Iconic Issues: CVG's Complete Guide To Consoles 8
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Back in the early late '80s and early 1990s, the NES / Famicom dominated living rooms in North America and Japan, but the situation was a little different in the United Kingdom.

Home computers like the ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga had been the main gaming platforms for quite some time, with Japanese-made consoles being more of a niche proposition. However, that was all about to change with the arrival of the PC Engine, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo Game Boy and Super Nintendo – machines that would drastically change the gaming landscape in the UK beyond all recognition.

The magazine which spearheaded this new wave of console gaming was Computer & Video Games, which, at that point, was one of the longest-running publications devoted to interactive entertainment in the world. The coverage began via the efforts of Tony Takoushi, who would later work at Sega Europe, but the torch would pass to Julian Rignall, who joined the magazine having cut his teeth on the legendary C64 mag, Zzap!64.

Via the 'Mean Machines' section of the magazine, which was established by Takoushi to give consoles like the NES, PC Engine and Master System their time in the sun, CVG educated the home computer-owning masses on the delights of home console gaming, generating enough interest to trigger thoughts of publisher EMAP backing a dedicated monthly magazine for consoles.

However, to test the water further, EMAP allowed Rignall to produce a limited series of magazines which were focused entirely on console gaming. Should these prove commercially successful, then a regular magazine might be forthcoming.

Complete Guide To Consoles was well-named; in each of the four issues that were published, Rignall and his EMAP colleagues did their utmost to explain the appeal of the current batch of cartridge-based systems. From the domestically available Master System and NES to the recently launched Mega Drive and 'import darling' PC Engine, the magazine was full of news, profiles, tips, previews and – perhaps most importantly – reviews.

The 98% score awarded to the Mega Drive port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts shows the degree of enthusiasm the magazine had for consoles; some might argue it was perhaps too high a score, but remember, gamers had been forced to endure (mostly) terrible home computer conversions of arcade hits up to this point, so having a version in your living room that was almost arcade perfect was nothing short of a revelation.

Three more issues would follow, each following the same format, with the exception of the fourth and final one, which was more of a directory of games. It didn't matter, as, by that point, it was already confirmed that EMAP would indeed be launching its dedicated console monthly: Mean Machines. Taking its name from the aforementioned section of CVG, this Rignall-helmed publication would become a commercial smash hit, kickstarting not only a flood of console-focused mags from EMAP but also a wave of rivals and imitators across the entire UK magazine industry.

As for Complete Guide to Consoles, it would spawn the one-off magazines Complete Guide to Sega and Complete Guide to Mega Drive, but it sadly never went beyond that. Today, copies change hands for surprisingly large sums of money; a testament to the amazing impact of these magazines and the fact that for thousands of UK gamers, they were an entry point into the amazing world of home console gaming.