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EGM Dec. '91 - Who the Hell is Uncle Al?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 16, 2005   |   Episode 3 (Show Archive)  

   

DECEMBER 1991: A video game supplement in a video game magazine? No way!!
The look, logo, staff, and consoles may have changed, but there's one thing that has remained the same since the very first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly nearly 17 years ago. And that is Quartermann, the man you call on when you want rumors, gossip, and speculation. Although his write up has gone under a number of different titles, a rumor section has appeared in every one of EGM's almost 200 issues. But what if I were to tell you that this rumor monger's facts were spotty, at best? What if I were to tell you that the rumors, while juicy, are often incorrect? Well ... that's precisely what I'm about to tell you, and to prove it we're prepared to look at his rumors one magazine at a time.

Here's what you need to know: In each episode we are going to take a different issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly and go through every single rumor the Q-Mann talked brought up. I'm going to write them up EXACTLY as they are in the magazine, and then explain the truth ... knowing what we know all these years later. We're not here to pull any punches, we're just curious to see how well the magazine holds up over the years. In our third episode we decided to look at EGM issue 29, December 1991.

Rumor #1 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 CD

Sonic CD had a lot of things going for it, but it didn't have Tails!
"The Q-Meister has just obtained some super secret info on the hush-hush sequel to Sega's mega-hit, Sonic the Hedgehog! Sonic the Hedgehog 2, rumored to be sub-titled Escape from Ring Zone, will hit mid-summer as a totally blown-out CD-ROM extravaganza! Sonic loses his cool in a variety of worlds filled with rotation! Our renegade anti-hero even scales the second time out, thanks to the advanced processors employed by the Mega CD-ROM. In certain parts of the game Sonic will grow in size as he collects special objects! Can't wait to do the Mega Sonic Smash!"
Reality: These days Sonic the Hedgehog doesn't get a whole lot of respect. Ever since his Dreamcast days, Sonic has become less and less important to Sega's overall goal. They still release games with him in it, but they are usually met with bad reviews and a cold shoulder from consumers. But back in 1991 things were much different. Sonic the Hedgehog was at the top of his game, Electronic Gaming Monthly had just awarded Sega's blue hedgehog with the game of the year award (over Super Mario World) and EVERYBODY was excited about a sequel. Perhaps it was this excitement that led EGM to be so wrong about Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

As most of you know, Sonic 2 was not actually on the Sega CD (nor was it called Escape from Ring Zone). Instead Sonic 2 was released on the Genesis in 1992, to which it was met with open arms and good reviews. In 1993 Sega decided to ship Sonic CD, the Sega CD Sonic that it would seem EGM is referring to. But are they? Sonic CD did a lot of cool things, but it didn't have a bunch of rotating levels like Quartermann claims. Sonic didn't get larger by picking up items. Sure Sonic went in and out of time, but nothing that EGM brings up actually made it into the game. Were these good ideas? Maybe, but they weren't accurate.
Conclusion: Sonic CD is one of the best Sonic games ever made, but it's not the game they were talking about in this rumor. Sonic 2 on CD? It just didn't happen!

Rumor #2 - Top 10 Genesis Games on One CD!

Gunstar Heroes is easily one of the best Genesis games, but it wouldn't be on this compilation!
"In other Mega CD news, Sega is rumored to be readying several of their all-time classics for a compilation disc of the ten best Genesis titles ever made! No details on price, but you can expect to see the disc appear around the same time the machine hits next year ..."
Reality: Recently Sega has had some trouble releasing compilations of their classic games, so it seems odd to hear people talk about them doing this almost 15 years ago. This rumor talks about a disc full of TEN of their best games (so obviously Green Dog wouldn't make it), but they ended up not making that disc. What they did do, however, was release a CD full of four games - Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns, and Golden Axe - along with the Sega CD. Actually, this collection ended up coming with the very first Sega CD units, making for a nice little disc for anybody who didn't already own these games. If this is the same disc Quartermann is talking about, then something happened in that year to make them shave half the games off. Perhaps Q, like usual, was just exaggerating what he knew.
Conclusion: Sega did release a CD full of their Genesis games, but not ten different games as this rumor indicated. If only we could get them to do a worthwhile collection today ...

Rumor #3 - Could Sony Hurt Nintendo's Business?

I wonder what would have happened if Sony and Nintendo hasn't broke up?
"... Rumors are flying that Sony is getting ready to duke it out with Nintendo over the big N's decision to skip the Sony shop and fly into the CD-I format with competitor Phillips. Although the Play Station [sic] has yet to see the light of day, both Sony and Phillips recently unveiled their own CD-I formats in Japan and the U.S. The jury's still out on the Sony unit, but the Phillips driver, which hit with a handful of game titles, is finding few players because of its high price tag! Sorry Sony, but the Q-Mann thinks you scored a direct hit by going solo!"
Reality: Yes, Sony, you DID score a direct hit by not making their PlayStation with Nintendo. As we all know now, Sony's PlayStation ended up being the biggest hit of the 90s, and the PS2 didn't do too shabby, either. But notice how EGM uses the phrase "CD-I". Some may read this and think they are talking about Phillip's CD-i, but that's not what they are talking about. Here Q uses CD-I to mean ANY compact disc that offers interaction, so anything on the Turbo CD or Sega CD. These days you don't hear people use that buzz word, but back in 1991 it was considerably more popular.

