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ACE Magazine


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PXL_20220718_080624886.thumb.jpg.bd76c14b5d24125391a0038db1854e91.jpgAll Computer Entertainment - I think!

Mostly famous for being the magazine that ridiculously scored games out of 1,000 rather than 10 or 100 as was standard.

I started picking up a few issues recently because I'd never really read it (beyond browsing a few copies belonging to friends back in the day) and they came up cheap on eBay. Then I stumbled across a small trove of them when I visited the Retro Hunter in Leigh-on-Sea a while back. Now I have nine issues out of a possible 54 which I guess makes me almost a collector.

 

Anyway it's a strange but in many ways magnificent beast. It takes itself a bit more seriously than anything else I can think of that was around at the time and catering to the same market. Almost a proto-Edge I guess. There's a fair bit of coverage on the "future of gaming", and detailed features on stuff like CD-ROM, online gaming and AI. 

Lots of the letters are congratulating it for being a more grown-up take on gaming. With hindsight of course we know these are almost certainly made up. But it shows the direction they are going in.

Of course there's still the heavy skew towards the UK side of things, and a tendency towards somewhat optimistic takes on how important the UK industry is going to be to the future of gaming (an assured attitude that the Konix Multisystem is clearly going to being a Sega and Nintendo-killer, for example). 

It's generally a good read. The reviews are detailed and they cover Japanese consoles and American PC RPGs and simulations without resorting to too many insinuations that they are for kids or for boring no-life nerds, respectively. I have a feeling I wasn't interested in it as a kid myself (I was very young when it was being published) because it seemed a bit too grown-up compared to Zero and C&VG, which would have been its main competitors as multi-format mags, I guess.

Anyone used to read it back in the day, or even have a few issues lying around these days (will probably be interested in taking them off your hands if you do!)

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Old Garry Whitta's review of Secret of Monkey Island 2 is one of my most vivid memories. It was this precise moment where I decided I had to have a PC in my life. It took a few years before I managed to pick one up (and a trip to the original CEX store to see Charlie Brooker and buy loads of PC games!), but I did it.

 

And I have to thank ACE for that.

 

Great mag.

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I used to read ACE when it was about and rather enjoyed it at the time. Even worse than the ridiculous marking out of 1000 was that predicted interest curve thing. I had a good friend who was supplying UK gamers with a lot of the import PC Engines at the time but ACE teamed up with one of his major competitors and trumpeted a PC Engine for Europe, which was no different than what any other importers were supplying, they even stuck the guy on the cover.

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44 minutes ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

I used to read ACE when it was about and rather enjoyed it at the time. Even worse than the ridiculous marking out of 1000 was that predicted interest curve thing. I had a good friend who was supplying UK gamers with a lot of the import PC Engines at the time but ACE teamed up with one of his major competitors and trumpeted a PC Engine for Europe, which was no different than what any other importers were supplying, they even stuck the guy on the cover.

Even worse than that PIC thing ... Is the really, really confusing "stock market" idea in the back pages of the early issues at all, where they try and rank games publishers according to aggregate scores from all of the big magazines. Which is just completely baffling! 

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Picked up this little haul a couple of years ago, which included one issue of ACE and one of Games-X, both multi-format mags, neither of which I'd ever read before.
I really enjoyed ACE. It was a real snapshot of the early 90's games scene and you got a taste of the friction between the home micro stuff and the consoles. 
I wouldn't have bought it at the time as I think it's spread a bit thin. I was only really interested in the news & reviews for the systems I owned (at that time just the NES and Gamerboy I think - possibly my first Megadrive).

 

picmags.thumb.JPG.c2cfe3138d5119b598e709b008949076.JPG

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I used to like ACE and Zero, I think they complimented each other nicely with ACE being the more grown-up and Zero the more lighthearted. It was my first real exposure to PC games (I had an Amiga at the time) and I used to look at them with a tinge of wonder and awe.

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I've been re-reading Ace magazine on occasion, as they're all on archive.org. It's an odd beast, as it's very forward looking and quite erudite - they have long features on WW2 air combat to tie in with Their Finest Hour which is obviously written by someone who knows their stuff, and they really go all-in on FMV games and CD technology. The reviews are consciously a bit closer to the tone and style of the reviews you'd get in "serious" PC mags of the time, rather than C&VG or The One. The reviews aren't that well written ultimately, especially in comparison to modern mags and websites in the niche that ACE was targeting, but they're not bad.

 

There was an odd feature where the mag designed the ultimate (as they saw it) games computer and got various developers to comment on it - the ACE Challenge. That seems like such a strange thing to do in retrospect - the mag's team must have been very confident of their technical abilities, and to be fair, it seems at least credible -  but in the late eighties I guess it was much more wide-open in terms of what direction hardware would go in. The developer responses are interesting - some are supportive, some (like David Braben) can barely contain their disdain at some journalists telling him how hardware should work.

