” game even more boring.

Vegas Dream for NES print ad copy

Bring the Strip to your neighborhood–and the casino of your choice home to your living room. Set off with your friends to that magical oasis where dreams come true, and fortunes are made and lost. Combining for of the most popular casino games into one exciting package, VEGAS DREAM lets up to four players compete in the Hal Palace Hotel casino. Side bets, sub-plots and a cast of fascinating characters assure non-stop action. Try your hand at Blackjack or Roulette, spin the Slot Machines in denominations from $1 to $100, then take a little break in the action and play a few games of Keno. Loan money back and forth, change to a different game at any time, or save your bankroll to use next time. Take a chance on VEGAS DREAM–odds are you're going to love it. Available April, 1990. 

The Funatic Specialists

7873 S.W. Cirrus Drive, Building 25F, Beaverton, OR 97005
Tel 503/644-4117 
Fax 503/641-5119

Friday, November 25, 2016

Ys Wanderers from Ys III for Super NES (1992)

Original ad published in the April 1992 edition of Electronic Gaming Monthly (no. 31)
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An average game from the printed page to the CRT screen

The third installment of Ys series arrived on the SNES with lots of bang, displaying full-page backcover ads on various magazines during 1992. Sadly, the game is possibly the weakest in the beloved series.

American gamers will remember that Ys was first released on the TurboGrafx-CD and offered an astounding orchestral CD-quality soundtrack (a first for any game). Ys III also delivered a very good soundtrack, but was marred with repetitive gameplay and a very unenven difficulty setting. This is an action side-scrolling RPG, a la The Adventure of Link, The Legend of Zelda's original sequel.

Colorful, but little detail in graphics.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

King’s Field II for PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the October 1996 

edition of Electronic Gaming Monthly (no.87). 

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An enigmatic offering that sparked the Souls craze

Hardcore Demons Souls, Dark Souls, as well as Bloodborne fans know that From Software, the legendary Japanese studios that created those modern franchises, were responsible for a less known but equally important game that cemented what could be called the “unforgiving action RPG”. That game is called King’s Field and its sequel, featured in this post, still garners high esteem among the retro crowd. 

You would never know the link between the Souls series and King’s Field by looking at the ad rolled out in major video game publications during the last quarter of 1996, a time when the PlayStation was working hard to gain its footing in a market dominated—at the time—by Nintendo and Sega. But a game like King’s Field II would be exactly the type of product that Sony’s juggernaut would become legendary for: a game that was a the same time quirky, hard as hell, niche, and rich with lore. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dragon's Fury for Genesis (1992)

Original ad published in the July 1992 edition of GamePro. 

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A forgotten pinball gem with unique graphic visuals

Video game pinball is one of the least popular sub genres of gaming. It has been extremely difficult to find a quality game of this kind since at least the arrival of the PlayStation. Nintendo's DS and other handhelds do feature some nice games of the kind, but nothing I would call memorable. The 16-bit era, however, had three magnificent pinball games. Dragon's Fury was one of the, but you would never know it today.

You see, the problem with this game is that it was a re-release of a very popular game for the TurboGrafx-16 called Devil's Crush. Dragon's Fury is nearly identical, but was only released for Genesis in the early 90s, but with a different name, and distributed by Tengen. Alien Crush, released before Devil's Crush, was just as good and was released as a TurboGrafx-16 exclusive in 1988. These three are the best pinball games ever released for home consoles. The music of the three is superb, as well as the dark graphics and "heavy metal" vibe. NAXAT Soft and Technosoft had a big development role in all three.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat for PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the Holiday 1996 edition of Ultra Game Players. 

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Hard-core RTS action for purists only

Impossibly hard for the PlayStation One, Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat was a port from a real-time-strategy game released for the PC. As all games of the category, it is incredibly difficult to control with console controls instead of a proper mouse and keyboard.

