I reviewed Spectra over at Tech-Gaming.com
" Spectra held great potential but the end result is too simple for its own good. The gameplay is intriguing but it never evolves and is plagued be repetition as are its visuals. One could make an argument its main draw is in the scoring system and attempting to beat it, but with no online leaderboards this too fails to meet expectations. At least it offers a stunning soundtrack. "
Full Review Here
Click here for Part 2
On my last article, we saw how Sega Visions had been on a steady rise for several issues. What began as a catalog masquerading as a humble magazine had grown in readership, content, quality and most importantly: it found both an audience and its identity. This time, we'll be taking a look at what I consider to be the magazine's peak which spanned from issues 10 to to 17. It should come as no surprise that this period includes the launch for both Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, after all, it was at this point Sega's blue hedgehog reached the apex of his career. Needless to say, Sega was enjoying a massive success in the US market and that translated directly into Sega Visions' fortunes.
several magazine mainstays were renamed for a younger demographic
Keeping in tone with Sega's hip attitude, several magazine mainstays have been renamed and the visuals given more flare. The news section was renamed to 'Say What?' and catered exclusively to teenagers and young adults. Articles now approached topics like new candy flavors, comic books, Saturday morning cartoons and even the occasional Nintendo Bashing. Sega Visions had also been steadily growing in length and with the launch of Sonic 2, issues would now contain over 100 pages each, roughly triple of that found in issue 1.
I hope someone saved those envelopes
Without a doubt in my mind, the greatest upgrade was to the mailbox, now renamed 'Yo Sega!'. The most prominent change is the inclusion of envelop art. These were hand drawn by kids in the early 90s with little to no reference material other than the games themselves and many of them still look impressive. They often featured characters from any number of games and cartoons with the two most common themes being Mortal Kombat Vs. Street Fighter and Mario Vs. Sonic. Of course, we should remember this was a Sega fan-magazine, so these bouts rarely ended well for Nintendo's plummer. My favorite aspect of the mailbox are of course, the questions who serve as a time capsule for your average consumer. It's easy to read these questions and imagine the sort of arguments and videogame themed fights kids must have gotten to back then.
The Magazine's final mention of the Master System is a bitter one
It seems like every issue there's someone asking what a "bit" is, how can they become developers or advice over play sessions with family members. Many letter submissions state to either own a Sega CD or being strongly interested in purchasing one. Considering only 2.7 million CD units were ever sold to a Sega Genesis userbase of 40 million, one could make the argument Sega Visions became a community voice for Sega's most dedicated fans. Back part 2 of this series, I mentioned the Master System had slowly phased from Sega's publication. At least one user noticed this and wrote them a letter asking what happened to it. Sadly, the reader's dedication to the ill-fated 8-bit system was greeted with a rude reply, stating 'progress happened'. This undeserving send-off would be the last time anyone at Sega Visions would ever mention the Master System.
The Archie Comics/Sega partnership endures to this day
With a strong readership following and an increase in number of pages issues could focus on more than just videogames. Though not the first Sega comic featuring in the magazine (that honor goes to Niles Nemo in Sega Land) the Sonic the Hedgehog comic proved a popular choice with the occasional fan mail claiming to be a subscriber. This would even extend to advertisements, as some would now advertise Nickelodeon or other non-gaming products, though this still wasn't common.
A Pelé interview is followed by the announcement of Sega's new rating system.
Certain issues would also interview non-gaming public figures including Mr. Big's lead singer, Eric Martin and Pelé. Finally, there were some rumblings of a videogame rating system, Sega countered by preemptively announcing its own. When the issue 17 launched, the US Senate hearings which led to the ESRB's creation were already underway culminating in the Sega CD title, Night Trap being removed from store shelves. These topics however, would not make it onto Sega Visions until issue 18 and we'll look into that in the upcoming part 4.
I reviewed Mighty Switch Force: Hyperdrive Edition over at Tech-Gaming.com
"Mighty Switch Force: Hyperdrive Edition is a fast paced puzzle platformer with charming visuals and a dazzling soundtrack. Sadly, it’s burdened by a brief length."
