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I had the intention of writing this week about Hard Drives, the greatest magazine that Larry Flynt Publishing ever produced (I kid, I kid, but it's close), but I can't find my sole example in the bookshelves. So, how about a little Brazilian programming instead?

Collectors of obscure old video games know that Brazil was an extremely unique game marketplace during the 8 and 16-bit eras. The Odyssey2 somehow emerged as the top console of the classic era, Tec Toy produced all kinds of Brazil-exclusive Sega Master System and Genesis titles, and the marketplace until approximately the mid-90s was mainly occupied by the SMS, the MSX computer, and half a dozen NES-compatible pirate consoles.

There was no dedicated game mag in Brazil during the 80s, when arcades and pinball was where the main action was in the country. (Odyssey Aventura, the locally-produced newsletter for Philips' console, lasted eight issues.) This changed in 1990 when publishing outfit Editora Abril produced Ação Games, a special one-off edition of kids' sports magazine A Semana em Ação (The Week in Action) devoted entirely to console stuff. One more one-off was produced in 1991, and then Abril went out of business. The Ação name was bought by rival publisher Editora Azul, and beginning in October 1991, Ação Games became a monthly publication.

Ação was arguably the most influential game mag of the era in South America. It had an officially translated edition (called Action Games) in Argentina, and before a year had passed, it had no less than four monthly rivals in Brazil: Games, VideoGame, Supergame (Sega-exclusive) and Game Power (Nintendo-exclusive). The latter two combined into a single multiplatform title, Super Game Power, in 1995.

Thumbing through these mags, one gets the idea that Brazilian editors and publishers really loved GamePro. Supergame and Game Power both had official licenses to translate content from IDG's mag, and Ação's visual design was basically a clone as well -- the difference, of course, being that instead of ads for the TG16 and Super NES games, these titles had spots for pirate NES consoles and shady-looking mail order places.

What makes Brazil mags unique, though, is their art -- unlike most other countries where the game industry mostly revolved around pirates, the magazines here were pretty high-quality productions, with lots of original articles and artwork (most of which is actually good, remarkably).

Sadly, most of these mags went belly-up in the late '90s once the Internet took over as the chief source of game info. I admit to not knowing much about modern Brazilian mags; titles I'm aware of currently in existence include EGM Brasil, Official Xbox Magazine, PlayStation (a homegrown PS mag), Gamemaster (another homegrown multiplatform mag), and Nintendo World (which appears to be Nintendo Power in translation). If you know of any more publishing right now, I'd love to hear about them.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also executive editor at PiQ magazine.]