Interview With HyperPlay RPG

Author: Masamune

There’s a relatively new fanzine that’s gaining momentum all over the globe. It’s called HyperPlay RPG and it has a special focus on RPGs from the 4th and 5th generations of gaming.

I purchased the 1st 3 issues of the fanzine, liked what I read and felt I wanted to know more about the creation of it. I was able to snag an interview with the editor of HyperPlay, a man named Kincl. This is what he had to say:

Masmune: We are living in a world where information can be attained with a few strokes of a keyboard. What made you decide to create a physical fanzine in this day and age?

Kincl: I enjoy reading. And I love reading about my favourite hobby: video games – almost as much as I actually enjoy playing the games themselves. So I love games magazines – I’ve always read them – and in the 1990s I also subscribed to a bunch of gaming fanzines, particularly the seminal Role Call, but also Nintendo ones like EGN and NAM here in the UK. Call me old fashioned but, personally, I prefer my reading material in printed form. Yes, the internet is an incredible resource, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re reading stuff on your phone/tablet/laptop, the chances are you’ll be distracted, or more inclined to skim through/skip to the end of an article to get to ‘The Next Thing’ on your digital to-do list. You just can’t beat having beautiful, entertaining, printed material in your own trembling hands.

HyperPlay RPG is for people who love reading about games, but who also value (increasingly scarce) paper magazines and other printed material. Our ‘zine is something tangible to enjoy away from a bright screen, something to help you relax and forget (briefly) the stresses of the digital day. I was looking for a fanzine like HyperPlay – good, quality, printed fun – but couldn’t find it anywhere. So I decided to create it myself.

Masmune: For people who haven’t picked up a copy of Hyper Play RPG fanzine, what can they expect?

Kincl: HyperPlay RPG is modeled on some of the best games mags of the ’90s, particularly legendary UK SNES mag Super Play (although our readers say we’re also reminiscent of Mean Machines, Nintendo Power, Official PlayStation Mag, and GameFan – to name but a few)! Essentially, the feedback we’re getting from readers is that HyperPlay RPG is already up there with their favourite games mags. That’s a hell of a compliment – probably the biggest we can be paid.

Each issue we strive to bring the best in video game writing and artwork to our readers. You won’t find what’s in the mag anywhere else (including the internet)! All our articles are researched in minute detail – we’ve had the most hardcore RPG fans tell us they regularly read something in HyperPlay they didn’t know before. For example, on the cover of Issue 0 we declared ‘Think You Know Final Fantasy IV? Think Again!’. The game is some 25 years old! So a few non-believers thought the chutzpah pretty high on that claim. But we guarantee that everyone who read our FFIV review and feature found out something new about the classic JRPG, even the most ardent fan of Cecil and company’s adventures …

Our focus is predominantly retro RPGs on consoles. That said, any and all things Nintendo also get a look-in. Actually, you don’t have to be into RPGs at all to like HyperPlay; many of our readers have never tried an RPG but still love what we do. If you like Nintendo at all, that also helps; we’ve covered Rodea, Star Fox Zero, Mario Kart 8, even Tiger Woods 10! And we make sure every article is an entertaining read no matter what the reader’s perspective.

The inspiration HyperPlay RPG draws from Super Play (and to a lesser extent its successor, N64 Magazine) is apparent in every aspect of the layout and format of the ‘zine, as well as the logo and beautiful bespoke cover art that adorns each issue. Once inside, the obligatory Contents page, Editorial, HyperNews section, Game Previews/Reviews, Playtests, Features, “How To…”s, Book Reviews and Magazine Retrospectives are all present and correct, and will be instantly recognizable to fans of Future Publishing’s 1990s Nintendo output. Even our page numbering echoes Super Play’s, and the attention to detail even extends to the shape of our review score boxes. (So far we’ve reviewed FFIV, FFVI, Bahamut Lagoon, Xenoblade Chronicles, KOTOR, Terranigma, Secret Of Mana 1 and 2, and Super Mario RPG.)

At first, getting all the templates to look as close as they do to Super Play and N64 Mag was a real labour of love. But we got there. And despite all that, I’m pleased to say HyperPlay RPG has developed its own unique style in just a few issues.

Masmune: What made you choose to focus on RPGs as opposed to other genres?

Kincl: Personal preference, and knowing there’s so many other fans like me who’d love this kind of thing. For enduring stories and timeless quality, the scope of the RPG genre makes it by far and away my favourite. It also helps that there’s an extensive and enthusiastic fan community for retro RPGs, and all the folk in it are “Good Sorts” (well, nearly all!). There just seems to be something about your classic RPGer that makes them quite empathetic: more often than not they’re decent human beings! So that makes everything a little bit easier.

