Category Archives: Video Games

Old Magazines: Gamefan, July 1995

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Another fantastic issue of Gamefan.  July 1995.  This one featured Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy on the cover.  This issue is also significant because it’s the first gaming magazine that featured Sony’s Playstation prominently.  The first one I’d ever seen, at least.  I’d barely heard anything on the Playstation before this issue, but there’s a HUGE write-up in this issue of the 1995 E3, at which Playstation was unveiled.

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To give you an idea of the point in time that we’re in, here are the Top 10 games of the moment (they’re all 16-bit games aside from one 3DO game and two—count ‘em, TWO—Jaguar games).  To the right are the top 10 most anticipated games.  Note that the Nintendo 64 was still being referred to as the Ultra 64 (LOVED that name, and really wish Nintendo would’ve kept it), and that Chrono Trigger wasn’t even out for the SNES yet.

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The review section.  This is earlier in Gamefan’s life, before they had a whole slew of reviewers.  The 16 bit game reviews this month are pretty piss poor, though that Batman and Robin game is significant in that it’s the final 16 bit game I ever bought (more on that later).

Apparently, the Saturn had just launched, because the second page of reviews is of the Saturn’s launch titles.  Never owned a Saturn so I can’t really comment on whether these reviews are accurate, though I did play Panzer Dragoon in Toys-backwards R-US a few times and really enjoyed it.  But it always bugged me that the game was called Panzer Dragoon, with two o’s, instead of the traditional spelling of dragon with one o.

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Page one of the E3 coverage.  Steven Spielberg and Michael Jackson in the house.

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First four pages of Playstation e3 coverage. The sheer breadth of awesome-looking Playstation games that were shown in this feature was incredibly impressive at the time.  All of these games pictured looked light years more advanced than anything that the Super NES or Genesis had.  Just an astronomical leap forward in terms of technology.

The original Twisted Metal is shown on page 3…still one of my favorite games ever.  ESPN Extreme is also shown—the first game I ever bought for my Playstation.  That was a really fun game.

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The final page of Playstation games, coupled with the first page of Jaguar games.  Pretty weak showing for the Jaguar.  Defender 2000 looks like the only intriguing game, but you had to buy the Jaguar CD add-on to play it.

And Christ Almighty, that Fight for Life game in the corner look like the worst fighting game ever.  Just did a search and found out that Fight for Life was the final game released for Jaguar.  Kind of interesting.

Here’s a youtube video I found of the gameplay.  Yep.  It was pretty bad.

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Nothing too spectacular on the second and third pages of the Jaguar coverage.  The VR headset is kind of cool, but it was never released.  No clue why Atari focused so much on releasing add-ons for the Jaguar core system (Jaguar CD, Jaguar VR) instead of focusing on games.  Apparently, only two working Jaguar VR prototypes are known to exist, and one just sold on ebay earlier this year for almost $15,000.

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The 3DO recap from e3.  Pretty weak sauce on 3DO’s part as well, though much better than the Jaguar’s showing.  I always thought that Captain Quazar game looked super cool, but never got a chance to play it.

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The two-page review of Batman and Robin.  As mentioned previously, this game was the final 16 bit game I ever bought, so it holds a special place in my heart.  This also may very well be the most-difficult game I’ve ever played.  This game was INSANELY hard, one of the few games I owned that I couldn’t beat no matter how many hours I devoted to playing it.

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The feature on the Virtual boy.  The VB lasted for all of a month before it just disappeared.  The Amiga CD practically had a longer shelf life than the Virtual Boy.

It’s kind of neat to re-read this article, and Nintendo does deserve props for at least trying something different.  I played a few of the VB games at a Sears one time and thought it was somewhat cool, but never had any desire to own one.

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Slam n Jam B-ball.  LOVED this game in the arcades.  Instead of having a license with the NBA, this game featured a whole league of made-up players and teams.  Off the top of my head, this is one of the last sports games I can remember that was successful without having a license with a pro sports league.

I played this thing constantly in the arcade.  The view was from behind the backboard, which was actually a pretty neat perspective, and the graphics were phenomenal for its time.

