Wizard Week: The Sorceress Strikes

Sandwich Islands Publishing had a problem. It needed a new character to represent its upcoming line of Super Nintendo Entertainment System strategy guides. Its stalwart wizard mascot, sadly, was not ideal for the job.

Why? Well, in short, the Genesis was an incredibly masculine console. Its limited color palette resulted in games that had a rugged, manly aesthetic. If the Sega Genesis was a beard, it would be the most majestic beard of them all: a wizard’s beard. SIP knew this, and designed its covers accordingly.

The SNES, by comparison, was a passionate, fertile system, brimming with feminine wile and charm. Developers were given free reign over a dazzling spectrum of colors, and Mode 7 technology ensured elegant rotation and scaling effects.

Sandwich Islands Publishing needed a female lead to serve as the physical embodiment of 1991’s juiciest Super Nintendo secrets.

Wizard: Well…
Dragon: No
What’s that growth on her shoulder? I think it’s a raven.

Let’s get this out of the way first: she’s no wizard. Sadly, wizards don’t really have a female equivalent. Witches are the closest physical match, but witches aren’t exactly strategy guide cover material. Wizards suggest wisdom and mastery; witches bring to mind lunatic buffoonery.

While it makes sense that SIP would choose a sorceress as its cover girl, the series is off to a rocky start in terms of cover content — there are three different animal classes on display here, and yet no dragon.

But look at that strategy lineup! Street Fighter II! Super Mario World! The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past! Despite some questionable filler material (anyone need a walkthrough for Hole-in-One Golf? Or Super Off Road? Or Hook?), the strategy offerings here are strong enough to sell the book on their own merits, despite the loss of our beloved wizard and his dragon.

Rating: Tentative Approval

Wizard: About as close as she’ll ever be.
Dragon: Yes
Finally: My search for a complete Wayne’s World walkthrough ends here.

Ah, now this is more like it. It’s here that the sorceress has finally won us over. She’s tamed the wizard’s pet dragon, and she’s taught him to breathe flame on command. Flame that advertises blazing-hot Star Fox strategies, no less.

Her facial expression is noteworthy. After greeting us with an anxious and somewhat spooky look in the original Awesome Super Nintendo Secrets, our sorceress has finally achieved a wizardly level of serene collectedness here, while exerting effortless control over the dragon.

Science fiction’s taint attempts to spoil the mood — the purple planet in the upper-right corner is uncomfortably close, suggesting that the pair might be flying through outer space. Hopefully, this is not the case; this is otherwise everything one could ever want from a strategy guide cover, minus a wizardly beard.

Rating: Editor’s Choice Award

Wizard: Sure
Dragon: No
Can you find: A black cat? A troll in a birdcage? A tiny treasure chest?

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: this cover is a step back for the series. It’s obvious that the artist was trying to give us a peek at the sorceress’s secret lair, to parallel the cover of Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets 4, but the big reveal arrives too soon for any of us to appreciate it.

The Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets wizard had taken us to the distant future — to outer space and back again — before finally allowing us into his home. We lack the same emotional investment with the sorceress. Only three books in, and she’s already inviting us to her castle — which, I might add, is not nearly as well-stocked as the wizard’s sanctum.

Still, I can appreciate the sentiment here. If only she’d been given more time to prove herself, the sorceress might have won our hearts in the same way the wizard had.

Rating: Smiley face sticker that says “Nice Try!”

So while Sandwich Islands Publishing was making brave strides in its push for sorceress acceptance in the field of Super Nintendo strategies, what was Prima up to?

This copy-and-paste sci-fi spooky-face horseshit, that’s what. Shameful. Not unexpected in the least, but still shameful.

At this point in time, both the Super NES and the Sega Genesis were being phased out in favor of promising technology like the Atari Jaguar, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and the Apple Pippin.

Though Prima and SIP remained fiercely competitive throughout the 16-bit era, only one publisher would survive the next console generation.

NEXT TIME: The tragic conclusion.

[Photo credits: Bill, Andy]

One Response to “Wizard Week: The Sorceress Strikes”

  1. Roscoe Says:

    I heard somewhere that it didn’t really matter if the SNES had more color capabilities, it could never fully use them because of its slow processor. So in the end the Sega Genesis could produce very colorful games (Ristar, Gunstar Heroes, Castlvania Bloodlines, Crusader of Centy) that werent really that different from SNES games graphically speaking.
    If a games looks ugly on the Genesis it’s because the programmers were lazy.

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