The premier issue of TurboPlay! Available via subscription only, TurboPlay was promoted in tandem with the launch of the TurboGrafx-16 console in September of 1989. A four-page color brochure advertising the magazine was packed in the box of every TG-16 console sold in the United States (and possibly Canada as well). A one-year subscription (six bi-monthly issues) cost $9.95 for U.S. residents ($19.95 for foreign subscribers). Billed as "An NEC-approved magazine for the TurboGrafx-16 video game system" in these brochures, the first issue of TurboPlay did not actually materialize until June of 1990 -- ten months after the console's launch.
Table of Contents for TurboPlay # 1
- 01 Cover: Sidearms (1989, HuCard). Artist: Alan Hunter (uncredited).
- This cover illustration was clearly inspired by the artwork that adorned the original PC-Engine release of Sidearms.
- 02 Advertisement: Sonic Spike (1990, HuCard).
- "It's co-ed! Pit gals against guys in a battle of the sexes... If you're really good, you'll earn the chance to play 'The Mysterious Competitor' in the final match. Pound him into the ground... before he splatters you into the sand!"
- 03 Table of Contents for issue # 1.
- The sidebar lists names familiar to VG & CE readers: Lee Pappas is at the helm of TurboPlay, with Andy Eddy and Donn Nauert as editors.
- 04 Strategy Guide: Neutopia. 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13
- "You'll never get lost again with our maps and expert advice!" Includes detailed maps for every stage and documents all items, enemies & bosses.
- 14 Strategy Guide: SideArms. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
- "Blast through all ten levels with our game maps and battle tactics." Note: Actually, this guide only covers the first seven stages.
- 22 Closer Look: TurboChip Game Reviews.
- Four short reviews of Cratermaze, Ordyne, R-Type and Vigilante.
- 23 Advertisement: TG-16, TG-CD hardware & software. 23 25 27 29
- "The hottest video games. Only on the TurboGrafx-16 system." Featured games: Bloody Wolf, Bonk's Adventure, Cybercore, Double Dungeons, Final Lap Twin, Legendary Axe, Military Madness, Neutopia, Takin' It To The Hoop, Valis II (CD), Ys Book I & II (CD).
- 24 Coming Soon: TG-16 Game Previews.
- First look at Bloody Wolf, Cybercore, Devil's Crush, Double Dungeons, Klax, Splatterhouse and TV Sports: Football.
- 26 TurboTips: Codes, Tips and Tricks. 26 28 30
- Video-game expert and record holder Donn Nauert gives his winning game strategies for some of your favorite TG-16 games: Bloody Wolf, Cratermaze, Dungeon Explorer, Fighting Street, Galaga '90, J.J. & Jeff, Moto Roader, Ordyne, Pac Land, R-Type and Sidearms.
- 31 Advertisement: Sidearms (1990, HuCard).
- "Now that you own the hottest game machine on the block, leave your quarters in your pocket and let Radiance Software 'Turbo' charge your living room with the classic arcade mega-hit, Sidearms."
- 32 Advertisement: KLAX (1990, HuCard).
- "KLAX is the latest, greatest hit in the arcades. And now it comes to you for play on the TurboGrafx!"
A few years ago, when I was revisiting the Neutopia strategy guide featured in this issue, I fondly recalled the silly names given to the enemy characters: Seabloon, Rock'n, Scorpit, Ghostcloth, Anto (an ant-soldier!) and my personal favorite: Stroob. Yes, Stroob!
Was Neutopia so determined to be a Zelda clone that it experienced "Octorok envy"? Even if these silly names were simply the product of localization, I find many of them quite endearing. Neutopia just wouldn't be the same without Sprat, KeraKera, Sheepman, Komid, Barstar, Mad Dog, Bluefighter and Frogger. Who's Bluefighter? And Frogger? Why, a blue warrior and a green amphibian, of course. Unfortunately, the boss characters in Neutopia were not nearly as charming as their minions. The only boss that holds a special place in my heart is "Turtle-Rich". And, with a name like that, you almost feel sorry for him ...
DOUBLE HEADER: NEUTOPIA & SIDEARMS
A whopping 18 (of 32 total) pages in this debut issue are dedicated to strategy guides! That left little room for other content. Indeed, there are no feature articles. No meaty game reviews (only anemic ones). Nothing to sink your teeth into, really -- except for the strategy guides.
