By Damien McFerran - 13 Feb, 2006
Mean Machines started the ball rolling for a rush of console-related publications. Here's a brief selection of some of the better ones, and some of the more recent magazines that Mean Machines staff members went on to produce.
The Computer and Videogames Complete Guide To Consoles
Edited by Julian Rignall and published by EMAP (under the CVG banner), this magazine ran for about four issues (I think) and could be called the grandfather of MM itself. Covering only consoles, the mag contained reviews for the Megadrive, Master System, NES, Gameboy, PC Engine and NeoGeo, as well as featuring news articles on other, lesser known machines (anyone remember the Korean would-be Gameboy-rival, Gamate? No, didn't think so). Contributions were from Richard Leadbetter, Paul Rand (CVG), Rob Swan (CVG) and Paul Glancey.
Paul Glancey, former CVG and MM staffer, produced this fine effort. The focus was, as the title suggests, the Megadrive. With its cutting-edge design (for then, anyway) and glossy cover, this is one magazine that stood out from the newsstands. The publication did well for a while, but was eventually purchased by Maverick Magazines and was slowly driven into the ground.
Computer & Videogames
The longest-running multi-format console magazine on the face of the planet, CVG has changed many times over the past twenty years. The first issues featured pages and pages of code (and no screenshots!). In the mid-eighties the magazine started to get a little more interesting, with the introduction of the 16-bit home computers and of course, Japanese consoles. The decline of the home computer and the increasing popularity of consoles in the early 90's meant a change of direction, with consoles stepping to the forefront, and this is how it has remained since. The magazine was bought from EMAP by Dennis Publishing in 2000, signalling the end of an era. A sad day indeed, especially when you consider just how important some of the EMAP publications were. In fact, a close inspection of EMAP's website reveals that the whole CVG and MM era has been erased completely - does this piss anyone else off but me? More recently, CVG was acquired by Future Publishing (along with PC Zone). In a statement on Future's website, the company stated that the underpeforming CVG would be ceased "in it's present form". It now exists as a website. A sad end for such a legendary magazine.
Alongside Mean Machines, this is one magazine that everyone seems to have positive memories about. This was another magazine that was very import-centred. It also championed the cause of Japanese RPGs, which hardly any other magazines did at the time. You have to remember that this was before Final Fantasy VII had made an impact on the UK. Super Play reviewed Final Fantasy III and gave it a glowing score - most other magazines ignored it completely.
The magazine also featured Anime and Manga updates. The covers were drawn by Will Overton in a very 'Japanese' style. These features only added to the Japanese feel of the magazine. Compared to other mags on the shelves at that time, Super Play's production values were very high indeed
A Nintendo-only monthly from Future Publishing. Edited by Steve Jarratt, who would later go on to launch EDGE magazine, again with Future (see below). Total! was launched when Mean Machines was still a multi-format magazine, and could probably be seen as the major competition at the time (there was some good-natured rivalry between the two mags, with both taking digs at each other via the letters pages). The production of the mag was impressive, putting MM in the shade - it had a nice glossy cover and a more professional, uniform look inside (as opposed to MM's 'cut and paste' style page layout). However, Total! was aimed squarely at young kids (which is understandable, as 99% of the Nintendo owners were young kids) and it always felt a little immature. MM seemed more 'hip' and 'cool' to me, whereas Total! was a bit naff and tried too hard. Still, in retrospect, a decent magazine.
Another Steve Jarratt-launched title, published again through Future. EDGE actually has very little in common with MM - to be honest, when it was launched in 1993 it was unlike anything seen before. Written for the mature gamer, it took a very serious (some would say too serious) approach to videogames. The magazine has covered every generation of consoles since the 16-bit era, as well as PC developments. Always looking towards the future of videogaming, EDGE is still going strong today (it's the only magazine I buy now). The mag has featured a couple of interviews with Julian Rignall over the years - the most recent was included in the spin off RETRO magazine and was regarding his time with Zzap!64.
A joint effort between Rich Leadbetter and Gary Harrod, this multiformat magazine was like a breath of fresh air when it was released. Taking the approach seen in US magazines like EGM, most of the publication was taken up by information on different games, rather than cramming all the review and game details into a two-page spread (like most UK magazines). Consoles were the main focus but some PC titles (Quake) did get a look in. However, the magazine was just too 'different' to find a solid readership, and it ceased publication after a handful of issues. On the last page of the last issue Leadbetter was optimistic of the chances of a return, but it never came. A shame, because this was a excellent read, and this is proven by the fact that copies are very much in demand on ebay. Leadbetter recalls his time with the magazine in the exclusive Mean Machines Archive Interview! Booyah.
Official Sega Saturn Magazine
Mean Machines Sega eventually became Official Sega Magazine, which in turn became Sega Saturn Magazine, with Richard Leadbetter at the helm. This was one hell of a magazine. It covered the fortunes of the Saturn right up to the bitter end (it even started covering the Saturn's replacement, the Dreamcast, before it was even released in Japan). As official Saturn release grew more and more scarce, import titles were given review space and even front page status (Castlevania, X-Men Vs Streetfighter). Radiant Silvergun was given pages and pages of coverage, and the kind guys even gave away disk one of Panzer Dragoon Saga! A perfect magazine for an underrated system, and in many ways a spiritual successor to Mean Machines. It's just a shame that EMAP weren't given the Official Dreamcast Magazine licence.
My overriding memory of Sega Power was a magazine printed on what can only be described as toilet paper. The early issues (around the time of the Megadrive launch) really were awful. The fact that they refused (at first) to review any game that wasn't official meant they were hopelessly behind Mean Machines and CVG when it came to exclusive scoops. Later issues got better (with better paper too) and Sega Power managed to actually last quite a while, until the Saturn era.
This American magazine was designed by Gary Harrod. It was edited by Dave Halverson, who seems to be something of a legend in the US - he also produced Die Hard Game Fan magazine. Import releases were given their own section, and there was even a few pages devoted to anime and music. On the whole it was a very decent read - but it could sometimes be a little hard going for non-US gamers.
Andy - 17 Dec 2009, 23:04 GMT
Sorry guys, Mean Machines Sega didn't become Official Sega Magazine, in fact OSM was dissolved before MMS was. The two ran in parallel for a while, and when OSM turned into Official Sega Saturn Magazine the official Sega (general) status got transferred to MMS. Eventually MMS ran it's course and left OSSM as the only official Sega publication.
Andrew Laggan - 06 Nov 2013, 13:54 GMT
I wish I still owned those 'Complete Guide to Consoles' magazines. The first paperback 'yellow cover' book was my favourite as it featured reviews from many classic systems including the Atari VCS, Colecovision. 7800 etc. There was some good technical breakdowns on the consoles themselves. Time to dust these guides down, and get them re-released as retro compilations!