These eight-pages encapsulate the excitement, and expense, of peak 16-bit era. Graphic designers may gag, but I prefer this visual assault to trendy persons too young to afford their depicted lifestyles.
Also: win the RoboCop 3 car!
This flyer was stolen from The Centre for Computing History, who you might remember as the fine hosts of Digifest 2016. They are basically Dixons... except they neither clear out old stock nor push extended warranties.
Go here for the original high-resolution version of this flyer.
Sega are hot, though Street Fighter II keeps Nintendo competitive. The Mega Drive goes for value, with two controllers as standard, but the pack-in games are harder to call.
I like the scrappy 6 Game Pack, a mix of vintage classics and mouldy oldies. No single title can compete with slick Super Mario, but it probably offered financially-challenged 16-bit initiates more durable entertainment.
In today's prices, £149.99 becomes £269.99. I'd think very hard before spending that now, so these flyers were daunting as a child. The Mega CD was pure fantasy, like home ownership, and my saving discipline only stretched to a Master System.
Nintendo struggled to sell their 8-bit alternative, despite including two controllers, two games, and one zapper for less than a NES Mini.
Here are some astronomical game prices - because cartridges were expensive to manufacture - then some other excuse for Mega CD games. The writers of C&VG only score within a narrow band of excellence, providing sneaky numbers for marketing long before Metacritic. Publishers profited from naive assumptions that 50% to 80% meant above average, rather than crap.
Picture yourself as an early 90s child. It's almost Christmas, and your parents selfishly think that food, rent, and heating are more important than electronic toys, even those which score 93%. You've exhausted your savings to buy the console, so one new game will have to last months.
These two pages are a minefield, where critics only guide you to the shiny because they aren't paid to dig deeper. So consider yourself lucky if you stumble upon the enduringly excellent Zombies (Ate My Neighbors.)
Ironically, the classic review section demonstrates the butterfly lifespan of games. The following critical darlings, all less than one year old, are conspicuous by their absence: Sonic 2, Star Fox, Streets of Rage 2, and Super Mario Kart. Even Street Fighter II is old hat, because it's not the £59.99 Turbo edition.
In my Master System experience, game quality bore little relation to price. The Jungle Book, £32.99 in this flyer, is a mediocre endurance test briefly masked by big graphics. Sonic, now reduced to pack-in status, is elegant, though short-lived. Asterix, on clearance at £19.99, is excellent, with tight controls, and a wealth of ideas that reward perseverance past the difficult moments. Best of all remains Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, but good luck finding that for sale by 1993.
Before making cruel 0% interest jokes about the Amiga, you are invited to buy some overpriced, mostly plastic tat. Dixons, now trading as Currys and PC World, still make their money from accessories and finance.
The only Game Gear I saw was permanently plugged in. The Game Boy was the playground smash, assisted by keen pricing and Tetris. Meanwhile, the CD-i promises the future of home entertainment, but actually delivered Tetris with a £400 premium.
I will no longer mock the Amiga, because it was fine, capable hardware. Tragically, it was tethered to Commodore, who were now bundling Dangerous Streets with the CD32, rather than doing something more sensible, like careening downhill in a burning bathtub. Ignoring their antics, used Amiga 500s cost Mega Drive money but offered console conversions for half the price.
With a subscription to Amiga Power - who cherished good games regardless of age, and upset everyone but readers by giving average games 50% - you were all set for cost-effective entertainment. Though probably too smart for shopping at Dixons.
Hey, kids! Win a prize you can't use, from a film you’re not old enough see, and that you wouldn't want to if you were!
Yes, that is television's famous Digitiser, offering you the chance to vote for some meaningless award while entering the competition. It's strange to see them sharing space with EMAP, rather than insults.
There's no hint of Mr Biffo in the copy. It's just debris in a whirlwind which sucked up movie props, magazines, money, children, adults, Disney, and attitude, then dropped once-hot games with similar haste. Those which live on in fond memories are more impressive for being made in such chaotic conditions.
Some things haven't changed. There's still a scrum of big releases at Christmas, success is mostly measured by short-term numbers, and Nintendo keep asking people to buy Super Mario Brothers again. Sometimes I miss the old excitement, that more rapid pace of change, and the promise of new technology. Then I remember that chilling moment where I seriously considered buying the Amstrad GX4000.