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Next Generation Uncovered
Next Generation #1 - The Looming Videogame Wars of 1995
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 20, 2014   |   Episode 1 (Show Archive)  

While Next Generation didn't have the lifespan of Electronic Gaming Monthly and Nintendo Power, the magazine did spend seven years influencing what we now consider modern-day games journalism. Over the next 85 episodes, we'll do our best to review every Next Generation cover and put the issue into proper context. Join us every Thursday for Next Generation Uncovered!

Next Generation wasn't like the other magazines. While GamePro was focused on family-friendly content and Die Hard Game Fan was packing their magazine full of huge screenshots and questionably written previews, Next Generation decided to target a slightly different type of gamer. Although the magazine still offered the usual previews and reviews, the overall tone was more serious and many of the thought-provoking features were intended for the oft-ignored business-minded gamer. It was an ambitious goal that intended to push video game journalism into the, ahem, next generation.

This premiere issue debuted in January 1995; right on the cusp of what would be a sea change for the video games industry. Not only were American consumers mere months away from trading in their old 16-bit consoles for brand new 32- and 64-bit systems, but the entire way we played games was about to change. Over the next year, the magazine would see consoles move from cartridges to CD-ROM technology, 3D polygons take over for traditional sprites, and both Sega and Nintendo would be forced to put up with a powerful new opponent. This was the perfect time to launch a new magazine.

This "Collector's Issue" Next Generation cover trumpets the "looming videogame wars of 1995," which involved the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation and Ultra 64 (which would later get a name change and year-long delay). Here we see Virtua Fighter 2's Akira Yuki, Wolf Hawkfield, Jacky Bryant and part of Shun Di, each doing their part to show off what might be possible on the 32-bit arcade-minded Saturn. This may not look like much in 2014, but Virtua Fighter 2's character models were a big improvement over the blocky mess that was the original.

Although I'm a huge fan of Virtua Fighter 2 and seeing these familiar faces brings back a lot of great memories, this isn't a very exciting cover. The cover story is all about next generation consoles doing battle in 1995, yet Virtua Fighter 2 didn't get a Saturn release until well into 1996. None of this is helped by the dull design, which tosses the fighters in front of a boring white background. How very bold.

Next Generation #1
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To the magazine's credit, the cover does look better when it's properly unfolded. Here we see three additional Virtua Fighter 2 characters -- Sarah Bryant, Lion Rafale and Kage-Maru -- and more information about the looming videogame wars of 1995. It proclaims that "The golden age of 16bit is over," and then proceeds to show us the 3DO. The full cover brags that it's your essential guide to next generation consoles. That may be true, but it still has nothing to do with Virtua Fighter 2.

Next Week: Next Tuesday we get to the bottom of Next Generation #2, which features a boy with wires being plugged into his head. It's very disturbing. Come back next week to figure out what that's about.


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