Another reason for choosing RPGs is that, given the wealth of quality websites and communities online, I was surprised by the total absence of hardcopy RPG fanzines anywhere in the world. I just assumed there’d still be a plethora of fan-made magazines still doing the rounds in homage to the great SquareSoft games of the past, and I was rather disappointed when I couldn’t find any … frankly, I didn’t feel like staring at a small screen when I wanted to reminisce about by favourite RPGs, and it felt wrong reading reviews of newly translated Super Famicom role-playing games anywhere but in a magazine.

So I became increasingly misty-eyed about Role Call, the brilliant UK RPG fanzine from the mid-90s. Role Call only ran for 10 or so issues, but it was put together with such love, dedication and insight that I thought, what the hell, let’s go for it – if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll create it. I knew from the message boards and social media that others out there were also looking for something like HyperPlay. Indeed, the RPG genre seems to inspire a certain type of devotion, and that’s reflected in the uptake of HyperPlay by the fan community. The great thing is, Nintendo fans and all sorts of other genre gamers also enjoy and support our ‘zine in a big way, and that’s very satisfying.

Masmune: Can you describe the process of what it takes to produce an issue of Hyper Play RPG?

Kincl: Haha! A lot of time and dedication. Well, I had to learn a publishing platform (Scribus) from scratch, for starters … quite the learning curve! There was already a fair bit of material for our (my) inaugural effort, Issue 0, which I cobbled together from brand new articles I’d written recently as well as expanding some submissions I’d made to various message boards and websites. Making that first issue (#0) took me about 6 months. That’s the whole process – creating/sourcing content, mastering Scribus for the layout (which took the longest!), printing and collating the booklets, troubleshooting and quality control across all areas, setting up a website and small company to limit our liability in case we accidentally upset someone … all the while publicizing HyperPlay RPG in as many places as possible.

These days the process goes roughly like this:
1. Publicize and send out copies of the most recent issue, whilst playing to completion games to be reviewed in the next issue.
2. Review, score and write a feature for the lead game. Review and score the others.
3. Edit reader reviews and articles (most only require a little bit of work to fit our style and level of quality; some require a lot!)
4. Buy and review relevant books/bookazines.
5. Write editorial, and articles for the news section.
6. Source artwork – find appropriate pieces and get permissions.
7. Lay each page out.
8. Check initial proof. Make amendments. Check new proof. Make amendments. [Repeat as many times as sanity permits]
9. Trailer the almost-complete issue online and in the gaming press as much as possible.
10. Notify existing readers of likely release date of next issue.
11. Send early copies to gaming press in the hope they review HyperPlay.
12. List the issue on hyperplayrpg.com and inform Twitter and facebook.

In truth, there’s a lot more in between: keeping up a social media profile (we’re very active on Twitter @hyperplayrpg, less so on facebook, at facebook.com/hyperplayrpg).

Masmune: How many people are part of the Hyper Play staff and how did you recruit them?

Kincl: For Issue 0, it was just little old me (although an honourable mention should go to David Logan, who very kindly allowed me to include the Prologue to his and James Moon’s excellent Final Fantasy VI: The Unofficial Novelization).

With each issue, more contributors come on board – in fact we’ve recently had an influx of reader reviews, which is wonderful. Exactly what we want.

I wouldn’t say we have “staff” as such, because no one gets paid – the ‘zine is non-profit so it’s all for the love of the games, and a chance for fans to get their name up in lights. That said, at the moment, the core of the HyperPlay team comprises me, Anna Vuong, Julian Hill and Nemo. As things stand, we’re the ones who contribute to every issue. But, like I say, we very gratefully accept contributions from all sources provided the quality is high – as you know, Wil Overton did an original, exclusive Secret Of Mana 2 colour cover for us last issue (#2), which, of course, is incredible (and highly collectible too, so get in quick while it’s still available).

Anna is our resident artist par excellence at Hyperplay RPG Towers. She awarded HyperPlay Issue 0 an artistic award on her Facebook page. I got in touch to thank her, looked at her artwork, saw how amazing it is, asked if she’d like to contribute and it went from there. We are *incredibly* lucky to have her: check out her Xenoblade cover (#1) and Terranigma poster (#2 bundle), and get down to http://ninjannaart.bigcartel.com/ for more of her sensational stuff.

Julian came on board for Issue 2 after we sent him #0 and #1. An expert in the field of SNES RPGs, he very kindly gave us his mammoth Secret Of Mana 2 review as an exclusive – it’s almost certainly the most comprehensive review of this lost classic to be found anywhere. We’ve got plenty more from Julian coming up in future issues. In the meantime, his website boxedpixels.co.uk continues to flourish – if you love 16-bit games (and who doesn’t?), we highly recommend it.

