It was in this issue that Electronic Gaming Monthly developed the April Fool's Day joke!
Psst, I have big news for you. I heard that Microsoft is going to stop selling the Xbox 360 and start making games exclusively for the Wii. No really, it's true. And Nintendo is making a Virtual Boy 2. Oh, and did you hear about the upcoming God of War party game? It's going to be a hoot. I can't believe how much news is coming out today; this must be the greatest day of the year. Oh wait ... it's actually April Fool's Day!
That's right, it's April Fool's Day, the one day of the year that you should be even more skeptical than usual. Your favorite TV shows, websites, magazines, friends and family will all be trying to fool you, but don't believe their lies.
For a lot of gamers April Fool's Day will always remind them of Electronic Gaming Monthly, one of the pioneers of game-related tomfoolery. Their Sheng Long code is one of the most popular fake codes of all time, and more than a few people were fooled by convincing pictures of Lego HALO and the Apple iGame. But alas, there is no April Fool's Day joke from EGM this year. After twenty years in print, EGM leaves us with fifteen April Fool's jokes, and two typos they claim to be pranks. In this extra special I've Got Your Number we take a look at each and every one of EGM's jokes and find which ones we feel for and which we saw coming a mile away. I think it's about time we look at EGM's 15 April Fool's Day Pranks!
1991: The Belmonts Invade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
Our journey begins in Electronic Gaming Monthly's 21st issue, the same issue that brought us a 16-page feature on the Lynx, a glowing review of Shadow Dancer and the first pictures of Street Fighter II. It was in this issue that EGM started one of their most endearing trends - the annual April Fool's Day joke. In this first joke we learn that we can play as Simon Belmont (the whip-smart hero of Castlevania) in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. You did this by jumping through a bunch of hoops (including resetting the console a bunch of times), but alas it was all a joke. The cheat code was credited to "A. P. Rilphuuls, Fromegem, HA," or, in English, April Fool's from EGM, HA!
There's Just One Problem:
The cheat code was devilishly
I don't care what you say, Trevor and Simon Belmont are NOT the same person!
cruel and the cheat code sold it, but there's just one BIG problem ... that's not Simon Belmont. I know that all of the Castlevania heroes look the same, but the person involved with using Photoshop got the wrong Belmont. The picture clearly shows Trevor Belmont from Castlevania III, not Simon Belmont as the code clearly states. Come on EGM, you expect us to fall for your jokes when you can't even get your Belmonts straight?
Wrong Belmont aside, this is a clever prank that spawned quite a few angry letters. The magazine would continue to harass their readers with other similar pranks throughout the year (including a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog replacing Hiryu in Strider), though none of those were specifically April Fool's related. Apparently it was in 1991 that EGM got their first photo editing software. By today's standards this joke is almost quaint, but it sets us up for the crazy antics that EGM is about to pull. And just for the record, when a code asks you to reset your system four times before doing anything, then you know it's a fake. Your game system isn't keeping track of how many times you hit the reset button.
1992: You Must Unlock Sheng Long to Stand a Chance
Arguably the most well-known video game related April Fool's joke of all time. At the peak of Street Fighter II's popularity, Electronic Gaming Monthly published a code for a brand new character. This character was Sheng Long, the mysterious trainer of Ryu and Ken. EGM stated that if you play the game just right you will fight this character in a one-on-one battle to the death. What really sold the joke was the Photoshop work, which created a convincing doctored picture. The character looked a little like an older Ken, he had a long ponytail and a massive uppercut. And if it wasn't for a couple of shadow errors, the pictures would have been good enough to fool the entire world. Sadly there was no secret boss, but this popular prank fooled you anyway.
EGM Thinks You're An Idiot:
And who knows, maybe you are an idiot. In this issue EGM decided to introduce a very special contest to see if anybody could sniff out their clever April Fool's joke. And where did they put the information for this contest? On the same page as the April Fool's joke. And yet there are still people that fell for this joke. You stupid, stupid people!
You Must Defeat Ken To Stand A Chance:
Is it just me or does the Super Street Fighter II Turbo version of Ken look an awful lot like EGM's Sheng Long
To his credit, there was a time when Ken didn't look like Sheng Long!
artwork? Take a look at that ponytail, where have we seen that before? And it's not just physical, either. Check out the flaming uppercut; that became a staple move for Ken in later iterations of Street Fighter II. Yet this joke was played by an American game magazine that had nothing to do with the developers of Street Fighter II. Could it be that EGM saw the future, or did they just have a really good idea that Capcom stole. You be the judge.
This is an April Fool's joke without equal. While it was not the first prank played by the jokesters at EGM, it was definitely the one that had the biggest impact. Not only did they fool the gullible readers, but EGM also managed to fool the international presses. It's a well known fact that this very code was picked up and rewritten in various other languages in foreign games magazines. That's not something that happens very often, and that's a good argument for why this Sheng Long trick is the greatest April Fool's joke ever played by a games magazine. I don't care if you like Street Fighter II or not, every so often it's important to bow down to the greatness that is this Sheng Long prank.
