The Minority Magazine Report...
Ask Megatron's_Fury what he likes the most about videogames and you may not get the answer you were expecting. In fact it's proably best to not expect anything normal to come from this guy's mouth or mind because he really isnt all there if you know what we mean...
For this feature he goes back to one of his biggest passions to write about something he never really planned in the first place, again see the top paragraph about not trying to work this loon out. Anyway here's something he knows a lot about, take it away...
A tale of two Daves, Well actually of one...
The not so shiny Dave Perry…
Right this may get confusing straight off the bat so let me start off by explaining the differences between the 2 men who would be Dave Perry.
The first up contestant should be well know to you hardcore retro enthusiasts as the man responsible for Shiny Entertainment games such as Earthworm Jim and the many outstanding Virgin Entertainment/Disney games from the Megadrive such as Aladdin. He is a man very much at the foreground of the golden era of gaming and in his career has produced some of it’s most fun moments.
The second man going for the crown is the person seen as the right hand man of Dominik Diamond from Gamesmaster known during those days as Dave ‘The games animal’ Perry. Very much in the same mould as the one true king Julian Jazz Rignall this is a guy who was just a natural at playing games and during the early 1990’s his face and footprints were everywhere in the support media’s outside of the games themselves.
In true RGG fashion it’s at this time that I nicely sidestep the obvious first Disney Dave and go straight into talking about the second man on the list, the bandana wearing geek you see near this text. The reason for this is because he has a vastly more interesting career from where I am concerned and he is so much closer to people like you and me, a geek who got into the games industry from literally being exactly that….. A Geek!
Now once again this is the point where I could easily spend 3 thousand words banging on about his on/off relationship with the Gamesmaster TV show however that’s been done to death so instead I want to focus on my favourite aspect of this man, that being his outstanding contribution to gaming magazines. For this feature I want to focus on one a lot of people simply never even knew existed, you really had to be a fan of the machine to have known about it and it’s one magazine that is very worthy of mention for several reasons, one being a world first.
Today ladies and gents I wish to bang on about a magazine that deserved so much more than it got, like the machine it eventually championed, let’s get to know all about the publication from Paragon Publishing called….. Mega Power!
Dave Perry - Earthworm Jim
Dave Perry - Games Animal
Someone switch the POWER on...
The first issue of this magazine hit the news stands in July 1993 right in the middle of the post Sonic 2 magazine war where every single console available had multiple magazine titles to it’s name competing in what seemed like a never ending expanding sector of print and gaming support media. It was so crazy that publishing houses such as Paragon and Imagine etc all had more than one title available for each machine, they literally all competed against each other and themselves….. Madness!
Because of this we now have so many magazines to talk about, in the UK alone I can promise you we had somewhere in the region of 60 - 80 videogame magazines during the late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s for around 15 -20 machines, you do the math! Even the 3DO had it’s own publication, the Atari Jaguar didn’t though because it was indeed so very shit! That’s how you know it’s one of the worst gaming systems of all time, nobody believed in it enough to make a magazine about it.
Now when you have a market saturation it’s always going to be the case that a lot of these will drop away and fade into the shadows without a passing mention which is what has happened to Mega Power. It’s strange because it actually lasted for 2 years covering 23 issues which is about the average for the non famous or not so well remembered publications and in all honesty that makes sense to me.
The thing is though Mega Power did a few things that should have kept it more in the public eye and even more so with people who claim to be Sega lovers and especially Mega-CD friends. But more on this later…
The rise of the new POWER generation...
1993 was a booming year for anything Sega, they were in the UK at least on top of the world with Sonic 2 released and walking mega drives into houses they were now trying to introduce a new bit of game changing tech with the Mega-CD. Obviously with such a market dominance in Europe Sega knew this was a perfect time for something Nintendo were not ready to combat and to this day that is still very true however internal fighting between Sega of Japan and Sega of America meant it would all end in premature disaster. At this time every single publishing house were jumping at the bit to get involved with this and with an already massive selection of Master System, Gamegear and Megadrive games to talk about a new console meant only 1 thing…. More pages or more mags were going to be needed!