The guides for Neutopia and Sidearms featured in this issue are recycled from an uncredited Japanese PC-Engine magazine. Unfortunately, TurboPlay rarely cited its source material. However, Lee Pappas (captain at TurboPlay's helm during its maiden voyage) has since confirmed that a significant portion of the content, including strategy guides, was obtained from Japanese publications:
"At first, most of the editorial came from the Japanese PC-Engine Fan magazine, published by Shogakukan. We translated the text to English and augmented the graphics with Alan Hunter's wonderful illustrations."
These strategy guides featured hundreds of screenshots taken the old-skool way (manually, with film, a camera, and possibly a tripod) and thus had inconsistent results (i.e. some screenshots are underexposed). Still, you have to admire the amount of labor that went into making these maps. The Neutopia guide, for example, maps out the entire game -- a cheaters delight! Personally, I would only use these guides as a last resort. Exploration, after all, is a key ingredient to the fun in these games. That said, I'm sure there are many folks will find this strategy guide useful today.
The guide for Sidearms limits itself to the first seven stages, with the editors stating "We have decided to let you finish the final two rounds (not including the end boss) on your own. Good luck!" Good luck, indeed! Sidearms is tough, which is part of its appeal, but unfortunately it has been overlooked -- even by fans of old-skool shooters -- for most of its tenure. If you are a fan of Section Z or Forgotten Worlds, then you owe it to yourself to give Sidearms a whirl -- these three games comprise a trilogy, of sorts. All three Capcom games share similar gameplay mechanics (most notably, the necessity to constantly flip your player forwards and backwards as you shoot at enemies approaching from all sides) that helped define a rather unique sub-genre in the vast realm of horizontal shooters.
In my daily life, I despise advertising. I mute the radio or television the instant an ad begins. I place junk mail directly into the recycling bin without looking at it. You get the picture. Given my convictions, it's ironic that I've opened my heart to the advertisements of yesteryear. For example, consider this sweeping four-page advertisement from NEC ( 01 02 03 04 ) that boldly declares:
"The system that brought you Legendary Axe / Game of the Year ... brings you Bonk's Adventure, Final Lap Twin, Cybercore ... Double Dungeons, Bloody Wolf ... and more. The hottest video games. Only on the TurboGrafx-16 system."
The screenshots in this ad are rather large, which was refreshing and relatively uncommon for the time. Most software ads of the day adhered to the "tiny screenshot" standard that forced gamers to press their noses flat against a page in an effort to see what the actual gameplay looked like. It didn't matter if the game was for a console or a computer: you would be hard-pressed to find a screenshot bigger than 2 x 1.5 inches in a software advertisement. And so, in 1990, the huge screenshots featured in this TG-16 ad were greatly appreciated.
Unfortunately, NEC quickly dropped the "jumbo-sized screenshot" format. In their subsequent TG-16 marketing campaigns, NEC sheepishly returned to the standard conventions governing screenshots. Oh well.
As noted in the ad, Video Games & Computer Entertainment (VG & CE, a popular multi-platform magazine of the late 80's / early 90's) anointed Legendary Axe as the "Game of the Year" for 1989. See the screenshot on the first page (in which Gogan is fighting Jagu, the final boss of Legendary Axe)? All of the early commercials for TG-16 (which began airing in the autumn of 1989) used clips from this scene simply because it looked so goddamn kool. I still think it ranks as one of the koolest boss confrontations to be found in the entire TG-16 (North American) library.
THE LARGEST 16-BIT LIBRARY, WITH MORE TO COME...
You may have noticed that the fourth and final page of the aforementioned ad boasts that TG-16 has "the largest 16-bit library with more to come" ... which may very well have been true, but strikes me as a dubious claim.
By the summer of 1990, Sega's Genesis had massive third-party software support and successfully established itself as the leader amongst post-NES consoles (the SNES wouldn't be launched for quite some time). Even if TG-16 did, in fact, have more software titles in the summer of 1990, it would not be long before the Genesis library dwarfed that of TG-16. (Note: I guess we'll have to do some research and see if we can establish the number of titles available for each console by the summer of 1990. 34 games are listed in the TG-16 advertisement. If you have reliable data on the TG-16 and / or Sega Genesis libraries, contact us!)
In an effort to attract new subscribers, the first issue of TurboPlay was later offered as a "freebie" to folks who signed up for a one- or two-year subscription. For example, I recall that my own subscription to TurboPlay began with issue # 4, but I received issue # 1 as a bonus. I must have a received a postcard in the mail advertising this offer in late 1990, otherwise I might not have subscribed to the magazine. We are currently looking for this promotional material, so contact us if you have it!
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