Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Other Stuff Monthly #7!

This month's thing that isn't a videogame is an old, rare fanzine! Which is about videogames. Specifically, PC Engine games, it being called The Complete PC Engine Guide Book and all. It was printed in 1993, as far as I can tell, on regular white photocopy paper, with slightly thicker yellow paper used for the cover. Naturally, after twenty-six years, such an item feels pretty fragile, and in fact, the ebay seller from whom I bought it sent me a message when I placed my bid, requesting that I promise to take care of it. It's pretty rare, too, it seems to have been only listed on ebay twice ever (though I don't know if both times were the same copy).

There's about 90 pages of actual content in here, along with a few blank "notes" pages, and some ads on the inside back cover. There's a section detailing all the different models of PC Engine, which even includes the LT and the LaserActiive, which is pretty impressive from a pre-WWW fanzine. Then there's a section on peripherals, the highlights being something called a "colour booster", which does... something to do with making the colours better on  a "SCART PC Engine", as opposed to a PAL one. I know there were a small number of PAL PC Engines released by mail-order, but I have no idea what a SCART one might be, or why the colours need boosting, and half a page dedicated to the Magic Super Griffin. This is one of those big, old-fashioned piracy devices, that goes into the HuCard slot of your PC Engine, and connects to a floppy drive via parallel port. It cost £250, and the article claims that "It is quite legal, in the UK, to buy and use these copiers, so long as you do not sell the software", which sounds very dubious to me. There's also a small mention of a forthcoming, unnamed peripheral that will allow users to record up to an hour of broadcast tv to a CD. Was such a thing ever announced for the PC Engine? It sounds like some absurd fantasy.

There's also a short anime section, explaining what anime is, in that very early 90s way, and giving glowing reviews to Akira, Project A-Ko, and Warriors of the Wind, and a not-so-glowing review of the 1986 Fist of the North Star movie. Then we get a little preview of the Arcade Card, before the bulk of the book: the games reviews. There's 48 pages of these, packed in 5 to a page (all hand-written, too!), and some of the opinions on offer are pretty unusual. I have to say I'm glad I don't have to rely on this book as my primary source of info when buying PCE games. For example: the excellent KiKiKaiKai only scores two out of ten, while the very mediocre L-Dis scores seven! Wallaby scores higher than KiKiKaiKai, even though the writer admits he couldn't even figure out how to play it! There are some undeniable universal truths, though, as Rondo of Blood and Final Lap Twin both score much-deserved nines.

What's most interesting about the reviews section, from a historical standpoint, is some of the titles used for certain games. Obviously, internet access would have been very rare back then, and even if you were online, there wouldn't be a lot of English language info on Japanese videogames out there, so, when people couldn't read the Japanese titles of games, they just kind of had to guess. So, there's a game just listed as "Dodge Ball", though there's at least three games that could be on PC Engine. Bonze Adventure is "Hell Explorer", Schubibinman is "Overhauled Man", and best of all, Bravoman is "Mr. Stretcho Man". There's even a few mystery titles, like "Kario World", "Son of Dracular", and "Japan Warrior".

The book ends with a sizable cheats section, which was probably very useful in that pre-internet age, and the aforementioned notes pages and ads. Some previous owner of my copy has written in some Devil Crash passwords on the last of the notes pages, and the ads are for a few early 90s UK games importers, plus a faux-leather HuCard waller for only £3.20! I can't really recommend seeking out and buying a copy of this guide, unless you're really interested in the ephemera of early import videogame fandom in the UK. Naturally, all the information is available much more easily and more more accurately online in 2019, so historical curiosity is all it has to offer.

No comments:

Post a comment