July 15, 2006 7:01 PM |
['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]
It's funny. I thought the whole point of subscribing to magazines was that you didn't have to worry about having to track them down every month at the bookstore. Yet all of my Ziff Davis subscriptions seem to have mysteriously stopped sending after three months, and none of the subs from other publishers have been processed after around four months of waiting. Ah well. I guess I was spoiled by living 10 minutes away from all the publishers for so long.
Without further ado, then, let's take a look at all the game magazines that hit U.S. newsstands over the past two weeks. (Click through to read the full column.)
This month's EGM -- besides "having a nice-lookin' coupla men on the cover" (as editor Crispin Boyer put it in the podcast) -- has a fairly bold theme running through its pages; namely, sequels suck and you know it. The preview feature is "The Top 50 Coolest New Games," with emphasis on "new" -- the editors actually managed to find fifty games under development right now without a single "II" or "The Revenge" or "Return to Wankerdor" in the titles, and they've ranked them up and busted them out over 27 pages of this 110-page issue. Number-one is EA's Army of Two, which seemed to get a little drowned out in E3 show-floor coverage but looks a fair bit more impressive now that a magazine's devoting larger acreage to it.
The sequel hatin' continues: In the reviews section, where a 8.0/7.5/7.0 rating is enough for Game of the Month. NCAA Football 2007, in particular got badly dinged (resident sporto Bryan Intihar gave it a 9 last year; it got a 7 from him this time) for looking great on the 360 but still not having all the new gameplay bits of the lower-gen versions. NFL Head Coach gets reviewed, and while it doesn't receive a rating (since it came late in the cycle), it's obvious that the game was the bane of Bryan's existence all month.
The ESA will love: The news feature on Jack Thompson and the subculture of put-down games that grew around him. Also, the other news feature about a 10-year-old who went to computer camp and made his own video game, complete with a development staff and everything. This is the sort of story that warms the cockles of Doug Lowenstein's heart.
The ESA may not like so much: A caption in EGM's Final Fantasy III feature that suggests gamers "check eBay for fan-translated copies" if they want to play the original Famicom version. (Actually, come to think of it, the fan-translators would probably be angrier -- they tend not to enjoy people selling their stuff.)
Two months after E3, and a lot of mags seem to be paying attention to controllers all of a sudden. OPM #107 is no exception, opening with a piece on the PS3's gimmick-not-a-gimmick controller that asks nine developers their opinions on it. The top feature this month, though, has to be their long-form interview with Ted Price, the man who got his start in games by purchasing a 3DO development system and cold-calling companies about his hot concepts. Lucky man. Another bit takes a look at independent giant Pandemic, which we're told has a "quality of life director" who has a six-figure budget devoted to making sure the devs are all happy and sane.
Other features: Include an RPG preview blowout (lotsa FFXII English stuff, if you're interested) and "The Opposite of Fun," a look at the 20 worst PlayStation games ever made. I think they're far too rough on The Guy Game, myself. 50 years from now we'll look back on it and see it for the important cultural signpost it is, I swear it.
The disc: Has Yakuza on it, and that's all you really need to know.
Nintendo Power August 2006
Nintendo Power seems to have the slowest newsstand distribution of any game magazine out there. This mag hit the stores earlier this week and just now they're getting to their E3 blowout sex-travaganza. The wait is worth it for the diehards, though -- the mag reads almost like one of those collector's programs for the Super Bowl, with lots of previews, Wii-views and pix of happy people enjoying what will undoubtedly be Nintendo's future dominance of video games. There's a ranked preview of 25 Wii titles, with Super Mario Galaxy up top and NP's editors doing creative things with the games they didn't have art for (a guy in a moogle cap illustrating the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles piece, for example).
Interviews: NP tends to get dev interviews that no one else gets, and this month's little exception, with Kouichi Ishii (the Mana series), Goichi Suda (Contact), and Mark Pacini (Metroid Prime 3) stepping up to the plate.
