Preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990 By Brett Weiss

Brett Weiss’s book, Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games, has finally been released in softcover. To mark this occasion, Mr. Weiss has given The Retroist permission to reprint the book’s preface.

Before we get to that, here’s the description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of EVERY official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by entries for every game released for that console (regardless of when the games came out). Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy (since they came out in 1989), and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein– Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

You can order the book here:

Without further ado, here’s the preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games:

“For me, 1989 was an exciting year. After slogging away for four years at a job I hated, delivering copier machines via a bobtail truck, I took the plunge and decided to do something I would enjoy, even if it meant working for less pay. I applied for and quickly got a job with Lone Star Comics, which is a retail chain in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Ironically, I was hired not because I was a comic book expert (which I was), but because of my mad truck-driving skills. My job with Lone Star, in addition to waiting on customers and sorting and bagging back issue comics, was to commandeer the company van, delivering new comics to various Lone Star stores. (My position at Lone Star led to management and then to the ownership of two comic book stores, but that’s a story for another day).

During my first year with Lone Star, three significant (mind-blowing, to be exact) pop culture events transpired: the release of the Tim Burton Batman film, which kicked off the second wave of Batmania (the first was during the Adam West era); the debut of The Simpsons television series, which changed the face of prime time television forever; and the beginning of the next generation of video game systems with the unveiling of three new consoles: the Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 (not to mention the Game Boy and Atari Lynx handheld units).

While I didn’t get the chance to play a Neo Geo or a TurboGrafx-16 until later, I picked up a Genesis shortly after the system hit store shelves. From a sheer practical standpoint, I didn’t need a Genesis – my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and other systems were keeping me plenty busy – but I simply had to have one, thanks to the stunning, arcade-like intrigue of such next-gen titles as Altered Beast, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Golden Axe, and to the “oohs” and “aahs” I kept hearing from Lone Star customers and from some of my friends who had already bought (or at least played) a Genesis.

I was certainly pleased with my Genesis purchase and was doubly so with the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), which at the time was the fastest, most dynamic platformer I had ever seen or played. The game helped make the Genesis the cool system to own. Not only that, the spunky protagonist – a blue, spiky-haired hedgehog with an attitude – quickly became Sega’s far-famed mascot, giving the company something Nintendo already had for years with Mario.

Over time, I would add many more games to my Genesis collection, including such favorites as Captain America and the Avengers, Gunstar Heroes, Mega Bomberman, Ms. Pac-Man, Road Rash, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Space Invaders ’91, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, and Sunset Riders.

Since hundreds of games were released for the system, the bulk of the book you hold in your hands covers the Sega Genesis. However, I paid no short shrift to the Neo Geo, with its plethora of bold, brash, bombastic fighting games, or to the TurboGrafx-16, with its wonderful array of quirky titles and hardcore shooters (to this day, Galaga ’90 is one of my all-time favorite games). Regardless of which console from 1989 is your favorite, you’ll find plenty of information and opinions here on all of that system’s cartridges.

Released on the heels of Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984 (2007) and Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 (2009), Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 is the third book in a proposed four-volume series. It was fun to write, but also very difficult, partly because the games of the era are typically longer and more involved than the titles covered in the first two books.

When I talk to gamers at conventions and online, I’m sometimes asked why I write reference books instead of tips and tricks guides or historical accounts of the industry. The answers are simple. The Internet and the Digital Press guides have all the tips and tricks anyone needs, and Steven L. Kent (with The Ultimate History of Video Games) and Leonard Herman (with Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames) have the market cornered on history books and do a much better job of it than I ever could.

My books contain a lot of video game history, of course, what with the retro theme and all, but the emphasis is on the individual games themselves. Each entry for the Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 includes data, description, gameplay elements, and, in most cases, critical evaluation. (The games for the console add-ons, such as the Sega CD and TurboGrafx-CD, are included in appendices near the back of the book. The handheld Atari Lynx and original Game Boy are also covered in the appendices).

Another reason I write reference books is that I’m obsessed with them. It started when I was a kid during the mid-1970s and would pore over the Guinness Book of World Records. I would sit with my tattered paperback copy of that book for hours, utterly transfixed by such phenomena as the world’s tallest man, the world’s longest fingernails, the world’s heaviest twins, and the woman with the world’s thinnest waist. (In the years since, I’ve read countless other reference books to pieces, including Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600, which helped pave the way for my Classic Home Video Games series).

In addition to the Guinness Book of World Records, the 1970s was a decade filled with entertainments that were enticing to my impressionable young mind. These included The Land of the Lost, The Super Friends, Star Wars, the rock band KISS, Marvel and DC comic books, and, of course, video games. When such monolithic testaments to man’s ingenuity as Midway’s Gun Fight (1975) and Atari’s Breakout (1976) began rubbing elbows with my beloved pinball machines at the local arcades, I became quickly hooked. To help pay for my newfound obsession, I would pop games on pinball machines I had mastered and sell the resultant credits two for a quarter.

Shortly after I discovered video games in the arcades, various cousins and friends started receiving – as Christmas presents – these incredible machines that would hook up to their television sets to play games. I wouldn’t get my own game system (a ColecoVision) until 1982, but I was a frequent fixture at the homes of anyone I knew who owned Pong (or any number of Pong clones), an Atari VCS, a Fairchild Channel F system, or an Odyssey 2 (back in those days, no one I knew had two systems).

So, since I grew up playing video games and reading reference books, and since I always wanted to be a writer, it only made sense to write reference books about video games.

The research I did for Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 was exhaustive and exhausting. An addition to playing (and replaying) an insane number of games, many of which I had to borrow from friends or purchase on eBay or in various gaming stores throughout Texas and Oklahoma, I spent hundreds of hours going over every little detail – from character names to production dates to game developers – in order to assure that the information was as accurate as humanly possible.

Also, I tried to measure the positives and negatives of each game objectively. I took the era in which the games where made into consideration, of course, but if a game hadn’t held up particularly well over time, I usually mentioned it. While graphics and sounds play important roles, my bottom-line consideration each time I evaluate a game is how much fun it is to play.

The one drawback to researching and writing the Classic Home Video Games series is that it takes away from time I could be playing modern consoles, such as my son’s Xbox 360 or our family’s Nintendo Wii. Regardless, I largely prefer 2D twitch-gaming and scrolling action over 3D exploration and first-person shooting anyway, so I’m content to mine the past while others pave the way forward.

For some of you, this will be your second or third book to purchase in the Classic Home Video Games series, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. For others, this will be your first experience with my work, and I want to thank you as well. I certainly hope you enjoy what you read.”

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