Nemo is our resident Final Fantasy fanatic (although I did manage to convince him to unleash his Dark Side tendencies on a bit of KOTOR recently). His recent odes to FFVII in the ‘zine have been described as “inspirational”, and he’s conjured an excellent review of FFIX for Issue 3, which is out soon. I’ve known Nemo for a while and it’s fair to say he values his anonymity. Highly. I could say more, but I’d never finish the sentence – he’s probably got a GoldenEye-sized sniper rifle trained on me right now … 😖

Masmune: Issue #2 features the cover artwork of Wil Overton. How did you make that happen?

Kincl: Aaaah, Wil. Señor Wilfried del Overtonio. The Right Honourable FuSoYa. Wil-sensei … Sorry where were we? Ah yes. Wil. Where to begin? He’s HyperPlay’s hero, and has been from the start. I’ve been in touch with Wil since the end of Super Play’s days (so 1996-ish). His generosity and all-round good guyness, coupled with his love of Japan and my subsequent studies in that part of the world, meant he remembered me when I came a-calling to ask if I could use the HyperPlay logo for my new fanzine. Wil gave his blessing, and plenty of advice besides, all of which was of course priceless. Then he offered to “do us a cover” – an offer he doubtless regretted when he became busier than he’s ever been before (and that’s saying something). But true to his word as ever, Wil bestowed upon us a stunning wraparound colour cover for Issue 2: a unique Mana 2 design created just for HyperPlay by The Master Artsman himself. It’s an instant collector’s item and looks ‘The Business’.

What a hero.

Masmune: You mentioned Super Play’s influence. Can you tell us more about why you chose Super Play as a source of inspiration?

Kincl: Super Play will always be my favourite magazine of all time. And, as you know, I love gaming mags! Modeling HyperPlay on Super Play was a very conscious decision. Back in ’96, when the end was nigh for Ol’ Supes, the mag ran teaser trailers for a new ‘zine called Hyper Play. This new-fangled Hyper Play mega-mag was to be the all-conquering successor to Super Play for the N64 era. Very sadly (particularly for this teenager!) the N64 got delayed, Super Play closed and the Hyper Play idea was consigned to the dustbin marked “Great Mag Ideas Undone By Nintendo’s PAL Scheduling”. It wasn’t all bad, though: N64 Magazine eventually arose from the ashes of that teeming dustbin and a very fine publication it was too. But it wasn’t quite Super Play or (eek) the Hyper Play my heart had envisaged (can hearts envisage things?). 😍

HyperPlay RPG is our vision of what Super Play’s successor, Hyper Play, may have looked like – with an extra emphasis on RPGs.

Masmune: What has been the community response thus far for Hyper Play?

Kincl: Absolutely brilliant! We initially received a lot of support from a reproduction cart website and forum that’s sadly now defunct. But that gave us a lot of encouragement and we now have well over a 1,000 followers on facebook and Twitter. We’ve been featured on the world’s biggest Nintendo website, Nintendo Life (nintendolife.com), a few times – a massive coup. On YouTube, popular personality Happy Console Gamer gave us a glowing review (“This is the best thing ever!”) recently (at 10:50 of the video), as did The Games Shed. We’ve also been on podcasts with the incredibly talented and entertaining people at Maximum Power Up and RGDS. And Facebook groups like Final Fantasy UK Fans and RPG Video Game Collectors are hugely supportive – I recommend everyone join those two groups, even if you don’t live in the UK or the States. And loads more fans and community members have responded enthusiastically – too many to mention. We massively appreciate everyone’s help.

The only disappointing response in the community has been from big games news websites (apart from the wonderful Nintendolife!) and the UK printed gaming press (I expect you can guess who I mean). We’ve sent issue after issue to them, but they’ve completely ignored us. It’s strange … our mag is highly recommended by everyone who reviews it, so we know the quality is there. And it’s doubly odd considering that some of those titles (one in particular) came from a starting point not entirely dissimilar from HyperPlay. Maybe it’s because, as Nintendo Life said: “HyperPlay RPG is created with a passion and insight that is so often missing from modern print media”. Perhaps that’s why they’re scared of us – they see us as competition! Haha!! Well, you never know …

But otherwise, the response from the *real* fans has been uniformly superb. You can see that from the reviews of HyperPlay RPG online, and the testimonials here: http://www.hyperplayrpg.com/testimonials.html.

Masmune: How often is a new issue of Hyper Play released?

Kincl: We aim to get a new issue out every quarter, if not more often. Issue 0 took longer (for obvious reasons), and so did Issue 2. But in the latter case, I’m sure everyone will agree that the world exclusive cover art by Wil was more than worth the wait!