Making its triumphant comeback: The "You found the Ocarina!" ad, although it's all fancy-looking and sadly lacking in elves riding dragons now.
Tips & Tricks August 2006
The editorial this month (T&T started doing editorials a few months back) makes an interesting point -- increasingly, gamers are seeing "codes" in games (such as the Konami code) as a thing of the past, even though mags like T&T still have a readership. "There are a lot of very popular games that are actually much more fun to play when using cheat codes," the editors write. "It was an eye-opening experience to find that our message is still not being received by the masses. Wake up, America! Those games you're playing are loaded with secrets, and we're here to tell you all about them...so pay attention!"
Case in point: The "Mystery Codes" section at the back each issues, covering codes that seem to be accepted by the game but have no apparent effect. This month's top mystery code is for the GameCube edition of Cars -- the code ("WATCHIT") unlocks movie clips in the PS2 and Xbox version, but the Cube port doesn't have any movie clips ('cos Nintendo sux HURRR), yet the code's still accepted. Does it do something...else, then? T&T have apprently been proven wrong before with codes like these. We'll see.
Funniest bit: Associate editor Niles Livingston's quest to finish every single mission in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja. The developers at Bandai must have wanted to see Japanese children slit their wrists after attempting to complete the mission mode, which includes such innovative challenges as "Get 9,999,999 gold!" and "Fight every character against every other character 99 times!" For those of you slow on math, completing that last mission requires that the player goes through 14*13*99 = 18,018 matches. Luckily, since you don't actually have to win these matches, Niles screwed around with the game settings and stuck some rubber bands on his controller to speed up the process. However, even with these cheats, finishing the mission takes 17 straight days of play, and T&T's press deadline arrived on Day 16. I look forward to a full update next month. Presumably it unlocks some utterly jaw-dropping concept art, or perhaps bin Laden's location.
Hardcore Gamer Volume 2 Issue 2
This is, I think, the first issue of HCG where the cover wasn't drawn by Mr. Airbrush himself, Terry Wolfinger (although there's a lovely centerfold of Super Mario Galaxy drawn by him inside).
There's a huge bit on the Wii this month, leading me to wonder if Nintendo's new system will be to HCG editor Greg Off as the Jaguar was to GameFan's Dave Halverson.
Kindly skip: The cosplay page. Not to toot my own horn, but Newtype USA has a cosplay column written by Jan Kurotaki, and she is the only person who does cosplay right. In the world. I mean it. Buy a copy and see. Please.
Xbox Live Gamer 2006
Oh lord, it's Future one-off mania! First up is the second edition of Xbox Live Gamer, a co-op job between the editors of OXM and Maximum PC. This one (unlike CPU's effort a while back) is actually pretty remarkable, featuring nearly all original content and a great deal of neat art and design. There's even a bunch of E3 coverage that didn't make it into any other Future mag, including interviews with CliffyB and the producer of Rainbow Six: Vegas. It's all info that anyone with a 360 probably knows already, but still, a remarkable effort and a contender for Best One-Off of the Year.
The Essential PSP Handbook
This one isn't quite as impressive as Xbox Live Gamer, mostly 'cos there just isn't as much interesting stuff to discuss about the PSP for 112 pages. A lot of the tech stuff is nothing a net search wouldn't reveal, and the great majority of the mag is devoted to standard previews and reviews. The design's still nice, though, and the mag comes with one of those Sportflics-style postcards for Pursuit Force. (Yes, I know they're called "lenticular" postcards, but I was raised in the 80s, and so they're Sportflics, forever.)
Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes
Could someone please make me stop buying Beckett one-offs? Seriously, this magazine looks straight out of 1988. And, oh cripes, I see that Beckett Sports Video Gamer is due out this month, too. God, give me strength.
(Note to self: The next time I'm unemployed, make sure to use my secret pen name when begging Beckett for work.)
[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]
Categories: Column: Game Mag Weaseling