Dave Perry who by this point was a household name for us geeks of the era because of his fame through Gamesmaster TV show and also other well liked magazines was placed in charge of a new product 2 issues into print that would hit the ground running with coverage of an already popular section of formats to talk about but absolutely focused on quickly becoming the focal point for Sega’s new bit of world beating kit. It was a perfect plan and even though everything I just said there is speculation it makes total sense for the time and industry thinking and without clarification from Dave himself im 99% sure this is exactly how it happened and how I would have done things had I been a publishing chief, strike whilst the iron is hot as the saying goes.
In issue 1 through issue 9 things were very much the same as what you would see in other magazines such as Mega or Megatech and of course the mighty Mean Machines however Mega Power had a very 1990’s style to it in that much like Sega Power and Sega Pro it felt very edgy in it’s look with a design that I always refer too as the graffiti art of the games world, the pages were glossy and production values were obviously very high however it felt very close to the man/woman on the street with an urban grit to it, hard to explain in words but trust me it stood out. I guess Dave himself was the real masterstroke here because he himself was a bit like that, he wore bandana’s which for a white dude always looked really dumb however for him it totally worked and his fashion style of biker meets tattoo artist would eventually stand him in great stead for what he did post games industry.
Real POWER means doing things first...
Mega power was clearly at it’s best as a Dave Perry joint (issues 3-10), it just looked like it was his brain on paper, very much a gamer speaking to other gamers in a way that could only have happened during the early 1990’s where the bold and vivid fruit of the loom t-shirts met music genres blending rap and dance together, great days indeed. This however meant that with a fresh look and feel this could be the perfect way to match the TV advertising of Sega themselves who’s Pirate TV campaign was again perfectly suited to the era of fresh and cool, wicked and crucial.
One of the reasons this magazine is for me extremely important is what happened on Issue 4 though when for the first time anywhere in the world a magazine covering Sega was released with a cover mount CD demo disc, this quite frankly was HUGE! Sega games up until this point were obviously on Cartridges so a demo or complete game etc as a giveaway was cost wise impossible only this new tech Mega-CD would allow something like this to happen. Finally after so long the Sega lovers could experience what Commodore fans had been loving for years, what Spectrum, Amstrad 8-bit users had grown up with, interactive playable games. This broke the mould completely and was quite simply a massive industry changing event, sure it was going to happen eventually with machines like the CD-32 and 3DO and Phillips CD-I all on the horizon but that a company who’s primary format was Cartridge a shift to a medium so different was insane, the fact that Paragon Publishing took advantage of this so quickly clearly showed how on the ball they and Dave Perry as editor were.
From that point on (oh by the way Thunderhawk by Core design was the demo) the magazine started to bring in more Mega-CD content which for me at the time was great because after spending 5 minutes with this magazine I remembered how this issue of the mag was the first one I purchased for a console I instantly knew I wanted. When I finally got my Mega-CD I already had something to play as well as Sonic CD…Result! Issue 6 also had attached to it’s cover a quite spectacular 3 game demo from Psygnosis that featured the games of Microcosm and Pugsy and another first…. A mega drive game called Wiz ‘N’ Liz. How they managed to make that happen was only possible through clever coding and the CD format. Mind blown!
All POWER eventually fades...
So when Issue 10 launched with not a design change but the obvious highlight in focus that the magazine was most probably launched to cover everything finally came together. The picture shown somewhere on this article details the banner underneath going from speaking about Sega formats to highlighting that this was where a gamer would go for his/her Mega-CD facts and love.
In my eyes it was at this moment when the final vision the people who created this had was there for all the world to see. Design brief accomplished. It was also where the new Sega console took a central role with even the news section talking more about the CD based games and less about the cartridge ones.
