For the last 70 episodes the Cover Critic has spent his time complaining about video game box art. Whether it's on the Commodore 64, Genesis or PlayStation 3, he's been busy exposing some of the worst cover art imaginable. But after all of these years he needs a break. He's tired of bitching about the same things day in and day out, so he's found a brand new target - video game magazine covers. For the next few months The Cover Critic is going to be taking a look at different eras and video game magazines. We begin our fantastic adventure with GamePro in the early 1990s.
GamePro: CD-ROM Games!
[ February - 1991 - Final Rating: D+ ]
Early GamePro magazine covers came in two different types - one that advertises a game based on a licensed property and one that features this weird original artwork.
This February 1991 issue is a perfect example what happened when GamePro decided to become creative. They turn what could be a really cool idea into something that can only appeal to a young child. Instead of getting tough looking aliens, ninja and barbarians, GamePro gives us the most adorable versions of those cliches. These aren't video game characters, this cover is filled with plush toys you might give your newborn infant.
In case you couldn't get past the horrible artwork, this is the issue when GamePro finally saw the light about CD-ROM gaming. Here we see all of the possibilities of CD-ROM gaming, which are mostly the crappy things you already do, only now on a disc. The truth is, GamePro got it wrong. If they wanted to be accurate about what 16-bit CD-ROM gaming brought us, then they would have illustrated minute-long load screens, tiny full-motion video, horrible music from Sega and accessories that are twice the price of the console you need to play them with. Of course, I'm sure it's hard to paint a sad gamer paying extra to play Hook on the Sega CD.
GamePro: American Gladiators
[ September - 1991 - Final Rating: B+ ]
Can you believe that NBC tried to reboot American Gladiators with Hulk
Hogan? That's like trying to refresh soccer by paying a British tool to come play for your L.A. team. Oh, wait. Anyway, the fact that they tried resurrecting this failed 1990s experiment is pathetic and proof that NBC is creatively bankrupt. And the fact that I watched more than one episode of this remake says a lot about my questionable taste in television. Still, it's funny to see all of these gigantic men and women pretending that they've never heard of steroids. Talk about a show that is built to implode.
But I digress; I actually think it's cool that GamePro managed to get the guys and gal of American Gladiators to pose for a photo shoot. These days it's common to see a celebrity pose for a video game magazines (that was the whole idea of Incite Video Gaming), but that was not the case back in 1991. Then again, calling the American Gladiators "celebrities" is like calling Dane Cook funny. I suspect these steroid queens had nothing better to do. It's not like people recognized them walking down the street. Most people don't even know their names. How could NBC think it was a good idea to bring all of these memories back?
GamePro: Alien 3 Exclusive!
[ July - 1992 - Final Rating: A ]
Do you remember when I implied that GamePro didn't have any balls? How they constantly chose adorable over hard edged, childish over mature? Well, all
that changed in July of 1992. Because that was the month when the art department decided to rebel, throwing caution to the wind and pulling a complete 180 degrees. July 1992 was the one and only month when GamePro decided to test the waters and create the bloodiest, freakiest, most disturbing cover in the magazine's two decade history. July 1992 was the month that GamePro discovered Alien 3.
How did this kid friendly publication go from cute little puppy dogs to blood and guts in a matter of weeks? There are only so many possibilities. I'm partial to the idea that GamePro was just sick and tired of hearing people complain about their child-centric cover art and said, "You want mature? I'll show you mature!" However, it's more likely that the red substance was meant to be fire and something happened between conception and printing. Either way, there's no doubt that this cover is enough to give some young gamers nightmares. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if GamePro was inundated with angry letters and phone calls from parents. But I don't care, I love this cover. And I love that this is the only time GamePro really surprised the world with one of its covers.
GamePro: Rip Into Game Previews!
[ September - 1990 - Final Rating: C- ]
Permit me to go a little nostalgic for a few seconds. When I look at this cover I don't see a dinosaur inexplicably eating a bunch of old school electronics. What I see is all of the destruction of old games,
controls and consoles. I see my friends, years ago, literally throwing their Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis away because they got something newer. Some of my friends were smart enough to not trash their consoles, but then turn around and trade in their console (and all of their games) for the PlayStation or Nintendo 64. That's what I see when I look at this old school GamePro cover, it's the needless destruction of countless game systems over the years. Way to go, GamePro.
After spending what felt like a paragraph rambling on incessantly about throwing away classic consoles, I realize that there's something that has always bothered me about this cover. It's the large, dual-stick control that is front and center. As a long time Robotron 2084 and Smash T.V. addict, I always wanted this kind of dual-stick control for my Super NES or Genesis. But it never came. Before the PlayStation's DualShock control, the closest anybody got to this dual-stick configuration was D-pad and face buttons. Where was this in 1990? And while I'm asking stupid questions, does anybody else get a chuckle out of calling ESWAT, CosmoTank, Slime World and Klax "Monster Hits"? Anyway, I'm sick of looking at this console-eating dinosaur, let's move on to something more pleasant.
GamePro: The Simpsons
[ December - 1990 - Final Rating: C+ ]
When this issue of GamePro landed in my mailbox 19 years ago, I remember being charmed by the fact that my favorite cartoon characters were actually addressing video games. However, twenty
years later I'm more cynical. These days I know how easy it is to add a stupid saying to a comic book picture (see this week's Comic Book Mod, The Sudden Rise & Fall of the Battletoads). The biggest problem with this cover is that it's not very clever, especially given the quality of writing on the show twenty years ago. In fact, I would say that the joke on this cover is downright lame. It's a predictable slight against video games that doesn't feel in character with the show. If you're going to imitate The Simpsons, at least make it funny.
While I may not be a writer on The Simpsons, I've decided to just throw out a few ideas that would be funnier than what GamePro came up with. For example, there's "I knew we shouldn't have gotten Bart that subscription to GamePro!" "But Marge, I haven't even plugged it in yet." "So what if he keeps demanding brains, doesn't he look peaceful?" "I told you all of that homework you made him finish would dull his video game muscle." "But Bart, I don't think that all of our video games are THAT bad!" "Quick Marge, let's do it before Bart regains his eyesight." And finally, "It's our future, Marge. We'll always be the same age and in ten years nobody will think we're funny anymore."