Getting back on track, this rumor isn't all that far off. It talks about how Sony could (eventually) eat into Nintendo's business, how poorly Phillips was doing, and how Nintendo decided to drop Sony. Not a whole lot in this I can argue with. Of course, Q seems frustrated that there was nothing known about the PlayStation, but considering the system didn't hit for another four years, that's not very shocking.
Conclusion: The PlayStation was going to take over ... but not for another few years. Nintendo still had plenty of time to parade around as the reigning champ.

Rumor #4 - Lynx on your Jaguar??

The Jaguar did a lot of things, but playing Lynx games wasn't one of them!
"In the latest of Quartermann's Jaguar coups, yours truly has learned that Atari's super 64-Bit system of tomorrow will reportedly be able to perform yet another stunning feat! With the help of a special adapter, the Jaguar will let Lynx owners play their hand-held softs on the big screen! This is going to be great when Atari finally decides to release their latest super charged console ..."
Reality: Holy crap, that's amazing, Lynx games on your Jaguar?? If only it were true. The Jaguar tried a few things in its short time on this planet, but playing Lynx games just wasn't one of them. A toilet-shaped CD? Yup, they did that. Virtual Reality headset? Yeah, well, they demoed it at CES. Lynx games on your Jaguar? Nope, that's not going to happen. And it's a shame, too. That might have been a really good reason for people to pick up the system.
Conclusion: How cool would it have been for the Jaguar to be the first system to put portable games on the TV? Sadly it ended up being Nintendo who did it first. You let me down once again, Atari.

Rumor #5 - Contra 4 and Batman on the Super NES?

Aren't you glad we don't still make models pose as game characters?
"... In hot game news, the Quatermann has managed to get the straight scoop on a number of super secret projects now in the works! Among the super softs you'll be playing in the months to come include Contra 4 for the Super NES, the 16-Bit update to the all-out champ of shoot-em-out combat! Also on the Super NES schedule is Batman-Return of the Joker from Sunsoft! Set to go head-to-head with Konami and Sega for 16-Bit Batman battles, the dark knight veterans have some special surprises in store for Super NES owners ..."
Reality: Hey look, it's Quartermann guessing at some sequels ... good for him! Let's start with Contra 4 for the Super NES. Soon after the Super NES launched Konami found time to release their 16-Bit installment of Contra ... called, Contra III: the Alien Wars. Contra III? Yeah, they decided against taking EGM's advice, and made it the sequel to Super C. All things considered it appears as though Q got this one right, even if he failed on the name. But really, you had to see a 16-Bit Contra game coming, right??

And look, they were right about Batman: Return of the Joker (actually titled, Batman: Revenge of the Joker). How were they able to do it? What was their secret? Maybe it had more to do with the fact that the Batman game was released in January of 1992 ... one month after this magazine came out! It's not a prediction when the game is one month away, it's a sales pitch.
Conclusion: EGM racks up two more successful predictions ... but one has to wonder if it's really a prediction when you talk about a game that comes out 30 days after the magazine.

Rumor #6 - Who the Hell is Uncle Al??

I doubt this is the Al the Q-Mann was talking about!
"... Now the big news on the Sega 16-Bit front is a great new game that you'll never see called Uncle Al's Bigtop Fun! The latest game super hero, Uncle Al uses his super powers to smash little men with bow ties into oblivion! A great showpiece from VaporWare! ... Don't hold your breathe, more Super NES titles are being delayed ..."
Reality: So let me get this right, there may have been a game by Sega called Uncle Al's Bigtop Fun? But we're not going to play it because it's VaporWare?? Confused, I decided to go back and see if I could find any reference to this game in any of EGM's older issues. I couldn't. So from the looks of it Quartermann is the only one talking about it ... and he's telling you it's not real. Huh?? This isn't a rumor, this is him practicing his typing! Man, we need to move on before I start thinking that Quartermann is just pulling this stuff out of his butt.
Conclusion: Not a real game. Not a real story. And really, how cool does a game called Uncle Al's Bigtop Fun sound? Here's a hint, not cool at all!

Rumor #7 - A Tape Drive for the NES?