Take a look at that picture. Do you see the April Fool's joke? After setting the bar as high as it could be set, EGM followed up their Sheng Long prank with ... a Jaguar joke? That's right, they followed it up with a Jaguar joke, and a not-so-funny one at that. In their release calendar section, Electronic Gaming Monthly jokes that Virtua Pong 64, Adventure 199X and Yar's Revenge 2 were on the schedule. Of course they weren't, because nobody in their right mind is going to develop an Adventure sequel. Still, the idea of updating these "classics" is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The Jaguar saw updates to Defender, Tempest and Missile Commander, and in 1999 somebody had the good idea
Tempest 2000 is one of the Jaguar's best game, though you wouldn't know it by this cover art!
to release a 3D Pong remake for the PlayStation.
What the Wikipedia:
You know how we all rely on Wikipedia to answer the tough questions? Well, maybe we should be a little more skeptical in the future. If you surf on over to their EGM April Fool's section you'll find this description: "There was a listing for 4 games for the not-yet-released Atari Jaguar game system. Titles included Joust 2000 and Dig Dug 2000 from companies like Vapor Ware." Joust 2000 and Dig Dug 2000? As you can see from the scan of the April Fool's joke, Joust and Dig Dug were nowhere to be seen. Somebody should really fix that bizarre error.
When it comes right down to it, this Jaguar prank really isn't all that funny. There's just so much material to work with when it comes to the Jaguar - it claims to be "64-bit," it only had a few good games; the CD drive looked like a toilet. With all this to work with, why go with Virtua Pong 64? This joke reeks of last second filler, which may explain why EGM took a four year hiatus from making April Fool's jokes.
1997: You Must Unlock Sheng Long to Stand a Chance ... Again
Five years after suggesting that Sheng Long was a secret boss in Street Fighter II, Electronic Gaming Monthly decided to do exactly the same thing ... only this time with the just-released Street Fighter III. I guess even in 1997 EGM was creatively bankrupt. Either way, this joke brought back most of the same tricks, including doctored pictures, a lengthy article and just enough facts to seem plausible. Plus, most people didn't expect the magazine to pull the same joke twice. And who knows, maybe Capcom added Sheng Long into the game just to play along with EGM's popular prank. Well, they didn't. It was a big fat joke.
Blame It On the Times:
Love Sheng Long but don't remember this April Fool's joke? You're not alone. Despite an increase in length and better
Not even naked Ryu can remember who the real boss of Street Fighter III was!
pictures, most people barely remember this Street Fighter III prank. Could it be that the joke wasn't as memorable the second time around? Nope ... the reason you don't remember this joke is because you were too busy ignoring Street Fighter III. After waiting too long, Capcom finally unleashed Street Fighter III to muted response. At that time gamers were too enamored by first-person shooters and 3D fighting games. So don't feel bad EGM, your only crime was making a clever joke about a game nobody was interested in. Just blame it on the times.
Who uses the same joke twice? Apparently EGM does. It would be easy for me to complain about this joke's redundancy and call it a day, but it's clear that a lot of time and attention went into recreating this joke. For one thing, the article is actually worth reading. It's full of history and brilliant touches. And the pictures are fantastic, easily besting their previous attempt. This joke's production is outstanding; this was EGM at the top of their game. However, I still don't like the fact that we're already seen this joke before. Get a new joke, EGM!
Joke? Rather, this issue has jokes, plural. This first joke revolves around playing as the older, better Bonds in Rare's exceptional GoldenEye 007. The joke was more mean than funny, but still pointed out the one thing that many gamers were demanding from this otherwise flawless game. There's just one problem, this joke is
actually real ... kind of. The joke itself comes from a rumor that Rare wanted to include the original James Bond actors but couldn't get the rights. This later turned out to be true, although you needed a cheat device to make it work.
There's a Second Joke:
For the first time in their history, Electronic Gaming Monthly featured two completely separate April Fool's jokes. Perhaps this second joke was an apology for the lameness of the first prank. Regardless, this second joke had the review crew passing judgment on what seems to be a random Camper's Knife. The reaction was mixed; Crispin declared the knife to be an "indispensable tool for the progress of humanity," while Dan clearly didn't understand how the device worked. "I put it in my PlayStation, but all it did was skip around and stutter. I put it in my N64 and everything went blurry. I put it in my Saturn, and no one wanted to make my pocket dinnerware tools anymore." On a bright note, Shawn remarks that the camper's knife has helped free him from a number of bear traps. If a thirteen dollar gadget helps free you from a bear trap, then I think you got your money's worth.
The camper's knife joke is mildly amusing, but it doesn't feel right when placed next to other EGM pranks. The GoldenEye 007 joke, on the other hand, falls flat on its face. The pictures are too small and the whole joke just feels cruel. When it comes to April Fool's jokes I endorse clever, not mean. Go be mean the rest of the year. The real joy of this issue is the camper's knife joke, which, for reasons that I will never understand, fails to make Wikipedia's list of EGM jokes. Perhaps everybody thought this was a real game. But hey, I learned long ago that you should never argue with Wikipedia. Because it's always right, even when it's wrong it's right. Just take my word for it.