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Other Stuff.  Always my favorite feature in Gamefan.  It was full of various rumors and innuendo about upcoming games and systems, and even if %90 of the stuff reported on was most likely completely fabricated by the Gamefan editors, I still loved reading the rumors (the internet really hadn’t caught on just yet, so this was my only real pipeline into the video game gossip scene).

I don’t know what ever happened to that Robotech game featured on the right side of the page, but that looks incredibly cool.  Too bad it never saw the light of day.

This edition of Other Stuff covers a lot of rumors about the upcoming Ultra 64, including the somewhat interesting tidbit that the Super Nintendo version of Goldeneye has been canceled to focus on porting it to the Ultra 64 (that would’ve been nothing short of devastating if Goldeneye had come out for the Super Nintendo and not the 64).

Also of note is a top-secret, yet-to-be-announced game named EA Basketball Legends, in which you can play as players from previous eras (Dr. J, Larry Bird, etc), AND the game includes a feature that allows you to create your own dunks.  The obvious question is WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THIS GAME?!?!  You can play as old school players AND create your own dunks?  Sounds like a dream game.

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Yes, it’s this contest/scam yet again, which has been featured in this issue and this one, too.  You’ll notice that the next-gen systems aren’t yet featured in the contest this time, so the grand prize is significantly less appealing (winning a Jaguar, Sega CD, and 32x just doesn’t have the same WOW factor as winning a Playstation, Saturn, and a Nintendo 64).  It would suck to actually win this contest at this moment in time and get stuck with all of these old, shitty systems, when you could have won all the next-gen hardware had you won the contest only a few months later.

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A random ad of a company offering import games from Japan.  It’s crazy that import Super Nintendo games sold for upwards of $130 and import anime VHS tapes (in the upper right corner) were going for almost $200 (!).

All in all, this one’s a pretty good issue of Gamefan.

Old Magazines: Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1995 Buyer’s Guide

Sometime during the first few months of every year, Electronic Gaming Monthly would release a buying guide for the year that had passed.  These issues basically took every game review that EGM had published during the previous year and accumulated them in one issue.   They’d also give out a few end-of-year awards and run some features on the most-popular games of the year.  All in all, the buying guide issues were great summaries of the year in gaming that had passed.

I was able to uncover my 1995 and 1997 versions of these issues (I know that I have more issues somewhere, and one day I will find them).   But the two issues I was able to find are really great, and it’s pretty interesting to see how greatly the video game landscape changed in the two short years between 1995 and 1997.

First up, we’ll look at the 1995 issue, then the 1997 one.  Note:  The 1995 issue covers games released in 1994, and the 1997 one covers all games released in 1996.

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There’s the cover.  As you can tell from the games pictured, this issue is almost entirely focused on 16 bit.  The major 32 bit systems hadn’t yet been released, so this issue was from the last true year of the dominance of the Genesis and Super Nintendo.

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The first two pages of the game of the year awards.  Donkey Kong Country was awarded both Game of the Year and Super Nintendo Game of the Year.  Earthworm Jim won Genesis Game of the Year, a choice I have no problem with whatsoever (I absolutely loved that game).

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A list of the games of the year for the major systems at the time, and the games of the year in a few popular genres.  I love how there’s actually an award for Sega CD Game of the Year AND an award for the CD-I Game of the Year.  I’m sure all three people who owned those systems were on the edge of their seat waiting to hear what games walked away with those crowns.

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More award winners, accompanied by a full-page ad for Beavis and Butthead the video game.

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The final page of awards.  I’m pretty sure the 3DO, the Jaguar, and the Phillips Cd-I all launched in 1994, so it’s saying something that the Jaguar beat out the other two for the Worst System Launch award.  I would’ve probably gone with the 3DO as the worst system launch.  It had much better games than the Jaguar, but the people at Panasonic had to be delusional to think that people would spend $700 on that system at launch.

Also, I love the final line in the little write-up under the picture of the Jaguar:  “It was a slow start, but the Jaguar is roaring now!”  Um, ok.  Sure, EGM.  Whatever you say.

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Reviews of all of the current systems by the four Review Crew members.  The Super NES walks off with the win, while the Sega 32X and Neo Geo CD pull off the upset by tying for second place.

I have no idea who “Danyon” is, but I think the guy is crazy.  He gave the 3DO a 9 and the CD-I an 8.