This was the first game of the ever popular Warhammer universe on any PlayStation console, so it deserves some kind of recognition. It was a gutsy move by Mindscape, both the publisher and developer of this release. Other than that, there's little else to say about it. It features better than average music and cutscenes and so-so graphics. It should be reserved for hard-core RTS fans only with lots of patience and time to spare.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Virtua Fighter 2 for Genesis (1996)

Original ad published in the Holiday 1996 edition of Ultra Game Players. 
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A questionable release by Sega

Clinging on the famed near-perfect Saturn version of the arcade game, Virtua Fighter 2 for Genesis represents the greedier side of gaming. By late 1996, most consumers of the original Genesis had moved on to Sega's 32-bit monster. That was the best place for arcade experiences with a home console, considering Sega's best games were still quarter-playable only. So by releasing the uber popular Virtua Fighter 2 on Genesis, the company tried to grab part of the cash still present with hard-core users of the 16-bit market. The ad you see above is both a perplexing and a faithful drawing of this questionable game.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Street Fighter Alpha 2 for Super NES (1996)

Original print advertisement published in the December 1996 issue of Tips and Tricks (no.27)

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Hand-drawn artwork for one of the rarer games on the Super NES

Just some days ago I concentrated on the Street Fighter Alpha 2 for Sony's PlayStation and Sega's Saturn, one of the best 2-D fighters ever made. I only touched on the SNES version. Out of the blue I discovered a very old copy of Tips and Tricks magazine (bonus point: published by Larry Flint) and stumbled upon the advertisement you see above. Undoubtably, it is one of the best printed advertisements I have seen since I started this blog.  

I won't repeat the same things I said about the game just some days ago. This is an excellent fighting game, but its best version is the Saturn release. The Super NES version of Street Fighter Alpha 2 was marred by loading times between fights, character selection screens and other critical moments that made this a sort of a hard buy, considering it came out at the very tail-end of Nintendo's machine timeline. Those load times were caused by a special chip integrated in the cartridge that made possible the graphical prowess this game required. The chip was called S-DD1 and was only used in this game and Star Ocean. The technical stuff related to the functioning of the chip is very complex indeed. It served to better decompress the heavy data streams transferred between cartridge and console. This makes this itineration of Street Fighter one of the most expensive games for collectors of SNES titles.

It's not common for video games to feature a hand-made portrait of one of its most iconic characters as an advertisement. This is of course Chun-Li, and incredibly popular female character in popular culture. Still, the only element of the editorial layout centres around a simple hand-drawn close-up that monopolises the entire page. There are no game-screens and just a small photograph of the box of the actual game. Copy is juvenile and, fortunately, sparse. Chun-Li is featured in the actual background of the image, the text functioning as the foreground. A simple red wall gives the ad three-dimensional feeling that is rarely, if ever, seen in the video game world. 

Another cool aspect of the ad is the artist framed Chun-Li so her eyes hit the central part of the rule of thirds cross-grid. Formally, it could have been just a little bit to the right or left, so her eyes hit the exact point of intersection between lines. That becomes irrelevant when you consider the lower part of the ad and realise the graphic artists did take into account the rules of thirds...and placed the lower intersection of the rule of thirds grid closely to Chun-Li's breast, beside the game box and the white "Teen" ESBR rating (the whitest part of the image, were your eyes naturally flow). Really astute, Capcom.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 for Super NES print ad copy

We dare you to ask her to dance

We're sure Chun-Li would love to show you a few of her dance moves, but step lively. She's been known to step on a few toes. And heads. With Street Fighter Alpha 2 for your Super NES, maybe you can teach hear a thing or two. You can even bust out your favorite Super Move or Custom Combo, just like in the hit arcade game. But don't even think about trying that Macarena thing. We heard she hates that.

Street Fighter Alpha 2

Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Thursday, August 6, 2015

War 3010 The Revolution for SNES (1996)

War 3010 The Revolution literature
Original print advertisement published in the September 1996 issue of EGM2 (no.27)

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Great production values, limited appeal

War 3010 The Revolution is one of the stranger cartridges to appear on the Super Nintendo. It was released and developed by Advanced Productions Inc, an American company we know little about of to this day (other than their offices were located at 1230 Hempstead Tpke, Franklin Square, NY), and it achieved sufficient sales to receive a prequel called War 2410. Other than that, little is known about this turn-based strategy game. It was sold exclusively for the US market.

Now the production values are high. War 3010 The Revolution came out very late during the SNES' lifecycle. This probably led developers to achieve very good visual animations during the actual battles in space the player encounters during the game. The orchestra soundtrack, composed by Steve Melillo, is truly notable. The musician has had a very productive career outside the video game real. But those high production values were not enough to avoid mediocre scores from popular industry magazines back in the day.

