As another year has just ended, we take a look back at the year’s highlights: the games, the ezines, magazines, podcasts and other retrogaming activities…
One of the first homebrew games reported in January 2011 was 1,000 Kung-Fu Maniacs. Developed by Alf Yngve and released through Psytronik, the game follows the kung-fu exploits of Master of Awesome as he travels through the Ninja invested city of Blapsville in search of a stolen toy robot. Next up was an interesting demake of Halo. This was a PC game made in the style of an NES arcade platformer by Eric Ruth Games. This author’s monthly classic magazine lookback, Back in Time, kicked off for the new year with its January 1991 edition, featuring the likes of John Madden Football, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Navy Seals and Captive.
February arrived along with an interesting new midzine in the form of SCROLL. Produced by Ray Barnholt, the zine launched with a Super NES 20th anniversary special. As well as the SNES love, there are other articles of interest. Continuing the zine trend was issue 4 of PC Engine Gamer, an online digital retrogaming zine which is naturally dedicated to NEC’s underrated PC Engine console. It’s not very often you will see a magazine digitally preserved and released, so this is a rarety indeed. The digital version of Mega Drive Advanced Gaming issue 3 was released this month with the full permission from its orginal publisher/company, Hugh Gollner/Maverick Magazines. February also marked the conclusion of the 2011 MSXDev game making competition with Heroes Arena, a futuristic tennis style game developed by Imanok, winning the main award, along with ‘Game with Best Graphics’, ‘Most Polished Game’ and ‘Most Original Game’ awards, sharing the latter.
The fine One Man & His Mic returned for a very special Psytronik Software special. Originally released as a bonus extra with the Armalyte PC remake, the podcast was now available as a free download. The updated podcast includes remastered, extended and extra tracks from early Psytronik releases such as Sceptre of Baghdad right up to more recent titles like Sub Hunter, Knight ‘n’ Grail and, of course, Armalyte. The seventh issue of C&A Fan was released in this month. The Polish retrogaming ezine covers the Commodore and Amiga range of computers with news, articles, interviews, reviews and more.
Lotek64, a quarterly German retrogaming zine, released its first issue of 2011 in April with issue 36. Despite receiving massive amounts of coverage across the globe with previews – even a four-page article in Retro Gamer – the Streets of Rage Remake was pulled down from Bombergames’ website just a few days after being completed. Eight years in the making, Sega decided to pull their weight after all the hard work was done. If you can manage to grab a copy of the game then you will experience a remake that is as professional as the original and even improves on many areas. One of the best zines we have come across is RetroManiac, a Spanish retrogaming zine which covers both classic and modern retro with news, previews, reviews and more. With their third issue, they continued the high quality producion and content. C&A Games issue 3 was also released this month. The spin-off from Polish publication C&A Fan is dedicated to Commodore gaming with news, reviews, interviews and more. Hot on the tail of the Streets of Rage Remake was Golden Axe Myth, a PC Windows fanmade prequel to Sega’s classic side-scrolling brawler. There is also an impressive array of extras available with the game, including a professionally produced instruction manual, art book (detailing concept artwork) and an original soundtrack. Classic L337 celebrated its 50th episode this month. The weekly videogaming podcast features the best of both worlds, with Tony covering modern gaming and Scott covering retrogaming. This week’s interviews included Zebbe of Pier Solar (the fabulous recently released Mega Drive/Genesis game)…
May brought us a new Commodore 64 adventure in the shape of The Adventures of Jim Slim in Dragonland, courtesy of Protovision. Commodore Free had reached its 50th issue this month, which is quite an achievement for a ezine. Launched towards the end of 2006, the Commodore dedicated retrogaming zine has been published every month since, with the odd exception. May was also a packed month personally, as this author was asked to come on board the US gaming magazine, GameFan, as one of the Retro Editors to work on the website and soon to be launched retro section in future issues of the magazine itself. Things kicked off with a handful of articles on the website, which covered Road Rash II, The Genesis of EA Sports, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Remembrance of an Arcade Gaming Pastime. With Retroaction issue 5 now deader than a long time dead thing, it seemed natural to publish the planned articles online. First up was Martian Gothic, an underrated PC survival horror from developers Creative Reality.
