It's 4:19 AM and I decide to organize my closet. "Dump all this excess crap," I think to myself. "You'll be able to find things when necessary," I imagine. "Did I take a bunch of meth?" I begin to wonder.
Moments after I start the task though, it all falls apart. I stumble upon a box that hasn't been touched in years, and I immediately stop everything, sit down, in the middle of my catastrophic mess of a walk-in closet, and begin rifling through a box containing all the old videogame magazines I owned as a kid.
I'd completely forgotten I even had a box stuffed full of all these random magazines, none less than a decade old, so the wave of unexpected nostalgia hit me hard. Forgetting about my goal of organizing my closet, I spent the next three hours reading horribly outdated, horribly 90s-era games journalism.
While time constraints and copyright laws prevent me from sharing the entire box of childhood memories with you guys, I did want to show off a few select bits from 1997's GamePro #100. It's a perfect example of why this box of magazines is simultaneously so awesome and so incredibly embarrassing.
Hit the jump for sweet, sad, scary memories.
A Castlevania You've Never Heard Of??!
Yeah, you read that headline right. Apparently back in 1997 GamePro got their hands on a classic 2D-style Castlevania game that you've never heard of!
... Or not. Looks like either Castlevania: Symphony of the Night originally went by the name "Castlevania X: Moonlight Nocturne," or GamePro's translators are goddamn terrible at their jobs. I'm willing to assume the former, but the latter is just as likely.
They're On AOL Too? WHOA!
Proving that they're willing to take risks, GamePro was one of the first magazines to create a presence on this "Internet" thing (that still exists). Way before it became the wildly successful haven for pornography and OK Go music videos that we know and love today, it was a lawless wasteland, populated by angry geeks, middle aged men pretending to be teenage girls, and angry geeks pretending to be teenage girls in an effort to have cyber sex with middle aged men.
Actually, it really hasn't changed all that much.
Now this section isn't really all that different from what a lot of publications were trying to do at the time, but I just love the tone of the whole thing. Back then the 'net was new and full of exciting possibilities whereas now it's just another utility, as amazing as indoor plumbing and as radically different as being able to turn on a lightbulb at night.
Come to think of it, the world was way more rad back in '97.
Speaking of the 'net ...
Online gaming needs a service now?
Before Xbox Live and Sony's service (whose name I can't think of at the moment), and before PC games all came with online game browsers built-in, any game that had an online component was a bitch and a half to set up. Even if you only wanted to play with your brother down the street, you had to know his IP address, be online simultaneously, dial directly to his connection (or the equivalent process if you were using a non-dial-up connection) and hope your connection doesn't spontaneously decide to drop.
And don't even get me started on setting up 8-player Quake games over the 'net.
To alleviate this problem, a number of services sprung up that attempted to do all the hard work for players, offering match making services, low pings (back in the days of dial-up, we played Team Fortress with pings of 300ms AND WE LIKED IT!) and, most of all, really, really stupid names.
None of these services survived very long, but it's sort of funny to see GamePro go on and on like any one of these companies will almost definitely save all life on the planet as we know it. They really were like the Oracle of Delphi, only, like, completely wrong all the damn time.
... And The Actual Games Journalism? Surprisingly Competent!
I was all ready to start ripping apart the magazines reviews for being laughably incompetent games journalism, full of endless hyperbole and review scores obviously influenced by the late 90s' love affair with disturbingly bad 3D graphics, but I have to say, the reviews in this issue are uniformly spot on. Even with 13 years of history coloring my view of these games, I don't think I could add much to these articles.
A perfect example is the above Tomb Raider piece. Most outlets were blatantly gushing about the game and most gamers these days remember Lara Croft's first adventure with rose-tinted glasses. GamePro however, gives it a respectable score while justifiably knocking it for crap sound design and an annoyingly poorly programmed camera.
Another example? A few pages later the mag includes a top 10 list of the "Top 10 16-Bit Action/Adventure Games Of All Time."
I would slight this list for including Super Star Wars instead of Gunstar Heroes, but aside from that flaw this top 10 is spot on. Yeah these things are, by definition, subjective, but I don't think you could find any competent games writers, either now or back then, who would be able to argue against these choices.
The whole magazine has these kinds of well thought out arguments for and against games most of us remember fondly from the very first generation of PlayStation and Sega Saturn software. If I'm left with any question it would be, "Has games journalism actually gotten worse over the last decade?"
As if I didn't already have enough reasons to hate this damn industry.
Laziness and an overwhelming fear of copyright lawyers prevents me from showing off any other images from the mag, but hopefully you dug this look at gaming history. If you guys want more I have archaic issues of EGM (back when it was called "Electronic Gaming Monthly"), Nintendo Power, and a bunch of others. If there's enough demand I could even make this a regular feature — assuming this first edition didn't get The Merc sued into oblivion.
Though, if I did just kill Portland's finest weekly paper, we hope you enjoyed the flash of nostalgia. It cost us our jobs, but it was totally worth it so you could remember middle school.