The printed ad you see here is not the most creative I've seen. Although the artwork is breathtaking--reminiscent of an Atari space adventure--attractive editorial layout is lacking. What you see here is the classic two-part editorial division. One for the visual elements, the other one for the text elements of the piece. It does have some additional visual elements in the lower-right page of the advert, but they hardly do the game any favors, this being a turn-based strategy game. I would have just featured the art-box of the game and eliminated most of the lower part of the ad. But this a tough sell, considering the boring gameplay of the actual product trying to be sold. 

War 3010 The Revolution print ad copy

War 3010 The Revolution

  • Amazing photo-quality digitized graphics
  • 16-bit stereo symphonic sound tracks
  • Build and command your own space armada
  • Each battle scenario completely different
  • 16 leves of gameplay, with increasing difficulty
  • Easy icon-derive menu system

The Revolution has begun!

For tips and hints call 1-900-420-2WIN
$1.29 per minute, touch-tone phone only. If your are under 18, have your parent’s permission before making this call. 

For orders only call 1-800-404-4334

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gauntlet IV for Genesis (1993)

Gauntlet IV printed advertisement

Original ad published in "KC Joe Montana" issue of Sega Force 
(1993, a supplement to EGM).
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A great game hampered by a terrible printed advertisement

Gauntlet was a very popular arcade back in 1985. It featured primitive graphics by today's standards, but its gameplay was unrelenting, show-casing unforgettable 4-player cooperation.  Its music was superb, as well as the simple premise of the story: go ahead and plough through hordes of monsters to vanquish evil. That's it. This is dungeon hack-and-slashing in its purest form. Hard-core gamers would have to wait until Tengen ported Atari's masterpiece to the Sega Genesis in 1993 to see a close-to-perfect arcade translation for home consoles. Previously, Gauntlet had been sold on practically every major platform.  Most of them were quite mediocre. But the Genesis received an excellent musical score and featured the all-important support of 4-way play. Very few games outside the sports category received 4-player simultaneous support for the Genesis.  Some have called it the best version of Gauntlet ever. Not bad for Tengen, a company that was closely related to Atari, since the latter could not place its brand on their games for the lucrative console market, due to legal restrictions after the famous video game crash of the 80s. The history of Tengen is obligatory for anyone even remotely interested in video games and marketing.

 One last thing, even though this is called Gauntlet IV, there are no previous games for the series for the Genesis. They chose that name so gamers would not get confused with previous versions of Gauntlet released for other consoles in North America. In Japan, the game was just released as "Gauntlet", probably a wiser decision. 

Sadly, Tengen chose a terrible campaign for Gauntlet. Video game magazines of the day ran the text-heavy ad you see above. The problem with this material is that you can't view it as a natural "Z" design. There is no way to follow the traditional "Z" pattern with your eyes. This is more of a "column based" design, where the text and visual elements are clearly separated. Text on the left, photos and graphics on the right. The problem with this arrangement is that unless there is one photograph that is clear and striking, everything else gets muddled up and saturated. Most newspapers know this, and that's why they rarely feature more than one image per story. Tengen tried to include every possible feature of the game in this ad and lost focus of the incredible artwork everyone had come to relate with the series. By this I mean the artwork inspired by Frank Frazetta's work relating to "dark fantasy", where the company is formed by a warrior (Conan clones) accompanied by an elf, valkyre and wizard to traverse a strange world full of twisted creatures.  The ad has no depth, no volume. Everything is presented in a "flat" plane with dubious background colours. I can't help but think the game could have sold much better if the ad had been better. Oh well.

Gauntlet IV for Genesis print ad copy

The legend continues...

With 4 game modes, a 4 legendary adventures at your command, and 4-player action...Gauntlet IV.

The newest chapter in the ultimate fantasy adventure is also the first game to take advantage of the Genesis 4-player adaptors.

  • Arcade Mode recreates the original arcade hit.
  • Quest Mode takes you--and up to 3 other players--on the adventure of a lifetime. Intense role-playing action leads to the mystery at the heart of Gauntlet IV.
  • Battle Mode pits up to 4 players against each other in nonstop medieval combat.
  • Record Mode is a battle against the clock--hone your adventuring skills as Gauntlet IV stats measure how fast and skillfully you advance. 

Gauntlet IV...Set out on the action-packed adventure of a lifetime. And bring your friends!

