Wizard Week: Wizards at War
“Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets, huh? Oh, real mature. Do those jerks at Sandwich Islands Publishing seriously think they can get away with this? We’ll show them a thing or two. We’ll make a sequel to Sega Genesis Secrets…with the exact same cover!”
Well, it’s not the exact same cover. It seems to take place a few seconds after the events shown in the first volume — the warrior looks a little more exhausted, and the Amazon has finally made up her mind to attack the dragon. Otherwise, the art tells the same, tired story as before. Why should anyone expect the book’s contents to be up-to-date with the latest hints and tips for killer Sega Genesis games?
The third volume, on the other hand, skips over the rest of the battle and focuses on the thrilling aftermath of our heroes looking at a dead dragon. What happened? Who killed the dragon? Given that the pair was given two entire strategy guide covers to kill a dragon but failed to do so, someone else — say, a wizard — probably swept in and saved the day.
Wizard: HOLY SHIT YES
Dragon: Do snakes count as dragons?
No: Then no, there’s no dragon.
While Prima was screwing around with its “dragon / dragon / dead dragon” saga, Sandwich Islands Publishing retaliated by taking its wizard mascot into outer goddamned space. At this point in the Prima trilogy, Sandwich could’ve responded with a painting of a wizard squatting on a toilet and still emerged the victor. But a cover featuring a future wizard? That’s just raw as hell.
This new direction actually hurt the Awesome brand, in the long run. Taking the wizard into space would have been a natural conclusion for the series, but Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets still had three more volumes to go at this point. Where do you go from here? How can you follow up on a wizard in space?
The short answer: you can’t. A future space wizard would normally earn a perfect score on my review scale, but Sandwich Islands Publishing’s poor timing softens the intended impact.
Rating: 9.98 out of 10
Prima saw SIP’s space wizard and panicked. Worried that it would appear outdated in the midst of what it assumed was a new science fiction trend, Prima resurrected its dragon for Sega Genesis Secrets Volume 4, turned it into a space alien, and paired it with an armored medieval-future Predator.
The message was clear: “We’re trying too hard.” Sega Genesis owners were not fooled, and continued to look to the Awesome series for the most tubular 16-bit strategies of 1992.
Realizing that it may have overplayed its hand, SIP scaled things back significantly for Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets 3.
Here, wizard and dragon exist together in elegant simplicity. It’s not set in outer space. It doesn’t take place in the future. There are no Predators. This is simply a wizard and a dragon as God made them — a simple, necessary, and humble return to basics for a series that risked losing everything to the Sirens’ song of science fiction.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Prima, meanwhile, was firmly set in its ways by the time the final chapter in its Sega Genesis Secrets series went to press. The dragon is gone. Indeed, all forms of organic life have been sacrificed. Instead, Prima relied on the infinite, lifeless vacuum of outer space to sell its strategy guides. How trite. How boring.
Dragon: It’s more like a really big lizard, but yes.
CD Games? FINALLY
SIP’s reply — as if it needed to address the competition at this point — was its best cover yet. Note that the once-mighty dragon is now the wizard’s pet — a subtle jab at Prima’s notorious mismanagement of its dragon-related intellectual property.
Here, strategy-hungry gamers at last got a peek at the wizard’s inner sanctum. Its treasure trove of hourglasses, potions, and vaguely threatening knick-knacks does not disappoint.
Rating: A perfect 10
Trouble was brewing in the world of paperback-sized strategy guides, however. Sega’s dominance was weakened thanks to the failure of the Sega CD. The world’s fickle children were turning to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System for their gaming needs. And those children demanded hot cheats for Bubsy, The Rocketeer, and Harley’s Humongous Adventure.
Wizards won the Sega Genesis war for Sandwich Islands Publishing, but who would champion its foray into SNES strategies?
TOMORROW: More of this crap.
[photo credit: Bill’s Retro Gaming Haven]