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Here are more system reviews, and the reviews on this page raise a single question in my mind:  What in the HELL is the Laseractive?!?  Is this a real thing?  Video games were basically my life at the time that this issue came out, and I have never heard of a Laseractive.  According to the Wikipedia entry for the machine, it was a system that cost $980 and played games on laserdisc.

So, actually, that’s kind of cool.  Laserdiscs rule.

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The final page of system reviews, and these reviews beg another, similar question:  What in the HELL is an Amiga CD?!?  I haven’t heard of this system, either.

Some digging around on the internet reveals it to be a system that was released abroad in Europe and Japan but never made it to US soil due to how poorly it performed.  This is a pretty hilarious review of the game packaged with the system.  The best part?  The review absolutely roasts the game, and the review was written for the OFFICIAL AMIGA MAGAZINE.  The first sign that your system sucks is when the official magazine dedicated to promoting how great your system is can’t even fake a positive review.

Also, you know that this is an old ass magazine when the freaking original NES is featured in the system reviews section.  Low marks for the NES, unfortunately.  It even lost out to the Amiga CD.

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A comprehensive list of what scores practically every game for the major systems received from the Review Crew.  I took a highlighter to all of the better reviewed Genesis games for some reason.

Sadly, no Amiga CD games are reviewed in these pages.  I’m sure “Danyon” would’ve given them all 10s, though.

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Special feature on the arcade version of Primal Rage.  Anything involving dinosaurs is cool in my book (particularly when the dinosaurs have grenade launchers strapped to their back), but a fighting game featuring a bunch of giant dinosaurs really is one of the better ideas ever.  The game was pretty successful, and even spawned a sequel that was never released (in which you could fight as either giant humans or giant dinosaurs (!!!)).  But I feel like Primal Rage should’ve been so much more, like a series that’s still having games released for it today.  Is there any way that an Xbox 360 version of Primal Rage wouldn’t be absolutely incredible?  Super-realistic, 3D dinosaurs fighting each other to the bloody death?  Sign me up.

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One of the finest games of the 16 bit era:  Pitfall.  It’s a remake of the 2600 game (which in turn was one of the finest games that system had).  This game had a ton of secrets and hidden passages and it was a true blast to play.

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NBA Jam.  Legendary.  I was able to name 49 out of the 54 players featured in the game (their grainy pictures are on the right).

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The back cover of the issue is a cool ad for a WWF Raw game.

And that’s it.

Old Magazines: Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1997 Buyer’s Guide

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Just two short years after the 1995 issue of EGM’s year-end Buyer’s Guide was released, the 1997 issue came out.  A LOT changed in those two years.  Whereas the 1995 issue was entirely focused on 16-bit systems, this issue is largely devoted to the 32 bit and 64 bit systems.  With good reason, too—the N64 had just been released, the Saturn hadn’t died off quite yet and was still getting a steady stream of quality games released for it, and the Playstation had an incredible year with a whole slew of awesome games released for it (Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Twisted Metal 2).

 

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This issue opens up with a really sweet print ad for the original Resident Evil.  That game was SO hyped, and was one of the few games that lived up to the expectations.  A truly incredible, revolutionary game at the time.

 

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A variety of hokey awards were given out.  Interesting to note that the 3DO was pretty hyped up in the 1995 Buyer’s Guide (even receiving an overall score of 9/10 from one reviewer), and all but declared obsolete by the 1997 issue.  The Playstation basically murdered the 3DO upon release.

 

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Each major system is reviewed in a full-page spread, accompanied by a picture of someone who works at the magazine superimposed over that system.  Some of them are pretty cheesy.

 

First up is the brand-new Nintendo 64 machine, which gets stellar reviews despite having been out for only a few months when this issue came out.

 

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The Playstation.  In barely a year, a ton of killer games were released for it, many of which are shown at the bottom of these pages.

 

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The Saturn.  The machine hadn’t quite been killed off yet but the Playstation had started to distance itself from the Saturn.  The reviews didn’t blast the machine but they weren’t overly kind, either.

 

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Reviews of Portable Gaming Systems.  The Virtual Boy with horrendous reviews.

 

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The Super NES with strong marks.  Surprising that Donkey Kong Country didn’t make the top 10 games list.  I would’ve also had the Contra game higher because I absolutely LOVED that game.  I also would’ve had the Zelda game on here.