First game available for Genesis 4-Player Adaptors

Team Player- Multi-Player Adaptor
4-Way Play

  • Choose your path carefully--that door could be the last you ever open. Boo!
  • You want the treasure...but is it worth the risk? Too bad you couldn't become invisible. 
  • A fire-breathing dragon can really ruin your day. Next time bring back-ups!
  • Grab four buddies and crash a Grunt party. Just watch your back!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Street Fighter Alpha 2 for Saturn and PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the December 1996 issue of Ultra Game Players (no. 91).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

A visual 2D tour-de-force with excepcional gameplay

For gamers, Street Fighter is a microcosm of the 90's.  A fantastic series that had ups and downs, flirted with 3D, returned to its graphical roots, and was highly exposed to commercial interests from Capcom. Throughout the decade, however, it maintained its superb gameplay. Even today, when the euphoria for fighting games has died down, these middle of the 90's Street Fighters can be picked up played with enjoyable results. Some would argue that Street Fighter Alpha 2 is the pinnacle of this mindset. One minute to learn, one year to master.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 was released in late 1996 for the most popular 32-bit consoles of the era, meaning PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Of those, purists maintain that the latter is the superior version, being a practically perfect arcade port. There was also a Super NES version of the game, but the dated machine just wasn't technically capable of competing with the newer, more powerful consoles. 

I'm not the one to say if Alpha 2 is superior to the previous versions of the game. Specially when you take into consideration that I loved playing Street Fighter II in the arcades and SNES and later advanced to the excellent Street Fighter II Champion Edition. I will say, however, that I really enjoyed Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the PS2. There's a notable speed difference between the three games I just mentioned, but I don't think the originals suffer from this fact. They are perfectly well balanced, "pure", video game experiences.

As a side note, the Street Fighter Alpha series is actually a prequel to the original games. That's why some of the characters appear younger than, say, in SFII. Other than that, there really in no "story" the gamer should feel he needs to know before trying them out. Street Fighter lore is incredibly complex. Thankfully, Capcom stayed true to the essence of the franchise by publishing a beautiful 2D game during the height of (ugly) 3D fighters for the PlayStation and Saturn like Fighting Vipers, Iron and Blood or even Tekken. For that alone, this game deserves to be remembered fondly. 

Here we have one of the better ads of 1996. Forget the copy and just concentrate on the visual impact of the image. A diagonally crafted advertisement is rare. In this case, Capcom didn't stray from the same box-art of the game. Why should they? In the diagonal we see the game in a nutshell: light versus dark (Ryu vs Akuma), a fight about to break out and the famous character design Street Fighter is all about. Everything is hand-drawn and would look quite good as a poster on your wall. As an added bonus, we get depth-of-field with the hidden Sakura staring straight at the reader. This is advanced framing. Otherwise the image of both men would look too plain, without volume. That simple graphical layer ads huge intention to the overall editorial design. Also, check out the character's eyes: Ryu's are subdued; Akuma's are bright red. But since Ryu's clothes are white, both colours balance out on the printed page. Both of those triggers are the brightest spots on both of the character's drawings.  

Street Fighter Alpha 2 for Saturn and PlayStation print ad copy

Suddenly, things are getting personal.

Now, it's your reputation on the line. And time to leave your mark in this perfect translation of the #1 arcade phenomenon. On your side is the innovative custom combo system, now allowing you to link together your own series of brutal attacks. You'll need every possible advantage to take on a total of 18 fighters, the most ever in Street Fighter legend. Remember, hesitation is deadly. Because in the end, it's all about who's the last one left standing.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bubble Bobble also featuring Rainbow Islands (1996)

Bubble Bobble Rainbow Islands literature
Original ad published in the October 1996 issue of GamePro (no. 97).
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An ad with ingenious copy and stylish execution

Released originally in 1986 by Taito, Bubble Bobble became a stalwart of the arcades during its heyday and at least the beginning of the 90s. The incredibly simple and charming game was ported to practically every electronic device known to man and achieved "classic" status by the time the 32-bit consoles rolled into the stage during the second half of the 90s. That was of course the best time for a shameless rehash of the same game you had been playing for the last 10 years. As a bonus, the 32-bit version of Bubble Bobble also featured Rainbow Islands (1987), the sequel to the uber-popular moe dinosaur video game.

