Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Old German game mags (2)

The Video Games was Germany's first game magazine dedicated to consoles in the modern sense, with reviews, previews, etc. It started in early 1991 as a special issue of the home computer & PC magazine Power Play, which itself originated in the not games focused Happy Computer, but like it's mother mag, soon evolved into an independent publication, first quarterly, but from 1992 onwards monthly.

Hurray, in fall 1992, we Germans finally officially got the SNES.

A look at the editorial staff in early 1992. Replace Stephan Englhardt with Heinrich Lenhard and you got all the big names for the early years of German games journalism on one page. Compared to today, there was almost kind of a personal cult around some of those. Imagine a games magazine that advertises its writers with their pictures on the cover, as the first few issues of the magazine PC Player did:

"Games competence by Lenhard & Schneider"

Some of those pioneers are still well known today. Winnie Forster founded Gameplan and publishes encyclopedic books (I think only the Encyclopedia of Game Machines is available in English, but there's also a volume entirely dedicated to game controllers and a company/developer encyclopedia in German). The first book went to its third edition by now.

Boris Schneider (now Boris Schneider-Johne) is also responsible for what might be the first fan translation ever, with his German hack of the C64 adventure Murder on the Mississippi (now there's a bit of trivia to update your translation article with, Sketcz). Afterwards he got hired by Lucasfilm games for their early games (from Maniac Mansion to Fate of Atlantis). Today he's the Xbox product manager for Microsoft Germany.

Julian Eggebrecht of course is (was? I'm not up-do-date what happened after the US "branch" went out of business) one of the leading figures at Factor 5, Heinrich Lenhard founded about half of Germany's computer game magazines in the 80's and early 90's, and later also moved to the US and became correspondent for some of them.

When working with Korean game magazines during the first half of this year, I often chuckled at the many typos for English game titles, but revisiting my early Video Games issues, I was put into perspective quickly. Behold the review of Sol-Deace (EDIT: Oh, turns out the Genesis version of Sol-Feace was actually really titled as such. But the other examples below are still legit and not the only ones).

In another issue I thought for a moment that I had found a mention of a forgotten unreleased game called "Makros", until after a few lines later they wrote the full title "Makros 2036". But worst was "Twinckle Tales", directly below the big, fat logo showing the correct spelling.

Looking back, some of the review verdicts are also hard to comprehend nowadays. Many titles now widely acknowledged as timeless classics got fairly low scores, sometimes with pretty weird reasoning. Interesting was their three-component genre categorization, though. So as you can see below, Quantum Fighter is an Action Platformer with more weight on the platforming (the actual category was "dexterity games", though, so it wasn't necessary for any platforming to be involved).

Sprite of the Month. It might seem now that I'm obscessing with Chun Li, but really, my sources are.

What's that? Didn't remember this ad at all.

Neither did I remember Hudson's 32 bit console prototype. Btw., the mag dedicated a news page to every console manufacturer, titling each of them with an alliteration ("Engine Events", "Sega Special", "Nintendo News", etc.)

Ad for Laguna, a big-ish independent German publisher of Nintendo games. Of the SNES games I own, Breath of Fire II, Soul Blazer, Lord of the Rings and Shadowrun are Laguna published. I remember calling Nintendo's game help hotline and not getting any help with Breath of Fire II. ("That game doesn't exist.")

WTF!? Comic strip in a feature about adult themes in games, originally from Famitsu ('twas Famicom Tsushin back then, right?).

Afterwards I kinda lost sight of the Video Games and only started buying it again regularly at Dreamcast times, when it looked like this:

Video Games was then discontinued in early 2001 (the millenium years 1999-2001 weren't very good to germany's old game mags overall. IIRC, the only early 90's-mag that survived this period was the Man!ac, now renamed just M!)

Before closing this post, I've two questions about games I've rediscovered here:

The caption identifies this game as "Chakan". The Chakan I know is very different, which game is actually shown on the screenshot?

Then there was a preview about Plugsy, Psygnosis' would-be first console only title. I couldn't find any references whatsoever about this game on the web. Is it unreleased, or did it end up with another title?

I should also link to, a great ressource for many of the old German mags, even with full scans of some issues.


  1. Sorry, I wasn't signed in for that. Long time reader and new at blogspot -_-

    But yeah, the only Chakan I'm familiar with is "Chakan: The Forever Man" on the Sega Genesis, and probably Mega Drive I imagine.

    "Plugsy" wound up on the Sega Genesis and Sega CD as well, but without the 'L' as Pugsy.

  2. That Chakan game is actually Mazin Saga, apparently called Mazen Wars in Europe. Wasn't too bad a game, IIRC.

  3. ""Plugsy" wound up on the Sega Genesis and Sega CD as well, but without the 'L' as Pugsy."

    And an additional g, as it turns out, thanks. Interesting, the preview said a SNES version was planned as well, seems that got canned.

  4. Ah yes, I did forget that other g. I've played the Genesis version. It's a decent game, pretty standard platformer. Puggsy is one hell of a weird character, though.

  5. I didn't start buying Video Games every month until early 1995, but it quickly turned into my favourite video game magazine. Thanks to ebay, I now have issues 1/94 through the very last one plus a bunch of old ones.

    What I really liked about them were their specials about Japanese gaming, e.g. RPGs (they had a Japanese guy on the team, Tetsuhiko Hara; check the first entry in this series for more info) and their letter section. Back then, before email and forums, people wrote shittons of letters, and they sometimes filled up to 7 pages with them, some of them about games, some about hardware, and some which were plain weird. Good times.

  6. The "This game doesn't exist" part about Breath of Fire II is funny, 'cause I remember the german Club Nintendo Magazine having a long article about it when it was released xD

  7. I'm almost 100% positive that wasn't in the Club Nintendo mag, I've got all of them and should remember such. Maybe you're confusing it with Lufia II?

  8. I threw most of mine away, really thought to remember there was some even bigger feature about it in another issue... but it is at least in Jahrgang 8, Ausgabe 3, Juni 1996. It's in their "1x1 der Abentuer" article about RPGs on a one page spread. It even has a list of all RPGs/AAs out in Europe on the SNES and Gameboy that also mentions Soul Blazer

  9. I remember some magazine coming with a rather big Breath of Fire II poster; maybe that's where anon saw the article?

    Though I don't remember which mag it was; I wanna say Mega Fun or Man!ac, but I'm not really sure.

  10. I've checked the issues of the whole year now. No seperate coverage, but I found the RPG feature. I definitely should have called her back. (But I guess the people at the hotline just had a catalogue of FAQs for their games, whereas the editorial staff did actual research.)

  11. >>But I guess the people at the hotline just had a catalogue of FAQs for their games, whereas the editorial staff did actual research.

    Yeah, most likely. I just found it funny that you could have heared about that great new RPG from them and when calling their help hotline getting told it does not exist.

  12. i still have some mags from that,
    they even had a article about porn in videogames
    and that was in 1993 ;p

  13. German video game mags love to fill their summer issues with specials about porn or game babes. They did it back then, they still do it now.