Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Retro Gamer 85

A look at the latest issue (actually it came out a few weeks ago)

I want to say, firstly, that I don’t pay for these issues. I receive a complimentary copy when I write an article. In this issue it was a 2 page piece on Portopia, Japan’s first ever adventure game. But since I have the issue, I thought I’d share some screens since it generally quite an awesome mag. Also, they somehow managed to find hi-res Secret of Mana art, which I thought had been lost at Square. Surely that's the most gorgeous cover ever to grace a magazine?

GamesTM’s deputy editor Ash Day has an 8 page article on the Mana series, chock full of obscure information as you’d expect from the former retro ed on the mag.

Also, funny story: on my last day at RG back in January 2007, we had an email from Square-Enix's PR department saying the guy behind Secret of Mana was going to in London the next day and would anyone like to talk to him about his games? Well, with less than 24 hours notice we didn't really have time to prepare, plus I was leaving for a new job, so no one at the office was able to head down to London and see him. EDGE may have made it, but generally it was sloppy, sloppy, sloppy PR work on SQ's part. I won't name names, but he knows who he is, so well done for not informing the press in a timely manner.

There’s a two page feature on an extremely obscure piece of hardware, the Tatung Einstein, written by former editor Martyn Carroll. RG’s new hardware format is now only two pages, which I find is rather a shame. Previously common systems, where coverage is over abundant, used to have 4 to 6 pages, the really cool obscure stuff is stripped down to only a couple, which barely scratches the surface. My interest has always been the unknown, and just as I was really getting into the Einstein piece it ended. I suppose there’s an argument about there not being enough information to fill 4 pages, but I suspect it’s more to do with the always pervasive fear that the bulk of the readers will be scared off by the unknown or less mainstream (a fear which was present even when I was staff on the magazine – despite my best efforts to nix it).

What RG has always done best is its making of articles, where developers talk about their games. This elevates an article beyond superficial nostalgia into a timeless historical document. I’ve always thought there are only two sources you need for older games. RG because it has more developer interviews than anyone else, and Hardcore Gaming 101, because we cover the stuff few others do, in more depth than anyone else does (and we have developer interviews!).

This month there’s Sonic Spinball, Jnr Pacman, Where Time Stood Still and The Pit, which apparently influenced Namco to make Dig Dug, so historically very significant. That’s 4 games which have their inner secrets revealed – you won’t find that in EDGE magazine (and yes, I still begrudge EDGE’s very existence).

Another new aspect which I like is FUTURE CLASSIC. Since it gives an excuse to look at slightly older games which aren’t quite retro yet. Most places have such a perverse aversion to anything which isn’t current, and I find that sad. People talk about older films all the time, released at any time in film’s history, but with games we seem to have this mentality of either only looking at the very old (retro), or stuff which is brand new. So I fully welcome this. Sadly, there were a few readers who have been writing in to complain about Future Classic, and in my view these narrow-minded people are damaging to games as a whole. I look at RG as an almanac of all that isn't right now. So if it's 5 years or older, I'd welcome some intelligent and insightful coverage.

Overall a good issue, even if they hardware coverage is a little too brief.

I don’t have another article due until issue 88 or 89, so don’t expect another one of these for a while, readers.


  1. Dumb question: why doesn't the magazine post the writer credits with the stories? Did I miss your name on the Portopia article?

  2. No I kinda want that issue. Too bad importing magazines is usually too much a hassle to make it worth the effort.

  3. Oh, that reads strange. The "No" was actually supposed to be a "Now".

  4. @derboo
    Yeah, it's very pricey to import to the mainland. That's why I rely on contributor issues.

    Retro Gamer is actually the best magazine I've seen for posting writer credits. They do it for all articles if the writer places his name in the standfirst. They also get a little mugshot in the opening page.

    Mags like EDGE and GamesTM refuse to credit writers.

    My name is right there in the standfirst for Portopia, near the spine. :)

  5. Good God! Leave it to me to miss the credit printed in large black-and-white type. I guess I was looking for one of those mugshots/caricatures that most of the staff have. They pop up every so often for the editorial and review sections, but for some reason I was looking for yours in that article.

    Anyway, I'll have to grab at the look at the article when I go to Borders. It's well scanned, but a scan of a magazine makes me want to have the magazine in my hands to read.

  6. To anyone who has an iPod Touch/iPhone, there is a Retro Gamer app that lets you buy the issues to read on your device for $5 (current issue at time of purchase is free). Around me, the bookstores sell the imported magazine for $10, so if you don't need a physical copy, it is a probably a better deal. Some people complain about crashing problems, but I have never experienced any.

  7. Oooh, shiny! I felt compelled to order that magazine online. I hope it arrives soon. <3 SoM