I won't talk too much about Bubble Bobble and its timeless gameplay. If you now anything about video games, you owe it to yourself to play it next with a friend in two-player mode and enjoy the simplicity of it all. What really surprised me about this re-release is the witty copy of the printed-ad. It's a great play on the over-the-top ads of the era, underlining pedestrian aspects of the retro game as if they were awesome aspects in themselves. It tightens the overall visual display of the printed literature, a classic "Z"-shaped editorial layout with a black and white theme. The color is unique to the  actual game-screen. Everything else about the printed material is streamlined to center your attention on the classic game.

Bubble Bobble featuring Rainbow Islands print ad copy

The lost generation of gaming.

For the next generation.

  • Terrifying monsters!
  • Semi-realistic graphics!
  • 100 totally linear levels.
  • 100% rendered black void.
  • 3-D'ish balloons with single light source!
  • Stuffed with pure addictive gaming nectar.
  • You are 6-pixels of bubble-blasting dinosaur with an attitude!

2 classic arcade games in 1

Bubble Bobble also featuring Rainbow Islands

Addiction goes retro!

Acclaim [non-working link]

Pandemonium! for Saturn and PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the December 1996 issue of Ultra Game Players (no. 91).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

Just an average 2.5D adventure game

Crystal Dynamics gained critical acclaim around the time Pandemonium! was released in second have of 1996 thanks to the original Tomb Raider. But the former was a rather bland game with 2.5D graphics, instead of the full-fledged 3-D adventure starring Lara Croft. Such was the faith of this game, which, to the amazement of many, scored a sequel just a year later. Before Pandemonium! and Tomb Raider, the company succeeded in establishing Gex as a popular mascot and series.

If readers are interested in 2.5D action adventures, I recommend the excellent Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PS1, 1998) and Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil (PS2, 2001). You can get the first one over on the PlayStation Network for cheap. The sequel will be more expensive but it's well worth the asking price. Some have called both these games the best platformers ever. I wouldn't called them than, but certainly the best 2.5D platformers, no doubt.

The average game displayed less than average marketing material when released. Here we have a problem of editorial layout. Contrary to the recent Bomberman 8 print ad I review just a couple of days ago, this ad follows the same route but falls flat on execution. We see the same spiral at the right of the page, but here it is done without proper knowledge of the basic fact that our eyes naturally flow towards the brightest light source. Since the brightest source are actually the jester's teeth, they en un competing with the game screen located just below the characters in movement, where your eyes should fall (this is the most important part of any page with a "Z" editorial layout). The colors, by the way, are garish and corny, as well as the characters. It just screams "average game".

Pandemonium for Saturn and PlayStation Print Ad copy

Just because he's a joker doesn't mean he plays with a full deck

Ante up to Crystal Dynamics' fastest, endorphin-based 3D action game. Your team of fellow speed-mongers includes Nikki, Fargus and Sid--an acrobatic wizard, a slightly twisted jester and his maniacal puppet-on-a-stick. Blur through unbelievably spacious levels of their deranged 3D kingdom while shape-changing into a fire-blasting dragon or raging rhino. Just sit down and get taken for a ride, it's pure rocket fuel.


Check out our new website at [working link]

Friday, July 31, 2015

Persona for PlayStation (1997)

Revelations Persona for PlayStation Print Ad
Original ad published in the February 1997 issue of Game Fan (vol V, no. 2).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

A successful introduction of "Cool Japan" in the West

An incredibly popular franchise in Japan, the first Persona game to reach North American landed for the PlayStation just when Sony's machine was starting to gain traction. By all accounts, this "sleeper hit" published by Atlus proved a successful foundation in the West for other Persona games well into our decade.

I won't delve into the mythos and details of the franchise or this game. I don't known the exact details because I have only played one recent Persona game for the PS2. I don't qualify to speak about the game. I can only say that the main series is a very polished JRPG, with enthralling characters that live in between two worlds created by their own Jüngian interpretations. The "persona"--or "mask" in Greek--is the avatar they use to combat the evil seeping from the netherworld into reality. If this all sounds very related to manga culture is because it is. The artwork, personalities, problems and setting of the game is directly related to the franchise manga. I can only assume that the enormous success of the series is linked to the rich Japanese ambient the developers bring into their 3-D worlds. Any one who has visited Japan or at least seen recent movies from that country will immediately recognise the streets of Tokyo, famous landmarks, highschools, social relations, etc. Here's an excellent primer for the Megami and Persona franchises. The series had appeared previously on the SNES, but only in Japan. 

