I’ve got a new “Press A to Listen” feature article over on gamentrain.com today! Press A to Start is a monthly series providing a quick course in the history, music, and influence of classic games. This month, read up on the history of NES classic Kirby’s Adventure while enjoying the music of Jun Ishikawa (composer for Kirby games) and talented multi-instrumentalist Xoc!
I learned about so much of the history of EGM through so many of their magazines circa 1997-2001.
The things I took away from Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine are numerous, and I could expound on them the way I do because I practically learned to write by reading issues of EGM. I didn’t know that when I was reading issues over and over when I didn’t have video games to play. EGM had a style of writing that invigorated me in a mysterious way that issues of GamePro from that same era just as mysteriously upset me.
What I want to focus on today is the history that EGM imparted on me, a fleeting idea in the constantly and quickly evolving world of video games.
Check the twitter, I like to consider myself a video game historian. That is because I am. I know books full of inane video game minutia. I know it is books full because I have read books full of that information. Some I read more than a couple times (shout out to Chris Kohler’s book, Power-Up, my copy is so ragged now). Now we are falling into, “could write a whole new article about this portion” territory, so I will keep it brief. Before the internet was ubiquitous (especially for poor people such as my childhood self), it was pretty tough to learn much of anything about games beyond whatever information video game magazines deemed important enough to dole out to you that month.
Of all the video game magazines I read, EGM was far and away the best at imparting the wisdom and history of gaming into solid and interesting articles. These articles could be simple and straightforward like a timeline of arcades, or completely inane like trying to decipher Toad’s gender. Just the same, short features and editorials could discuss heady topics of the day such as violence and sequel-itis (yes, gamers were talking about this stuff back then too.) to more gameplay-centric ideas like health meters and graphics.
All these types of articles were infused with all the history that the writers knew, and it showed in their writing. This probably solidified my passion for video game history. Electronic Gaming Monthly has many things to do with why I am here and why this is what I write about.
If you were to layout screenshots of some of my favorite games of all time, you would notice a common theme. That theme is they are all bright and colorful as a candy store. I’m not sure why, bright colors just grab my attention.
One of the brightest, most attention grabbing games I have ever popped into a console is Sega’s Chu Chu Rocket for the Dreamcast. All I knew going in was that it was a fun puzzle game made by Sega. The next thing I know rockets are launching into the air, uncatlike looking cats are scrambling and chasing somewhat mouse looking mice around a checkered board.
That doesn’t explain anything. Listen here man, this Chu Chu thing, it’s an experience. Cats meow, Chu’s chu, and rockets blast off to who knows where. It’s a rez-like multiplaying euphoria of neurons firing as you cry and clamor to collect the most mice possible.
I would best compare the frantic four person multiplayer to Bomberman in regards to the simple edge of your seat shenanigans inherent in each. Easy for novices but unpredictable enough for hardened chu chu gathering professionals.
That multiplayer experience, the single reason this game should belong to anyone who has friends, is also proof positive that Sega hates money, and just loves going bankrupt.
This is precisely the type of game that does phenomenally well with some online and some voice chat. Sega could have had Xbox Uno on its hands but just sat on those hands instead. Well they didn’t sit on their hands completely. They had a free moment to dump the game onto smartphones like people really want to play a slowed down, single player version of this game.
I felt bad when Sega was hemorrhaging money and the Dreamcast fell into it bad with the piracy and poor sales, and completely ineffective management. The Sega of today doesn’t get elicit quite the same response. They are willingly, knowingly doing the things they need to be awesome. They haven’t created a new Jet Set Radio (which would have been heaven on the Wii, but will be awesome enough on any system), Refuse to publish another Puyo Pop in the US, and they haven’t had Hideki Naganuma work on any of their soundtracks in quite some time. Sega does get it right sometimes, but these days that tends to feel like the work of outside developers, or just lucky swings these days.
I don’t know who was running things or how or from where, but Sega has a long history of kicking ass by taking risky bets on colorful and quirky titles. Releasing an online multiplayer Chu Chu Rocket won’t bring that Sega back, but dammit, at least remember who you were Sega!