 

Overall, it's a pretty good read and has aged fairly well. It feels like an attempt to make a more accessible version of those monolithic PC mags that were the size of phone books, what with the pink pages at the back (which i found largely incomprehensible) and the focus on industry news and chitchat. Some of it is quite charming - there's a feature where the team went out to the US to speak to loads of American devs, and the overall tone is basically "we're in America!!!! We went in a plane and then a taxi and bought a burger and it was MASSIVE and then we went to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and saw a REAL R2D2!!!! The Star Wars people really liked us!!! Then we saw a new FILM in the cinema which won't be out in the UK for AGES!!! Then we met some people from Origin, Warren something or other, who cares, we saw a shop selling the jackets from TOP GUN!!! It was amazing!!!"

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34 minutes ago, Anne Summers said:

Even worse than that PIC thing ... Is the really, really confusing "stock market" idea in the back pages of the early issues at all, where they try and rank games publishers according to aggregate scores from all of the big magazines. Which is just completely baffling! 

 

I've either completely forgotten or perhaps treated that part of the mag with the attitude of fuck that shit.

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As a kid I really enjoyed Ace simply because it was different to the huge pile of mags I also got at the time.

It was Fisher Price My First Edge Magazine. I'm not sure Edge would exist without it.

As @K said though, it really wasn't well written at all.

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I get the feeling it was somewhat overlooked at the time - hence the lack of nostalgia and therefore reverence for it now. 

Probably because it was a multi-format mag and so didn't cater to the system-specific fanboy demographic that was 90 per cent of the games mag readership at the time. And it wasn't C&VG which picked up the other 10 per cent.

If you can judge a mag's popularity by the number of issues it lasted for (and - why not?) then broadly speaking you can say multiformat mags weren't as popular as single format ones in this era. With the exception of C&VG, most of them only lasted a few years tops. Compared to the likes of Your Sinclair and Amiga Format that went on for years and years. 

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I still have ACE issues 4 and 17 kicking around, salvaged from my dad’s old office. Interesting magazine, in its original Future Publishing guise – more ‘serious’ than competitors, but admittedly suffers from the amateurish writing that was ubiquitous with these publications (most of the games reviews are literally the plot of the game, with the explanations of the gameplay crammed into a box at the end). Still, some interesting features in there, including one in #4 about early CGI, and one in #17 which is loosely speaking an embryonic article about retro computing.
571676DF-2AB0-4D67-B354-D29447568DC7.thumb.jpeg.8831e8d141ca2f77eb76be3a5eecf347.jpeg

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2 hours ago, Anne Summers said:

I get the feeling it was somewhat overlooked at the time - hence the lack of nostalgia and therefore reverence for it now. 

Probably because it was a multi-format mag and so didn't cater to the system-specific fanboy demographic that was 90 per cent of the games mag readership at the time. And it wasn't C&VG which picked up the other 10 per cent.

If you can judge a mag's popularity by the number of issues it lasted for (and - why not?) then broadly speaking you can say multiformat mags weren't as popular as single format ones in this era. With the exception of C&VG, most of them only lasted a few years tops. Compared to the likes of Your Sinclair and Amiga Format that went on for years and years. 

Speaking of AF, when Future sold ACE to Emap, the ACE staff stayed on to start Amiga Format, while ST Format was formed by the writers of the short-lived dual format ST/Amiga Format (which sort of already was ACE – but about 16-bit computers – in content).

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I remember the bonkers scoring system, and I have a memory of reading a glowing review of Super Mario World and getting massively hyped for it. I'll have to go hunt it down on archive.org. I kinda liked the long term interest curve thingee they had. 

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2 hours ago, Anne Summers said:

If you can judge a mag's popularity by the number of issues it lasted for (and - why not?) then broadly speaking you can say multiformat mags weren't as popular as single format ones in this era. With the exception of C&VG, most of them only lasted a few years tops. Compared to the likes of Your Sinclair and Amiga Format that went on for years and years. 

 

Yeah. You would think multi-format mags would be the best place to cover new developments, but they really struggle to adapt to a changing audience during the 80s and 90s. Even the fondly-remembered CVG took too long to drop the 8-bit coverage. ACE seems to have been launched in that difficult time period where everyone recognised the C64/Sinclair/Amstrad was doomed, but 16-bit computers were still too expensive for the mass market and console gaming hadn't really taken off in the UK yet. So, they just try to cover as much as possible, with the hope that it would find an audience. ZERO was a great mag during the early 16-bit era where the ST and Amiga were roughly comparable, but seemed to lose its audience as the Amiga started to pull ahead of the ST.

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A good friend of mine and in fact manager of the band I played in gave up his day job mashing swede to be the staff writer at ACE, he did well and loved it at Future.

 

The job was advertised in the local job centre, he took a punt and got it!

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7 hours ago, Count Buffalos said:

Colin Dimond by any chance?