I will say that Japanese culture started booming in the West in the middle of the 90s after both the government and big media and electronic giants realised they should start exporting their products into the lucrative American market. This a well-devised plan that included manga, video games, music, movies and all merchandise related to these attractive and exportable products. This initiative is known as "Cool Japan". It still flourishes today in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  The main objetive of the plan involves strengthening the knowledge of modern Japanese culture outside of its native country. Popular culture, as manga and video games, has spearheaded this ambitious project. 

With that context in mind, Persona seems like the perfect example in shortening the cultural differences between East and West. I can't fathom the huge success the series has garnered without this basic realisation. It's clear that the objetive of "Cool Japan" has been achieved: a good proportion of Westerners are familiarised with the franchise and buy the video games, animes, mangas and figurines that revolve around Persona and the Shin Megami Tensei brands and their offshoots. 

Of course "Cool Japan" doesn't mean the West consumes Japanese culture the same way the Japanese do. Take for example the artwork of the Persona game. Over here we got the more "action-oriented" look of the game (left), instead of the introspective aspect of it (right). This is just a very brief example of how big electronic and media companies adapt their products for the West. "Cool Japan" could not be built another way. Otherwise, we would be in the slippery terrain of "cultural imperialism". No one wants to go there. Least the Japanese. 

Now the artwork of the game printed in Western magazines is something special. Here we see an interesting "V"-shaped layout. Your eyes will naturally fall on the brightest subject of the scene (1); in this case, the demons eyes to the upper-right of the page. But next you'll advance to the lower part of the page, where the actual game screens of the game are presented quite attractively. Your eyes then either follow the right-hand side of the "V" and return to the demons eyes before reading "Persona" or advance ti the large copy of the ad in the upper left, a not very attractive zone in traditional editorial layout. I could argue that the entire upper-left of the page is very much redundant, but considering that this was the first Persona game in the West, it's understandable that Atlus would offer as much information as possible to convince gamers this was a solid JRPG. I think they achieved thus that.

Persona for PlayStation print ad copy

Proof that demons do exist

In the near future, mankind has conquered dimensional travel but the door we have opened swings both ways. The peaceful city you have grown up in has become a haven for dark creatures from another world--Demons! Now it's up to you and your friends to harness the hidden power within you by entering the fantasy game known as Persona.

You awaken with incredible abilities that you will need to defeat the scores of Demon invaders and cleanse the land of their forces. Converse with them before doing battle to determine your best course of action. Fight them or enlist their aid in your mission. Either way, you are set for the fantasy adventure of a lifetime!

Special Features

  • Based on the ultra-popular, mega-hit, Megami Tensei series: first time to hit US shores.
  • 100+ hours of pulse pounding gameplay.
  • Over 300 different monsters to do battle with.
  • Morph any member of your party into a more powerful source known as "Persona".
  • Fight your way to one of many endings.

Persona is the first chapter of the Revelations series. 

Atlus RPG

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mega Man 8 for PlayStation and Saturn (1997)

Mega Man 8 literature
Original ad published in the March 1997 issue of GamePro (no. 102).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

A return to form in the middle of the 3-D era

Mega Man 8 is a contrasting game that made its way to both the Saturn and the PlayStation consoles in 1997. At the time, critics and fans noted the dated gameplay and graphics and very much forgot it until 2008, when the original Mega Man series was revived for modern consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360. This has led to a recent revaluation of Mega Man 8 by both retro and long-time fans of the series (like the chap below).

Around the time this game was released, 3-D graphics were all the rage. The print material you see above was obtained from an issue of GamePro magazine, possibly the most mainstream video game magazine you could buy at the time. About nine tenths of the magazine is dedicated to some form or another of 3-D games. What's striking about this is the tremendous contrast in graphical quality that gamers experienced between the decline of the SNES--with its colourful and defined sprites--and the early onslaught of the first 3-D games. Time has been much more forgiving with the first group of games. By today's standards, the first Saturn and PlayStation products are practically unplayable. 

And that's precisely why Mega Man 8 has become a retro favourite. This was the first time the blue bomber moved in a full 32-bit world. The visual "weight" of the characters is clearly there. Sprites "feel" great, as with most 2-D Mega Man games, in contrast to the floaty 3-D controls of most games of the end of the 90s. This game standa well against Mega Man X (1994) and Mega Man 4 (1992), but is still far in reaching the magnificence of Mega Man 3 (1990) and of course Mega Man 2 (1988). 


