Article 29—sunsoft game time news (1988)

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One of the many consumer newsletters produced during the Nintendo Entertainment System era, Game Time News kept fans informed about the latest releases from Sunsoft. It was among the more informative of these publications, mainly because it focused on game previews and tips instead of “lifestyle” content and stories about the
antics of the people who worked in the company’s American offices. For example, this issue has some pretty useful tips for the first two games that Sunsoft published in the U.S.: Sky Kid and Spy Hunter. Not just generic strategy advice, but actual cheat codes!

Also inside are previews of three games: Freedom Force, Xenophobe and Blaster Master. Note the “spoiler” screen that reveals the last level of Freedom Force; it appears to be an early version of the game in which the “ERROR” gauge is labeled “FAULT” instead. The Blaster Master write-up is also noteworthy in that it describes the game’s features with terminology that—with the exception of the “Thunder Break” attack—is almost completely different from the final instruction manual and canonical story. The main character, Jason, has not yet been named. The game environment is referred to as “the eight Caverns of Doom,” governed by the “Masters of the Caverns.” Jason’s tank—known to latter-day Blaster Master fans as Sophia 3rd—is simply called the “Blaster Vehicle” here. (It’s worth mentioning that the vehicle was not officially named in North America until Scholastic published its Blaster Master novelization in the Worlds of Power series of children’s books. The game’s box, the instruction manual
and the two in-depth Blaster Master feature articles in Nintendo Power magazine all managed to avoid naming the vehicle, which was originally called the Metal Attacker in Japan.)

I wish I knew more about the history of Sunsoft and the reasons why it failed to become a household name like Capcom or Sega. In the 8-bit era, the company actually had a lot of things in common with Konami, including wizardlike mastery of the NES sound chip and several huge hits that were based on licensed properties. It also appeared to have a better understanding of the U.S. market than many third-party publishers demonstrated. In fact, with Spy Hunter, Sunsoft earned the distinction of having published the first NES game that was exclusive to North America. (Freedom Force and Xenophobe were also North American exclusives.) Unfortunately, the company just didn’t seem to have enough original properties and strong characters to continue its success when the 16-bit systems arrived. Blaster Master was the closest thing Sunsoft had to a franchise with the staying power of a Mega Man or Castlevania, but it was barely acknowledged in the Super NES/Genesis era as Sunsoft contentedly churned out all those Looney Tunes and Aero the Acro-Bat games.
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