A tape drive? What's next, a game system that plays CDs and DVDs?
"... New hardware is development behind closed doors includes the long-awaited 8-Bit upgrade for the NES! Instead of a CD storage device, however, the developers have chosen audio tapes - with games coming round by round from your tape player to the game system! This is an idea that's too wild, too cool and way too late ..."
Reality: When I first read this I thought Quartermann was confusing the audio tape device with the Famicom's cartridge, but it's clear that this is not what he's talking about. Quartermann is serious about this, he's actually talking about audio cassettes ... the type that people used to listen to music on (before they bought CDs). He doesn't have a problem editorializing about this device, but when it really comes down to it, he's just making up opinions about products that never existed. It's funny and a little sad all at the same time.
Conclusion: What was the "long awaited 8-Bit upgrade to the NES"?? The Super NES!

Rumor #8 - The Pre-Master System Converter!

Want to play Phantasy Star on your Game Gear? Prepare to squint!
"... Another peripheral upgrade comes from the import market, where a special Game Gear/Master System translator cartridge has appeared from the Frenchies! Plug the translator into your Game Gear and plug your Master System carts into the buffer for some way-out 8-Bit fury! The Quartermann gives a big thumbs up to the idea of a convertor [sic] and a big thumbs down to Sega for not bringing it out themselves ..."
Reality: Wowie Zowie, a device that plays Master System games on your Game Gear? That sounds too good to be true. Oh wait, no it doesn't, it sounds like a device Sega marketed only a few months after Quartermann decided to give them a thumbs down. I can't really debunk this rumor since he's right, another company did beat Sega to the punch. But what I'd like to point out is how refreshing it is to see something about the French that isn't an insult. In case you couldn't tell from my name (Cyril Lachel) my heritage is French, so I tend to notice the non-stop French bashing that seems to go on these days. If only more French companies could come up with cool technology Bill O'Reilly might drop his stupid boycott. Perhaps that's too much to ask.
Conclusion: I give the Quartermann a big thumbs up for talking about the French without making any insults, but I also give him a big thumbs down for not predicting that Sega would launch their own device only a few month later.

Rumor #9 - A Super Charged Super NES?

It sure would be nice to play some of those Super NES shooters without worrying about the constant slow downs!
"... Back to the home front, the Q-Minator has learned of a special add-on that will speed your Super NES along at a zippy 33 MHz (up from the super slow 3.58 MHz). While this device has yet to be seen in action, those in the know have told Quatermann that the artificial slow-mo that fills games like Super R-Type disappears when this powerful peripheral is put into action. More to come ..."
Reality: One of the biggest complaints about the Super NES was its slow processor speed, especially when compared to the Sega Genesis. Companies openly expressed their concern that some games (like Gunstar Heroes) would not run smoothly on the 3.58 MHz processor. This 33 MHz upgrade sounds like a great idea ... but it just didn't happen. They did create that Super FX chip, effectively giving the Super NES the power to push a few polygons to create some strangely ugly games, but that's not what Q is talking about here. EGM is predicting a chip that actually improves the function of the Super NES, something that just didn't pan out. Perhaps it's because they saw what happened with Sega, how they split the market when they released the Mega CD in Japan. Who knows? Whatever the case, there was no magic chip that made the system more than it actually was, and those slow downs in Super R-Type are there to stay.
Conclusion: Of all the rumors I wish were true, this is right there at the top of the list. But the Quartermann doesn't just drop the ball on this one; he pops it and throws it away. There was no 33 MHz chip for the Super NES. Not now, not then, not ever.

Rumor #10 - NEC Goes to the Movies?

Not sure about Lethal Weapon or Robocop, but Aliens sure would have made a good game!
"Other news to use comes from NEC, who have [sic] a secret plan up their sleeve to convert you to the Turbo ... Get set for a jammin' variety of movies to games next Summer! Among the future hits now in development are Lethal Weapon 3, Robocop 3, and even possibly an Aliens title."
Reality: Wait a second, you mean to tell me that NEC's master plan to attract more gamers was to release more movie games?? Talk about a terrible idea!! Almost everybody hates games based on movies, and for good reason ... they almost always suck. This is not a new phenomenon, either. Games like Total Recall and Back to the Future were total trash on the NES, Wayne's World was an unnecessary Super NES game, and how many movie games do you remember loving on the Game Boy?? Movie games are terrible, so the prospect of a system full of them is almost enough to make me want to take the TurboGrafx off of Defunct Games.

Thankfully the Q-Mann was wrong. Lethal Weapon 3 was never turned into a Turbo game (or any video game for that matter). Robocop 3 hit a ton of systems, but the Turbo wasn't one of them. And Aliens? Do I even need to finish this list? Look, NEC did a lot to kill the Turbo, but releasing a bevy of movie games was not one of them. Though, one has to wonder if it would have improved things ... wait, what am I saying? Oh forget I said that.
Conclusion: Did the Quartermann really think that releasing a bunch of movie games would convert gamers to the Turbo? He must not have got the memo that movie games are terrible and gamers have known this since Atari's E.T.!
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