 

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The Saturn had been out for two years and the Genesis was basically dead by this point, and these reviews reflect that.  Also, Howard Grossman looks like the coolest person alive.

 

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Reviews of a whole bunch of various accessories and controllers for the Saturn and Playstation.

 

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Lists of the top 10 reviewed games for each system in the previous year.  Surprising that Tomb Raider didn’t make the Playstation list (seeing that Gamefan named Tomb Raider game of the year for this very year).  Can’t really argue with any of the games on the Playstation list, though.  It’s nice to see X-Com UFO Defense getting some love!  Of all the games I owned, I probably devoted more time to X-Com than any other game.  Such a fantastic, underappreciated game.

 

Also, eight of the top ten Sports games are Playstation games.  That’s the real reason the Playstation won out over the Saturn and N64, in my opinion…so many fantastic sports games, between the EA Sports line and the ones that Sony themselves came out with.

 

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Once again, this awesome contest/scam is featured in an ad in the back of a gaming magazine.  I’d still give anything to win this.

Old Magazines: Gamefan February 1997

My old bedroom in my parents’ house is treasure trove of magazines I subscribed to while growing up.  There are stacks upon stacks of video game, sports, and movie magazines.  I’ve decided to upload some pages from a few of my favorites.

First up, the February 1997 issue of Gamefan Magazine:

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Growing up, Gamefan was my favorite magazine, and this is one of the best issues I own.  It’s a great issue because it’s from the perfect point in time–February 1997.  The Playstation and Saturn had both been out for well over a year–the Saturn was on its last legs but was still getting a few quality good games, and the Playstation was just starting to come into its own with some killer games coming out for it.  The N64 was the new system on the block, but had still been out for almost six months, and a second wave of games was already being released for it (such as that little game featured on the cover of this issue).  So yeah–early 1997 was a simply awesome time for home gaming, and this issue came out right in the heart of that.

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Every issue of Gamefan opened up with their review section.  This one, in particular, is one of the better ones I’ve ever seen.  There were four games with better cumulative review marks than Mario Kart 64 (Rage Racer, Command and Conquer, and Soul Blade for the PS, and Christmas Knights for the Saturn all got higher marks).  You know that the market’s being flooded with good games when a game like Mario Kart 64—which, arguably, holds up better than any game, regardless of system, from that era—is the fifth-best reviewed game of the month.

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This issue also contains the annual awards given out for the 1996 games of the year.  There was a heated battle between Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and Mario 64 for game of the year.  Most every category had at least one truly awesome game up for the award, and many had multiple fantastic titles vying for the crown.

I was surprised to see Virtua Fighter 2 win 16-bit game of the year, as I had no idea that game actually game out for the Genesis.

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The year in review written by each one of the editors at Gamefan.  If you don’t want to read each review, they can be summarized thusly:  The Playstation started to truly kick ass in 1996.  The N64 is awesome but needs more games.  The 16-bit era is over and that is sad.

The Gamefan reviewers always spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about the great Japan games that were never released in the States, and most of them devote a few lines to bemoaning some weird Japanese game that never made it stateside.

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A two-page review of ReLoaded.  This series still gets my vote as the most messed-up games of all-time.  The two games in the series were two of the more bloody and violent games of the time, but the characters in the game were what made the game truly messed up.  There was a cyborg nun who murders everyone she encounters, a cross-dressing psychopath (who, naturally, wears a one-piece women’s bathing suit and is armed with two uzis), and a whole slew of other really bizarre characters.  And the thing about it is…these are the good guys, the players you control, the ones you’re rooting for.  They’re trying to escape from some intergalactic mental institution, and you control them as they basically kill everything in their path. Messed-up game, though at the time I loved it.

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The review for Mario Kart 64.  It’s a surprisingly somewhat-negative review.  It’s weird that it doesn’t get very high marks, considering how popular it was (and still is).

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One of my favorite parts about Gamefan was how the final ten or so pages of every issue was devoted to ads for various resellers of games.  Online retailers were still in their infancy, meaning that your only real way of buying games was through your local Best Buy or other gaming store (Babbages was my go-to), or ordering games via phone through retailers like these.

A lot of these resellers had a very strong emphasis on import games, and it always surprised me just how much the import game cost.