Mega Power was now the first port of call for anyone even remotely interested in the Mega-CD because it was the only magazine that had cover mounted demo’s of said format games and with Sega products so very popular this was an absolute sure fire slam dunk hit right? Wrong! You see by the time the magazine had set it’s focus out the Mega CD had already suffered a very poor UK launch, in fact the entire Mega-CD/Sega CD worldwide release was a botched mess and with games development in Japan already dead by this point all the format would have is American and Europe released titles, Issue 10 which was May 1994 was when the whole games market was beginning to reach it’s stagnant period where new formats were too expensive for customers to invest in and the existing 16-Bit era was starting to look very old.
The same publisher was finding out that this new era of CD based Gaming was not all it was supposed to be and the sister title to Mega power for the Amiga range called CD-32 Gamer was also massively struggling to even get off the ground, this in a region where people loved Commodore.
Seeing that the page count for Mega power was already reduced they carried on regardless and for another 13 issues did all that they could to deliver something cool and unique and for several reasons this was great because it still is the only way to play 3 of the very expensive Mega-CD games Keio Flying Squadron, Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown as they were also cover mounted demo discs.
A unique piece of trivia here is that a lot of the later discs given away were actually from another publication from Paragon called Sega Pro, it’s also why there are two different versions of several demo discs.
Phil King who had worked on the magazine for the majority of it’s lifespan did some fantastic work however the writing on the wall was obvious to almost everyone from probably around issue 8 or so which I imagine is why Dave himself left the role of editor, a man like him who saw things very clearly very quickly went elsewhere, a mixture of his vision and need to be involved with bigger things.
Greatness denied, betrayed by it's masters...
Mega Power was a great magazine that never really had it’s chance to build a legacy based around it’s initial design concept and that’s a huge shame but not because of decisions made from the publisher or the editor’s but because of the subject matter itself letting everything down. The Sega Mega-CD which is widely considered to be a monumental failure and the first part of Sega eventually killing themselves off over a 8 year period through wasting so much money on R&D projects and internal fighting meant that the second and third waves of games for this console either never appeared or just were not what they should have been. So many games in development simply never got released and aside from a small selection of third parties such as Core Design, Psygnosis and Digital Pictures producing a magazine with such little to talk about was hard going.
In all honesty producing 2 years of magazines for a format known to be dead 6 months after launch was astounding work and in my humble opinion worthy of huge praise but the fact they were the people responsible for putting a CD demo on the front of a magazine with playable material for a CONSOLE is something not to be sniffed at, they did this many times over even when nobody seemed to buying the machine, was that arrogance, stupidity or not being able to accept the truth? Probably a bit of all 3 but regardless it was brilliant.
Whilst the majority of people probably won’t ever care about this or the machine itself the Mega-CD is something I love to bits, without Sega showing everyone it could be done how long would it have taken Nintendo to get around to it, they did after all shelve all plans for a CD add-on deeming it pointless for the era, something they were completely right about from a financial point of view but not from a gaming point of view at all.
This whole fiasco eventually gave the world the mighty PS1 of course but that’s another feature for another time but with Philips and 3DO getting everything regarding CD based gaming wrong the Mega CD/Sega CD was the very best example outside of PC gaming in how to take a new media and make it work for gaming, I don’t care if it sold badly because quality and quantity almost never match in the games industry and the best systems don’t always get the reward they so should i.e. Dreamcast, Gamecube, Master System.
What makes a memory...
Again I come back to what makes this mag worthy of your time and why it’s worthy of an RGG feature, the first one I cannot answer for you I’m afraid as like everything in life experiences should always be individual. What I can do however is tell you why it was a no brainer for a feature from both me and for the RGG website…
Firstly this is a mostly unknown magazine for a format shunned that for nearly a third of it’s lifespan had connected to it a real man of his time, Dave Perry, who is easily a perfect example of how bad modern games journalism is, the people gamers of this era flock too are not worthy of tying this man’s shoelaces. I gladly pay homage to him and Julian Rignall as real pioneers of the time in the virgin territory that was console videogame magazine publishing. Issues 1-10 are magazine gold as far as I’m concerned and paint such an interesting picture of a new exciting dawn of gaming.