Masmune: Recently you had a stall at the London Gaming Market. What was that experience like and also what is the London Gaming Market for those unfamiliar with it?

Kincl: The London Gaming Market (LGM) is held every four months at the Royal National Hotel near Russell Square in London. As HyperPlay RPG Towers is firmly lodged in Waterloo, it’s very convenient for us. It’s a retro game show full of classic games and consoles – there’s a gazillion SNES, SFC and N64 games to be had (we picked up a minty CIB copy of Dark Half (SFC) last time, for example) – and there’s also stalls for fan-made creations and other paraphernalia relating to the retro game scene: artwork, collectibles, board games and…. fanzines! Well, one fanzine actually. Anyway, we’ve done 2 such shows now, and they’ve both been a massive success – we met loads of cool people, shifted a bunch of copies and just about covered our expenses too. I highly recommend getting down to the next LGMs if you can, on 19 March 2017, 23 July 2017 and 19 November 2017. It’s a great day out.

Masmune: Have any video game companies reached out to you regarding interviews, collaborations or acknowledgements of your fanzine?

Kincl: We’re supporting a Kickstarter for a new NES RPG called Black Box Challenge. Jeffrey Wittenhagen is the man behind the plan, and we’ve managed to score yours truly, Editor Kincl, a place in the game as an NPC – it’s all rather exciting.

Aside from that, various indie game developers have made tentative approaches but the only one to contact us properly is Kiro’o Games. They’re a pioneering African developer whose new ARPG game on PC is called ‘Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan’. It’s an intriguing, highly rated adventure in the style of Tales Of games, and looks well worth checking out.

We’d love more games companies to get in touch with us – we always do our best to support them. They can check out our Playtest of Final Fantasy VII on the NES (yes, NES!) in Issue 1 to see how we handle new material. FFVII (NES) is a phenomenal demake, by the way, and the story behind it is fascinating… But I digress! Anyway, readers can find out more in HyperPlay RPG Issue 1 if they want to.

Masmune: Why do you think older games from systems such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo for examples, are still being played to this day?

Kincl: Various reasons:

1. Nostalgia – it seems fairly common for people in their 30s or 40s to want to revisit their childhood. Digging out your favourite games of yesteryear is a great way to get in touch with that part of your life again.

2. Children – of course, many of us in that age bracket also have kids, and introducing them to games we loved is a great way to spend time with your children, and ease them gently into a safe gaming environment.

3. Gameplay – there’s such a vast library of quality games from the 1990s to choose from, whatever genre you’re interested in!

4. Cost – many consoles and games can be picked up for pennies, and, if not, there’s always the murky area of emulation…

5. Accessibility – there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of “plug in and play”. Nintendo knew this – apart from piracy concerns, they were also anti-CD because of the loading times. Ninty knew gamers wanted to be able to switch on and get down to it immediately. Having discussed this extensively, I know that many gamers these days are increasingly disillusioned with incomplete and/or broken “day one” games that take an age to install (and that after a system update). Worse still, developers rely on massive patches being released further down the line to make their broken games playable. And what’s with all the tiny text? (Yes, Xenoblade Chronicles X, I’m looking at you….)

 Masmune: What do you think about the disappearance of physical manuals in games?

Kincl: It’s a travesty, innit. That’s what our mate Wil would say. And, you know what? He’s right. We miss proper manuals. They were part of the whole experience of getting a new game – little works of art in their own right. Wil and I have often lamented their loss and he’s suggested a few times he might just create a few bespoke manuals for some particular games in the near future. What’s that Playtonic platformer due out soon…? Yooka-Laylee? Fingers crossed! 😁

Masmune: What does the future hold for Hyper Play RPG?

Kincl: Due to the phenomenal response to Issue 2, you can expect all future issues of HyperPlay RPG to feature colour covers (we may even do a full colour ‘Best Of HyperPlay’ compendium). And we’ll strive to continue bringing our 1,000+ global readership the best videogame writing and art around, with a larger team producing more and more top-class material about RPGs and Nintendo (especially Switch!).

Also, look out for copies of HyperPlay in your local retrogame store and “barcade” (see our feature on these incredible craft beer/arcade mash-ups in Issue 0). We’re asking everyone: Please tap up your local gaming joint of choice so we can get HyperPlay RPG properly stocked out in games stores and arcade bars. We already have a number of establishments interested, so watch this space!

Masamune: So where can people purchase the magazine again?

Kincl: hyperplayrpg.com

I’d like to thank Kincl for taking the time to do this interview. And I appreciate the efforts done by this fanzine.

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Masamune

Masamune

This website was born out of my passion for the old Super NES system. There's so many SNES games out there that no one knows about or have forgotten. In time, all of the games will come to light and this site will become a beacon for all SNES gamers out there. Stay tuned!

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