We continued to publish Retroaction issue 5’s planned articles with the Weird and Wonderful World of Retrogaming feature. When it comes to weird games you can’t get any weirder than the appropriately titled Weird Dreams. To celebrate the X-Men: First Class movie, GameFan published a multi-part retrospective which covered the many X-Men videogames with contributions from three of the Retro Editors, Anthony Earnst, Michael Chrisman and this very author. The new Mega Drive RPG, Star Odyssey, was available to order online. The game, originally known as Blue Almanac, was only previously available in the Japanese market during the Mega Drive’s reign in the 1990s, but was now finally available in all its English translated glory. Although not quite retro by our standards, this author couldn’t resist covering Rebelstar: Tactical Command in GameFan‘s doomed GBA special (hey, it’s almost Laser Squad 2, has a character named Corporal Jonlan and was developed by Julian Gollop – how many excuses do you need). With its 91st issue, Retro Gamer celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog with a foil coated front cover along with a Sonic map and timeline within the folds, as well as a multi-page feature on the blue spiky mammal and others. Following up on our Martian Gothic article, we wanted to find out more about this gothic horror adventure and what better person to ask than Stephen Marley, the game’s script writer and designer?
After quickly starting July off with a GameFan retrospective of Flashback – an all time favourite – things slowed down somewhat this month. Following a lengthy period in hibernation, the NintendoAGE eZine was back with Vol. 5 Issue 1. With Laser Squad being one of my all time favourite games it was inevitable that I would revisit the game. And with issue 5 of Retroaction on definite hold, the planned ‘mega article’ on the game was published in a week long special of articles, starting with a look at the original Speccy game, followed by a look at the various 8-bit versions, the 16-bit versions, the homebrew missions and the remakes.
August began with the release of GameFan issue 6. This was the first issue to feature the newly introduced retro section and new retro contributors. Personal contributions from this author included Best Bits articles on Super Star Wars and Decap Attack. Hoping to quench the thirst for ST magazine preservation, The Atari ST Magazine Archive opened its digital doors this month. A new Hungarian Amiga PDF magazine called Amiga Mania released its first issue. The Best Bits: Pulseman article would turn out to be the last that this author would contribute to GameFan and what a game to go out on. I’m quite happy with that article, despite it being online rather than the preferred format of a zine. (A side note about GameFan: when I was on staff as Retro Editor, the magazine had great plans and with the retro section, things seemed to be going in the right direction. However, things didn’t work out as well as everyone had hoped and with the whole retro editing team leaving, as well as the Art Director, it’s hard to see where GameFan will go from here. Indeed, with the latest issue still being this issue 6, the future doesn’t look great at all for print magazines in North America).
With the upcoming release of the X-Com reboot straying away from the franchises’ origins than humanly thought possible, we looked back at the first, and best, game in the series. For the first in a series of Format Wars, Edge Grinder was simultaneously released on both the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC. It was the big 100 for The Retro League podcast as they hurled towards that centenary episode in a flash this month. A new zine titled NES-Bit Magazine System was finally released. Created by the Nintendo community, the zine is devoted to the NES with articles, reviews and more. With a colourful design and enthusiastic team of writers, this is one zine to look out for.
October brought us a handful of retrogaming zines. First up was the belated issue 2 of Abandoned Times Magazine, which covers the PC gaming scene. Nest up was ZX Spectrum Gamer issue 1 which is from the same publisher as PC Engine Gamer, so expect high quality content and design. In between all the zine action, the Commodore 64 finally got its own version of Jordan Mechner’s classic 1989 platform game, Prince of Persia, courtesty of Mr SID. GunLord, a Turrican style scolling shooter, was made available to pre-order for the Sega Dreamcast, Neo Geo MVS and Neo Geo AES. Rounding off the zine releases this month was Retrocade Magazine.
While the holiday season meant that things slowed down somewhat, there was still time to look at Protovision’s 4 Player Games Compilation on the Commodore 64, Psytronik Software’s Shoot ‘Em Up Destruction Set 2 (developed by Alf Yngve) and a rare homebrew release for the NES in the form of Zooming Secretary.
Well, that was 2011, so what can we expect to see in 2012. Undoubtedly, some more Back in Time articles, a small amount of digital scans of classic gaming magazines and interviews with people from the classic gaming magazine scene, oh, and maybe, just maybe, some sort of Retroaction publication, but keep it hush for now.