Secondly this was at one point the only dedicated Mega-CD magazine, sure it had Megadrive reviews in but then the official Sega Saturn magazine also reviewed Megadrive games, this on it’s own made Mega Power special but the issues with the demo’s on it are moments of real joy and wonder, I am lucky enough to own the complete set even though I do not own all the magazines, far from it in fact!
Lastly it’s an RGG feature because it’s not something you will ever see on any other website, sure you may find some facts about the mags and cover scans etc but none of that will make you want to care about it, remember it past the day of looking at it or with luck dig old issues you may have lying around your attic etc. As I write this some of the mags are available on Ebay but are quite expensive so bear this in mind.
To sum up was Mega Power one of the best games magazines ever made? Nope! Would I suggest you all go out and hunt down a full set for yourself? Nope! Did it change the publishing industry? Kind of! Is it important to remember it? Absolutely! Did it have the first commercial band music video on CD in the UK? Yes! Yes it did, the 3 demo psygnosis disc has Broken English By sunscream on it people!
RetroGameGeeks Final Thoughts & the POWER of printed words...
Now we come to my last bit, the part where I normally go for the heart strings moment as is my writing style but I’m not really sure I can do that here because magazine love for retro games is not really something every fan has in them. That’s not a slur of any kind to people who are not like me or share my sometimes weird passions but it absolutely is a smaller section of the retro scene.....But screw it I will give it a go!!!
When you are 19 years old and come from a poor ass family, I say family, more like dysfunctional hell, then you do not have the financial capacity, even when working, to really experience everything you see in a shop. Every row of every shelf just seems to amaze and hurt you with it’s promise of wonder at the expense of heartbreak at lack of ownership. Games magazines much like the games themselves allow each page turn to become kind of like a videogame title with every feature, review and wall of screenshots becoming the levels themselves, at least to a person like me who still at the age off 40 has very much the mind of a child. That’s how it all feels even to this day….. What will be on the next page turn?
A good magazine has it’s own personality which comes across in the writing of the contributors and the editor who put’s it all together to form a final design theme. A realisation of a design concept and if all of those ingredients combine well then the final dish really will be something lovely to taste. This is exactly how I feel about publications such as Mean Machines but I also get huge waves of nostalgia and floods of memories from magazines such as this one…. Mega Power.
If Crash and Zzap 64 clearly showed the 1980’s micro computer scene and Super Play and Mean Machines captured the Golden era of gaming perfectly then Mega Power screamed the 1990’s in general. It was loud, it was brash, it had an urban graffiti vibe, it had fusions all over the place and above all else it dreamed. It dreamed of more games on a new machine that used this future like CD technology, games that would allow us to see moving pictures like never before with music of studio quality on a system connected to a console we already were in total love with. It put it all down on glossy paper with explosions of screenshots, mixed with down to earth gamer to gamer words from people who truly did care.
Reading Mega Power is like hanging out with your friends as a teenager, you’re gonna have tons of fun but something may just get broken!
It allowed us to also actually go one stage further with playing some of these games for the first time and where I’m concerned allowing me to actually play on real hardware with a real controller what Fatal Fury is like on Sega’s CD beast because now even 21 years later some of these games are at prices still very much outside my reach.
So thank you to Dave Perry, the games animal who poured his heart and soul into this and for Phil King who also picked up the batton and ran at overwhelming odds to try and win. They would never get to the destination but the journey was one hell of an adventure I expect. Mega Power is very much the 300 of the gaming magazine world, it never stood a damn chance from forces outside of it’s control, however it made such a series of impacts that for some of us at least, the song of it’s tale will be sung forever!
Here’s to You Dave Perry, Phil King, Mega Power and the tale of the brave 23!