The one in yellow is a listing of what this company will pay for used games, and what they’re selling used copies of games for.  Sort of a precursor to Gamestop’s used games section.

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This ad was in the back of every issue of Gamefan.  It’s a contest (some might call it a scam) that you could enter to potentially win the greatest video game set-up of all-time.  All you had to do was complete the world’s easiest word puzzle in the corner, send the completed puzzle along with $5 in to some company in Minnesota, and you theoretically could win this entire set-up.

At the time, I spent hours upon hours fantasizing about winning this contest.  Hell, I’d love to win all of this stuff NOW, in 2013, though I’d have little use for that computer (I probably just drop it off a building, watch it shatter into a million pieces, and upload the video to youtube).  And that entertainment center…yikes.  That thing would take up 3/4 of my living room.

But the systems!  I’d totally want those.  The part that always really excited me about this contest was in the fine print, where it says that you also receive $1,000 worth of credit towards any games of your choice.  So, basically, any game for any one of those systems that you’ve ever had a remote interest in playing, you could own.  Sign me up.

3DO – Way of the Warrior

When I was younger, I was THIS close to convincing my parents to shell out $700 for a brand-new Panasonic 3DO system.  I put on an epic sell-job, agreeing to mow the lawn every week for the entire summer, shovel the sidewalks and driveway during the winter, and forego all other presents for both my birthday and Christmas that year.  A 3DO was literally ALL I wanted, and one of the main reasons was Way of the Warrior.

I remember when I saw this game the first time in a magazine ad, I was blown away.  The Mortal Kombat franchise was on fire at the time, but Playstation hadn’t yet come out, so the home ports for the game were inferior to the arcade version.  It amazed me that a game that looked as good as Way of the Warrior was available for a home console, and I wanted it SO badly.  I thank God that my parents never caved in and purchased me a 3DO, because that thing would have been a $700 paperweight about six months after I purchased it when the original Playstation came out and trounced the competition.

Looking at the game now, the game looks like garbage and the fatalities all seem like rip-offs of Mortal Kombat.  This video of the fatality compilation is somewhat enjoyable, though, simply because it’s so ludicrous and terrible.

The Amazing Atari XE Game System

Once Atari started getting their asses kicked by Nintendo in the home video game market, they went on the offensive and released a few ads that directly attacked Nintendo and proclaimed that the Atari XE Computer was vastly superior, offering up a side-by-side comparison of the two systems and the games available for each.  The ads they released ended up being some of the most unintentionally hilarious ads on all of youtube.  Back then, it had to be obvious to anyone with half a brain that the Nintendo was a superior system.  And now that we know just how popular the Nintendo ended up being and how thoroughly Nintendo trounced all of their competitors, this commercial is that much funnier.

My favorite part is at the end, when they talk about the AMAZING Flight Simulator game that’s an exclusive to the Atari XE, and then proceed to show a brief screenshot of what can only be described as the absolute shittiest Flight Simulator game of all time.  And that’s saying something, because I (along with everyone else I knew growing up) absolutely HATED Flight Simulator games growing up.  They were always packaged with earlier versions of Windows and they were just the most boring games that ever existed.  The goal of the game was to take off in your plane, fly for awhile, then successfully land it.  And that was it.  No bad guys to shoot or race against.  No missions to perform or anything like that.  You basically played the part of a commercial airline pilot, and controlled the plane as you took off, flew through the air, and landed at your destination.

Needless to say, if one of the selling points of the Atari system was their Flight Simulator game, it wasn’t too successful.

Super Mario Bros 3 Beat in 10 Minutes

I don’t think I’ve ever been as utterly blown away by a youtube video as I was by this video the first time I watched it.  As someone who devoted basically every free hour of an entire year of my life to beating Super Mario Bros. 3 when I was younger, it was pretty astounding to see someone so thoroughly dominate the game like the guy in this video does (he beats it in 10 minutes without dying and accumulating over 100 lives).

It’s since become apparent that he used some sort of computer software to slow the game down on his computer and play it frame by frame, making it easy to perform some of the crazy things he pulls off.  BUT I DON’T CARE!!!  Sure, it’s cheating.  Whatever.  It’s a great video, and I still find it entertaining years after I initially discovered it, fake or not.