Full Review HERE
Click here for Part 1
Having introduced itself to its fledgling customer base, Sega had effectively opened a channel of communication between creator and consumer. Sega Visions' premiere issue may have been little more than a glorified brochure, but even then one could see the magazine aspired for more. In this part, I take a general overview at issues 2 through 9, published between October 1990 and August 1992. If that number seems low for the two year time-frame it's because Sega Visions was published either bi-monthly or quarterly, though many users today often reminisce on how each issue was sent out at seemingly random intervals. I chose this time-frame as this was the pre-Sonic 2 era of the Genesis. While Sonic The Hedgehog put Sega on the map, I would argue it wasn't until its sequel that Sega had reached the peak of its infrastructure and brand recognition as evidenced in later magazine releases.
The covers for issues 2 and 7 respectively
Content improvements were not readily apparent, the second issue featured higher quality ads from both Sega and third party publishers but was otherwise unremarkable. Perhaps most interesting is how the Genesis was marketing alongside its 8-bit predecessor, the Master System, a move with delighted readers as evidenced by fan mail. Many of the early frequently asked question focused more on the 8-bit system's future instead of its 16-bit successor, not helped by rumors of a CD-Rom adapter in the horizon.
By the second issue, ads had improved significantly
It's obvious the shadow of an impending 16-bit system by Nintendo looms over Sega fans. This is further compounded by mis-information provided by Sega Visions' staff. Perhaps over-zealous in their hype for the recently released Strider, editors had erroneously claimed Genesis cartridges could hold a maximum of 8 Megabits and were now forced to backtrack. For those unaware, the largest commercial cartridge ever released for Sega's system was Super Street Fighter 2 which required 40 Megabits of free space. This barrier was later surpassed in 2010 with the release of Pier Solar and its 64 Megabit cartridge. Presently, it's widely accepted that this is the console's media limit.
The Master System is a prominent recurring topic for readers, as are rumors of the upcoming Super Nintendo and CD adapter for the Genesis.
Most people associate minors as the average console consumer of this era, but surprisingly, many of the letters posted were written by adults. It's not uncommon to see gamers claiming to be software engineers, in their 20s or to have been playing since Atari.
Sega Visions had unwittingly appealed to an older crowd in its early days
This would be short-lived, as by the following year an influx of new, younger readers became the norm thanks to the success of Sonic The Hedgehog as well as hype regarding its sequel. Soon, the magazine would be redesigned to fit this new audience. Adverts, aesthetics and even tonal differences in content reflected these changes. Even the news section ventured outside gaming and approached topics teen-related interests including Beverly Hills 90210. If one had any doubts the new generation had taken over, you'd need only to read the fan mail. Letters became Genesis-centric as kids migrated from Nintendo to Sega's 16-bit system. They also little understanding of hardware specs; it seemed every new issue had at least someone asking what a bit was, or what are sprites for.
One year later, the average Sega Visions reader was much younger
With a limited number of pages per issue, Sega Visions had to manage promotion for the Genesis, Master System and a newly launched Game Gear. It comes as a surprise to no-one that Sega's 8-bit legacy console saw limited success in the US and with an influx of readers who had never owned a Master System it seemed clear the solution was to sacrifice space previously reserved for the ailing console. Once, each issue promoted a healthy amount of content for this system. Now, it was relegated to 2-3 advertisement pages and once early previews for the Sega CD began, it wouldn't even have that. By the time issue 9 rolled out, the Master System was all but forgotten in favor of Sega's new handheld and their upcoming CD based peripheral
The Game Gear and Sega CD stole what little thunder the ailing Master System had left
In eight short issues Sega Visions grew by leaps and bounds and the best was yet to come. In part 3, I'll be taking a look at how the success of Sonic 2 and Sega's aggressive advertising heralded the magazine's peak and helped shaped up a loyal, dedicated community.
Click here for Part 3