 

Almost...my friend Steve Lowe started a business from his flat, which he called PC Engine Supplies. He later diversified to include import Gameboys and Megadrives. When he wanted to expand into a physical shop space, he partnered with Colin Dimond, and that business was known as Console Concepts, and then they imported all sorts, including Super Famicoms, Neo Geos and I'm sure I even saw an FM Towns Marty.

 

I didn't really know Colin too well but he's a very interesting character, he used to be an extremely well known (famous?) Northern Soul DJ, where he was known as Colin Curtis. 

 

Steve and Colin got out of the import console business many years ago. I think Steve left first because I recall Colin carrying on in a different premises where he used the title of Colin Dimond Consoles.

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Yeah, I remember Console Concepts well, I’m from the same neck of the woods as you. He had a few different shops after Console Concepts closed. I saw my first Japanese on his shop on the Ironmarket months before the UK release.He then spent a good while in Fantasy Word for the main of the PS1 era.
 

Colin is actually a still really well known DJ but I didn’t but 2+2 together until today!

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Only ever bought a couple of issues, totally agree that the scoring system was too complex.

But... it did set the format (pun intended) for Future’s mags going forward, with a whole heap of features and regular content alongside the reviews. Never mind the quality, feel the breadth of content.

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9 minutes ago, Count Buffalos said:

Yeah, I remember Console Concepts well, I’m from the same neck of the woods as you. He had a few different shops after Console Concepts closed. I saw my first Japanese on his shop on the Ironmarket months before the UK release.He then spent a good while in Fantasy Word for the main of the PS1 era.
 

Colin is actually a still really well known DJ but I didn’t but 2+2 together until today!

 

I forgot about Fantasy World, how could I?

 

I think they ended up at Videoworld, at some point. I seem to recall Steve going into chipping DVD players. My contact with Steve was on the wane around then, we had become acquainted in the Amiga scene in the mid/late 80s. He was a prolific pirate at that time. They saw in Saturn, Playstation and N64, as I recall.

 

I, also, did buy a Japanese Street Fighter II from them, for the Super Famicom, in 1992. I think I paid £90 for it. I didn't ask for or expect mates rates. It may have been the only thing I bought off them, at least from that point forward.

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I read it regularly, along with a ton of others. ACE, The Games Machine, ST/Amiga Format, PC Zone, C&VG, PC Gamer...

 

Think I bought most of the multi-format mags, apart from Arcade, which passed me by.

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I always thought it was a shame that MAXIMUM wasn’t around for longer. I really enjoyed the in depth coverage and OTT writing. Early issues of Arcade were ok but It always leaned too much into to 90s lad culture I thought. It was a bit naff at the time, never mind reading back now.

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19 hours ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

 

Almost...my friend Steve Lowe started a business from his flat, which he called PC Engine Supplies. He later diversified to include import Gameboys and Megadrives. When he wanted to expand into a physical shop space, he partnered with Colin Dimond, and that business was known as Console Concepts, and then they imported all sorts, including Super Famicoms, Neo Geos and I'm sure I even saw an FM Towns Marty.

 

I didn't really know Colin too well but he's a very interesting character, he used to be an extremely well known (famous?) Northern Soul DJ, where he was known as Colin Curtis. 

 

Steve and Colin got out of the import console business many years ago. I think Steve left first because I recall Colin carrying on in a different premises where he used the title of Colin Dimond Consoles.

Steve Lowe sounds familiar . Was he from West Midlands ? I used to get my stuff from MD Consoles (ring any bells ?)

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4 hours ago, owen2471 said:

Steve Lowe sounds familiar . Was he from West Midlands ? I used to get my stuff from MD Consoles (ring any bells ?)

 

I recall MD Consoles, by name only, but that wasn't Steve's company. Technically, we live in the West Midlands but more accurately, it's Stoke on Trent. Stokies don't really identify with Brum and the surrounding areas, mainly due to the local news programming which is likely to piss us right off.

 

Maybe you had occasion to speak to Steve about his wares, as he started with the PC Engine he was one of the first import sceners, or at least as I recall. 

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2 hours ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

 

I recall MD Consoles, by name only, but that wasn't Steve's company. Technically, we live in the West Midlands but more accurately, it's Stoke on Trent. Stokies don't really identify with Brum and the surrounding areas, mainly due to the local news programming which is likely to piss us right off.

 

Maybe you had occasion to speak to Steve about his wares, as he started with the PC Engine he was one of the first import sceners, or at least as I recall. 

No MD wasn’t Steve’s and it was a West Midland based company. 

 

They used to import back up units for SNES, MD and PC Engine. Great days. 

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10 hours ago, owen2471 said:

No MD wasn’t Steve’s and it was a West Midland based company. 

 

They used to import back up units for SNES, MD and PC Engine. Great days. 

 

I had a Super Wildcard (I can't remember when I bought it, long gone now)

 

I also own a Doctor V64, that's in a box in the garage, somewhere.

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