I have Issues: GamePro

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My mom was a prolific magazine subscriber, and as a result my sisters and I had subscriptions to all sorts of magazines as children. This article is the first in a planned series of looks inside the magazines of my childhood. We’re starting with GamePro, because it’s the only one I read that was available at the comic book warehouse that I went to looking for magazines.

I was an early subscriber to Nintendo Power. I believe my initial subscription predated the great Dragon Warrior Giveaway but I definitely at least renewed then because I got my copy. By the time I moved on from Nintendo to Sega Genesis Nintendo Power wasn’t of much use to me, so I started picking up issues of GamePro. I never had a subscription; it was one that I would grab from the newsstand or Borders.

For this article I purchased the April 1994 (RIP Kurt) issue of GamePro. At this point in the lifecycle of the Genesis I had owned it for almost three years, and I was starting to get away from playing video games. I’d end up getting back into Genesis solely for sports games the following year because the guys on the soccer team played a lot of FIFA, but with the exception of a couple of EA titles and Aladdin, grunge rock had become my primary obsession. Grunge killed heavy metal and video games! Even though music and the horrors of being a Freshman in high school took up most of my brain space, I still occasionally bought GamePro to give me some idea of what was going to be coming out. Without the Internet the only places to get this information were TV commercials, ads in comic books, and video game magazines. Even though I was a casual gamer at best, GamePro still served a purpose for me. With that I’m going to provide a glimpse inside this particular issue of GamePro.

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The first thing you notice is that there are a lot of Sega CD and Philips CD-i reviews in the magazine. GamePro apparently went all in on the next gen systems at this point, even though in my experience that enthusiasm was not shared by the people actually buying video games. Everybody I knew had either a Genesis, Super Nintendo, or both. I can’t think of anybody who had Sega CD, and to this day I have never met a person who dropped the $700 (equivalent of close to $1,200 today) for the CD-i. GamePro was all about both though, and their review section as of April 1994 was almost all CD games. They sure appeared to love MadDog McCree.

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Dragon’s Lair sighting, again for Sega CD! Not as good as MadDog, apparently. Even though I’m sure it was more playable than the arcade version, the console version still featured controls that “(although simplistic) require patience and fastidious timing. You don’t want to attempt this one unless you have lots of time on your hands and an enviable tolerance level.” Sounds like fun!

The other system covered in GamePro that nobody I knew owned was the new at the time 3DO. A 3DO game that caught my eye was The Horde, solely because it starred Kirk Cameron. The coverage of the game even features a short interview with Kirk.

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At this point Kirk Cameron’s public persona is so tied up in being a hardcore evangelical Christian that it’s strange to be reminded who he was to the public before that. Kirk reminds us here that he was an ACTOR, and what he brought to the game was his ACTING. Let’s check out a little bit of that acting right now:

As you might expect from a magazine that only exists to inform you about video games (hey, they should have named it Game Informer!) there are boatloads of ads for games. One such ad is for what appears to be a Super Nintendo game called Claymates. I thought it was called Goopy the Guppy and only through Googling did I discover it wasn’t. I wonder would could have given me that idea.

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I’ve never heard of this game, but it’s the same series that later introduced the ClayFighter series. Claymates was not a game I knew but it’s not really for me anyway, especially since I didn’t own a Super Nintendo so I’ll just flip to the next page and

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GAH! What the Hell, Claymates?! Look, if your thing is claymation fish more power to you, but this was not the way to go to market this game. Sega Genesis’s marketing in the 1990s was EXTREME, Genesis does what Nintendon’t and I guess Nintendo’s counter to that was sexy fish centerfolds. Pardon me, sexy fish with human teeth centerfolds. Something about the marketing stuck with Sega since they went on to release Seaman for Dreamcast.

Apart from finding out what will soon be coming out, the reason to buy video game magazines was to learn tricks to advance through games that you owned. If I wasn’t a Nintendo Power subscriber I never would have beaten a single Nintendo game. This particular issue of GamePro included a strategy guide for Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

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I feel bad for the poor sons of bitches who never picked up part two of the guide. They’re probably still stuck on Carnival Night Zone. Speaking of being stuck on, in the shorter tips section of the magazine I spotted this one for Aladdin for the Sega Genesis.

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I happen to own Aladdin for Genesis currently and it so happens that I’ve never cleared the rug race level, not when I owned it in 1994 and not today. Sometime soon I’m going to use the tip above and finally move past the level.

Based upon what I saw in the magazine, GamePro writers weren’t the biggest fans of sports games. They gave a decidedly mediocre review to one of the most popular football games of all time, Tecmo Super Bowl.

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I always assumed that this game was universally beloved so this review took me by surprise. It also seemed to be most critical of hallmarks of the Tecmo series such as the play calling, and criticized it specifically in comparison to games like Madden, which had more robust systems. This ignored that Tecmo filled a different niche and wasn’t designed to be a faithful simulation of football. This isn’t a Tecmo Super Bowl article though so I’m moving on.

Another sports game that caught my eye because of the huge impact it ended up having on sports video games was NHL Hockey 94.

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I’ve written in the past that I preferred NHLPA 93 but the general consensus is that 94 is one of the best sports games ever released, so it’s interesting to see the early assessment here. This also illustrates why I was more into 93, since I transitioned into high school and wasn’t putting the hours that I had previously put in to video game playing. To put it in Boomer-Gen X terms, NHLPA 93 was my Woodstock, whereas NHL 94 was their Woodstock 94. And even though I cast myself as a Boomer here I’m technically a Millennial, though to Zoomers we’re all Boomers.

I’ve covered most of what I had in mind so I’ll just touch on a couple more things. I had to crop the cover image of the issue in order to get the more relevant sections of the photo to display, but had I left the whole thing in you would have seen that this issue featured a section called “LamePro.” I’m too far removed from reading this magazine to remember but I hope that this parody section only existed as an April Fool’s Day prank, because if they included a section of lazy and awful puns in every issue I can’t imagine they would have kept many readers. I’ll give you a taste below, but suffice to say it’s rough.

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One last thing. Near the end of the magazine there’s a breakdown of the most popular Blockbuster rentals for each system. While I did not become a regular Blockbuster patron until college because there wasn’t one near me, I did rent a ton of video games so I appreciate seeing this. I also miss Blockbuster, so any excuse to feature it is a good one.

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That’s GamePro magazine. In future installments when I can get copies of them I’m planning to take a look at Boy’s Life, Sports Illustrated and SI for KidsWizard, GQ, and Esquire. Yes, I read GQ and Esquire in high school. I was an effete snob in training.

What were some of your favorite magazines as a child? Were you into video games? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter

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