Gamers should take note that Capcom saw the enormous potential of the series and began to divide Mega Man--some would say dilute--into different timelines and backgrounds. Besides the original series the company created the aforementioned "X" line of games,  as well as the "Zero", "ZX", "Legends", "Battle Network" and "StarForce". Check out this MegaMan knowledge base for some eye-opening facts about the game. 

Now the printed ad in itself is superb. Following the excellent print ads of the previous games, this material focuses your attention on its the best elements. See that spiral background printed in greyish colours? That's completely intentional, not some trippy PS effect. The spirals close where the brightest point in the ad show Mega Man's famous "charging blast". That's one level of visual reading. 

The next one is the traditional "Z" pattern featured in most professional ads and marketing material. Your start where the first "M" of the title is placed. Scientific tests have long established that your eyes will naturally flow from that initial point to the end of the "Z" if you place your visual landmarks correctly. In this case, you see the buster blast after the title, followed by the famous blue character and finally the screen shots of the game, which almost everybody knew well at the time of release. At the very end you see the copy of the game, which, like most video games, is completely superfluous. All in all, "rockman" solid stuff ;]

Mega Man 8 print ad copy

Mega Man
Mega Myth
Mega Legend

The Blue Bomber's back.

Mega Man 8 Anniversary Collector's Edition

brings you brand new Mega features and classic Mega moves. The whole cast has returned with devious new enemies, smooth animation, and endless customizing upgrades. Plus, the best Japanese anime battle intros available on any platform today! In honor of the Legends 10th anniversary, we've also included a gift with every package. It's a full color collector's anthology booklet of Mega Man artwork previously unreleased in the US.

Welcome back, Mega Man!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

TopGun: Fire At Will for PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the August 1996 issue of Next Generation (no. 20).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

Highway to the crappy zone

Neither a flight-sim nor an arcade-style combat game, TopGun: Fire At Will was pounded by both critics and gamers alike back in the middle of the 90s. It was developed by Spectrum Holobyte, possibly the last game to be released under that old-school brand synonymous of quality PC flight-simulator PC games.

According to Wikipedia, Spectrum Holobyte had a steep fall during the middle of 90's. They were a relatively well-known brand during the Atari days, beter known for their PC games rather than their console efforts. The last year of the company were not pretty:

In 1992 Spectrum HoloByte received an investment from Kleiner Perkins, which let the company repurchase shares formerly owned by Robert Maxwell's companies, ending its ties to their bankruptcies. In December 1993, Spectrum HoloByte merged with MicroProse to form MicroProse Inc. For the following years, games from both companies were published under their respective brands, but in 1996 all titles were consolidated under the MicroProse brand.
Hasbro Interactive acquired the merged company in 1998, and what had been Spectrum HoloByte ceased to exist when the development studio in Alameda was closed in 1999. Hasbro subsequently[when?] sold all the assets of the various Hasbro Interactive studios to Infogrames, including the Atari brand itself.
TopGun: Fire At Will would be the company's swan-song. It encompassed all that was wrong with it during the middle 90s: a mediocre cash-in of a profitable franchise with neither an interesting storyline or entertaining gameplay. Worse yet, it had highly fluctuating difficulty levels (though maybe not as random as the original TopGun for the NES). These were the 90s, so the obligatory FMV were a big part of the selling allure of the game. 

As for the print material, there is really is nothing much to say. The copy is very bland. Everything you see in the frame is fake. Neither the explosions nor the planes themselves hold any kind of realism, just some bad photoshopping. The rule of thirds was ignored by the graphic artists, preferring to underline the FMV screen-shot of a well-known face (actor James Tolkan) where the grid intersects, as well as the game-box and wing of the jet-fighter (why?).

TopGun: Fire At Will print ad copy

Just for the Ass-Kicking, G-Pulling, Bogey-Bashing Thrill of it!

You are Maverick and you've goy your orders on your mind, Commander Hondo on your back and MiGs on your tail. So fuel up. Strap yourself in and let 'em know your bark is to your bite.

Available on PlayStation game console and PC CD-ROM

Spectrum Holobyte (dead link)