Issue Review: CF 9 (June, 1991)

cf09_Jun1991Boris Yeltsin became president of the new Russia in June 1991. Late that month, Yugoslavia collapsed as Croatia and Slovenia declared independence. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was released on the 14th, pipped only by Terminator 2 as the year’s biggest movie. And in video game world, Sega released the very first Sonic The Hedgehog.

The speed and design sensibility in Sonic had never been seen before; a sort of Japanese energy, atmosphere and pace that couldn’t fail to impress. If the Commodore 64 had started to look dated when the Amiga came along, here was something new and perhaps more dangerous at the door. Yet that month the UK all formats chart was dominated by C64 cassette titles – the computer wasn’t going anywhere yet. But if you’re looking for the precise moment heads were turned, Sonic in the summer of ’91 is probably it.

We’ll come to more of that in later installments of Issue Review. For now, CF had plenty of games to talk about. So much so, it could even afford to theme issue 9 as a fantasy special.

Heroquest  was a Commodore version of 1989’s hugely popular board game. The problem with the physical version was that you needed two people to play…but not on the C64, of course. The action was transferred to the micro computer perfectly, with an infinite number of adventures possible and the added advantage, as Andy Dyer said, of “chucking out your mates at midnight and continuing adventuring on your 64 ’till the early hours”.

US Gold put a new perspective on an old favourite with Gauntlet 3This time around, the game was in 3D. Eight glorious, isometric scrolling levels of adventure! Unlike the first two games, you came out of the dungeons and into the fresh air to mash up a whole new world of monsters. There are better graphics, bigger demons and more fiendish puzzles than the 1986 original or its follow up; the shame is that it wasn’t seen by many, although copies do occasionally surface today (find out why in our issue 8 feature here).

Wrath Of The Demon, meanwhile, was spectacular. The fantasy-scrolly-beat-and-collect-em-up (nice genre – Ed) had some of the most spectacular backdrops ever seen on an 8-bit machine, with some wonderful sprite animation and a horse riding sequence to rival the consoles. Speaking of which, the game was intended as a cartridge release by Empire at £25 – but as it became more apparent the C64GS/cart scene was a non-starter, it was downgraded to cassette and disk, taking almost another year to appear. A shame, as it was so much more fun when instantly accessed.

Death Knights of Kryn and Ultima VI rounded off the fantasy special, the latter a hugely customisable adventure with an enormous landscape and even some early examples of the cutscene. Its 89% rating belied just how ahead of its time the title was, the same of which could be said for each of the fantasy games reviewed this month. Sonic might have been dropping jaws, but C64 games were getting better and better as developers put almost a decade’s worth of expertise to use.

As for Commodore Format, this is definitely the month that the magazine really hit its stride and set the tone for years to come. The Early Warning! preview scanner makes its debut in this issue, an idea that you can still see aped in Future titles today. The Gamesbusters section is split into new sections making it easier to navigate and the writing is just…well…better. There is no faffing around – it’s straight into the action.

Looking ahead, System 3 announced this month a C64-only race and shoot-’em-up, TurbochargeIt looked, again, better than anything the C64 had ever seen. And with Ocean announcing coin op-convo Toki and a game based on Peter Pan movie Hook as well as an official England football game in the pipeline from Grandslam, it was pretty evident the Breadbin would be OK for a while yet. CF

ON THE POWER PACK

Commodore_Format_PowerPack_9_1991-06Hewson’s Zamzara was a pretty neat shoot ’em up with some ace animation. Gremlin’s Bulldog was standard space action, while the HeroQuest demo let you and up to 3 mates play the entire first level of the month’s rave review. Finally, the FirePower demo offered tank trundling carnage courtesy of MicroIllusion.

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