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SEGA Mania Fanzine – Issue 1 Review

SEGA Mania is a brand new, full colour print fanzine from Tim Hugall, Simon Pike and Sam Forrester with a huge emphasis on reviving the 1990s. The team make no qualms about wearing their influences on their sleeves, as the magazine is a clear homage to the wild west of UK SEGA magazines like Mean Machines SEGA, MegaTech, SEGA Power and SEGA Force, but now with the modern advantage of hindsight.

SEGA Mania does a fantastic job of giving you the context for the era that it explores. In issue 1, the team specifically tackle the year 1990 and open the magazine with a great feature that discusses the headlines of the era, as well as what was happening in sports and entertainment at the time. It’s a wonderful way to start a new publication that looks back on the media of yesteryear, and it helps paint a picture of what the world was like when SEGA dominated the home console market in the UK.

The magazine then moves on to discuss the gaming headlines of 1990, specifically highlighting the release of the Master System II and the upcoming release of the Game Gear alongside its Japanese launch line-up. We also get a smattering of current SEGA news that include details of the upcoming Mr. X Nightmare DLC for Streets of Rage 4, alongside a cute little feature about the creation of a coffee table shaped like a Master System controller by enthusiast wood-worker igoballzdeep.

Then we get into the meat of the magazine with the various game reviews. The games featured are predominantly titles released in the UK in 1990 and are largely made up of Mega Drive and Master System releases, but there’s also a review of the recently released Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX to keep the magazine grounded in the here and now. The writing is functional and flows well, making for a comfortable read. It doesn’t have a lot of character outside some odd humour, but otherwise it is perfectly serviceable and gets the job done.

For the final section of the magazine, the SEGA Mania team discuss some modern synthwave music releases from independent artists that feel relevant to the 90s nostalgia the magazine is trying to evoke. Also discussed are some SEGA-relevant merchandise that includes book releases and clothing. The magazine then wraps things up with even more 1990-centric content in the form of some movie reviews (which bizarrely feature the only scores the writers’ award anything in the magazine), a bizarre piece of Ian Beale fan fiction and then some letters. However, as this is the first issue the letters are entirely fabricated for comedic effect.

Now about that comedic writing – SEGA Mania struggles to find a consistent tone for its writing. The presentation across the magazine is gloriously gaudy and colourful, obviously trying to evoke the look of the magazines that the team hold so dear. This is also reflected in the writing which is often a little too blue for its own good. It starts off relatively friendly by introducing the writers, their goals for the issue and their backgrounds in regards to gaming, which is certainly a nice way to begin a new publication. However, you soon notice a little bit of blue language. The team start by using asterisks to censor their swearing, but as the issue goes on the vulgar language becomes more and more frequent before completely dumping the censorship altogether. Edgy humour was all the rage throughout the era of 90s video game journalism so it makes sense that it appears here, but it often feels like a lazy substitute for what could’ve been a better-written punchline. Hopefully the team can settle on a better “house style” for future issues.

There are some minor gripes with the visual presentation as well. While the commitment to a bold, abrasive and colourful art style certainly evokes nostalgic memories of 90s game magazines, I think SEGA Mania goes a little too far in places. The team make a joke about “eye-burning red on black text” in the contents page and then go on to publish an entire review of Super Thunder Blade using the same red-on-black text. Some of the background imagery is also far too busy to place words onto, with the World Cup Italia 90 review being an egregious example as it uses piercing yellow text on top of a busy, grassy background.

As this is a promotional copy of the first issue, the team have been keen to point out that the print is slightly inferior to the final product, with typos and formatting issues being corrected for the final print. This is good to know because I definitely noticed a few grammatical errors, missing text and some rather distorted and blown-out imagery (I’m looking at you double-page spread of a single screenshot of Altered Beast).

Regardless, I think SEGA Mania Issue 1 is a solid foundation for a fanzine that can only get better from here. This is a full colour, 52 page publication (sorry page count, but you’ve definitely imagined 2 extra pages there) written by an enthusiastic team of SEGA fans who very much miss the 90s. While the presentation is a little ugly in places, I can tell this comes from a place of reverence for the vibrant and overly colourful print style of the 1990s, but it definitely needs to be toned down a bit so it doesn’t make reading the actual words a chore.

Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark 14/07/2021

A copy of the fanzine was provided by the SEGA Mania team for this review.

SEGA Mania issue 1 can be ordered from the SEGA Mania Online Store.

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